Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: The Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson

In the past week or so, I've read the three books in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy" (called so because of Millennium Magazine, which features prominently in the narrative, not because it has anything to do with Lance Henriksen, but maybe he's Swedish as well?) I'd actually tried, years ago, to read the first book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, with no success. I was bored out of my skull on page 20, and that's far beyond where I normally cut off my precious attention. But, so many people of all stripes are reading the books, there are the Swedish movies, and now the first American remake has come I tried again.

Of the three, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has the tightest story and the best characterization, I feel. Also, most appraisals of the subsequent books are bound to be unfair, because Larsson apparently died after having turned in the three manuscripts, so he wasn't around to edit and polish with publisher input. Or maybe he edited and polished with private publisher input; I don't really know. But I feel that the second and third book needed some overall work, and it couldn't all be blamed on being translated from Swedish. I've read translated novels before without such issues (Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist was also Swedish, as an example). Apparently, the series was also intended to be ten books long; faults aside, I regret that did not come to fruition.

So: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. We're introduced to the main players: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. He's a journalist who takes journalism to its Platonic ideal of championing the Truth and Justice and suchlike. She's a social misfit who's a brilliant hacker. Blomkvist first, but then Salander, are hired to solve a rather old "locked room" mystery, wherein the niece of their boss disappeared from an island thirty years prior, on a day when the island was both busy and cut off from the mainland. There are other characters that appear throughout the novels, but these two are the "most important", and frankly, the ones I felt the more compelled to follow. Arguably, Erica Berger (Mikael's Millennium partner and sometimes bedmate)  is important, but less so until the third book.

The Girl Who Played With Fire: Blomkvist discovers the murdered bodies of two researchers who were working on a rather exposing project for and with him, and Salander is, improbably, the prime suspect. This book frustrated me. The bulk of it is a police procedural in which, due to the omniscient style of narration, we the readers are watching the police do it wrong. And see where the deliberate monkey wrenches are thrown into the investigation. And wonder where the heck it is Salander disappeared to, because wasn't she supposed to be in this book too? There's some great government coverup stuff in it, but overall, I was pretty unsatisfied. But, Larsson wisely ended the book with a bang, and so I needed to read the next.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: The book picks up pretty much immediately after the prior one, and by immediately, I mean within hours, anyway, not the next sentence. This book had a lot less to wade through before the story was reached, I felt, and overall, it was also a tighter and more complete book than The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Overall, I don't regret the time I spent reading the books. I've also watched the first two Swedish movies at this point, with the third in my near future. Given the levels of violence, sexual and otherwise, in the books and the movies, I'm a little surprised at the widespread audience appeal. I mean, my grandmother read these. And watched the first movie. I hadn't yet read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo when she mentioned that she'd read them, so I didn't know. But now that I do, it's kind of funny to me, in the way all of the older set were reading A Million Little Pieces a few years back; I know it was supposedly a tale of redemption and all that, but it was also a tale of explicit and frequent drug use, among other things.


  1. I still have yet to read any of his books. Very sad, I know D: But after reading this post, I probably will. His books have never been my preferred genre, though everyone says they're amazing.

  2. If nothing else, I'd say to read the first one. I felt the first chapter was dreadfully boring, but from the second one on, things were all right.

  3. I read a sample of the first one a few months ago and just couldn't get into it. But I recently saw the American movie and loved it, so I'd like to give the books another try at some point. Great review :)

  4. Thanks Linda! Even if I'm not totally gung-ho for the book I've read, I do try to be fair, anyway.

    I haven't seen the American movie yet. I wanted to see the Swedish first, and of course it's not in my local theater anymore. I'll just have to wait!