Harbor

Harbor

John Ajvide Lindqvist has taken the horror world by storm. His first novel, Let the Right One In, has been made into critically acclaimed films in both Sweden and in the U.S (as Let Me In). His second novel, Handling the Undead, is beloved by horror lovers everywhere. Now, with Harbor, a stunning and chilling masterpiece, Lindqvist firmly cements his place as the heir apparent to Stephen King.

One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While they are exploring the lighthouse, Maja disappears – either into thin air or under thin ice -- leaving not even a footprint in the snow.

Two years later, Anders, a broken man, moves back to his family's abandoned home on the island. He soon realizes that Maja's disappearance is only one of many strange occurrences, and that his fellow islanders, including his own grandmother, know a lot more than they're telling. As he digs deeper, Anders begins to unearth a dark and deadly secret at the heart of this small, seemingly placid town.

As he did with Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead, John Ajvide Lindqvist serves up a blockbuster cocktail of high-tension suspense in a narrative that barely pauses for breath.

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3 thoughts on “Harbor

  1. R. C. Bowman
    21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Nice Dose of Atmospheric Horror *Spoiler Free*, September 12, 2011
    By 
    R. C. Bowman (Elyllon) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Harbor (Hardcover)
    Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What’s this?)
    I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up “Harbor.” I didn’t enjoy “Let the Right One In,” but I liked the premise here. To me, it sounded like a cross between the first half of “Shutter Island” and Stephen King’s “Storm of the Century.” (It wasn’t, not really.) So I started…

    And finished about twelve hours later.

    “Harbor” is a highly atmospheric, original horror novel that has done something remarkable: even after you realize what the monster, the terror of the novel, is (this occurs about halfway through) I didn’t think, “oh, that’s what it is” or “oh, that’s ridiculous” or “oh, the mystery’s out, why am I still reading?”

    That delightful anxiety produced by good horror ratcheted up another notch or two, and I thought, “What on earth are they supposed to do NOW?!?!”

    Exactly what they do carries beautifully through the rest of the book. Not once did I feel bored, or let down by the object of horror here. Don’t get me wrong, it had the potential to be so incredibly, ridiculously stupid. But Lindqvist turned it, “Night of the Living Dead” style, into a “no matter what they do, they’re dead.”

    Another testament to Lindqvist’s talent: he makes a major, god-in-the-machine plot line involving what is essentially a magic slug work. And not just work, but work amazingly. I still don’t see how this works. It shouldn’t be interesting. It should ruin the book, or at least be a line we impatiently skim over. But no. It’s every bit as good as the rest of the book.

    In a nutshell, the story itself is fabulous. The translation is excellent. I’m going to use the word “atmospheric” yet again. A pervasive sense of dread begins on the second page and doesn’t let up once. “Harbor” builds slowly but steadily, til you’re fidgeting with anxiety. All of the major characters are believable and well-drawn. For the first time in a lot of books, I had the sense I was reading about people, not just characters, down to the fact that he makes his quite average, bratty little daughter out to be an angel by the time she’s been missing for two years.

    As for cons, there are very few. Occasionally, the flashbacks pull you out of the story briefly (but that happened only rarely, and the flashbacks were otherwise fabulous). The ending (which I LOVED) will doubtless be seen by some as “too easy”. Apart from that, and the fact that Anders was, at times, suspiciously clueless about what was happening on the island he’d spent most of his life on, I can’t complain. “Harbor” was a fabulous novel, and I can already tell you I’m going to read it again.

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  2. TChris
    9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Evil water, October 11, 2011
    By 
    TChris (Tzer Island) –
    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)
      

    This review is from: Harbor (Hardcover)
    The Earth and its creatures consist mostly of water. When water gets its evil on, it is a formidable and dangerous element. Even without a supernatural infestation, oceans (particularly at night) are frightening to behold. In Harbor, John Ajvide Lindqvist imagines the waters of the ocean as a diabolical force.

    In 2004, a little girl named Maja disappears while visiting a lighthouse with her parents, Anders and Cecelia. Her disappearance on the small, isolated island of Domarö is impossible to explain. When Anders returns to the island a couple of years later, a series of eerie events suggest that Maja is trying to contact him. Anders later learns that Maja is not the first island resident to have disappeared, and that the island harbors secrets from generations past.

    Anders is one primary character; another is Simon, an aging magician and escape artist who has lived on Domarö for years. In 1996, Simon pledges himself to a Spiritus, a dark little creature that resembles a centipede. When Simon drools on the Spiritus, he gains some of its life force; holding the Spiritus in his hand empowers Simon. Despite Simon’s connection to the island, its life-long residents have kept a secret from him: the secret of the sea. It is the secret that animates the novel and that Anders must eventually understand if he is to make sense of Maja’s disappearance.

    As the plot develops, John Ajvide Lindqvist surrounds his characters with menacing images: a cardboard cutout of an ice cream man seems vaguely sinister; the wind-swept sea conveys a feeling of dread; the distant growl of a moped signals danger. Even swans are best avoided on Domarö. This is artful storytelling.

    Unfortunately the images of horror are more interesting than the actual horror. The problem, I think, is that there are just too many different manifestations of evil: the dead return to life in ghost-like fashion, the living are possessed in zombie-like fashion, a malevolent force dwells in the deep … the riot of horror themes becomes a bit much, particularly with the addition of the Spiritus. While the Spiritus is the most imaginative of the supernatural forces at play in Harbor, its existence (and the role it plays at the novel’s end) is almost too convenient. Having voiced that small complaint, however, I must give Lindqvist credit for tying it all together at the novel’s end.

    Harbor works best as a novel of psychological horror — the horror not just of losing a child, but of a parent’s realization that he never really knew his child. As a tale of supernatural horror, the novel is creative but not particularly frightening. The lengthy story is nonetheless entertaining. There are stories within stories in this unusual novel: stories of smuggling and stagecraft and love and Nordic adventure. Often the stories provide background, explaining, for instance, why two kids who went missing came to be treated as island outcasts and how Anders’ father died. The stories of individuals confronting fears and hardships in an isolated environment showcase Lindqvist at his best, and provide sufficient reason to read Harbor.

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  3. W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada "A Fantastical Li...
    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Stunning and intruiging, November 4, 2011
    This review is from: Harbor (Hardcover)
    Harbor was an intriguing novel. When I started it, I was a little apprehensive, as I was afraid I would be too scared – remember, I’m a wimp when it comes to reading horror – but while thrilling and frightening, it didn’t give me nightmares. Instead its horror started with a creeping feeling of unease, of something off and, slowly, the true threat only becomes fully clear towards the end. I found myself eager to return to its pages each night and read until I had to turn off the light due to my eyes falling closed.

    One of my favourite elements of this novel were the narrative structure and Lindqvist’s prose. The book is set up in a double narration with switching points of view between Anders and his grandfather Simon, with interspersed breaking of the fourth wall by an unknown narrator and short pieces from the point of view of other Domarö inhabitants. I love these kinds of twined narratives, as they provide not just a way for the author to give us more information about what’s going – as the saying goes: two heads always know more than one – but they also provide opportunities for miscommunication or non-communication between characters, where the reader knows more than the protagonists. Coincidentally, it can also lead to a frustrated outcry of “Why don’t they just talk to each other?”, but Lindqvist never falls in that trap. Yes, there is non-communication, but he allows Simon to decisively put an end to that. Lindqvist’s prose, through the translation of Marlaine Delargy, is clean and clear; no purple prose here, though his descriptions of the stark and isolated landscapes and the small island community are lovely, if at times chilling.

    I loved the character of Anders and I found the way Lindqvist describes his dealing with the loss of his daughter fascinating. The idea of losing one of my children – I’m already counting B2 as such, even if she isn’t born yet – or my husband is my biggest nightmare and I thought Lindqvist dealt with both the madness of grief and the reshaping of memories beautifully. Anyone can picture what grief can drive someone too, whether drinking, like Anders, drugs, depression or self-harm. But I found Anders’ reshaping his memories of Maja far more poignant, especially his inability to realise that he’s done so until he’s confronted about it by his grandparents. I think it’s also something a lot of people don’t realise–both that this is a natural reaction and that they’ve probably done the same with some of their own memories. All of this combined makes it hard to figure out whether what Anders thinks he’s experiencing is true or whether they are delusions he’s suffering due to too much alcohol consumption or grief.

    The other main narrator is Anders’ sort of grandfather. He’s been together with Anders’ grandmother Anna-Greta for fifty years, though they never got married and is as much a grandfather as Anders has ever known. Despite having lived on Domarö for over half a century and being partnered with the unofficial leader of the island, Simon is still an outsider in many ways, as he finds out when he discovers the island’s secret. But Simon is also more than just an old, retired stage magician, he has real magic, though what kind and how he came by it, is something best left for the reader to discover themselves. I really liked Simon, he is kind, strong and tenacious and I loved his relationship with Anna-Greta.

    Domarö and the sea are characters in and of themselves and are maybe the most frightening things in the book. Water can be the most destructive force on earth. It is everywhere and can penetrate everywhere. Water is patient and we humans cannot live without it. The Dutch have learnt to live with the fear of the encroaching water, to literally dam it out and in some ways to harness its amazing power, but we also know that water cannot be tamed and must always be respected. The inhabitants of Domarö respect and fear the sea in the same way, but in their need to placate the sea, they takes desperate and gruesome measures.

    Harbor is a stunning story, which made for compelling reading. If you are looking for an intelligent, spooky and mostly non-gory horror tale, this third offering by Lindqvist is just the ticket. I know this first taste of his writing has left me curious for more. I have already read Niall’s review of Lindqvist’s latest book Little Star and that sounds as good or even better as Harbor and I look forward to checking that out in the future.

    This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.

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