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Harbor - John Ajvide Lindqvist

This memorable story is perhaps...a bit too long.


When people say that, is it normal to know what should be cut, edited out?  And if a reader doesn't know exactly where a book is too long--where sections should be cut, so that..."ahh! that's much better! you get rid of those bits, and the book is better!'--if I don't know what should be jettisoned, do I have any right to just say "well I dunno...it's just too long and that's all I have to say about that. case closed. so there.".


The only thing I can tell you is: for a book that seems to be at heart a story about a father's search for his missing child--possibly made missing by malevolence of a supernatural nature--we certainly get everything but the kitchen sink. strike that--several scenes are at or near various kitchen sinks. One might say that Simon--a magical, enigmatic presence in the book, with special, slimy little pal in a matchbox who grants him power over water--almost seems to want to emerge as the star player. But then his storyline fades a bit, moves aside for Anna-Greta, who moves aside as required, so we can meet more characters who are very important in long flashbacks; maybe these characters are still around, in the present-day setting, or not. There's a lot to cover, and it is hard to see where the focus of the story really lies, at times. And just when it feels like the entire community is the "main character' (and somehow at odds with some old curse, or ancient force, that has staked a claim on, perhaps, all the various souls that make up the doomed harbourtown and adjacent island), just when a reader says "ah-ha! the magic key: I'm being given everything, because everything is important! It's all One!"...just when peace is achieved with the book's vast, all-encompassing scope with its myriad cursed kitchen sinks from which haunted, transformative water gushes forth...the book does a dirty and boils itself way down to Anders searching for little Maja again. And a reader shrugs, and thinks: "okay, well, most of what came earlier is somehow linked to this, has fed into this, mostly...".


And so, that's the negative way of looking at it. But it's a 4 Star book. Why? Because even when I wandered around--at the author's insistence--getting to know anything of any significance that is happening, or did happen, in and around Domaro, and feel like Anders doesn't know how to take the lead in his own story (and occasionally feel like Simon started strong and then faded), it's a beautiful, compelling read. It doesn't go off the rails; it's just a really big heavy train, that certainly cannot be accused of being one-track-minded.


So if you like a Horror novel that makes sure the macrocosm is always taken care of and on display, no matter how much the microcosm is ultimately the real juice (ie. Anders' plight), the sweep of Harbor will work for you as much as it ended up doing for me. And it is fair to say--in the end--that everything Anders does to try and rescue Maja, if that's even feasible after her impossible disappearance into thin air near a creepy lighthouse one day, will affect Domaro and everyone who lives there...and, maybe, even those who once lived there. Some monsters can wreak stranger havoc than others...


Beautifully done, if a bit tough to see, at the end, how it all fit together and contributed, in its many parts, to the whole. Of all the Ramsey Campbell books this reminds me of, I am left thinking back to John Crowley's Little, Big, in terms of final feelings: "it's a gorgeous tale, but there sure is a lot of gorgeous to sort out.".