This month, I picked up a number of books that I didn’t like much and had to put down: Ayaan Firsi Ali’s Nomad (too polemical), Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (too religious), and Robert Ludlum’s Sigma Protocol (too brainless), among others. My greatest flaw as a reader is my limited attention span.
But I forced myself to finish this one. Everywhere I turn these days, I see a new reference to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I finally succumbed to popular pressure and spent $7 on the small paperback version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The cover is striking. It’s a ubiquitous and hard-to-miss presence on all the NYC subways, with its bright yellow, lime green, and electric orange elements. I hear it’s in the running for a number of cover design awards, which doesn’t surprise me. I haven’t seen such a, well, radioactive looking novel in a long time.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
I was slightly underwhelmed by this book at first. I wasn’t expecting a literary tour de force, of course; popular bestsellers rarely are. But I was expecting, at the very least, something superficially gripping along the lines of the DaVinci Code. I’m going to read the rest of this series (The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) solely because I liked the two main characters, not out of any special regard for the author’s mystery-writing skills.
Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander are wonderfully contrived protaganists that encouraged me to finish this book despite its lackluster first half. Blomkvist is a journalist fallen from grace by an unfortunate libel scandel. He is kind and humble, not to mention a little sexually promiscuous. But his escapades don’t hold a candle to Lisbeth’s. She’s a punk rebel, a computer hacker, and a man eater (almost literally – she swings a baseball bat at one, and forcibly tattoos another). At first I was afraid she’d be the typical quirky, offbeat computer geek, but she proved quite mysterious and I’m interested to read the next novel in the series if only to learn more about her past and her future.
Yo-Landi Vi$er, a musician whom the American "Dragon Tattoo" director wants for the part of Lisbeth Salander. Vi$er is reportedly not interested.
After Blomkvist’s libel trial, he is hired by a corporate giant, Henrik Vanger, to investigate the case of his missing niece, Harriet. Set in rural Sweden, the story revolves around the harsh climates (freezing winds, fierce snows) and hearty foods (moose steak, anyone?) of Larsson’s homeland. I enjoyed learning about this faraway hinterland, and it seemed a fitting place for a bone-chilling murder mystery.
Yet Larsson failed to capture my imagination with his writing. His style was very journalistic, and the first half of the book was a chore to get through. However, the second half was much more rewarding, which leads me to believe that perhaps he was just setting up background for the rest of the series with those miserable two hundred pages.
For now, I am going to have faith in the popular vote and wait to get my hands on a copy of The Girl who Played with Fire, the next book in the trilogy. I’m also really pumped for the American movie version of this book, which is starring the attractive Daniel Craig (read: James Bond) as Mikael Blomkvist.