Sarah Finley's Reviews > The Millennium Trilogy

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
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's review
Jul 05, 2010

really liked it
Read in June, 2010

*** Very mild spoilers ahead ***

I saw the movie first and then, realizing finally that there was actually an interesting plot, I had to get my hands on the book. And like so many others, I literally could not put the books down, reading whenever I had a spare moment, and sometimes even when I did not. The first two books seemed to me more fast paced and more gripping, while the third book's pace slowed and was bogged down by less riveting material.

Larsson was not a great writer, but he is certainly a great story-teller, and his characters, especially Lisbeth, are multi-faceted, engaging and believable. He does not write exceptionally intricate plots, but the plots in the trilogy are nonetheless thrilling and entertaining.

The first book concentrates more on a mystery involving a murdered girl, whose body was never found, and the relationship between the two main characters, Lisbeth, the brilliant young hacker who probably has Asperger's, and Mikael, the investigative journalist behind the (fictional) Swedish magazine Millennium. Very little is told in the first book about Lisbeth, but much is alluded to. More concentration is put into the mystery, which is at times clunky and inexplicable (such as why a murderer who has done such a good job at hiding himself for so many years would decide to leave a "calling card" on the door step of the investigator who is getting close to solving the mystery. Now he know that you know he is close, and he knows that you must be nearby, and when you're on a frickin island, that kind of narrows things down a bit.) The movie, strangely enough, does a much better job at trimming down the details and fashioning it into a tighter and faster plot.

The second book starts with another expose by Millennium, but one that is inexplicably tied to Lisbeth, who has now broken contact with Mikael and fled the country. After a series of murders, one of which is easily tied to her, she is accused of all the murders. Mikael quickly comes to her defense and does what he does best - investigates the mystery, which only gets him into the heart of Lisbeth's life story. She, meanwhile, is doing her own research into the matter. Their paths cross again, albeit briefly and at the very end.

The third book feels more like the continuation of the second, for instead of presenting a new mystery, it continues to focus on Lisbeth's story. This time she is awaiting trial for murder. Most of this book is bogged down with dull details of trying to prove all the things learned in the second book and then presenting them yet again at the trial, which consequently lacks much emotional punch since it really can add little to the tale.

Larsson sadly died after delivering these three books to his publisher. Had he the benefit of time and an editor, I think these three books, and probably the supposed 7 others he had planned for the series, would have been spectacular. Instead, they tend to repetition and insignificant details (he is especially focused on when characters go to sleep and when they wake, and how much sleep they had, and exactly what kind of crap food they scarfed down when awake.)

The American titles take away from the main theme he was going towards, which is much more accessible when one learns the less stylistic Swedish title of the first book - Men Who Hate Women. All three books deal with this - from murder to rape to domestic abuse to prostitution and so on. To counter this, his heroes and heroines all share similar noble qualities. The good men are all caring and sensitive to the women in their lives, even if they have faults that might unintentionally hurt the women in their lives (Mikael's biggest downfall is that he is ridiculously attractive and women are always breaking down his door to sleep with him - which he readily succumbs to). The women on the other hand are all either strong, smart, or a combination of the two, and if they're not, well, then they're probably the victims. There is very little middle ground - the good characters are good, the bad are bad - and this lends an allegoric feel to his books, coupled with the strong themes of men who hate women.

For all their weaknesses, I wholeheartedly recommend them, but with a disclaimer for those who are sensitive to violence, specifically to violence against women. Details are not spared and Larsson's ability to bring the written word to life is definitely true even at the most graphic parts of the books.

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