The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)by Published 16 Sep 2008
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Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Alternate Cover Edition ISBN 0307269752 (ISBN13: 9780307269751)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) Reviews
Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to solve the decades-old murder of Harriet Vanger, member of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden. Aided by a tattooed, antisocial hacker named Lisabeth Salander, Blomkvist unearths horrible skeletons lurking in the Vanger family closet...
For a few years now, I've been avoiding The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since so many people told me I just had to read it, many of them non-readers, I assumed it was a lot of over-hyped, dumbed-down crap. Well, I may have been wrong. All hype aside, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a damn good book and I feel it goes beyond just being a mystery.
Larsson creates some memorable characters. We've got Mikael Blomkvist, the tarnished journalist, Lisabeth Salander, bad ass hacker, for the leads, both multidimensional characters. Neither are by any means perfect but I liked them just the same. The Vanger family and the staff of the Millennium aren't as well drawn as the leads but Ericka Berger and some of the Vangers are good characters in their own right.
I'll be honest. It took a little while for me to get moving but I was enthralled pretty early on. You wouldn't have thought I'd be that interesting in what could have been a tedious subject to read about, namely researching family archives for hints. Somehow Larsson managed to grab me, though.
There isn't a lot of violence but what there is is pretty brutal. The hacking was pretty well done and not completely unbelievable. I guess what really sold the book for me was that I really believed in the characters. Both of them are pretty flawed but completely believable.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a some complaints. Aside from the pace, I felt like Larsson threw in some needless details. I didn't need to know the brands of a lot of products or what the characters were eating. I also thought that Mikael Blomkvist being a sort of James Bond in regard to the ladies was a tad unbelievable. Honestly, those are my only two complaints I can think of at the moment.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves a lot of the hype it gets. Now go out and read it if you haven't already!
Edit: I'm marking this down because I'm reading In the Woods and enjoying it more than I enjoyed this. I was kind of a whore with my 5s in past years.
After having leaped onto the bandwagon with the rest of everyone, I feel a certain amount of pretentious indie pride saying that I wasn't as awed by this book as everyone else apparently was. Which is not to say that the book wasn't enjoyable and exciting; it just didn't knock my socks off whilst simultaneously blowing my mind and rocking my world. (that sounds like either some great song lyrics or a very complicated sexual maneuver. Let's go with the first option.)
So, the good stuff: the main story - a disgraced journalist is hired by a rich old man to write a book about said man's crazy rich family, while secretly working to discover truth behind the disappearance and supposed murder of the man's granddaughter. Also in play is Lisbeth Salander, a freelance investigator who also happens to be one of the best hackers in Sweden. She also happens to be made of awesome, but I'll get to that later.
The journalist is investigating a supposed murder (a body was never found, so no one even knows what happened to the girl), so violence is expected. I just wasn't quite prepared for just how intensely graphic the violence is. There's a lot of stuff dealing with assault, rape, and murder of various women. There is also a lot of sex in the book, and the stuff that gets described in the most detail is definitely not consensual and will probably make you very uncomfortable. You've been warned.
The investigation itself is pretty fascinating, implausible as it is that some random guy investigating a disappearance that took place 40 years ago was able to find out completely new leads that weren't found by the police or the girl's grandfather (who's been obsessing about the case since forever), but I digress. The family itself is equal parts interesting, creepy, and frustrating. It's not until the journalist (Blomkvist) teams up with Lisbeth that things get really interesting, and they made such a fun team I wanted them to get their own detective show.
The book deals mainly with crimes against women and those who commit them. Larsson obviously feels very passionately about this subject, as well as what should be done with the men who assault women. Without giving anything away, rest assured that every bad guy rapist/murderer/whatever gets a large helping of tasty justice.
And now for the bad stuff:
-There's a lot of nattering on about business and computers and journalism and more business stuff that either bored me or went over my head completely.
-Larsson cannot seem to decide whether he wants to refer to people by their last name or their first name, so he switches back and forth and it is confusing.
-A family tree is provided at the beginning of the book, since the family the journalist is investigating (the Vangers) is pretty big, but I never had much trouble keeping everyone straight. A map of the island the family compound is located on would have been much more helpful, since I never really figured out the geography of the place.
-Pointless details. I don't need to know what the characters ate for every single meal, I don't need to know exactly what model of computer/motorcycle/car a character uses, and I definitely don't need to know what each character is wearing at every moment of the day. Larsson is especially guilty of this when Lisbeth is concerned - I guess he decided we wouldn't understand what a unique counterculture tough chick she is unless we know that she's always wearing leather jackets, boots, torn jeans, and black t-shirts with angry slogans. (yes, Larsson actually tells us what each of Lisbeth's t-shirts says.) Listen, Stieg: Lisbeth is awesome. She is wonderfully defined simply through her own actions and thoughts - we don't even need the other characters constantly reminding us how antisocial and tough and uncommunicative and badass she is. Believe me, we can see that. Show don't tell etc.
To sum up, I'm going to give the last word to the book itself, and quote a sentence that's actually a character talking about a book featured towards the end of the story - but it could easily describe Larsson's book:
"It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor - there had been no time for any fine polishing - but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice."
That, in a nutshell, was how I felt about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
UPDATE: I just watched the film version of this book (the original Swedish one, thank you verra much), and am adding this to my "the movie is better" shelf. Not that the book isn't good; it's just that the movie streamlines the story and gets rid of everything I complained about earlier in this review. In the movie, all the minor characters and business-drama babble has been eliminated, Erika and Mikael's weird three-way relationship is thankfully unmentioned, Mikael never boffs Cecilia Vanger, and Noomi Rapace is so fucking cool as Lisbeth I can't even handle it. I'm also pretty sure they took some stuff from The Girl Who Played With Fire and put it in the movie, because there's some stuff about Lisbeth's past that I don't remember from the book.
UPDATE UPDATE: Having now seen the American remake, and re-watched the Swedish version, I have come to a following decision. While the American version is, in a technical sense, a better movie (Fincher is a much better director - for just one example, the scene where Henrik Vanger explains the circumstances of Harriet's disappearance is a masterful example of show-don't-tell), I dislike the changes they made to the ending, and I simply cannot accept Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. Although I'm proud of Fincher & Co. for making her look and act as weird as the character should, something about her portrayal still wasn't right. If you're interested, this article explains pretty much every complaint I have about American Lisbeth.
(A) 85% | Extraordinary
Notes: It’s a logical, captivating mystery where everything clicks into place. It gives backwoods Sweden a Transylvania feel.
I re-read this book by audio and even though the narrator was good, he didn't do a good job on Lisbeth's voice. I wish that Noomi Rapace would have done her own voice. That would have been awesome.
So, I have been a fan of this series for quite some time. I have the movie trilogy box set of the books that are fan freaking tastic! Although, now I have to switch from dvd to blu-ray! I also have a couple of different copies of the books!
Lisbeth Salander is just freaking awesome. She's so bloody smart, I wish I was as smart as her and could be an awesome hacker like her too. Lol. I freaking loved when she got back at the [email protected] who raped her as well. Wheewwwww, if only everyone could get that kind of revenge on their rapist. Oh, happy day!
There are other things going on in the book but the main story line is about an uncle wanting to find out what happened to his niece, Harriet. He ends up hiring Mikael Blomkvist to find out what happened. Then Mikael gets lucky to have Lisbeth help him.
Do these two find out some secrets! Mikael almost gets killed a time or two. Makes you wonder what all they are hiding!
And of course, it's a big ole nasty secret. Why am I not surprised. It was just as hard to read about the second time around. Of course, there were other scenes that I had to skim through again, but I digress.
If you haven't wandered into the world that is Lisbeth Salander, what are you waiting for? And try and watch the movie trilogy. They used to have it on Netflix, that is where I originally watched them and then went straight to Amazon to buy them. Yes, they are that good as well as the books.
I've heard and read many complaints about Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
1. It's misogynistic.
2. It's packed with cliché.
3. It's too convoluted.
4. It's too disturbing.
5. Lisbeth wasn't autistic enough or was foolishly autistic.
6. There were too many red herrings, and the damn Nazi red herring didn't have the usual payoff.
7. Too/Two many plots.
8. Too hard on Leviticus.
I will answer these in a moment, but first I must declare that I am an unrepentant fan of this book. This is one of the rare times when I long for goodreads to have half grades, because I would love to give this 4.5. I can't give it a full 5, though, because I sense Mr. Larsson's series is going to grow in his last two books.
And now...back to the top eight complaints:
1. Perhaps, but how can a book whose original Swedish title is "Men Who Hate Women" avoid misogyny? It can't. But at least the misogyny present is a comment on misogyny. Larsson isn't being misogynist. He's attacking misogyny.
Moreover, our hero, Mikael Blomkvist, is not one of the men who hate women. He is a pretty good guy, actually; in fact, he's one of the rare guys I would actually categorize as a "good guy" in most modern literature. Sure...he's a bad Dad. Sure...he has a failed marriage and many sexual relationships. Sure...he makes some decisions that challenge his ethics. But he remains a "good guy." He tries to do well in an ugly world. He never succumbs to cynicism. And he genuinely cares about all the people in his life. Male and female.
And it's not like Berger and Salander are weak women -- far from it. There may be misogyny in Men Who Hate Women, but it is wholly the characters' misogyny -- those who have it -- and not the author's.
2. With apologies to my friend who's first name starts with T: Cliché, smiché! Yes there's some cliché -- maybe plenty of cliché -- but who cares?! Seriously? We're not talking about Proust here. We're talking about a mystery novel, a serial killer who-dunnit. Complaining about cliché in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is like complaining about "pinko sympathies" in The Communist Manifesto.
There's communism in Marx? Really? You think!?
3 & 7. Yep. There's a couple of distinct plots here, but there's a level of verisimilitude to that. Have even our banal lives ever had anything important happen without something else important occurring at the same time? Not mine, and to have multiple incidents happening simultaneously makes sense to me. The search for Harriet Vanger wasn't hampered at all by the Wennerström drama, and vice versa. And to be honest, I loved having a pair of mysteries solved in the same novel.
4. Too disturbing compared to what? It's nowhere near as disturbing as American Psycho, and it's about average as far as the serial killer genre goes. Plus, I think there is a power in the graphic moments of this novel, particularly Lisbeth's vengeance on her guardian. I am not on her side when it comes to this vengeance, but I understand it, and the drive to take vengeance in such a way -- such a human way -- fascinates me. Who'd have thought, besides maybe my friend Manny, that the Swedes have it in them?
5. Perhaps this is true, but at this point I have only read one of the trilogy, and the only person who suggested that Lisbeth was autistic was Mikael, and while he thought she was suffering from Asberger's his guess was only in passing. I can cut the book some slack here. (suspend my disbelief, suspend my disbelief).
6. I was stoked that, for once, the Nazis were a red herring rather than the ultimate, degenerated evil. We all expect the Nazis to be the worst of the worst, so it is refreshing to see them as a deflection instead.
8. Can anyone really be too hard on Leviticus? Ummmmm...nope.
Now, I admit that I might love this novel simply because it is set in Sweden. After all, I do love ABBA, Fredrik Ljungberg, IKEA (my apologies), glögg, Stellan Skarsgård, Max von Sydow, Ingmar Bergman, and Mats Sundin. I looked into emigrating to Sweden but had no excuse, being a resident of Canada with no skills the Swedes were looking for, and I am a fan of Norse Mythology, but I do love Sweden, and I was jazzed by the setting of Larsson's book. All that aside, however, I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a compelling, entertaining and unabashedly thrilling read.
If you can overlook the eight complaints, or consider them in a different light, you'll like this book too. I promise.