October 10, 2008 | Comments ()

By Miscellaneous | Books | October 10, 2008 |


Imagine if someone put an entire Thanksgiving dinner into a blender and pureed it with ice, told you to drink it and describe each of the individual flavors. You might get a nugget of obvious pumpkin pie, you might get a chunk of cranberry sauce. But overall, you enjoy the taste, because despite the bizarrely discordant elements, they all taste great. Welcome to the world of Stieg Larsson and Millenium.

I cannot remember who recommended this book to me (show yourselves!) but thank you so much. It’s very rare that I purchase a best seller in hardcover of an author that I’ve never heard before, but I just took a chance. They tout this as a thriller, which it is, but it’s so much more than that. It’s Zodiac meets Smilia’s Sense of Snow meets The Bourne Ultimatum meets IKEA, but even that pales in accuracy. It commits so many errors that would normally piss me off, but it’s got such an interesting cast of characters, and such a disarming narrative structure, you drift along madly with the story. It lulls you into a false sense of security before throwing a disembodied head in your lap.

A plot description would steal so much thunder, but here’s my best effort. It starts out as an investigative story, where a financial journalist named Mikael Blomkvist is accused of libel for writing an article about a corrupt billionaire industrialist. Blomkvist is then hired by the patriarch of a major industrial family, the Vanger clan, to surreptitiously investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet under the guise of writing a biography of the family. Again, this strikes me as turning out to be a wintry episode of “Murder She Wrote.” And it starts out that way. What makes it so intriguing is that Blomkvist doesn’t want to do it, until Vanger promises to give him incontrovertible dirt on the industrialist who foiled him, Wennerstrom. (Which I kept reading as Wernstrom! and shaking my fist angrily at the sky) So you think you’re reading an old school murder mystery with a detective reluctant to investigate.

But where the novel really starts to shine is the titular character herself, Lisbeth Salander. She will now join the ranks of Thursday Next and Susannah Dean as one of the most kickass females in literature. Lisbeth is a socially devoid punk girl, who turns out to be an expert computer hacker and investigator. She’s ruthless in every meaning of the world, and rather than being a simple wallflower, is actually cold and calculating. She weighs every word, refuses to be touched, and will disappear for days on end. I’m not doing her justice with my explanation. She’s a fierce woman with a strict code, who will completely eviscerate people. She’s not a bitch, she’s THE bitch. She will fuck you up and destroy your life and not even give two damns about it. It’s fascinating.

At first, you aren’t sure where the two characters are going to interact, or even if they will interact. Larsson has this amazing way of traipsing along before smashing you over the head with a stunning undertaking. And he does this several times during the course of the book. It’s so layered it’s phenomenal. As plot points resolve, the story metamorphs into something completely different. It goes from mystery to thriller to spy story to journalistic revenge tale. And never once does it feel hobbitted, like the novel should have ended pages ago. The story literally becomes something else.

And when it does finally end, it’s such a strangely beautiful ending that its baffling. It’s both sad and perfect and interesting. The only failing I could see in this book, and it’s not really a failing, is that we’re meant to believe that Blomkvist is incredibly desirable to all women. In the context of the book, each coupling makes sense, but even James Bond only got it on with one or two women.

Supposedly, there are two more novels in the series. The second The Girl Who Played With Fire will be released in the UK in January 2009 (and which I’m not saying Alex the Odd needs to send to me immediately if not sooner because you know I’m handsome and cool and stuff) and Castles in the Sky, which may or may not get released in 2010. The sad coda to the story is that Larsson died in 2004, so this will be it for him. But I highly recommend this story. It’s not going to keep you riveted to your seat, or hungrily flipping to the next page necessarily. Because it’s not an adrenalized story. It’s just really sharp writing.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. You can read more about it, here.

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100 Books in One Year #12: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | October 10, 2008 | Comments ()




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