I Am Behind You, John Ajvide Lindqvist

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The thing with any novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist is to remember the stages of reading.

Stage One is always, oh wow, why do I take so long to pick up these books. This is just amazing. 

On the whole his work is amazing. It's horror sure, and that's something I'd normally go out of my way to avoid, but it's his version of horror, which always has something extra. It's not just about the shock, it's about the why's and where's of human behaviour, and the how did we get here's. Or at least that's what all his novels I've read have felt like to me. 

Stage Two is always, this seems to be getting a bit weird.

Oh boy does I AM BEHIND YOU get weird. I mean, to be fair, it starts off weird. Four families, their cars, pets, and caravans awake to a very strange new reality. When they went to bed last night they were happily camping in a ground that was, well a camping ground. With amenities, and other campers, and part of the real world. Where they find themselves that morning sort of looks like a world, in that the four vans are where they were, and everything they had set up around their vans is there. And there's acres and acres of what definitely looks like grass, and an endless sky. And nobody, nothing else, zilch. Well zilch in that the GPS in their cars thinks they are still in the "world" but they can drive for as long as they dare and nothing really seems to change in sight - it's just weird grass and sky. Until there are echoes of something else - just briefly.

Stage Three is then the bit where you start to question your reading sanity.

Always loved these novels, come away from them thinking just love the way he puts these things together. Love the otherness, the commentary embedded in them, the observations on people and their odd behaviours. But there's always that point in any of these novels, and to be frank, in this one in particular, where your WTF bells are so loud they'll be drowning out everything else in the vicinity.

Stage Four is nearly always - well I'm here now, no idea what's going on, no idea what this is all about, but there's something about this blasted novel that means I can't put it down.

And at that point no matter how weird the "woo-woo" gets (and in this one it got really weird and oddly disconnected), you're there. By that point, no matter how truly, horrifically awful so many of these characters are, you're not going to stop until you know what happens to them. You're going to keep going even as you twig that's not the author's intent. Nor is the author interested in making you comfortable, with the way that the wheels fall off societal "norms" so quickly you barely get time to blink in I AM BEHIND YOU.

Stage Five is where the hell is the next book? Why am I hoarding these things? Why are the lights still on?

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Four caravans, four families inside waking up to a horrifying new reality.  They, their cars and caravans, even their pets, are no longer where they were located when everyone went to bed the night before. It seems that their world has somehow moved on, taking them away from their Swedish holiday camping ground to a new place that only superficially resembles where it is that they came from.   Acres and acres of grass that is yet not grass.  An endless sky, and the frustration of having no landmarks in a sterile and unpopulated landscape.  But is it truly empty?

Rather than banding together for the common goal, it seems at first that the families are in denial.  Not everyone, but then there are small children to consider.  Life of a form will go on.  Escape seems impossible from an environment where not even their navigation systems can detect their true location.  When the dead begin to seek them out and someone in their own group seems set on sabotage, it is hard for the holiday makers to decide who or what might be the bigger threat.

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