"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

If your edition of this book is anything like mine, it'll be decorated with rave reviews from critics who throw about words like "thrilling" and "sexy" and "addictive". These critics were clearly on the take.

This book's only saving grace, is its characters. I love flawed characters and this book had plenty of them. Mikeal Blomkvist, adulterer, bad father, yet somehow still tortured by morals. Lisbeth Salander, no morals, frequently victimized, hacker extraordinaire. Not to mention the rapists, murderers, anti-semites, and traitors. Unfortunately, most of the characters aren't fully developed until halfway through the story and by then you're bored bonkers, waiting for the good stuff to happen.

The book starts -- skimming over important things like character introductions -- by presenting you with a character dialogue about another character dialogue. Basically this story starts by having a character you don't really know, tell you a story about a guy he didn't really know, giving him insider information on a crook named Wennerstrom. Which had the potential to be fascinating but wasn't... because for much of this, the conversations are purely factual sentences with no personality shining through. You are asked to take an unknown character named Blomkvist at his word because he's the main character... which you could do, but you are also asked to take a long lost friend on his word about his inside info to shady undertakings, which is in itself shady. Confused yet? Because that's just first 60 or so pages.

So you read on, thinking this Wennerstrom thing could get interesting when the reality is, the Vanger family is about to offer up an entirely different and unrelated mystery. Bye-bye Wennerstrom. Thanks for playing. Hello to the Actual Plotline, where the hell have you been?

Was the book "sexy"? No, not really. If you're a rape fetishist, maybe. Because a central theme of the story, is men who hate women...which in turn leads to some pretty angry men doing God-awful things to unsuspecting women. Mikael Blomkvist is a womanizer -- at least I can give him his props for being upfront about his need for casual sex as his character begins to develop long at last -- who does have sex throughout the book but its really not sexy because its merely hinted at...Which means the writer could have just mentioned his characters sexual proclivities and moved on with the story and saved the ink but I digress on that matter.

Was the book "thrilling"? It was about as thrilling as a early 90s episode of Law&Order, when those writers were still unsure of just how far they'd be allowed to take crime on tv. It was very analytical, which would probably have served better if the leading man was a detective instead of a reporter. One scene has him carrying a conversation with a serial killer, and all I can think is: Is this it?

Addictive? Not even close. There was no suspense forcing me to keep flipping pages, to convince me to forsake eating and sleeping to find out more. If anything, I found other activities to help me avoid having to read the story... Including watching the movie which was fantastic! Cool music, fight scenes, sex scenes, a mystery that made you half afraid to look at the evidence being pieced together...

And the book did have a solid plot with great clues, and no question was left hanging that shouldn't have been (eventually the Vanger family mystery gets solved and the character decides to solve the Wennerstrom thing too). But there were too many facts, too soon and too little personality in characters who -- according to the facts -- should have been overflowing with it. Too many facts slowed down the progression of the story and the plot twists that arrived were gifts to break the monotony instead of actual surprises. I'm very sad to say that this story could have gone a lot farther with a lot less... I wanted to like it so badly but couldn't.

Will I read the next one? I'll probably wait, see the movie first and then decide if its worth it.

Rating 2/5
Originally posted on:
May 23, 12

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