Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quite Possibly the Least Kind Review I've Ever Written

Because Stieg Larsson happens to be dead, I am going to kick this thing off right and tell you exactly what I think of his book: it is, quite possibly, the worst book that I have ever read.  So bad that I'm having a hard time being critical, but I'll give it a shot.

This is a dangerous proclamation, considering how many people absolutely adore this book, but I stand by it.  It's not a book I ever had more than a passing interest in (which was entirely based on the title*) and I only read it because my new book club I joined chose it as our first title.  It had two redeeming qualities: it was quick to get through despite it's imposing length and it did make me want to know whodunnit.  Sadly, the bad points greatly outweigh the good, and all in all I found it a great waste of my time.

Let's start with the awkward prose.  Granted, to a point this could be blamed on the translation (it was originally written in Swedish); however, that excuse only gets us so far.  There seems to be no narrative issue that this novel doesn't have.  It is rife with extraneous detail (Blomkvist** went for a walk.  Then he returned to the cabin.  Then he had a coffee.  Then, at around three a.m., he went to bed), which made me scream "I don't care, give me my life back" over and over during potentially interesting scenes.  There are awkward expositions/introductions aplenty (Blomkvist saw his friend, Bob.  Bob, a high financeer, had gone to school with Blomkvist and though their relationship had once been...[three pages later - see #1]...Blomkvist said, 'Hi!"), which provided both choppiness and a similar reaction to #1. Finally, and perhaps most notably, there were the strange and immediate analyses (Sally was brutally raped.  Afterwards, she went home and googled men who rape women.  Apparently, they liked to rape her because they saw her as a victim.  That told her a lot about herself***).  Thanks for saving me the trouble of figuring that out Mr. Larsson.  I love not having to think when I'm reading.  There were also plenty of cliches and hackneyed phrasings, though those are most likely the fault of the translator.

Then there's the mystery.  Yes, I wanted to know what had really happened, but like with any good mystery, I wanted the opportunity to figure it out for myself.  Nearly all of the clues were in the form of photographs, which were neither described nor displayed, thus limiting my possible involvement and royally pissing me off when each new piece of evidence was discovered.  The one clue that was possible to solve on my own (a list of Bible references disguised as phone numbers, all conveniently beginning with a local Swedish area code) would have gotten me little more than a pat on my back and zero answers.

So those are the two biggies.  Other issues I had with the text included how neatly every story line was wrapped up (leaving me to wonder why anybody would ever read the rest of the trilogy), how one of the apparently major story lines ended completely halfway through the novel (so I guess he's not going to rape her anymore?), and how freaking unoriginal Salander (AKA the girl with the dragon tattoo, AKA "Sally") was.  Dresses like a goth and emotionally disturbed - well that's new, not stereotypical at all.

PLEASE argue with me, because I'd really love to understand what people love about this book.  It is unappealing to me both on the literary and the mystery genre level - I don't understand what's left, so I want you to tell me.

*As for the vaguely intriguing title - apparently that wasn't the original Swedish title.  Larsson named his novel Men Who Hate Women, which is much more apt (in my opinion) and much less misleading.  However, I think Americans (who tend to hate women) would probably be much less likely to pick that book up and technically the American title gives an accurate description.
**Yes, this name did make me think of a blumpkin.  If you don't know what that is, look it up.  I will not be sharing anything quite so disgusting on my book blog.
***All of these examples are my rough paraphrases of what I read over a week ago, but trust me - they're spot on.


  1. THANK YOU! It was my office book club's first choice back in December, and I could not get past page 150. It took me all month to get that far, for all of the reasons you specified. I had to give up, and you know I don't do that lightly.

  2. We've already discussed this in person, but - YES, YES, and (notice the Oxford comma) YES.

  3. Also: It really bothered me how everyone was so blase about all the casual sex and infidelity that takes place (and that's aside from the rapey parts), but after reading your review I realize that I think part of the problem was that everyone constantly seemed blase about EVERYTHING in this book. Okay, maybe not everything, but definitely almost everything.

  4. Haha so many good points. I read this for my book club as well and was not a fan. I especially hated how much of a Mary Sue character Blomkvist was. I think between that and all of the useless details, I never really cared about the whole mystery.

  5. I'm so glad you wrote this, I was beginning to think I was the only one who didn't 'get this'. you make an excellent point about being given an opportunity to figure it out.