Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Pages (Hardback): 480
Published by: Quercus (15 September 2011)
One autumn day in 1992, former pop singer Lennart Cederström finds something unexpected in the forest: a baby girl in a plastic bag, partially buried. He gives her the kiss of life, and her first cry astounds him; it is a clear, pure musical note. He takes her to his wife and persuades her that they should keep this remarkable child. But the baby becomes a strange girl, made more unusual by their decision to hide her in their basement to keep her from the prying eyes of government departments. When she reaches puberty, a terrifying scene sees her kill both her parents. When her scheming adopted brother returns to find her over their bodies, he seizes the opportunity and enters her into an X Factor-style talent competition. She quickly becomes famous. In spite of this, she remains very lonely, until she befriends another damaged girl on the internet. They form a powerful bond and soon create a growing gang of other disgruntled girls and, calling themselves the Wolves, they set out to take revenge for all they’ve ever suffered.
I read the book before I read the above blurb and I’m glad I did. If I had read the blurb first, I may never have bothered to read the book and I would have missed something truly great. Don’t get me wrong, that little synopsis is accurate, but what Lindqvist delivers is something far more chilling, far deeper, far more disturbing than those few lines would ever have you believe. After the first couple of chapters the reader knows something terrible and shocking is going to happen – but I defy anyone to guess what it is. I’ve said often enough when talking about my own writing that I am a slow writer; I’m a slow reader, too. So take as a sign of the brilliance of Little Star that I read it in little more than two days. The pacing is faultless. The prose (and this is, I guess, praise also for the translation by Marlaine DeLargy – so many translated works fail to lift the reader’s spirits) is sharp, edgy and produces some memorable phrases (if this doesn’t touch you, you’re not human):
If anyone who didn’t know her had seen her getting on the train, that person would have seen a girl getting on the train. If anyone who knew her had seen her taking her seat, that person would have seen Teresa taking her seat. After all, nothing had really happened from the world’s point of view, except that a girl had given up all hope. Hardly even worth mentioning.
Rarely do female characters stay with me after I’ve finished a book. Theres and Teresa are looking over my shoulder as I write, making me nervous.
With Little Star, Lindqvist earns his place as a master of horror, perhaps the best so far of the 21st century.
Quercus Books can be found at www.quercusbooks.co.uk
And the Quercus horror/SF/fantasy imprint is Jo Fletcher Books at www.jofletcherbooks.com