John Ajvide Lindqvist is arguably the most talented horror writer of his generation, and certainly one of the most literate. Although still best known for his excellent vampire novel Let the Right One In, Lindqvist has steadily produced a small but eclectically creepy body of work that is uniformly wonderful but often seems to drop off the mainstream critic’s radar. Hopefully I Am Behind You will gain more traction, because it’s an intense powerhouse of a book that is equal, if not better than, the undead opus that made him a worldwide success.
It all starts when Isabelle Sundberg wakes up in her caravan to discover that everything has changed. The caravan park has disappeared, as have most of its inhabitants, to be replaced by a never-ending lawn of carefully manicured grass and a deep blue sky that is illuminated by light even though there appears to be no sun. Isabelle is here with her ex-footballer husband Peter and six-year-old daughter Molly, and it is obvious from the opening pages that this is a scarily dysfunctional family – Isabelle and Peter’s marriage is a nasty battleground and Molly has an edge to her that is quite possibly sociopathic.
But they are not alone. Three other caravans are here as well, all of them occupied by some fantastically complicated characters including Benny the Beagle, whose nervy dogs-eye view of the world ironically makes him more human and empathetic than most of his two-legged neighbours. To begin with, they all have the same question – where are they? How did they get here? How can they get home? and why does the GPS in Peter’s car still indicate they are in the caravan park when, quite clearly, they have all been transported to somewhere else entirely? But then, as the rain falls and bizarre hallucinations follow, some very ugly character traits are revealed. Is the horror real, or just some psychopathic inner demons coming out to play? It doesn’t really matter, because when the carnage begins it is vicious and unrelenting.
In its most basic sense, I Am Behind You feels like Lindqvist’s answer to Stephen King’s Under the Dome but it is much, much better than that. It is raw, unsettling, throws up more questions than it has answers to (and is all the more satisfying because of it), and worms its way beneath the skin with nightmarish ease. When horror-haters scoff that “Horror isn’t art” this is the book that will wipe the smug smile off their faces.
I AM BEHIND YOU / AUTHOR: JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST / PUBLISHER: QUERCUS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW