[As always, please mind the spoilers - they may bite.]
After cruising around Goodreads and other review sites as well, I have come to the conclusion th[As always, please mind the spoilers - they may bite.]
After cruising around Goodreads and other review sites as well, I have come to the conclusion that this novel has generated quite passionate opinions across the board. Some feel cheated and appalled that the story is considered fantastic - many consider it "overhyped"; others found it a magical journey and find Larsson a crafter of new worlds. I tend not to have overflowing, grandiose opinions on any novel not due to being wishy-washy but simply trying to be neutral and take into account the many perspectives-of-reality that have devoured this book.
Without further ado!
PLOT: [4 out of 5]
While many found the first one hundred or so pages extremely dry, I have to say I enjoyed the background information, the financial aspects of Swedish companies and how they were interwoven into the lives of several characters. I can contend that the reason for this is likely because I am a non-fiction junkie, I have an "over-writing" problem, and one of my majors is Public Relations (therefore, being up-to-date with news and current issues is part of the job). So perhaps, this novel is not for the type of reader that wants a "Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am" sort of story - this plot winds itself around your finger like a dastardly love affair. It is meant to consider every single angle and that theme is touched upon several times: The varied perspectives of the plot reflects the same perspective-of-reality approach that Mikael (and Salander, and other characters) have to take toward the Vanger disappearance. The plot never lent itself to a forum in which the same questions and approaches would be rehashed; it needed a fresh perspective, which was mentioned by Vanger himself. Admittedly, there were some dry passages that rambled about a character's psyche far too long, but there was a lingering, endearing methodology about it, which might simply be indicative of the different culture from which this novel emerged. And face it - would it kill anyone to learn a new word or two? Still, I can understand that many are reading for an escape or for entertainment, not to be confused or perhaps, not to even attempt to digest it.
MECHANICS: [5 out of 5]
With professional editors, there is not much to complain about. The awkward passages or endlessly detailed phrases are due more to a cultural / translation difference than a grammatical-usage issue.
CHARACTERIZATION: [3 out of 5]
I'unno why Mikael seems to irritate people so much: I honestly believe people are just annoyed that they aren't getting laid as often. That was not even a joke. No one understands why the average schmuck has all the ladies - and I figure, is that not the point? We're all average, and we all win some and lose some. I mean, sure, the ladies love him, but he's also been ripped out of his quiet, normal life, put on trial, lost, humiliated, and took a ride in a torture chamber. So let us weigh the good with the not-so-hot and remember that not everything went his way. He was also displayed as resourceful, intelligent, and utilizing his career connections. Again, that is how life is, taking advantage of 'who' you know and not necessarily 'how much' you know. The dislike seems to stem from the parallels of reality; it is not escapist enough for some.
The score drops with Salander, for this very reason: I find it difficult to wrap my head around the idea that this broken young woman finds solace in Mikael. Not because he is ordinary or on the other hand, special. Not because all the ladies seem to want a piece or his intelligence or whatever. He breaks through her emotional wall with pure pigheadedness - and it's difficult to say whether that is good or bad. Realistically, that would be a toxic situation and it reminds me of "Broken Wing Syndrome". For those who are not familiar, it is the archetype / stereotype of a man or woman being emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically broken to the point where it seems intolerable, and then their "other half" magically appears and "fixes their wounds". Somehow, this one person is the cure-all for every ailment - rainbows and souls fuse together. It's ludicrous and in reality, it doesn't work. People that broken tend to gravitate toward others of the same caliber - others who are well-adjusted are eaten alive by the broken ones, chewed up and spit out, abused. Average-joe Mikael is the cure-all to Salander's emotional-Scrabble-like life? Though I suppose it depends if you honestly see Mikael as the average dude or as something more than that, in which case it makes the dynamic a bit more believable. Otherwise, both of the characters come off as the Crowning Pairing of Mary-Stu/Gary-Stu stereotypes. That he invades her walls without somehow letting her toxic nature bother him is unrealistic to me - of course, he is portrayed as finding it fascinating. Realistic? Not so much. However, Salander is a perfect self-insert for the young woman who cannot find their niche, their place in society and come from broken homes (or for those with normal social skills with their minds just a bit outside the box) and that drives her character's popularity. Honestly, I find Salander to be able to control her emotions almost too much, and Mikael to be, again, pigheaded for just forcing his way in and being the "man who saves the day" for this wayward, cast out girl who embodies everything rebellious and counter-cultural (though I find it a shallow attempt and a definite shout-out to the downtrodden stereotype the author wants to nab). The supporting cast struck me as infinitely more colorful than the main two.
CULTURAL CHASMS: [4 out of 5] The only distractions were the names of the places - even though I know a basic thing or two about Swedish, it was still brutal to try to pronounce them in my head. After a while, every place sounds the same and it is much more difficult to differentiate the important landmarks; the family tree was a neat addition, though.
SEXUAL CONTENT: [5 out of 5] I hope that score irritates other people. The number of "concerned" readers cringing at the abuse and violence . . . I honestly do not know how to address it. First of all, it is definitely not the most graphic thing that has ever been put into a novel, and frankly, you can see worse in the first five minutes of the news. So why is it so taboo? It makes you sad? It isn't entertaining? This follows the line of reasoning that entertainment shouldn't make you feel anything you don't want to feel or incorporate any semblance of reality. Whelp, then make your own low-budget film of rainbows, gaiz. You cringe at this obvious fiction, but what about the stark reality of life? Of the rape, genocide, violence, and rebellion occurring in countries across the world every day? Plus, a sexual-abuse combo terrifies the soccer moms. Some found it distasteful, but I happen to find novels that are too contrite and happy distasteful, so no one is going to be happy, I suppose. Perhaps I am the typical "desensitized youth", but I honestly feel that pretending these sort of incidents don't occur is passively contributing to rape culture and also the problem that any rape victim, male, female, homosexual, child, handicap, whatever, has with coming forward, which is unfortunately so common. The novel is not glorifying any of the incidents, but showing the aftermath of those victims as well. Some can rise above it to a point (Harriet) and some are altered forever. And it also makes a point about desensitization, now that I think about it: Salander is a perfect example.
I am not saying plaster it all over the media because it will always be misconstrued. The solution is to stop being terrified and hush-hush about it and be as frank and honest as possible - if we create an environment in which people do not feel branded, they feel as if they can come forward. But with mothers crowing in protest at the word "sex" or even worse, "contraception", and people pretending their darling children will never discover these concepts. I am also not saying to hand your child the book, because that would be shoddy parenting. You cannot be terrified of the words and social problems yourself, and you cannot react to your children in the hysterical manner that leads them to believe these things are "taboo" and bad and cannot be discussed. I promise you that your children will find the answers from another source - and isn't it better they hear the truth from you and not their ten-year-old buddy that found his parent's stash of violent pornography, who gleans his warped knowledge from that instead?
Conclusively, this novel is making a huge statement on abuse, corruption, sociopolitics, and many other tiny subjects alluded to throughout. If I keep ranting, I will lose my temper, haha. It had a lot of meat, and enough entertainment value to make me want to read the next one. So until next time, fufufufufufu ...