Saturday, July 31, 2010

Of Dragon Tattoos

I got Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a Father's Day gift. I had seen the Millenium books at work, but had never really heard anything about them prior to that. They're bestsellers, which is probably why I hadn't heard of them. I don't keep track of the Man-Booker Prize or the National Book Awards either.

I had some other reading to do first, and by the time I got to it, I was a little burnt out. I read the prologue and thought it was engaging enough, but set the book aside for a few days. I finally got going on it and thought, well, that it moved slowly, and Larsson spent a lot of time describing the backstory of each character he introduced. Y'know the old "show, don't tell" dictum? Well, he tells. And tells. And tells. In other words, I didn't think the writing, as such, was all that great.

But the story kept me in it, I'll give it that. It develops slowly. The big action climax occurs more than 100 pages before the story is over. Larsson spends the rest of it tieing up all the other loose ends. Nevertheless, by the end of it, I wanted to read the other two books. I liked the characters and world he created.

I picked up The Girl Who Played with Fire and read through that fairly quickly. I had been told that it was "not as good as the first." No, I suppose not. This book was also slow to develop, told more than showed, the villains were cartoonish, it was told from many more points of view than that of the two protagonists, who never even spent any time together until the final pages, and almost never even communicated with each other!

And by the end, it was clear that this was really the first half of a novel. Oh, it resolved the main dilemma well enough, but left plenty of loose threads waiting to be picked up in the next novel The Girl Who kicked the Hornet's Nest, which, judging by the preview at the back, picks up directly from the end of the second book.

It looks to me like Larsson had one book in mind, and by the time he finished, was so hooked in by his own characters that he wanted to write more, and plotted out a longer tale based on backstory he had developed but not included in the first book. there are a few clues... but they may have been added in after he finished the trio. They were all submitted for publication at once after all. I've no doubt that Larsson, had he lived, would have continued the series, especially given how popular its become.

I haven't read the third book yet. Its still in hardcover and I'll probably wait for the paperback.

The English language titles are more colorful than the Swedish ones. The first was called Men Who Hate Women, I believe, and it certainly spells out one of the themes of the book and gives a taste of the somewhat heavy handed approach Larsson takes to all things. You won't mistake his intentions.

Will I go see the movies? The Swedish versions might be interesting and boring at once. An American version will star Daniel Craig as Michael Blomkvist, which had me groaning. I like Craig well enough (unlike C who can't stand him) but I think he's too buff and hyper-masculine for Blomkvist, who reads to me like more of a regular guy, reasonable fit and with a gift for attracting woman. The more it sits with me, the more I think that Craig can pull it off though. He's a pretty good actor I think, just too hunky.

As of now,they apparently are still testing actresses for Lisbeth Salander. I saw Ellen Page in Inception yesterday and thought that she would be a fine choice. She's very small, pretty but not too pretty, and still looks to be about 15 years old, although at 23, she's the same age as Salander in the first book. Her persona seems rather low key and even dry, which suits Salander, and I read that she was considered but is not on the final list. they will probably settle on someone who is glum and pouty.

I can't believe they considered Scarlett Johansson at any point, but it was on the Interweb, so it must be true.

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