A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

For discussion of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Människohamn
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covenant6452
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A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by covenant6452 » Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:42 pm

Wow! A perfect story for an ex-fisherman!
I will never look at the ocean in the same way again.

Often, when out on the fishing boats in my youth, especially when it was quiet and the water was like a sheet in the wind, flat and smooth with huge rolling swells, I can remember myself wondering at the power underneath all that water and how the patch of water I was on connected to all the other water on the planet somehow. Just like someone in this novel thinks once. I would creep myself out thinking of all the gooey, slimy, teeth-filled things swimming around there. (Being up to my crotch in a wriggling, biting mass of the things while working on a dragger-boat may have influenced that particular fear!) During that time I lived in small fishing villages on the west coast of Canada, with islands and the seas and superstitious old-timers from the side of a bottle of OldSpice.
Now after reading Människohamn/Harbour and having the memory of that refreshed, I like to think I have something in common with our favourite author.
I also feel after reading this that Mr. Lindqvist has lived the sea life rather than just researched it.

The sins of the past are visited on the future.
I found the story in Människohamn was an interesting one with many layers of mystery spread over a long time, and with even a bit of ambiguity as well. What happened to the salt trader Magnuss who landed on the paradise of an island a llooonngg time ago? What was it beneath the sea and why would it need steps? (This I liked as it made me think of something Cthulhulian, some great God slumbering beneath the waters.)
I've got questions...again. Mainly,...Where was everybody kept? Where was that place under the water?

The characters were well thought out as usual. The "council" of descendants keeping their secrets. Elin, the woman who does requests reverse plastic surgery to make her uglier??! Most everyone on the island has a connection to the past and something interesting about them. The people and their connections to the past are complex, and all of them are, of course, flawed.
The mother, Cecilia who has separated herself from everyone and doesn't seem to care much at all, so much so that I thought she didn't matter much or bring much to the story.
I liked Anders' character, and his flaws, how he had altered his perception of his daughter as the sea (mostly) only took "bad" people, but was she really "bad" or did she just need a tranquilizer/Ritalin? (JK!) Also I laughed at how he thought to keep himself partly drunk by watering down all his wine and drinking it constantly, (This works actually, but I recommend it only on holidays.) and how that worked out to be a plot-point later on.
I say all the characters were flawed, well, except for Simon the magician, who was the only flawless one and could have been sainted. (John showing his love for his former craft?) Maybe his making a pact with the water-spirit wasn't the smartest thing to do, but it wasn't a repeated flaw, it didn't seem to be something done out of greed, and eventually it was worth it.

I also laughed at how John wrote the "old people" sex scene...priceless.

The pacing of the story went well, (Slower than my usual fare to start, but then that is his style and not a bad thing) at least as well as my fave JAL story and better than HTU in my opinion, getting the reader up to speed on the people and setting fairly well in the first third of the book, then getting even deeper while creating more and more mystery before ramping up to the cataclysm of an ending.


I am well pleased that Mr. Lindqvist knocked it out of the park his first time at bat, he helped create my first true obsession!
I'm enjoying the idea that I found him early in his career and that I can be there to watch as he gets better. While I know LTROI is going to always be my favourite JAL story, I really had a good time with Människohamn/Harbour and finished it in two sittings.

Sean...
Du måste bjuda in mig...or else!

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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by TΛPETRVE » Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:59 pm

To me, the story felt at times a lot like a (by far) less eldritch take on H.P. Lovecraft. The sea was described like one of the Outer Gods, with the Spiriti (the name of that creature sounds a bit campy imho, but well...) being their messengers. The plot itself, however, reminded me a lot of the very first Silent Hill game.
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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by StefL » Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:03 am

covenant6452 wrote:What was it beneath the sea and why would it need steps? (This I liked as it made me think of something Cthulhulian, some great God slumbering beneath the waters.)
I've got questions...again. Mainly,...Where was everybody kept? Where was that place under the water?

Sean...
It's great that this book has finally been translated to English so there can be a bit of discussion about it.
I had the impression the place where Maja and others ended up wasn't really under water but in some kind of parallell dimension/reality. Didn't Anders experience steps first down and then up again? So my impression was that the water was more of a connecting medium to the other place.

DMt.

Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by DMt. » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:35 am

Nice work, Covi. I look forward to reading this.

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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by drakkar » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:51 am

Great review cov :D
covenant6452 wrote:I'm enjoying the idea that I found him early in his career and that I can be there to watch as he gets better.
I didn't think of that, but youre absolutely right. I share your pov: The story about Eli&Oskar is the strongest I've experienced in my 50 years life, but Harbour is better written than LTROI.
StefL wrote:It's great that this book has finally been translated to English so there can be a bit of discussion about it.
I had the impression the place where Maja and others ended up wasn't really under water but in some kind of parallell dimension/reality. Didn't Anders experience steps first down and then up again? So my impression was that the water was more of a connecting medium to the other place.
That is my understanding as well. Even if Harbour is "more supernatural" than LTROI, JAL seems to make connections to "reality" through the stairs, as you mention, and also by making the ghost's motorcycle real and turning GBgubben into sime scary artefact etc..
For the heart life is simple. It beats as long as it can.
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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by TΛPETRVE » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:12 pm

Lovecraft's outer gods - take Tulzscha, for example - often bear the appearance of stars and cosmic nebulae. Lindqvists take on the sea made me think of earth itself being the shell of such an entity. Brrrr :D .
The parallel dimension he described, on the other hand, felt like a mix between the netherworld in Silent Hill and the soul eating house of Mr. Hood from Clive Barker's The Thief of Always.
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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by gattoparde59 » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:05 am

Thanks Sean. It was good to here a fisherman's perspective on this, as I am a very inland sort of person. If I see the ocean it is a rare treat.



[quote="covenant6452"]The mother, Cecilia who has separated herself from everyone and doesn't seem to care much at all, so much so that I thought she didn't matter much or bring much to the story.[/quote]

I disagree. Celia is the great love of Anders life, his childhood sweetheart, the center of his (almost) perfect day. The fact that she is separated from Anders I think is important to this story, the realistic equivalent to the supernatural separation from Maja. Anders conversations with her over the telephone (think of Oskar talking with his Dad on the phone) makes a nice compliment to Anders efforts to, um, communicate with Maja. At the end I had the impression that Celia was softening in her attitude towards Anders and that there was some hope that they would reunite. He was sober after all.

I will post some more on this later. Another very unusual story from Johnajvide!

I'll break open the story and tell you what is there. Then, like the others that have fallen out onto the sand, I will finish with it, and the wind will take it away.

Nisa

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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by gattoparde59 » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:53 pm

covenant6452 wrote:The sins of the past are visited on the future.
I found the story in Människohamn was an interesting one with many layers of mystery spread over a long time, and with even a bit of ambiguity as well. What happened to the salt trader Magnuss who landed on the paradise of an island a llooonngg time ago? What was it beneath the sea and why would it need steps? (This I liked as it made me think of something Cthulhulian, some great God slumbering beneath the waters.)
I've got questions...again. Mainly,...Where was everybody kept? Where was that place under the water?
The first thing that came to mind for me was the "fairy realms" or "otherworlds" of Celtic mythology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Otherworld
The Otherworld (orbis alia) in Celtic mythology is postulated (but not known) to be the realm of the dead, the home of the deities, or the stronghold of other spirits and beings such as the Sídhe. Tales and folklore describe it as existing over the western sea, or at other times underground (such as in the Sídhe mounds) or right alongside the world of the living, but invisible to most humans.

The Irish believed in an Otherworld, which they described sometimes as underground, such as in the Sídhe mounds, and sometimes located on islands in the Western Sea. The Otherworld was variously called Tír na mBeo ("the Land of the Living"), Mag Mell ("Delightful Plain"), and Tír na nÓg ("Land of the Young"), among other names. It was believed to be a country where there was no sickness, old age, or death, where happiness lasted forever, and a hundred years was as one day.
In the original folklore, there is quite a bit of fear surrounding people and spirits crossing over from this world and the Otherworld.
Celtic folklore and mythology are full of tales that tell of humans wandering into the Otherworld, and of supernatural beings crossing over into the human realm. This is considered most likely to happen at particular, liminal places, or on special days of the year. For instance, on the Gaelic festival of Samhain (November 1, seen by many as the Celtic New Year), it is believed that the boundaries between the worlds become even more permeable than usual, and mortals might cross over to the spirit world - usually accidentally - and the inhabitants of the spirit world might cross over into the mortal realm. The spring festival of Beltane (May 1) is also seen as a time when the Otherworld is particularly close at hand.

Traditionally, much folklore and folk practice is concerned with preventing the intrusion of spirits into this world, or the loss of humans to the Otherworlds, and many charms and taboos exist for protection from these incidents. Some of this is seen in fairy lore, where humans fear the fairies might steal human babies and leave Changelings in their places. However other traditions think more kindly of the fairies and other spirits, and encourage the leaving of offerings for them, such as milk and baked goods, in order to form a treaty or friendship with them.
This seems to be the inspiration for Neverland in Peter Pan, although Neverland is meant to represent all kinds things such as the world of child hood and imagination. Barrie returned to the idea of the Otherworld in Mary Rose, where a child vanishes on an Island in the Hebrides while on a family holiday. She reappears after 21 days on the same island, apparently unaware that any time has passed. Mary Rose is permanently warped by her experience and is seen talking to beings who can't be seen. Unlike Peter Pan we never learn anything about the Otherworld that Mary Rose has traveled to, other than she wants to return.

I would be curious as to what people make of the world down the stairs described in the novel. It seems to have psychological implications, a place where people are immersed, so to speak, in their own favorite dreams. Humans seem so self-absorbed, so to speak, that they have lost all contact with the rest of the human race. The inhabitants always keep their backs to Anders so that he can never see their faces.

I'll break open the story and tell you what is there. Then, like the others that have fallen out onto the sand, I will finish with it, and the wind will take it away.

Nisa

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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by drakkar » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:05 am

gattoparde59 wrote:At the end I had the impression that Celia was softening in her attitude towards Anders and that there was some hope that they would reunite. He was sober after all.
I agree that their reunion is (strongly) hinted. The cause of Anders' depression and drinking problem is gone - actually triggered by Anders - and Cecilia never found any rest with other men.
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Re: A Mini-Review of Människohamn/Harbour

Post by lombano » Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:29 am

covenant6452 wrote: I found the story in Människohamn was an interesting one with many layers of mystery spread over a long time, and with even a bit of ambiguity as well. What happened to the salt trader Magnuss who landed on the paradise of an island a llooonngg time ago? What was it beneath the sea and why would it need steps? (This I liked as it made me think of something Cthulhulian, some great God slumbering beneath the waters.)
I've got questions...again. Mainly,...Where was everybody kept? Where was that place under the water?
I agree with the others that it seems some sort of parallel universe. I'm glad that so many things were left more or less unresolved in the end, otherwise it would probably have been a case of explaining too much.
covenant6452 wrote:I liked Anders' character, and his flaws, how he had altered his perception of his daughter as the sea (mostly) only took "bad" people, but was she really "bad" or did she just need a tranquilizer/Ritalin? (JK!)
I liked him too, and could empathise with him. To me a crucial point is how he is only able to really make progress after he is compelled to see Maja as she really was and not an idealised version of her, and after confronting the fear that she is in league with his tormentors. How Anders hits rock bottom was very poignant, and I really like the idea that he can only make progress after facing the reality of what she was like, warts and all, despite the pain of dropping the fantasy that shielded him emotionally. Of course, unlike Henrik and Bjorn, Maja wasn't actually malicious, just very, very difficult.
covenant6452 wrote: Maybe his making a pact with the water-spirit wasn't the smartest thing to do
It doesn't seem so bad, really - a bit of daily saliva in exchange for its powers? I felt that the burden of it was rather exaggerated by Simon
gattoparde59 wrote:It was good to here a fisherman's perspective on this, as I am a very inland sort of person. If I see the ocean it is a rare treat.
Same here. Actually my location is the exact opposite of the setting in just about every respect.
gattoparde59 wrote: I would be curious as to what people make of the world down the stairs described in the novel. It seems to have psychological implications, a place where people are immersed, so to speak, in their own favorite dreams. Humans seem so self-absorbed, so to speak, that they have lost all contact with the rest of the human race.
I view it as a kind of adult version of a Hansel-and-Gretel house made of candy. Superficially very attractive, but evil. Instead of getting shoved into an oven, you get never-ending solitary confinement.
Bli mig lite.

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