Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Chalk this up as a bandwagon book. I had seen Stieg Larsson's books in stores but had no idea what they were about. Then a few months ago, Entertainment Weekly did a big cover story on them and it piqued my interest. So I placed a request for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo via my local library. If I remember correctly, I wound up like #500 in line, so I was in for a bit of a wait.

Well, the wait ended earlier this week and I plowed through it. And, truth be told, I'm not sure what to make of it.

The story is that of Mikael Blomkvist, a Swedish financial reporter whose life comes to a crashing halt thanks to a libel charge leveled against him by an industry magnate. His reputation in ruins, Blomkvist is contracted by a wealthy individual to solve a decades-old mystery.

Back in the '60s, a young woman named Harriet Vanger disappeared from an isolated village. No one knows what happened to her, but Blomkvist's employee, Harriet's uncle, is sure that she was murdered. He wants Blomkvist to go over all the evidence and determine what, exactly, happened to Harriet. It requires Blomkvist to dig through a family's deepest secrets.

It's also the story of a troubled young woman named Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl, as it were), who works for a private security firm. It's pretty obvious that Salander's and Blomkvist's paths will cross at some point. When they finally do, the lives of everyone involved will be overturned.

To be quite honest, it took me a long time to warm up to this book. For the first hundred pages or so, I was sure I was going to give up on it. I don't know if it's a translation problem or what, but the writing just felt kind of dry and flat. It seemed like every time a new character appeared, Larsson had to put the action (such as it was) on hold so he could give the new arrival's entire personal history. There were tons of infodumps throughout the entire book. I mean, lots of them.

But here's the screwy thing. In spite of the preponderance of telling as opposed to showing, in spite of the myriad infodumps, in spite of an extremely convenient revelation that came out of thin air, the story grew on me. After slogging through the first hundred pages, I began to be . . . well, not engaged, necessarily, but maybe curious. And the curiosity grew into genuine interest. And pretty soon, I had to finish the book. I had to know what happened to Harriet. I had to find out what would happen to Blomkvist. And I wanted to see what Lisbeth would do next.

I'm glad that I finished the book. Larsson crafted an interesting story. But it seems like he did so by breaking a ton of rules. Maybe it's a cross-cultural thing, I don't know. Like I said, there was one part that I don't buy at all and it's fairly important to the plot, so much so that I'm not sure I can go into detail. Overall, it was an interesting read. But I'm not sure if I'll be checking out the rest of the series.

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