Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Millennium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2005, 600 pages
The Girl Who Played with Fire, 2006, 630 pages
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, 2007, 576 pages
These three novels were originally written in Swedish, and were published after the death of the author, Stieg Larsson. They take place in Sweden.
The story follows Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist in his 40s, and Lisbeth Salander, a strange young girl in her 20s with lots of problems. In the first book their ways are crossed during an investigation of an old crime, and in the second and third book the plot focuses on Lisbeth herself, her mysterious and complicated past and her dealing with its shadows that come back to haunt her.
I am not a big fan of thrillers. Usually I am bored of them, and can’t develop and caring about who did what and what happens with the characters. But this series fascinated me. I could not put the books down (after a certain point, more on that later) I was very curious to know what happens next and I was on the edge of my seat at some parts.
I chose to start with the overall impression because when I think about various aspects of the books I have a lot of criticism, so I want to clarify that overall I enjoyed the series a lot. And now for the criticism.
The books, especially the first two, are extremely violent, with description of cruel sexual (and other) violence. I later read that Stieg Larsson was blame-stricken after witnessing a rape and not doing more to help the victim. It may be the reason for the descriptions in the book. I don’t like books with details description of violence. We have enough if it on the news.
The author died before the books were published. It can explain why the editing is lacking. The books are way too long, with long tedious and unnecessary parts that seem to never end. I wrote before that I could not put the books down. This was not true from the beginning. Actually I kept “threatening” that I will stop reading the first book, and only because I was on a flight with no other book to read I kept on reading. Eventually, way ahead into the book, it did catch, and when I got to the connection I bought the second book, to make sure I have it when I finish the next one.
One reason they are so long is because they contain unnecessary parts, scenes that contributes nothing to the plot or to the books in general, like the first part of the second book. I was glad it was cut from the movie.
The books are so long also because they contain detailed description of every detail – everything the characters wear, eat, their houses, including interior decoration and the furniture. Though some details are nice to get the feeling of the place and time, so much of them are tedious and unnecessary. The descriptions include also the technological devices like cell phones and computers, including the exact model of each and the technical specifications, details that become irrelevant almost immediately in our fast paste technology world. Computer technology is a huge part of these books, and my personal computer expert had to smirk at some of them, but I – not an expert but knows enough about computers – did not find any crude mistakes in this area.
Another main problem, in my opinion, is the main character, Mikael. He is probably the “Mary Sue” of the author. Incredibly capable, always finds out what other failed to find for years, moral, always do the right thing, and irresistible to women – almost each woman he sees just has to drag him to bed, and what choice does a good-heart man like him has other than to agree?
On the other hand, I just loved the character of Lisbeth, and my favorite parts are where she appears. Not that her character lacks problems, but overall she won my heart.
This leads to the next problem: the romance in the book. I can’t even call it romance. It was so heartless, so emotionless, all based around sex and maybe some fondness, not more than that. It was so obvious it was written by a man (though there are some beautiful books written by man with very convincing romance and feelings). I was disgusted by the romance in the book and would rather these parts (like many unnecessary parts) stayed out of the book.
So I have a lot of criticism for the book, but the bottom line wins: I enjoyed reading them, could not put them down, and highly recommend them.

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