Manny's Reviews > Luftslottet som sprängdes

Luftslottet som sprängdes by Stieg Larsson
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Nov 21, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: swedish-norwegian-and-danish, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, older-men-younger-women
Read in December, 2008 , read count: 1

I didn't like the second volume of the trilogy as much as the first, so I was initially wary about this book. But after the first few chapters, I was reassured. Despite some obviously implausible elements (even in Sweden, would you really keep two people who had tried to kill each other on the same corridor at a hospital?) it is extremely gripping and well-written.

Having now finished the book, I can confirm that, although it's not quite as good as the first one, it is indeed a fine end to the series. It's a little difficult to give detailed comments without creating spoilers, since the plot has numerous excellent surprises which it would be a shame to reveal. So keeping to generalities, here are some of the things I particularly liked.

First, his psychology is interesting and plausible. All the main characters come across as real people, and the emotions they feel for each other develop in a plausible way. Second, he is very good at describing everyday conflict in the early 21st century Western world, where it mostly depends on being able to navigate the bureaucratic jungle and the Web. Yes, there is hand-to-hand fighting, and this is OK too, but it's much more fun to see how someone takes care of a complicated legal problem, or a colleague at work that they don't get on with, or a series of offensive emails. Last and not least, he is really and truly not afraid of strong women. Lisbeth, Erika, Monica and Annika are all credible, tough chicks, who are in many ways stronger than the men, but without thereby becoming caricatures. If you like books about alpha females (Jordan, are you reading this? :) then get started on Stieg Larsson!

_____________________________________

I was having an offline conversation with Moira about Lisbeth Salander. She complained that no one loved Lisbeth, and I replied that I loved her even more after hearing all those dismissive comments - that was the point, wasn't it?

Then, a few minutes ago, I was struck by one of those thoughts that really make you wonder why you haven't had them months earlier. Of course, Lisbeth is a Christ figure! That's why it's completely natural that hearing people revile her only strengthens my love and admiration. It couldn't be more obvious, in retrospect. She even rises from the dead.

But why have so few other people made this connection? A quick search on Google turned up nothing. Was every one else fooled, just as I was, by superficialities like her being an autistic-spectrum bisexual female hacker who's seriously into violence and covered in tattoos and piercings? I can accept that I'm that shallow, but surely other people aren't? I'd like to think so, anyway. Probably I'm just sleepy, and my internet search skills have temporarily deserted me. I'm sure Lisbeth would already have found several dozen hits.

_____________________________________

I was struck by the following passage from Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint Antoine, which I'm currently reading. Anthony is being tempted by the mysterious Ennoia:
Innocent comme le Christ, qui est mort pour les hommes, elle s'est dévouée pour les femmes. Car l'impuissance de Jéhovah se démontre par la transgression d'Adam, et il faut secouer la vielle loi, antipathique à l'ordre des chose.

(Innocent as Christ, who died for all men, she cares for women. Now the impotence of Jehovah has been revealed by Adam's sin, and we must shake the old law, hateful to the order of things).
It does sum up my argument rather well.

_____________________________________

We've now watched the DVD. As with the first and second instalments, the atmosphere is perfect, and Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth, but they have taken huge liberties with the story. Whole subplots have simply been removed. Mikael doesn't get involved with Monica, and Erika never moves to the other newspaper. In general, I was sad to see that Erika's role was so much reduced - she is one of my favourite characters in the books.

I guess there just wasn't enough time to include everything. We'll never know what would have happened if they'd turned it into six films instead of three. Maybe it would have been too slow, and in fact they made the right decision...

CORRECTION!

My kind and wonderful friend Vivi alerted me to the existence of the long version (see comment #11). It finally arrived, and we watched the first half of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor last night.

Well, I am already a total convert. Yes, a bit slow, but it's supposed to be slow - the theatrical version felt horribly rushed. Erika turns out to in be there after all. There is a really nice sexy scene with her and Mikael which perfectly reproduces the feel of the book.

I'm afraid to say though that it's not yet clear you can get it with English subtitles. The DVD we watched only has them in Scandinavian languages. But I imagine it's just a matter of time before an English-subtitled edition is released.

_____________________________________

Last night, we watched Lars von Trier's 2003 movie Dogville. I don't want to drop spoilers, but there are some interesting resonances with the Millennium trilogy; in particular, it's also possible to view Nicole Kidman's character as an unusual kind of female Christ figure, who, at least IMHO, has a certain amount in common with Salander. If you liked Millennium and haven't seen it, you may want to consider checking it out.

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message 34: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Oh my! Thanks for the alert that this is published, in Europe at least. But the Book Depository is out of stock! And yes, I will be ordering the PB from them, don't want to wait for the US. It's a shame that he died, and couldn't continue as he intended, I believe he planned this to be 10 volumes. Would have loved to see the final evolution of the characters.


message 33: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell I thought this was better than 2, but not as good as 1 -- really 2 and 3 are sort of like two volumes of one book. It's a real shame he didn't live to extend the series even a little bit.

My favourite part was, as you point out, the strong women -- Monica, Erika, Linder (sp), Modig, Giannini, and of course, LISBETH. I liked how she had the conventional 'do-I-kill-the-monster-and-become-one-myself' Pivotal Moment and then solved it in her typical Lisbeth way. And the spy shenanigans and heroic journalism wasn't even really the point -- it was more metaphorical, who watches the watchers? Who do you turn to in a corrupt system? The real villain of all three books, of course, is the utterly chilling Teleborian -- he reminded me of the "Keeper of Souls" in Prime Suspect 3.

Lisbeth's past in general reminded me of the great book 'Stuart: A Life Backwards,' which has a really absolutely devastating revelation as the life story works back in time to show the terrible damage that person endured at the hands of the system, and how everyone disbelieved him and thought he was nuts, acting out, lying, &c &c. People don't want to think social institutions can be that corrupt, and for the most part they don't have to because they live upright conventional lives and don't get in too deep trouble or they have resources if they do. But when you're at the mercy of the system it's a different story.

I do wonder what he might've done with Camilla in the later books. That could have been interesting. Oh, Stieg. Why were you such a chainsmoker?


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked your review but really I don't think that Lisbeth is a christ figure. I think in a way that is simpifying a very interesting character.

As I am Swedish myself I don't have such difficulties in believing in Lisbeth. Having lived in England for many years I realize that Swedes generally are quite tolerant to people who are different.

I also think that Stig Larsson really wanted to point out the social inequalities in western societies and how this affects the weakest in a society and this is historically woman.
By creating Lisbeth he has created a good role model for woman and girls in Sweden. This is something that Swedes discuss a lot which I know as I visit Sweden regularly.


Manny Well... obviously I don't think that Lisbeth is just a Christ-figure, any more than, say, Gandalf is. That would indeed be simplifying them both far too much. I'm rather arguing that one aspect of the books, which is particularly important in the second and third volumes, is that she is a kind of heretical reimagining of the Christ-figure.

Consider: she is the champion of the poor and oppressed, especially of women; she is hated and mocked by society (the newspaper stories claiming she is a murderer, satanist, etc); she is ritually tortured (her treatment at the hands of the evil Dr. Teleborian seemed to me a lot like a crucifixion); she can be everywhere, and see everyone's innermost thoughts, through her hacking skills; she dies and then arises again.

Of course, there is one important respect in which she is quite unlike Jesus Christ. She doesn't turn the other cheek; instead, she strikes back. But, even here, it is not completely clear what is happening. You can read Stieg Larsson as saying that passive Christian acceptance has failed women, and that Christ, if He/She were to return, would now preach a different gospel, more in line with the Old Testament. Agreed, this is completely heretical, but maybe it is what he thought.

Alternately, if I recall correctly, Lisbeth doesn't ever actually kill anyone. What she does is expose their evil-doing, after which the world, or God, punishes them. Martin, in the first book, is killed when he flees in his car, and Wennerström kills himself. The man at the Caribbean resort in the second book is killed by the hurricane, after Lisbeth surprises him trying to murder his wife. Zalachenko is killed by his former employer. So maybe you can say that she isn't really an agent of vengeance. She just shines light into the darkness, after which evil punishes itself. "The truth will set you free."

Anyway, even if it's wrong, I'm surprised more people haven't discussed this idea!



message 30: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon Manny - I saw your comments this morning as I was looking up to see what the third book in the trilogy was about. I am in the middle of Book No. 2 and don't know how I am going to wait until Book No. 3 is published in America. I wonder how long I will have to wait in line at the library to get a copy!

At any rate, I found your hypothesis interesting and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all morning. Some more food for thought:

Lisbeth has several friends (dare I say disciples?) who believe in her fundamentally (dare I say faith?) with no more proof than that belief/faith in her goodness. Aramansky and Blomkvist have even mused that they are not so sure why they are drawn so to her. These friends go about helping her at great potential cost to themselves...in Aramansky's case, using the credibility and resources of his security firm to help in the investigation and in Blomkvist's case, hiding what could appear to be substantiating evidence that she is a violent person from her handbag, not talking about their Vanger adventure, and contacting her on the sly. It would be interesting to know if, by the end of the trilogy, there are 12 such friends in Lisbeth's life?!?!

And, maybe to read further into things...Larsson wrote this as a trilogy and, seemingly, intended it to be so.

Anyway, it is so sad that Larsson is not around to be asked these questions. Although on the other hand, it just makes things all the more mysterious. I wonder if he would even answer if asked...

Cheers,
Shannon


Manny Shannon, glad to hear that you also think there may be something to this theory! And yes, it is quite surprising how some people feel they just have to help Lisbeth, no matter what the cost may be. You'll see other examples.

I believe that Larsson actually intended to write ten books. The fourth one was supposed to have been half finished when he died, and I've heard there are synopses for the fifth and sixth. I don't know more than that.


message 28: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Good review.


April Hey Manny,

When I read part one of your review, I wasn't at all sure about the Lisbeth/Christ analogy - other than our heroine Lisbeth rising from the dead by usung a cigarette case to dig herself out of her premature grave (hmmm - I wonder now if this was a little inside joke for Larsson, the now-dead chain-smoker? SL: "see see cigarettes can save people too!)

Anyway, I digressed.

Then I read part two of your christ/salander argument and I can see that there are a lot of fits between the two stories.

Hmmmm, who would represent Judas/the denouncing deciple?

Collectively the police (initially, at least) and the media are running a smear campaign against our beloved Lisbeth.

(I'll have to poll my friends who have read the Millenium series; I just assumed everyone loved the dysfunctional but brilliant Salander?!?
In fact, I love all the main characters on the Salander side; especially Palmgren, and feel at home among all the smart, strong, computer-competent women.
How do other women readers feel about this bunch?

Further extrapolition of the christ/salendar theory would cast the evil pedophile pyschiatrist as Pilot.

While it is fun to play with these forms, I think I see Salander's story as a hero's tale; albeit, Salander is more of a modern anti-hero (where the brains are far more important than the brawn - tho' Salander is mighty strong and capable of fighting, in spite of her diminutive size.

Still, thanks for positing this idea. It's fun to play with.

Cheers,
April "gooddog" Hall

Ps I wouldn't even mind someone else taking over these characters and
writing in Larsson's place. I'd give them a read anyway. Anyone else?


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Manny wrote: "I believe that Larsson actually intended to write ten books. The fourth one was supposed to have been half finished when he died, and I've heard there are synopses for the fifth and sixth."

There was a segment on a news show here this morning about how the unfinished manuscript might be for the fifth book. His brother claims that he had not started on the fourth book. There seems to be quite a bit of drama over Larsson's estate since he died without a will.


message 25: by King (new) - rated it 5 stars

King Hey Manny, just finished this book and am yet to see the last movie. It's not in theaters anymore and it's not out on DVD yet in the US, but for those who do understand Swedish and have friends there, you might be happy to know that 6 movies were made, 2 for each book, by Sveriges Television (svt.se) and there is a huge 7 disc DVD box with those movies made for TV available on their website (English subtitles not available, and your DVD has to play region 2 discs).

SVT called the mini-series/movies "Millennium" and the movies we saw in the theaters are merely mooshed-together shortened versions of the Swedish TV films. So it features the same actors, and it's pretty much the movies everyone's already seen, only much longer (double length, I'm guessing). I'm getting someone to send these over to me, since they aired these right after I moved from Sweden.


Manny Vivi, what an excellent tip! I just had to order them at once. Thank you!!


message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert How can one be a Christ figure and seriously into violence at the same time - rising from the dead doesn't make you a Christ figure - Lazarus did it and nobody things he's our saviour!


message 22: by King (new) - rated it 5 stars

King Manny, I'm glad you got it and liked it! I haven't even ordered one yet. It's too bad about the English subtitles, I would like other people to be able to watch it with me. But maybe they are thinking of releasing it here in the future. Please keep us updated on you opinions regarding the other half and following movies!


Manny Hi Vivi! Well, we've just watched the second half of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, and we were very favourably impressed.

The funny thing is that the full-length version turns out to be only half an hour longer than the theatrical one (at least according to IMDB), but that half hour makes a huge difference. The tempo is much better, and it's far more coherent. Definitely worth seeing.


message 20: by Manny (last edited Feb 04, 2011 12:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny We've now watched the first half of Flickan Som Lekte Med Elden. Again, a vast improvement on the theatrical version. I particularly liked the way they spent at least a couple of minutes showing how Lisbeth moves into her new apartment... it's exactly this kind of detail, typical of the book, that had been edited out. We also got to see a lot more of the police team that's investigating the murders. Oh, and I feel honour-bound to report that the lesbian sex scene is significantly hotter too.


message 19: by Manny (last edited Feb 16, 2011 08:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny In today's Guardian, there's an account of a recent anti-Berlusconi rally in Padua. The reporter mentions seeing a young woman carrying a sign which said

LISBETH SALANDER HELP US

I think other people are making the connection I suggest in this review. Not least in view of the fact that L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, is apparently doing its best to play down the story...


message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert This character is about as Christ-like as a slime-mould.


Manny Robert wrote: "This character is about as Christ-like as a slime-mould."

Robert, you just don't like my heresy, that's all. Though you're being very moderate in not suggesting that I be burned at the stake, and I appreciate it.


message 16: by Robert (new)

Robert I don't like it because it's wrong, not 'cos it's heretical; let's be clear about that! Also, I find slime-moulds fascinating where-as I find Ms. Salander to be deeply unappealing. ;-)


Katie Winkler Very much enjoyed your well-written review and agree with your assessments about the book and the movies. I hadn't thought about the hospital situation but that is a good criticism. Like you, the story was so gripping the holes in the plot didn't bother me.

Your comment about Lisbeth being a Christ-figure makes sense too. You might want to take a look, if you haven't already, at Tolkein's excellent essay, "On Fairy Stories" and his lectures on myth that explain Tolkein's idea of Christ being the ultimate Myth--myth made fact and that all moral tales lead us to that truth. As far as Christ shunning violence--didn't he clear the temple?


message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert He was having a bad day - he hadn't eaten any breakfast that morning.


Manny Thank you Katie, and I will check out the Tolkien essay... surprised I haven't already read it!

As far as Christ shunning violence--didn't he clear the temple?

Good point. Do you know the movie Jesus of Montreal? The relevant scene is extremely memorable.


Katie Winkler Manny, I've heard of it, but haven't seen it. I'll have to check it out. Robert, since the last three years of Christ's life, with a few exceptions, were pretty much one big BAD day, I think he showed remarkable restraint.


Manny Robert wrote: "He was having a bad day - he hadn't eaten any breakfast that morning."

Robert, you have to pay more attention to grammar and punctuation. I just realized that you meant "He hadn't eaten any breakfast that morning", so you were talking about Christ rather than me.

Well, I suppose it's a flattering confusion...


message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Yeah, not eating breakfast makes me grumpy, too.


message 9: by Robert (new)

Robert Manny wrote: "Robert wrote: "He was having a bad day - he hadn't eaten any breakfast that morning."

Robert, you have to pay more attention to grammar and punctuation. I just realized that you meant "He hadn't e..."


I'll the verb at the end of the sentence, if I want, put.


message 8: by Ian (last edited Sep 04, 2011 11:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Sorry, I just read this review today.
Let me complain first.
I can't stand Nicole Kidman, so haven't been able to bring myself to watch Dogville yet, even though I know I should and will, if you exist.

More mild criticism, this time of Stieg, as much as I was rooting for him, by the second and third books, I was resigned to the fact that he was a functional writer, not a great writer.
They were great stories well told and great characters who you could identify with, a bit like Harry Potter, but in the same way, I wouldn't describe him as a literary stylist, at least not in translation.

Nevertheless, I am excited (belatedly) by the suggestion that Lizbeth might be a Christ figure.

April's message 8 pushed me further along, until I asked the question: well, if Lizbeth was Christ, who was God the Father?

Then I realised, well hang on, no matter how tempting it might be to paint Mikael as God the Father (incestuous at that), there was a Father in the books, and Lizbeth rebelled against this Father.

So, was Lizbeth an Anti-Christ?
Or was she a child of Satan who rebelled and rejoined the ranks of God and the Angels who had sided against Satan?


Manny If Lisbeth is Christ, I think Zalachenko is the only possible candidate for God the Father. Now that's seriously heretical. Wow.

Oddly enough, it rather strengthens my argument about resonances between Millennium and Dogville... but you'll have to see the movie to find out why.


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I agree.

Interestingly, Zala (as in Zalachenko) is a place in Hungary where the Nyek tribe came from.

A "nyek" is the evil laugh of an evil-doer.

I think the Nyek were so-called, because they used to go around other tribes on the steppes flicking them with wet towels and going "nyek nyek nyek".


Manny I presume they are now the tribe who, until so recently, said "nyek"?


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Now they say "nyekki-nyekki-nyekki-pitang-zoom-boing!”


Carlo As you've said, it is much better to be slow than to exclude crucial subplots from the movie. I was worried about the third movie and even considered not seeing it, but after what you've said, I think I'll give it a try.


Manny If I understand correctly (I only did a very hasty search), the extended versions are finally being released with English subtitles - looks like they will be out next week. They really are much better.


Eric Thanks for mentioning the ridiculous rooming arrangements at the hospital. Minor point I know, but it bugged me!


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