"Mum, I need a pee." Well, go to the toilet thein." It's not there."
Of course it is. It's where you went yesterday. The service block." It's not there." For goodness sake, can't you let me sleep just for once?" But I need a pee. I'm going to wet myself." So go to the service block. It's only fifty metres away. Surely you can manage that?" It's not there." It is. Go outside, turn left and go around this revolting caravan, then carry straight on. That's where it is."
"Which is left?"Oh, pee on the grass for heaven's sake and let me sleep. Wake your dad if you insist on playing up."
"Nearly everything has gone."
"What are you talking about?'
"Come and look."
"Out of the window. Nearly everything has gone."
Five families awake one morning to find that the rest of the campground where they were staying, along with all the people, have disappeared. There are only the five caravans and their inhabitants in the midst of a flat, featureless plain. They don't know how or why they came to be here, but they have more pressing questions, such as how can they get back to the real world before they run out of food and water, who are the mysterious figures out in the wasteland and what do they want from them?
I Am Behind You is the latest novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the bestselling Let the Right One In.
The premise of the book is reminiscent of Stephen King's The Langoliers, with that classic situation of a group of strangers dropped into an unfamiliar place and having to choose between working together or turning on each other in their fight for survival. The tension builds slowly, through lots of little details. The horror is mostly psychological, but there are a few moments of violence which took me by surprise, and some unsettling images that will haunt me.
The characters are a flawed bunch with colourful pasts, with the exceptions of Emil, a seven year old boy, and Benny the dog. I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book told from Benny's point of view, which served to lighten the tone in parts, though I spent much of the book worrying that something awful would happen to him, as it usually does to cute little dogs in horror stories. Minor spoiler: nobody drops him off a balcony or feeds him to a giant crocodile. You can relax on that score at least.
There were a few things that I suspect went over my head because I don't know enough about the popular culture or history of Sweden, but they don't seem to be integral to the plot. I was a little disappointed by the ending, which left me confused, but apparently this is the first volume in a trilogy, so perhaps it will become clear in the later books. Then again, perhaps there are just not supposed to be any neat, easy answers.
I Am Behind You is a creepy tale of psychological and supernatural horror that is gripping while you read it, and both puzzling and eerie once you've finished. It's like literary tequila, leaving a hangover of ennui and nightmares. It's a fairly quick read, that would make for a spooky night in for Halloween provided you don't mind a lot of loose ends.
Published: 7 September 2017 Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Quercus Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.