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Handling the Undead [Hardcover]

John Ajvide Lindqvist
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2010
In his new novel, John Ajvide Lindqvist does for zombies what his previous novel, Let the Right One In, did for vampires.

Across Stockholm the power grid has gone crazy. In the morgue and in cemeteries, the recently deceased are waking up. One grandfather is alight with hope that his grandson will be returned, but one husband is aghast at what his adored wife has become.

A horror novel that transcends its genre by showing what the return of the dead might really mean to those who loved them.

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Review

"A unique and humanistic take on the undead that has a place alongside thoughtful horror novels like World War Z." --Kirkus Reviews (starred)  

"The first fresh take on the zombie since [Dawn of the Dead]." --Chud.com

"Shivers the spine and hooks the heart." --Hellnotes.com  

"Lindqvist is giving us new kinds of monsters." -- PopMatters.com  

"Sophisticated horror that takes the genre to new and exciting levels." --Suspense Magazine

"A unique standout." --Fright.com

"Will entice longtime zombie fans eager for a subversive examination of some of the horror genre's most recognizable monsters." -- Publishers Weekly

About the Author

John Ajvide Lindqvist is the author of Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead. Let The Right One In, his debut novel, was an instant bestseller in Sweden and was named Best Novel in Translation 2005 in Norway. The Swedish film adaptation, directed by Tomas Alfredsson, has won top honors at film festivals all over the globe, including Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival. An American remake, Let Me In, written and directed by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, was released in October 2010 to rave reviews. Lindqvist grew up in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm and the setting for Let the Right One In. Wanting to become something awful and fantastic, he first became a conjurer, and then was a stand-up comedian for twelve years. He has also written for Swedish television. He lives in Sweden.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A different take on zombies Dec 30 2013
Format:Hardcover
I received this book as a gift and loved it.
It's a completely different take on zombies that I have never seen before.
Handling the Dead isn't your typical zombie gore, shoot em in the head, run for your lives, type of novel.
If you're looking for something different in the zombie genre, I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What If Your Dead Loved Ones Came to Life? Jan. 19 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I have not yet read Lindqvist's "Let the Right One In" but now intend to. Not that "Handling the Undead" is perfect - it has pace issues, some characters are better imagined than others, and there is some general confusion in plot. However, having said all that, it is subtle, unsettling and will stay with you for some time once finished which deserves credit.

It is not a traditional zombie novel and I am thankful for that. There are too many zombie novels coming off what seems like an assembly line and most are poor and repetitive. Lindqvist instead chooses to make such a phenomena as re-animated loved ones as real as emotionally possible. He does so through a handful of characters who experience the real horror of such an event displaying believable psychological and humanistic reactions. It is an intelligent take on the genre and, though flawed, is still a laudable and interesting book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars They've come back to life Aug. 25 2011
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"Handling the Undead" is a zombie book. But not the typical gory, horrendous BRAAAAAAINSSSS-craving type. Instead John Ajvinde Lindquist slowly weaves together an intelligent, philosophical look at what would happen if the dead were to unnaturally rise from their graves... and the only flaw is that the middle section of the book is so SLOW.

Something strange is happening in Stockholm -- the weather is oppressive, electrical glitches are everywhere, and everybody has a headache.

But when the strange conditions vanish, everybody who has died within the last two months rises from the morgue, funeral homes, and even their coffins. The "reliving" wander back to their old homes, mute and seemingly unaware, shocking their loved ones. And of course, the government quickly rounds them up and confines them, until they can be sure what dangers the "reliving" might pose.

In the days that follow, Lindqvist follows five people whose loved ones have come back -- a comedian sunk deep in denial about his wife being gone, a wannabe-rebel teen, a grandfather and a young mother trying to help her undead son "recover," and a widow who believes that she has a mission from the Virgin Mary. But something else is approaching Stockholm, bringing unexpected effects in its wake.

"Handling the Undead" doesn't really focus on the zombies themselves. Instead, Lindqvist conjures up a simple scenario, and examines how people would react to it -- we see hysteria, suicide, denial, dismissal, religious fervor, and a delusional belief that the zombies can simply go back to their old lives. And he brings up a number of philosophical questions with no easy answers.

The biggest problem with this book is that it should have been much smaller.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  79 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "The stiffs. The corpses. In the morgue. They've come back to life." May 5 2010
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Handling the Undead" is a zombie book. But not the typical gory, horrendous BRAAAAAAINSSSS-craving type. Instead John Ajvinde Lindquist slowly weaves together an intelligent, philosophical look at what would happen if the dead were to unnaturally rise from their graves... and the only flaw is that the middle section of the book is so SLOW.

Something strange is happening in Stockholm -- the weather is oppressive, electrical glitches are everywhere, and everybody has a headache.

But when the strange conditions vanish, everybody who has died within the last two months rises from the morgue, funeral homes, and even their coffins. The "reliving" wander back to their old homes, mute and seemingly unaware, shocking their loved ones. And of course, the government quickly rounds them up and confines them, until they can be sure what dangers the "reliving" might pose.

In the days that follow, Lindqvist follows five people whose loved ones have come back -- a comedian sunk deep in denial about his wife being gone, a wannabe-rebel teen, a grandfather and a young mother trying to help her undead son "recover," and a widow who believes that she has a mission from the Virgin Mary. But something else is approaching Stockholm, bringing unexpected effects in its wake.

"Handling the Undead" doesn't really focus on the zombies themselves. Instead, Lindqvist conjures up a simple scenario, and examines how people would react to it -- we see hysteria, suicide, denial, dismissal, religious fervor, and a delusional belief that the zombies can simply go back to their old lives. And he brings up a number of philosophical questions with no easy answers.

The biggest problem with this book is that it should have been much smaller. Lindqvist spends most of the book's middle section spinning his wheels, with nothing really happening. And we never really find out WHY the dead rose, just that it is somehow an error.

Fortunately the beginning and ending are filled with subtle, creeping psychological horror (the whole scene with the grotesque drowned zombie is nauseating), as well as the painful scene where David and Magnus meet Eva again. And there's an exquisite metaphysical edge, which implies that there's more out there than just zombies -- think an elusive, benevolent figure with fishhook fingertips.

Lindqvist also fleshes out his characters beautifully, giving each one a backstory that shapes their current reactions. And he handles each one with compassion, even if they're delusional or twerpy. Among the best are David (desperately clinging to hope and unable to grieve), Flora (a rather annoying a teen who thinks she's an iconoclast), and Anna (whose son Elias has "come back") -- and even some of the zombies show a glimmer of personality.

"Handling the Undead" is a deeply flawed book -- the entire middle section is bogged down. Yet it's still a beautiful, affecting read.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "He opened his eyes and saw the mass of biological tissue that hopped and skipped its way down the stairs. . ." Feb. 19 2011
By Mark Louis Baumgart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Handling The Undead" (which was originally called "Hanteringen Av Odöda" in Sweden) is the long second novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist (and translated by Ebba Segerberg) and it centers around three couples of people, and how an extraordinary situation effects them. These three couples are David and his son Magnus, Mahler and his daughter Anna, and Elvy and her granddaughter Flora, both of whom are mildly psychic.

David is a stand-up comedian whose wife is killed in a car accident on the day of the reliving, and he is traumatized twice as he has to identify his wife's damaged body in the morgue, and he is then there when she awakes. Mahler is a photo journalist who sees the arisen dead in the hospital morgue when he realizes that his grandson, who had died previously, is probably waking up while buried in the cemetery. He then rushes to the cemetery and digs him up by hand. Then there is young Goth-girl Flora who is visiting Elvy when granddad comes home.

This novel of Sweden's great reliving takes place over the short period of a week (August 13-17). And Lindqvist's reliving aren't your garden variety zombies; only those recently dead within the last two months are those who are coming back to life. Yet, unexplained in the novel all those that die on the day after the dead's reliving and afterwards stay dead. Then there is the fact people become able to pick up the thoughts of others when they are around the reliving, which is bad news and leads to some chaos.

Lindqvist's characters all take this resurrection differently; Mahler becomes obsessive of his grandson and daughter while his daughter, who is in a deep depression over her son's death, becomes overly protective of her son. Elvy is confused, but after seeing what she thinks is a vision of the Virgin Mary becomes a religious fanatic, and is convinced that she is supposed to herald the resurrection of Christ, only Flora is curious as to what it all means, while having visions of her own.

Lindqvist is being touted as being the Swiss Stephen King, and it shows. This is a bloated, often slow-moving novel, which has a lot King's trademarked sloppy plotting in which an idea often takes the place for plot and pacing, and in which the idea itself is never really well thought out and developed. "Handling The Undead" is easily a novel that could have been cut down to two hundred pages or less. David and his son Magnus, for instance, accomplish absolutely nothing that couldn't be handled by a minor character and could have been cut entirely from the novel with absolutely no loss to the story structure. Another character that could have been cut is Peter, Flora's friend. Dull and incurious, he just takes up space, and in the end, even Elvy does nothing to further the plot, as ultimately she accomplishes nothing, and her plotline goes nowhere. Of the rest, most just become intolerably unsympathetic, with only Flora being OF interest and accomplishing anything OF interest. What was needed is a character that represents some form of authority as Lindqvist constantly throws infodumps in the form of summaries (?), transcripts of interviews, and newspaper & radio leads and stories, randomly into the story. This causes Lindqvist to be CONSTANTLY telling us, instead of showing us what is happening.

This goes for the reliving also. After their resurrection they do nothing but wander around and do things by rote. Only Eva, David's recently dead wife, and Elias, Mahler's grandson do anything of interest, and even then it's pretty unfocused and eventually pointless. Eva, being recently dead is the only reliving person who can talk, and then, what? Elias on the other hand becomes Lindqvist's surrogate for autism as through Mahler's thankless administrations he becomes sentient and mobile. But, at the end of this plotline nothing is accomplished either. If the return of the dead and their eventual redeath is supposed to be some meditation on death and how we react to it, and what death itself means, as Lindqvist touches on, then the novel fails at that also.

"Handling The Undead" starts off well, and has a good idea buried in it, but Lindqvist has neither the talent nor the imagination to do anything with it. This becomes more and more obvious as the novel drags itself forward, and it's pointlessness is obvious when we reach the end and nothing is explained or accomplished. Loose plotlines involving the novel's characters are left dangling, and random death at the end. There is no real explanation is offered as to why the dead rise, and why they re-die, except in some form of obtuse metaphysical way is ever given. Although Lindqvist constantly, and lamely, compares the undead with the autistic, it's a comparison that falls flat.

All-in-all this is a novel that is in desperate need of pruning and an editor, it's too long, too meandering, too unfocused, and too unimaginative to rate anything more than two stars.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Study of How Humans Cope in Extraordinary Circumstances April 18 2009
By Tez Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The author of the wonderfully bleak vampiric LET THE RIGHT ONE IN explores zombies in HANDLING THE UNDEAD.

In the Swedish summer, it's not just coincidence that citizens' heads are aching. The power surges...and then nothing. But life has changed for some of the dead: they have risen.

The sudden death of author/illustrator Eva is a shock, but even more startling is her reliving - she can even speak. But as her case is so different, Eva is being kept away from her comedian husband David and their son. It's a bad time to have a birthday, but rabbit Balthazar makes things better for Magnus - and us readers.

Grandmother Elvy and granddaughter Flora both have the Sense, but only Elvy receives a vision of the Holy Mother telling her to spread word that the End of Days is near.

When journalist Mahler hears of the reliving, he unearths grandson Elias from his grave. Mahler tries to train him to become more human, but Elias's mother Anna is at her wits' end.

The novel is character-driven, rather than plot-driven, and it results in a somewhat incoherent read. The characters's reactions and emotions are believable, the Heath is delightfully creepy, and I certainly wanted my own Balthazar. But I don't quite understand how the reliving happened, what set off the power surge, why it affected everyone, and why telepathic abilities suddenly abounded.

It's confusing, but also a brilliant study of how humans cope in extraordinary circumstances.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable and a bit flat. Jan. 7 2011
By Donald A. Prentiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading LET THE RIGHT ONE in, I became an instant fan of Lindqvist - what a great book. Then came Handling The Undead and maybe because I expected too much but I don't think so - I think it was just becasue this book is soooooo mediocre.

The character development is weak and none of the characters are very likable and the story is slow, weak and really not too much to it. It starts to pick up toward the very end but there's no pay off to the time it took to read this book. It didn't suck and it wasn't very good - it was just a time waster!

A terribly disappointing and weak follow up to Lindqvist's first great book. I'd say pass on this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lindqvist rated pg Oct. 26 2010
By Heywould - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
no need to go into detail what the book is about, as other reviews already have. if you have read let the right one in and loved it, you might be a little disappointed with undead. do not let that steer you away, read this book. you are not getting the strange sex and twisted minds that were in let the right one in, what you do get is a detailed relationship that a person who has lost a loved one has with the memory of before and the excitement of what could be if a person were to come back. no real zombie action until the last 50 pages or so. lindqvist gives you just enough in this one to keep you reading. i read it slow and took in every word as it will be awhile for another translation from lindqvist comes out. i couldnt wait to read it and wish i had a stack of his stuff waiting.
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