Originally Published: January 30th, 2017
“These have no longer any hope of death; And this blind life of theirs is so debased, They envious are of every other fate.” – The Devine Comedy, Canto III 46-48
Fourteen years ago, we experienced an unforgiving summer heat in the south Texas region that forced many to stay indoors. It was 2003 when I had decided to enroll in college courses for the summer. In reminiscing about this particular period in my life, my memory serves me well as I watch the googsebumps on my arms begin to erupt just thinking about how cold the classrooms were. One particular morning, I sat patiently in the classroom waiting for our psychology professor to begin her lecture. As I sat comfortably, marveling at the precipitation invading the edges of the window, my imagination began to take form; driving my subconscious to frequented territories. “Apathy” was the word announced by my professor. It immediately brought me back to the conscious reality I so easily checked out of. “Apathy is a lack of emotion or sense of purpose in life”, she stated. The hour of lecturing covered a variety of topics that dealt with apathy; one in particular was murder. I was reminded of the senseless act that occurred in 1989, known to many as the Menendez Brothers murders.
Rather than focusing on the murder scene, or the victim’s life and family, more emphasis is placed on the killer’s background and motive. Apathy seems to be the common denominator in the mental state of the aggressor, allowing such heinous actions to be committed. This interesting topic peaked my interest when I came across John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, Little Star. Familiar with his earlier works such as Let the Right One In, it seems Lindqvist has revisited a well-acquainted theme in Little Star; children who are murderers.
“The last thing her hearing perceived was a harsh metallic clang and a crunching, cracking sound as her skull split open beneath the point of the nail.”
The narrative storyline in Little Star is twofold, focusing on two major characters, Thares and Teresa. The novel’s character development is quite extensive spending much of its time setting the stage for the book’s climax. Prior to the denouement of the overall story, it is interesting to note the intrinsic, as well as extrinsic, development of each character as the narratives come together, forming a bond just as Thares and Teresa do.
We are introduced to Thares at the opening of the novel. An infant child left abandoned in the forest, Thares is found by a local musician, Lennart. Enamored with the child’s eccentric ability to repeat musical notes with perfect pitch and harmony, Lennart secretly adopts the child; raising her within the confines of his home shunning her from society. Prior to adopting the name Thares, she is known to Lennart and his wife as Little One. The novel swiftly shifts gears to introduce Teresa. A young girl (the same age as Thares) with a passion for poetry, Teresa’s introverted personality oftentimes excludes her from social gatherings. As Teresa is left with socializing online, she begins to form a relationship with Thares on an online forum dedicated to poetry. The details of their ‘fateful’ encounter with one another will be omitted, but it’s important to note their social inadequacies and how the effect of their social development takes a toll on each of them.
“When she looked at the result in the mirror she was able to confirm that she looked bloody awful. This is me.”
Lindqvist confronts the challenging task of committing so much time to character development. The bulk of the novel is reserved for telling a complex story and perhaps the necessity for extensive character development was required. Some may argue that pace and story plot is compromised in favor of an all too-detailed background and over-told narrative. But that does not seem to be the case in Little Star. Once the narratives are linked together, a section of the novel titled Both the Girls, there is little room left for questioning the motives or reasoning behind our character’s intents. It seemed quite a brilliant tactic by Lindqvist. Just as a journalist’s attempt to analyze and dissect the psyche of a murderer, as mentioned earlier, Lindqvist has successfully placed the pieces of a character puzzle into place in order to have a complete picture and understanding of the story’s elements; except one.
One element in particular stood out during the course of the novel that left me questioning its relevance to the overall story; the supernatural. Although this may seem an outlandish claim, it is difficult to interpret the events that take place in Little Star without claiming one of two possibilities:
- Thares’s special abilities in relation to music and her ability to influence others with just a glance could suggest a supernatural force at play.
- Thares’s lack of social interaction since infancy, non-verbal communication (other than her singing ability), as well as her ritualistic behavior suggest she may carry the burden of a degenerative mental illness.
Two seemingly plausible explanations to Thares’s behavior, I personally would subscribe to the former. There is less evidence to support the latter, but just as most stories go, they are open to interpretation.
What I admired most of Lindqvist’s work in Little Star was his willingness to allow his characters to take charge of the story. Although one can label this novel under the horror genre, it can be easily done without the overuse of graphic violence. The graphic sections in Little Star do not disrupt the relevance of the scenes and therefore does not allow the reader to rely solely on the violence to become frightened. The intent of the characters alone is enough to send shivers down your spine. This is the tasteful manner in which the use of violence, whether it’s mild or extremely graphic, does not overwhelm the scene by casting its shadow over the more important elements unfolding before the reader. Lindqvist just gets it right.
The 532 pages of Little Star might seem like a daunting journey for some to venture. But it’s definitely worth the read. The separate narratives keep the reader engaged up until they intertwine. Then things get very interesting. If you enjoy a good horror read without the clichés and impractical plot twists, then Little Star might be your next novel on the ‘to-do’ list. Pick this one up. Thanks for reading!