Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson (2005)

Reviewer: Elle Ewok

Rating: 4 Pierogies with a Disappointing Aftertaste

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a long book and I read it in about 2 days. I could not put it down and tore through it like there was no tomorrow. The mystery at the heart of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is totally captivating and I can respect any storyteller that can capture my imagination and interest so well.

Due to the popularity of the book and the current movie pretty much everyone is at least briefly familiar with the plotline. A disgraced journalist and a emotionally disturbed computer hacker join forces to solve a mystery involving a serial killer of women. At the heart of the mystery is the Vanger family - a wealthy family of industrialists comprised of oddballs, nazis and perverts.

My favorite part of the book was probably the setting. I have never been to Scandanavia and I cannot recall having ever read a book set there either. I really enjoyed becoming immersed in Swedish culture and lifestyle even though many of the political and cultural references were completely lost on me. Also, the characters are interesting even though they are totally unrealistic. The main character, Mikael Blomkvist, is a male fantasy projection. Every woman in the book throws herself at him sexually and he successfully avenges all who have wronged him. He bangs every main female character without consequence even though a normal man would have major ethical constraints on such behavior (one conquest is a co-worker, one is a rape victim half his age who works for him and the other is a person he is supposed to be objectively studying for a book he is being paid to write). But I guess its okay to bang all these women despite the inconvenient context because they initiated it. How Conveeeeeeenient - male fantasy much??  Lisbeth Salander is a really great character but she is basically an aspergers ward-of-the-state and emotionally disturbed rape victim who just happens to be a world class hacker and researcher even though she had no education or training to speak of - seriously, she might as well be a member of the X-Men.

Many of my friends said they struggled to get through the beginning of the book but I didn't have a problem with getting sucked in immediately. However, by the time I had finished the book I wasn't as in love with it as I had been initially. Basically, I felt I could have just seen the movie and not have missed much by skipping the book. In fact - I am going to skip the next two books in the series. Life is too short and there is too much I want to read.

Although I appreciate that the mystery in the book was totally solved by the end, I found the revelation to be not that interesting, imaginative or surprising. It was both over-the-top and totally underwhelming at the same time. Half way through the book  Bible clues are introduced ala The Divinci Code but as it turns out they were pretty much totally irrelevent. The connection between the Bible verse clues and the solution to the mystery were tenously related at best.

Another aspect of the book that confused me was the message behind the sexual violence. This is an extremely violent book and the violence is almost all sexual in nature and almost always directed towards women. However, if there was some social commentary or higher message regarding such violence it didn't come through. Between portions of the book, random statistics about sexual violence are stated. I kind of felt like these statistics were included to make it look like the author was making some sort of stand or commentary on the inhumanity of such violence. However, at the end of the day this book totally uses such violence itself as the engine behind the drama in the book. Those statstics just came off as a poor attempt of trying to have one's cake and eat it too. Obviously, that is just my opinion.

Even though there were aspects of the book I didn't love it is definitely worth reading simply because the mystery is set up masterfully and the character of Lisbeth is great (albeit completely unrealistic).
Also, I LOVED the final scene of the book (which had to do with the relationship between characters not the underlying mystery).

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