Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist




[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

[This is such a weird, mostly-generic cover for this book. I guess it’s the mass market one. I’ll post mine below]

“Something peculiar is happening. While the city is enduring a heat wave, people are finding that their electric appliances won’t stay switched off. And everyone has a blinding headache. Then the terrible news breaks – in the city morgue, the newly dead are waking.

Across the city, grieving families find themselves able to see their loved ones one last time. But are these creatures really them? How long can this last? And what deadly price will they have to pay for the chance to see their spouses and children just one more time?”



First, my cover/the hardback:

[Everything is matte, except for the iris of the eye and the tear which are glossy. It looks pretty cool.]


I didn’t think I’d ever really go into a ‘zombie’ book thinking there’d be multiple references about Pokémon and Marilyn Manson – but here we are!

This was actually an unexpectedly interesting read. Not that I thought it would be boring by any means, but it was much more thought provoking than I had expected. It’s written by the ‘Let the Right One In‘ [the original Swedish one, not the forgettable American one] author, which, I do want to read the book for LtROI, but actually found this book first, and for cheap. [More on the weird surroundings about this book later] I really, really like his writing.

The book starts with the event[s] that cause semi recently dead people to start coming back from the dead, and are called ‘Reliving’ in the book. These events electric/magnetic in nature and only happens in Sweden. Pretty much anyone that has died within the last two months, has come back. It doesn’t matter what state of decay or cause of death they died in, they all came back if they didn’t die before two months ago. So there’s a lot of different descriptions of the various states the bodies of the reliving are in, and the gore descriptions on some of those are great.

The book surrounds three different viewpoints throughout most of it, that are intertwined in little ways.

There’s David, whose wife died during the events instead of before, and therefore is the most ‘freshly dead’ of the recorded Reliving. She also died terribly in a brutal accident, and her physical condition while being back alive is pretty rough, to say the least. She’s also one of the few reliving that has the ability to respond verbally/talk, though it’s not really convincing that she’s actually ‘alive.’

There’s a journalist named Mahler who lost his grandson in a tragic accident barely two months before, that left his daughter pretty much comatose with grief. He’s initially called in to investigate the Reliving at the local hospitals, only to realize there’s a chance his already-buried grandson may be ‘alive’ and is right. The only issue is that having been buried for so long already, he’s in an advanced state of decay/dehydration.

Then there’s Elvy and her grandaughter, Flora. Both have some kind of ESP that has left them highly sensitive with the events with the Reliving and hear/experience more than normal people but know what to do to help the situation and go through even more torture than others. Elvy’s husband is a Reliving, to her dismay, and she also is religious, viewing these events as a biblical event; whereas Flora is a teen gothling who is anything but religious.

How their viewpoints cover the story and happenings as a whole are all very interesting due to their different perspectives and personalities during what would otherwise be considered chaos and End Times, being as the dead now walk among the living again.

What I liked most about the book without giving too much of it away, is that the Reliving are not your standard zombie. They are not aggressive unless you are hostile against them first, but yet also not really sentient. They have motor functions, and some even find their way ‘home’ and almost go through robotic motions of what they did when they were alive, but they’re not ‘there’ either. Yet in a lot of instances, the living can hear the thoughts of the Reliving, when in close proximity. The book touches a little on the ethics part of it. Are these still people? Would they need a new classification? How should we treat them? Is it ethical to experiment on them to see what has brought them back? etc.

The book, at least to me, also was surprisingly spiritual? Not as in the religious crazy people that appear in the story, but when you get to the end of the book and how everything ties together/and learn more of the Reliving and the concept of the ‘soul’ it gets both deep, and also confusing. [Which I imagine is pretty standard in these sorts of subjects] It also doesn’t rely on any individual faith or religion to express it either, which is nice.

Now, about the weird stuff about the obtaining of the book. I got it at a thrift store [like with many of my books] and I read the synopsis, and either I liked it enough that I didn’t flip through the book [which is unlikely] or somehow I just missed all the craziness that was going on inside. What I mean is, that the book not only full of stains [from a mysterious brown substance that is not coffee], but full of marks, and a taped in, hand-drawn saga of a chicken and an egg.

I’m not kidding. This is all of them removed from the book:

Which, sidenote, isn’t cute. Don’t do this shit to books. In addition to all this other abuse, once I started reading it, I realized that it not only had a sort of ‘old book’ smell, but it was a terribly potent, pungent smell. I guess I hadn’t noticed it because it only really stirred up as I was reading it/turning the pages. People I was sitting next to would have physical reactions when I opened the book and ask if that smell was my book. I’ve tried different stain removal methods, smell removal, nothing works. So now I’m going to get a new copy to either keep or release into the wild and honorably retire this one.

Anyway, back to the story~

I mostly loved this book, but there were a few parts that annoyed me. One, was how hard it’s pushed that Flora thinks she’s the Ultimate Edgy Teenager™ and it gets rubbed in our faces over and over how much she obsesses over Marilyn Manson and general goth/horror stuff. After about the third mention to Manson lyrics shoved in my face I was rolling my eyes – except that this happens over and over throughout the book. She wears Manson shirts, she mentions him multiple times, etc. It didn’t flow at all with the story, every time this was brought up it was pretty obtuse to the rest of the story.

There’s also not much actual closure or explanation as to what happened to cause all the undead stuff in the book. There’s hints, ideas, and interesting guesses, but nothing concrete. I can see why maybe it would be fine to leave it to focus on other themes in the book, but it just felt left open and awkwardly ended.



I give Handling the Undead 4/5 Hook-Tipped Fingers


[This is another instance of two quotes I couldn’t choose between]


Now he saw what was making the sound. Clamps.  A number of metal clamps suspended from broken veins inside her chest cavity. They swayed and hit against each other as she moved. He swallowed dryly. ‘…Eva?’
She turned her head toward the sound of his voice and opened her one eye.

Then he screamed.

He flipped through the Pokemon cards; Grimer, Koffing, Gastly, Tentacool; all more or less terrifying creatures. Why does everything in their world have to be about horror? Magnus pointed at Gastly. ‘Scary, isn’t he?’




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