Reviewed by Krista Castner

Harbor, John Lindqvist’s third book translated from Swedish to English, missed the mark for me. It was billed as a horror story but was too long and meandering to keep my attention for long. I really struggled to finish reading the book and when I finally read the last page, I thought to myself, “Really? That’s it?” 

Lindqvist is the author of the phenomenally successful vampire book, Let Me In, which I haven’t read yet. I have read his book Handling the Undead. I was pleasantly surprised about how thought provoking this zombie book was. I did not enjoy Harbor nearly as much.

The book is set on Domar, a small island off the coast of Sweden. In 512 pages you learn the story of how this island rose out of the sea centimeter by centimeter over the ages and how man came to live on the island. Water plays a major part in this story. We are introduced to Anders and Cecilia as teenagers who summer on the island. Then we fast forward 20 years as the now married couple take their 6 year-old daughter, Maja, out across the ice to visit an island with a large lighthouse. Maja mysteriously disappears, and no trace of her is ever found. Anders becomes a drunken wreck over the next few years and finally returns to the island of Domar to see if being near his grandmother and closer to nature can help him sort out his issues.

There’s a separate storyline about Simon, his grandmother’s long-time boyfriend who is a retired magician. Decades ago he found a slug-like creature he named ‘Spiritus’. He keeps the creature in a matchbox he carries with him in his breast pocket, and keeps it alive by spitting on it daily. In return it gives his some supernatural control over the water all around him. The rest of the story is Anders’ obsession about his loss of Maja. Strange things start to happen in his cabin and we don’t really know if they’re drunken hallucinations or Maja actually trying to contact him from wherever she’s been taken.

I wasn’t too intrigued by any of the storylines. I just kept waiting for something interesting to happen. There seemed to be a lot of folks unhappy and wallowing in self-pity or self-destructive behavior. The ending wrapped up the storylines, but it wasn’t very surprising, nor was there much explanation about why the plot even evolved the way it did.

I didn’t care about these characters nearly as much as I did for the characters in Handling the Undead. It felt like Lindqvist couldn’t decide if he was writing an evolutionary history of the Swedish galapagos, or a horror story. Consequently it didn’t succeed on either level.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Dunne Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.