This was a buddy read with the incomparable Thomas Strömquist. If you do not know Thomas, I suggest you get to know him. He’s well-read and a genuinely good person, which are two characteristics rarely found in guys these days. I consider myself lucky to know him, and even luckier to call him my friend. He was gracious enough to buy me a physical copy of this book for our monthly buddy read. I know I’ve told him privately, but here’s a another thank you, because he deserves to be acknowledged publicly. Thank you, Thomas. Your friendship and kindness are always appreciated.
Another Time, Another Life is not your average crime story. It’s not really a thriller either. While I did enjoy the overall experience, I was never on the edge of my seat. It’s not that type of mystery. I think I enjoyed this one as much as I did for the following reasons: a) I learned several new things, b) I dig dry humor, which this book is full of, and c) I was able to read this with someone who could clue me in on the original text.
The timeline jumps back and forth between present day, not-so present day, and the past. If you’re confused, I’ll try to explain. The story bounces from 1975 to 1989 to 1975 to 2000 to 1975 to Present Day. At least Present Day in the story. Everything from 1975 is boring to the point of sleep-inducing. You need the information being delivered, but the style in which it is written is long-winded and banal, like reading a newspaper article that goes on for fifteen pages. I was glad these sections were relatively short, because every time they popped up, the story ground to a screeching halt.
By the time I was done reading this book I felt as if I’d lived several decades with it’s characters. Especially our leading man, Swedish Security Policeman Lars Johansson. Unfortunately, I got to know several assholes along the way, as well. The homophobia was strong with this read, and even our main character seemed stuck on stupid at times. But the author makes sure that we know these points of view belong solely to his characters and not him by inserting certain characters to argue the other, less-hateful side of things. Some of the hate-speech was hard to read due to its casual nature. Maybe I’m the odd duck here, but casual hate-speech has always bothered me more than blatant hate-speech. If you’re going to be an ignorant ass, I’d prefer to know upfront. No reason to hide that shit. Get it out in the open so I can tell you to fuck off and get back to my day.
Of course, we must tackle the 800-pound stereotype in the room. Because this author is Swedish, he’s been compared to Jo Nesbø and Stieg Larsson. I’ve read both, and I don’t think he’s like either one of them. Persson’s plot is a far superior to the Larsson novel I read, but his writing is nowhere near as fun to read as Nesbø’s. That being said, Persson is his own person. (See what I did there? Ha-ha, ho-ho, he-he…).
[Awkward transition is awkward]
I find other countries and cultures fascinating. I was raised by a rather close-minded father who was equal parts homophobic, xenophobic, and racist. Being able to tell early on that his close-mindedness came from a lack of education helped a great deal where my own education was concerned. I read everything I could get my hands on (still do), but only recently (in the past two years or so) have I branched out to international authors. I dig all things Swedish and Japanese, and am (slowly) learning Swedish, which I chose because Japanese is, to put it mildly, fucking impossible to teach yourself unless you’re a genius. And, as anyone who’s read my fiction or reviews will tell you, I’m no genius. I love that this book was both educational and entertaining. I learned quite a bit about Sweden’s laws and political history, and came to appreciate this author’s unique brand of humor.
In summation: I’m not entirely sure any of my friends will be interested in this one, as the writing and humor can be a bit dry and the translation is rather verbose. Thomas warns that much is lost in translation, but the story has survived well enough. Recommended to fans of procedural crime fiction.
Final Judgment: A learning experience.