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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Review: The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Stieg Larsson's novel which is a part mystery, part thriller about what appears to have been a long overdue crime.

The novel begins with the protagonist, Blomkvist, a journalist and publisher for a magazine convicted of libel and false reporting against a well-known industrialist. As a result of this conviction, he is forced to depart his job. Fortuitously, another industrialist decides to hire Blomkvist to investigate a 40 year old murder: niece Harriet Vanger's mysterious disappearance. Blomkvist makes little progress at first, but then eventually makes a surprising breakthrough, and the plot's pace picks up dramatically after that.

At the same time, the novel follows the title character's story. Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker, anti-social investigator gets full development in an interspersed story segment that shows us what kind of person she is. We know that the two protagonists will eventually meet, but Larrson clearly wanted his audience to fully understand where this character comes from.

The novel is slow for the first half, picks up its pace in the middle, and towards the end jumps into triple-time action, with multiple events occupying each page. This pace seems to be deliberate, but definitely put me off for the first half or so. The mystery doesn't really seem fair: by the time the reader get to the resolution, there has been so many distractions and red herrings thrown at him that the mystery is all but forgotten! This properly puts the book into the "thriller" category rather than the usual mystery.

The writing style is stilted, and the characters stereotypes. Recommended only as an airplane novel, but as an airplane novel, it is very good.


bawa said...

This series is making millions in Europe at least, and I find people raving over it.

Agree with you about the plot, stereotype characters who then don't even stick to that - would someone as smart and streetwise as the protagonist is made out to be have got herself into that situation?, etc.
It could have done with the sort of editing the publishers used to impose upon authors previously, but then, a lot of potentially excellent current novels seem to suffer from this same problem.

And what I esp disliked was the "deus ex machina" of the very last section...

Piaw Na said...

The author died after delivering the manuscripts, so I can't see how they could have edited him without his permission. :-)

bawa said...

Yes, I know that....but I think it would have improved!
Anyway, it is my general gripe with many books nowadays- the part a strict editor played in creating a good book has been lost.
As a matter of fact, I read was reading an article on Tesla in a supposedly serious scientific magazine in Spanish, where the writer had consistently confused "bobbin" with "bovine" throughout (bovina instead of bobina) and it had been published!

A friend later told me that over the past couple of years they have done away with proofreaders in many publications to cut costs and rely on Word: with the result of dozens of spelling and grammatical errors in the newspapers to say the least.

Piaw Na said...

That's not surprising. I can't afford a proofreader on this blog, for instance, but it's the content that's important, and I'm afraid blogs, etc., have trained the general audience to be very forgiving of these errors.

When I worked on my book, someone suggested a proofreader/editor. It would have helped, but even the cheapest guys wanted about $300-$500. I'd rather have that in my pocket for the kind of financial risk that I'm taking for the book.

bawa said...

I can understand that for a blog, but knowing your background, I am sure you read and re-read your book a couple of dozen times towards this end (although some errors seem to escape this scrutiny). That is fine.

But I do think established newspapers with large circulation could keep a couple of them on. The amount of mistakes of usage, mispelling and sentences that just don't make sense (written by a reporter under pressure) is just amazing.

To employ a couple of them, at least to take out the most glaring mistakes, can't be all that bad.

Amy said...

I just finished the second book and I really like the series. The first book *was* kind of slow in the beginning. But I thought the Salander character is well developed.

Have you read any David Suarez?

Piaw Na said...

Yes I have:


Amy said...

Ah. These are my favorite most recent reads.

The gift of SF, really is in introducing and exploring different ways that we might life. Doctorow did a similar economic innovation in _Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom_ but Suarez does a much better job of it.

BTW, did you realize your blog has a pop up window for reading/posting comments instead of just going to the post page? And that these titles are linking to Amazon instead of the post itself as is the usual convention? It's rather awkward and makes it difficult to link to you.

Piaw Na said...

Yes, I think they were good reads and very much enjoyed them. The pop up window for comments only happens when you click on it from the main page.

I had no idea that the title was conventionally the permalink. I always thought the permalink is the "Posted by XXX at PERMALINK". Since there was already one by default, I don't go to any extra effort to do it. And blogger doesn't let me know what the permalink is until I hit "post" anyway.