I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist Book Review

Other books I’ve read from the same author:

The Story

In I Am Behind You, four families spending time in their trailers next to a beautiful lake wake up one morning to find that the place they were in is and isn’t the same. All of them, along with their possessions and trailers, moved during the night.

They are still in the camping grounds, but everything that was around them, including trees and the body of water, has disappeared. Instead of a spot in the map of a bigger world, they find themselves surrounded by an endless expanse of grass and a blue sky devoid of a sun.

There are no sounds. No birds or insects. No people, cars, or buildings. There are no flowers.

Every radio plays artists who perform nothing but songs written by sixties pop icon Peter Himmelstrand. The group sets out on expeditions, and tries to build a small tower to see if they can get better cell phone signal, but the green expanse appears to be infinite. Then the worst things from their pasts start materializing and bizarre figures resembling old, faceless men start to show up. What starts as a confusing morning soon turns into a desperate race to understand what’s happening in an attempt to get back to reality.

himmelstrand-ajvide_lindqvist_john-27044043-386054041-frntl1.jpgI liked this book – a lot. So much that I devoured all 400+ pages in two separate sittings and then I went back in with a marker. This book is a horror novel, yes, but also a very good depiction of what it means to have no goal in life, about individual satisfaction, about the meaning of life and the purpose of a community. No man is an island but when push comes to shove – will every man stand up for himself and his family or help their neighbours.

What makes the circumstances of the stranded people even worse – is built in bigotism, narcissism and one very evil child who seems set to become one with the darkness.

“When there is emptiness all around us, and everything else has fallen away, it boils down to this and this alone: I have a life and you have a life, however different they may be. The question is: who has the power?”

The ex-footballer regrets his marriage to a slim model, the model regrets having a child and resents the girl even more to the point where she kicks her when she realises what she is and what she’s done. I liked the shop-keeper and his obsession with the too-many pallets of herrings he ordered but would not be able to sell and his love for his wife and child.

I liked how the sturdy wife was in fact an ex-addict and alchoolic who used to run with the Hitler lovers gang but now found solidity in life in form of her husband.

I really liked the old gay (but not gay) couple who reached a level of intimacy that only very good friends reach (but they failed when they tried to have sex with each other as doomsday was approaching).

I loved the cat and the dog tale (part of the tale you can see from the dog’s POV and you get to know his abusing master and his placid wife).

All the people in the meadow have been chosen (marked with a cross on their trailer) and they sit at the cross roads between two criss-crossing lines. Ominous as it sounds, there are black forces approaching and they want their blood. It all comes down to blood in the end – the soil reeks of it, the animals can smell it and even people feel the pull of the unknown darkness which promises them comfort and the end of suffering. Some people respond to the call and find themselves in their moment of bliss (like the footballer having sex in the darkness with a mature woman) – or Majvor having sex with the TV superstar incarnate.

There is loads of sex in the book (implied and explicit) and I believe sex and blood are the basis of a good horror novel as they deal with the most intimate of things – life. I think by setting the entire novel in a place where there is nothing to look at, the viewer needs to look inside and there is space for meditation and introspection. What makes us tick? What gives us purpose? Why do we get up in the morning and keep on fighting, even if we know the fight is a loosing one? Who is truly bad or truly evil in a place with no God to judge?

“Without our flaws we would be like a well-oiled machine, and our actions and thoughts could be predicted through simulation, if we only had sufficient processing power. That will never happen. Our flaws are a variable outside the scope of such a calculation, and they drive us to great achievements or to utterly despicable deeds.”

The book is bizarre and I think in a way it resembles Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and Under the Dome by Stephen King book

Lindqvist’s scary stuff is unique and distressing and something you can really picture in your mind’s eye, he’s quite skilled at it. And the character work here is also very good. You really get a feel for who all these people are, and enough of their backstory to feel fully fleshed out.

Can’t wait to read the next book in the series and see what happened to the trailer park people!


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