While traveling in Central America in June and July staying at various hostels, I came across many people reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After learning what it was about and hearing how good it was, I became interested in getting a copy to read. Even more so than normal due to being without my laptop. This became harder than I realized…at every hostel I met someone who had just started it, or was about to finish but didn’t want to swap for one of my books, or someone who had just swapped it at the last hostel. I finally found it by chance…I saw someone leaving my hostels book exchange with it, and was able to convince them to give it to me. I had been checking that book exchange each day, yet somehow missed it.
I started reading it, and it certainly seemed well written and interesting, although not terribly captivating. I had no trouble putting the book down, and taking a few days between reading chapters. I did start to feel a strong affinity for the lead character, Kalle Blomkvist. His dissatisfaction with the people in general and the industry he works with is something I can identify with, as well as his strong criticisms of peoples lack of critical thinking skills. One of the most disappointing things I’ve encountered while traveling and meeting many people is just how many people are literally incapable of critical thinking, and it was nice to see that point being hammered in.
It wasn’t until between a third and halfway through that the book got really interesting, with much of the first part setting p characters and situations. This isn’t a bad thing, and pays off in the end. Even so, the climax was seemed somewhat unfulfilling…, while it was entertaining and fit, I was expecting a lot more. However, this was due to people hyping it as opposed to the book failing to deliver.
It seems trivial to compare The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Da Vinci Code…a surprise bestseller that came out of nowhere that everyone is talking about and reading, and shortly after a movie is being made. The difference here is that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is actually a good story with interesting characters, not ridiculous twist after cliffhanger after twist. Both books seem to be cheap entertainment, which makes it interesting just how advanced Swedish cheap entertainment is compared to western offerings.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the title character, Lisbeth Salander. Someone more intelligent than most of those around her; someone who has been badly hurt and is extremely guarded as a result. To have people trying to get close to you and showing that they care about you but being unable to let your guard down or reciprocate. Honestly, I identified a lot with this character. There are a lot of people like this out in the world, and it is rare to see them developed as main characters in a book or movie.
Something that did annoy me was just how many people took it as fact that the character must suffer from Asperger’s or some other condition. This is briefly suggested by Blomkvist in the book, yet people have taken it a fact. I think this is sad…I see it as an example of people needing to assign a label to something they can’t understand or don’t want to. For someone like Lisbeth to have been what she has been through, her personality and view of the world is normal…there is no need to jump to accusations of mental disorders.
The one main criticism I have of the book is the rape subplot. It seemed completely unnecessary. Why put the character through such torment? Just to flesh her out? I don’t have a problem with the rape itself…, it’s just that it didn’t seem to serve any purpose. It didn’t really reveal anything knew about the character, and seemed to be there just for shock value. I don’t know if I can elaborate any more than that – it just seemed out of place. I am curious if the scene will be in the Hollywood version, or if it is in the Swedish film version which I have yet to see.
Lastly, the hacking subplot was annoying and resorted to tired clichés. Those magical Hollywood hackers, seem to have even infiltrated Swedish literature. One of the main problems here is the use of Apple products. Is a hacker in the sense that Lisbeth Salander is portrayed going to want a system that locks you in and limits your control, while also being horrendously insecure? Unlikely. Not to mention the ridiculous device that send bits of a program along with every webpage, and automatically assembles and executes on the target after downloading has completed. Riiiiiight.
For the most part The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was very entertaining and well written if a tad overhyped. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequels, as well as watching both film versions. I also aim to learn more about Steig Larson who seems to have had many interesting thoughts and ideas, only very few of which are present in his book. Recommended.