Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I solemnly swear to never read a book again just because it is popular. OK, seriously. I utterly fail to see why people like this book. There are much better mysteries around. Unless people really like reading about sadism, torture and rape (in between incredibly long and dry stretches of the actual mystery's story, of course) I don't understand why this book is so popular. I am including spoilers in this review, so if I can't talk you out of reading this book you might not want to read further.

I read this book mostly because everyone seemed to be reading it and its sequels. I was also slightly intrigued because not once but twice, when I told people about my job, they said it sounded like what Lisbeth Salander does in this book. My job is not remotely related to hacking or private investigation so I have no idea how people get that, and it makes me think I must do a remarkably poor job explaining what I do for a living!

So this book was not at all what I expected it to be. I don't know what I was expecting but I was very disappointed. At first, reading this book, I was like ok, it's a mystery. I used to read mysteries I sort of like these patterns and tropes. Then, I was like wow. Nothing is happening. Something should probably be happening in this book by now. Then I was like jesus fucking christ why would anyone write a scene like that? How can I get these horrible descriptions of assault, sadism and rape out of my brain? Then, it was back to boringness in between a few scenes that I wish I could scourge from my mind.

OK, I'll admit. I am sheltered and sensitive. I cannot stand watching movies or television, or reading books that include much sexual violence, or animal cruelty. Those are two things I really go out of my way to avoid and I was not happy to be surprised with both of those things in this book. I literally got dizzy and nauseous from reading scenes in this book. I knew I was a little sensitive, but to be so disturbed and sickened by a book that is so incredibly popular was unexpected and it has really diminished my opinion of humanity. What really pissed me off was that after finishing the book I realized that the scene that upset me so much was totally unrelated to the plot. That scene could have never happened and nothing about the main plot would have changed. Apparently Larsson knows his audience though, because the teaser for book two at the end of this book was all about bondage, rape and child abuse. It was not subtle. Guess what books I won't be buying?

On to problems other than the grotesque, vivid sexual and animal violence, of which there were several.

I really found it to be a strangely paced book. It was SO SLOW until like half way through. Just plodding along, plodding along. No progress on the mystery, no progress on the plot. Then, over half way through, our heroes figure almost everything out in a few pages. And it is written in a way that kills any interest you might have had in the mystery at hand. Like, oh by the way, they figured out this and this and made that connection. There was no gradual piecing together of knowledge or sudden insight for the readers, oh no. It was like Larsson suddenly decided that brevity was to be preferred and crammed what should have been the meat of the story into a small, abrupt section of the book. What a waste of time.

It was impossible to like any of the characters, with the possible exception of Blomkvist. Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo) was not a character you could relate to or empathize with. Her character was so absurdly contrived and eclectic. She could not have been less like a real human if Larsson tried. He tried so hard to write her thought processes but it just made her seem impossible.

It's a pet peeve of mine when authors mix perspectives and point of view characters. I know there is nothing technically wrong with it, but it makes me crazy. I find it incredibly distracting when you are cruising along from the perspective of one character and then suddenly and inexplicably the thoughts of someone else are interjecting. It's jarring. I especially disliked the contexts in which Larsson distractingly switched perspectives. It was just icing when I was reading about how *someone* felt to be butt raped, and then suddenly I was reading about what the rapist was thinking. Really Larsson? Was that necessary?

The story was over almost exactly a hundred pages before Larsson stopped writing the stupid book. After the epic conclusion, the final nausea inducing confrontations and discoveries, he spends a hundred pages wrapping up side-plots that I did not give a rat's tit about. I doubt I am the only one who was totally uninterested in the financial fraud tangents in this book. They were a nice break from reading about bondage, but otherwise not something I enjoyed.

In summary, do yourself a favor and skip this one. If you like reading violent porn, if that's your thing, whatever. You would be better off reading porn without windy descriptions of boring characters and financial fraud. If you do not want to read about incredibly disturbing things just pass on this book. It's not worth it.

1 comment:

  1. With books like this, I always think that a really important question is, "what was lost in translation?" I think there's always something lost in translation. I read some fantasy books (the Watch series, by Sergei Lukyanenko) that were translated from Russian. Apparently they're wildly popular in Russia, but to me they just seemed kind of... flat. As such, I always take translations with a grain of salt.


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