Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Millennium Series by Steig Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest all make-up the trilogy that is deemed "The Millennium Series" by Steig Larsson. I've read all three books and I've seen the first film based on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has taken me quite some time to sit down and write this review for two reasons: 1) I wanted to write it on the entire trilogy, although now I'm not sure why I wanted to do that and 2) I find it difficult to actually put in words the genius of the stories Steig Larsson wrote. Yes, genius.

Nowhere in literature have I met a character I enjoyed reading about as much as I enjoyed Lisbeth Salander, the protagonist and awesome kick-ass main character of the Millennium series. I want to be her, not all of her because let's face it, she's down-right crazy sometimes, but I find myself drawn to her character in a connective way; I want her to be real and alive and hacking into computers for me because I'm important enough for her to care about. The depth of feeling and emotion with which Steig Larsson portrays her is truly amazing. You love her, you hate her, you feel apathy, empathy, and sympathy for her sometimes on the same page. You definitely don't want to piss her off. There's a part of me that's wants to have that kind of power, I think everyone does (don't lie to yourself!), and living it through a book character is the closest most of us will ever come.

The main champion of Lisbeth is Mikael Blomkvist (who she often views as the antagonist, but he's not), a brilliant journalist. He finds himself in situation after situation above and beyond the scope of mundane news, and at the center of each tryst is Lisbeth Salander. She is either the hero or the victim, depending on which book you read. I openly admit to having a literary crush on Mikael Blomkvist. And it surely didn't hurt when they cast Daniel Craig in the role for the film.

The books read very technically. However, Steig Larsson was a technical writer for a magazine in Sweden, where most of the books take place, called EXPO. He wrote this series because at 15 years old, he witnessed a gang-rape of a girl he knew named Lisbeth and spent most of his life haunted by guilt because he did nothing to save her. This book pays homage to this girl, and this is evident by the strength he gives Lisbeth throughout the novels. She is also a victim of rape. But again, do not piss this girl off - there will be absolute hell to pay.

In book one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we meet Lisbeth and Mikael. Mikael is in trouble over a libel lawsuit and is found guilty. In order to escape his life, he takes an assignment abroad for the Vanger family to write a memoir, but everything is not as it seems. Henry Vanger has really hired him because of his astute ability to uncover details others miss and he wants to solve a cold-case murder. This is where Lisbeth enters the story - she becomes his researcher, because she is the best. But, there are strings to cut in getting her help. First off, she is under government sanctioned legal guardianship because she's been declared mentally incompetent and dangerous. Her guardian, Holger Palmgren, suffers from a stroke and unfortunately Lisbeth's care is entrusted to a real prick, Nils Bjurman. But don't worry - she takes good care of him. Through a series of twists and turns, Lisbeth and Mikael form an unbreakable bond, at least for Lisbeth who for the first time in a long time, allows herself to become close to a man. Sadly, Mikael is a bit of ladies man and her heart is shattered.

In book two, The Girl who Played with Fire, we learn more about Lisbeth's life before she met Mikael Blomkvist. The book opens with a disturbing kidnapping scene from Lisbeth's perspective and through her eyes we see visions of her throwing a milk carton of gasoline into a car and setting it on fire. This plays over and over in her mind. While she is financially stable and quite aloof now, thanks to some business in book one, she can't shake the revenge she feels necessary to take upon the man that ruined her life - her father. Blomkvist finds himself involved in another high profile case with two new friends, but when he finds them murdered in cold blood one night and the police list Lisbeth Salander as their prime suspect, their lives are intertwined again. It's always a life or death situation with these two, but then again, that's what keeps you turning page well into the night. It is Blomkvist's attention to the little things as a journalist that becomes key in saving Lisbeth Salander's life. But, it's only fair - she saved his life in book one.

In the final book, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the reader is drawn in immediately to the slow and painful recovery of Lisbeth Salander. We begin in a hospital, where Lisbeth's life hangs in the balance and all I kept thinking as I was reading this book was "Don't you dare kill this girl - don't you dare!" I can't tell you if I'm angry at the author or not - you'll have to read and find out. However, I can say that in the final book, every person that has ever cared about the very difficult and troubled Lisbeth Salander comes out of the wood-works to try and save her, and to clear her name. It's a tribute to the value of respecting another human being and the ultimate fight for justice in a corrupt and cruel world. The plot is tricky and you really have to READ this book, little things make a big difference.

This is not a series to read for the faint of heart or the lazy of mind. It takes a keen eye and interest in the characters and the story to continue on to each destination. This is a grown-up book, and people that lack life experience I believe will have difficulty following the story line. Larsson was somewhat criticized for his overly intricate plot, yet he did not live to hear these comments. He suffered a heart attack and died in 2004.  All three books were published posthumously in 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively.

5 comments:

  1. Great review, Cresta,
    I haven't read the books, but the way you describe them makes me want to go out buy a copy straight away.
    Pity Larson didn't live to reap the rewards of his hard work.

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  2. I know - then again, critics can be brutal. I like to believe he died a content and happy man - he told his story. :-).

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  3. I haven't read the books, though I've considered doing so. I did, however, watch the Scandinavian film trilogy starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. They were very powerful and for that reason I won't watch the Hollywood versions.

    I've heard the books are difficult to read. I guess that comes from the technical aspect you mentioned.

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  4. Cresta ~ LOVED the series. Loved Lisbeth .... kick-butt heroine who outsmarts and outplays ... what's not to like? I keep hoping someone will find a book # 4 or # 5 ....

    xx, Lauren

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  5. I know - a hidden manuscript somewhere would NOT break my heart!

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