Kickin’ Butt with Blomkvist & Salander

4 09 2010

Note: These are in the wrong order. They go Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, Hornet's Nest.

 

I had heard a lot of hype about Stieg Larrson‘s books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire (also known as the Millenium Trilogy with the newest book called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) and thought maybe it was one of those “Oh, it’s so good!” where it’s really “Oh, it’s so predictable!” like other books that are super hyped nowadays.  I bought a Kindle copy of Dragon Tattoo when it was on super sale (Swagbucks was paying for it–For more info on Swagbucks and getting money for searching the web, email me!) and started it last week.  It was slow going at first.  I was trying to read it in 5 minute chunks while I was at work and I couldn’t get into it.  I finally decided that I needed to sit down and really get in to it.  Once I got past all of the random Swedish names, places, finance district information, miscellaneous stuff about Sweden, etc. it was REALLY good.  I was pleasantly surprised. 

I blasted through Dragon Tattoo in 2 days by spending a whole night on the couch with my Kindle and staying up WAY past my 8am bedtime (I was sort of compelled to start Played With Fire at 4am).  I finished that two days later (another sleepless night and day at work on absolutely no sleep, good idea, right?) and I had Hornet’s Nest queued up on the Kindle to start almost immediately.  I few through Hornet’s Nest in the matter of about 16 hours between a “babysitting” a patient shift at work and a sleepless morning after work.  I HAD to finish the story!

Major Characters and Plot Basics:

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and publisher of Millenium magazine, convicted of libel in Dragon Tattoo and spends a year trying to solve a mystery in exchange on information to avenge his libel conviction.  In Played with Fire he’s working on publishing a book when some things go wrong and Lisbeth is wanted by the police but nowhere to be found.  He spends Hornet’s Nest trying to solve the mystery of Lisbeth’s life and another great conspiracy.  Throughout the books he’s romantically linked to several women including his co-partner at Millenium Erika Berger and Lisbeth Salander among others.   

Lisbeth Salander is in her early 20s working as a freelance private investigator for a large security firm.  She’s different, to say the least.  She’s reserved, silent, and VERY good at what she does.  Through all of the books her researching skills are a great asset.  She and Mikael have a relationship and become friends of a sort while she is helping him with his mystery in Dragon Tattoo.  In Played With Fire she is linked to a few murders and we see more into her psyche and history through events unfolding as she’s avoiding the police.   Eventually she spends most of Hornet’s Nest recovering from events that unfolded in Played With Fire and trying to prove her innocence and regain her life.  

Erika Berger has a long history with Blomkvist as friends and they both describe the other as an “occasional lover”.  Erika is strong, independent, and kicking butt and taking names in the journalism world.  She’s usually the calm one and the voice of reason throughout the trilogy.  She’s often the glue holding Millenium, and occasionally Mikael, together. 

There are a bunch of lesser characters and they do stuff too.  The important part is that Blomkvist and Salander get rough with some bad dudes and learn a lot about themselves and others.  Of course they save the day in the end, but there is an endless inner monologue going while you read of “He did it… no she did it!… now what? How can that be?… Tell me who did it before I go insane!… She’s WHAT?!?!?!?”  and some more exclamations in a similar vein.  Until everything is resolved in the end, you’re pretty much clueless.  It’s awesome.

General Impressions:

Salander totally has some issues, but I found myself loving her even when I didn’t understand her.  When you find out in the end what “All the Evil” is, you can realize who she is and why she is.  It’s awful and amazing all in the same minute.   Mikael annoyed me occasionally because every time someone showed any interest in him he just slept with them.  I mean, he’s a total man-whore when it comes to that.  At other times though he’s the perfect gentleman and an amazing journalist/detective.  I wish that maybe his love life played less of a role in everything.  It really didn’t need to be there.  Erika was a cool character, and we really don’t see much of her until the third book.  Now, I don’t know if maybe that’s because Larsson wanted to expand her more in the later books that he didn’t get to.  I hope that’s the case, because she’s pretty much a minor character, sitting in the background and keeping things together. 

The storyline occasionally gets bogged down in random Swedish places, events, politics, and financial/business matters.  However, once you power through the story is quite fast paced and full of excitement and mystery.  Parts of the series fly by and I found myself turning pages quickly and staying up, fighting sleep, in order to get through ‘one more chapter’ or ‘just until I know what happens to…’ which led to several nights at work functioning on only a few hours of sleep.

I’m pretty critical of books, and the only think I hate about this series is that it’s over!  I guess I should be glad that they were even published as Larsson had finished them before death but never published them himself.  He supposedly wrote them for fun and had part of a fourth novel written and notes for others.  Purportedly he had envisioned a ten novel series.  Alas, and sadly, those will never come to pass as he died in 2004 of a heart attack.  Who knows, perhaps someone will ask his family and take on the fourth book.  I might be able to get on board with that. 

Conclusion: 

Grab a paperback or e-book copy of Dragon Tattoo!  It’s worth a few bucks to read and see if you can get into it.  I’m a little disappointed that I put it off so long.  Maybe next time something is hyped I’ll have to get on board sooner. 

Also worth mentioning:  Though there are Swedish/German movie versions of Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, and Hornet’s Nest; there are plans to make an English movie of Dragon Tattoo.  So far they have a few of the roles filled and it looks promising.  It’ll be worth a rental at least, right?

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