Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guilty Pleasure: The Millennium Trilogy

For our two-year anniversary last month, my boyfriend gave me Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy in hardcover.  He's so sweet.  :)  I flew through one book after another in about three weeks, and am happy to review the trilogy here.

Checkouts: Not owned by the library, nor will it be due to content
Typical reader: Fans of thrillers, conspiracy theories, and particularly for the second book, the Kill Bill movies
Source: An awesome gift from an awesome boyfriend

Synopsis: Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist and antisocial hacker Lisbeth Salander find themselves in interesting situations with big stories to unravel.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tackles skeletons in the closet of a business mogul's family.  The Girl Who Played with Fire sees the murders of a journalist and his doctoral candidate girlfriend as they work on a sensational expose of prostitution and human trafficking; we also learn a lot about Lisbeth's past.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest picks up where the second book left off, and explores a heinous government conspiracy.

My Goodreads ratings: 4 stars for the first and third; 5 stars for the second

Since I'm reviewing roughly 1,500 pages worth of material, I'm going to stick to the highlights.

I really, really enjoyed Lisbeth Salander's character. She's one of the best anti-heroines I've come across in quite a while.  Highly misunderstood and antisocial, her intelligence is superb and her sense of justice is ruthless.  Her back-story is deeply hinted at in the first book; the second book delivered that which I thirsted for in spades.  And then the third book picks up right where the second one finished, so I just had to know the rest of her story.  While each book has a distinct plot with many side-stories, the driving force is the strange, tattooed young woman at the center of the maelstrom.

The prose is solid and full.  It's thick, informative, detail-oriented.  I learned more about various aspects of Swedish culture and government, as well as the mathematician Fermat and his last theorem, than I might have otherwise.  Sometimes it seems to go off on strange tangents, it's true; I have in my notes that the rant about construction prices in Hornet's Nest was a bit ... interesting.

There are two plot elements I particularly found attractive: investigative journalism, and revenge.  The former is an old interest of mine; back in high school I wanted to be a journalist, and even covered a few of the more interesting stories for my high school newspaper.  Investigative journalism also can uncover society's flaws and put them under a microscope.  It can also lead to wanting to read more about a subject: Played with Fire could lead a curious reader to an excellent book such as Half the Sky, which (among other things) discusses how prostitution and prostitutes are treated in Sweden.  The latter plot element, revenge, makes for exciting storytelling.  It rages throughout the trilogy, especially late in the second novel.  It's no "roaring rampage of revenge" a la the Kill Bill movies, but there are some satisfying scenes if that's your cup of tea.

A third overarching theme is the Swedish title of the first book: Men Who Hate Women.  I'm a little hesitant to touch on this, because it seems to be a bit of a spoiler, especially in the first tome.  But it's too large a plot element to ignore in this review; it compels Lisbeth to act against these men who hate women.  And there are plenty of males that fill the bill.

Which brings me to a man in the series who did not hate women: Mikael Blomkvist.  Mikael is the other protagonist of the trilogy, who did not pique my interest as much as his co-protagonist did.  He's the journalist, and a ladies' man; while he's intelligent and a nice guy, he just falls a bit flat for me.  There's nothing wrong with him, per say, but his character doesn't grow at all.  He is, in a word, blah.  What he does can be interesting, particularly his dogged pursuit of the truth in his career, but he's just a milquetoast.

No comments:

Post a Comment