Review:Millenium series by Stieg Larsson: The Girl who Played with Fire (02), The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (03).

Millennium TrilogyImage by clayworkshop via Flickr

Why I read it at all:
I think I need to explain myself. A friend of mine, knowing about my new ereader, tempted me horribly, sending two e-books by Stieg Larsson. I had read the first part (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) some years ago, even before I started this blog, and I positively hated it, especially those infamous rape scenes and pretty much everything in between. That friend of mine assured me, though, that the rest of the series doesn’t feature any more graphic sexual violence and only then I decided to read the last two books. I admit I was a bit curious.
Synopsis:

The plot of these two installments revolves around the human and sex trafficking industry in Sweden, a certain unpleasant Russian GRU defector, called Alexander Zalachenko, and the murder of three individuals with connections to the Lisbeth Salander character. 

Salander’s name and photo appear in newspapers all over Sweden – and not for her greater glory.
Evidence places her at the scenes of three killings, and the gun used in two of them bears her fingerprints.
The accompanying news stories portray her as an eccentric loner if not a dangerous S&M Satanistic lesbian nutter. She is forced to disguise and change apartments; her old colleague and lover, Mikael Blomkvist, seems to be the only person convinced of her innocence. However, given his tendency to fool around with other women, furious Lisbeth refuses to have anything to do with him. Strangely enough Blomkvist can’t understand why Salander avoids him and of course, very chivalrlously, decides to defend her from the whole world.


While looking into the crimes for which she is wanted, Salander again demonstrates her computer-hacking skills but it doesn’t mean the baddies won’t get to her. In the last part she lands in the hospital with one big hole in her hip and head. Blomkvist continues to sleuth on her behalf in order to expose those who have made her life hellish and attempted to frame her for all manner of crimes. Of course, in his spare time he also still manages to attract every woman within a 500-yard-radius like honey attracts bees. Finally a process takes place and Lisbeth is independent and free. Will she know what to do with her freedom and riches though?

What I liked:


There were no ugly sex scenes and definitely less violence than in the first part. Well done.


What I didn’t like:


Here I can spread my red-black wings. Ok, a quick check of other equipment. Horns? Ready. Claws? Sharp and long. Tail? Firmly attached and switching from side to side. Do you scent brimstone? Good. Let me begin.

First the characters. I admit it – in my humble opinion it was a mess. I did not really like them or empathize with any of them. Blomkvist, an intrepid journalist who takes down the entire Swedish government bagging one hot smart woman after another hot smart woman and never ever buying a single packet of condoms, let alone thinking about the psychological consequences of his behaviour ? Ugh. The guy gets around, and then some but why? I’ve always found Mikael a pretty vanilla character. His partners don’t solve the mystery of his popularity either. Is he especially well endowed or skilled? Protective, understanding and tender? Physically strong? Muscled? Intelligent? No, no and no. He is a guy without any distinguishable traits of character, which only emphasizes his unhealthy attitude towards carnal pleasures, yet the author wants us to believe that he is simply irresistible because…let’s assume he is so, full stop. Tsk, tsk.


Ok, wait, who is next? Niedermann, the ‘murderous terminator from hell’ who doesn’t feel pain? Sigh. Done to death already, herr Larsson. Erika Berger, a sexy journalist who helps to take down the entire Swedish government while bagging smart men, sometimes two at a time or more (you know she really should wear that t-shirt with a caption “so many boys, so little time”)? How much eye-rolling you can accept in a series?


Now a word or two about Lisbeth Salander, for many readers, as far as I know, the highlight of these books.
By making Salander a mathematical genius whose equivalent of a crossword with her morning coffee is tackling the famous Fermat’s Last Theorem, Larsson went truly over the top. Even geniuses need some serious tutoring to develop their abilities and they can’t find them in the popular science books with answers in the back. What’s more, Lisbeth routinely hacks into major corporations for which she has worked with the aid of ancient passwords. Excuse me? I can’t believe Swedish businessmen, security and IT specialists are just a bunch of ninnies. This tactic is the cardinal sin of all three books – the author is constantly underestimating his readers. Mathematicians and computer scientists are recommended to steer clear of the whole trilogy, psychologists too. If she was able to mature a bit and shape up I’d like to see a Lisbeth Salander-like heroine of a  graphic novel where she fights vampires; I’d even like a sexy Lisbeth Salander action figure, complete with zombie makeup, leather pants, a bloody whip and a fancy laptop bag. Of course in real life, such a person would never exist but at least I would understand why.


A second source of my disappointment stems from the fact that these two books are filled with simply too many secondary characters that either had little importance to the story or were cartoon-like. Larsson keeps them all black and white. Funnily enough those who are bad, are always men – evil, corrupt, perverse or plain incompetent. It seems that Sweden is full of deviant male types. Those who are good are mainly women and somehow they didn’t persuade me either. Women can be as mean as any man (well, look at my review if you need a proof) and in this series, with the exception of Harriet’s mother in the first part, The Dragon Tattoo, it seems that every other female character is just simply wonderful. None of them are ever greedy, mendacious or spiteful, just misunderstood or a bit lewd at worst. Isn’t it sexism?


One more issue which I must tackle here in order to be perfectly honest. I wouldn’t like to sound overly prudish but generally speaking sex is treated as a purely physiological function here. It’s not even because the scenes are very detailed, far from it. It’s because they are as shallow as a puddle. I deeply disagree with such an approach. Let me illustrate what I mean with two examples. Exhibit one: a married woman (Erika Berger) has an affair with our irresistible Mikael, breaks up his marriage and then continues the affair with her husband’s knowledge and blessing, virtually destroying any chances of her lover for any healthy relationship. No pangs of conscience from any of the sides involved. The same woman has previously had group sex, filmed it and kept the video near her bed. What for? To turn on her hubby? To make the blackmail work for any possible creep or stalker easier? Exhibit two: our dear Lisbeth Salander is not only sexually omnivorous and proud of it but also treats sex like nothing more than a visit to the toilet – if you must go there, you should do it when the opportunity knocks, preferably without paying much. Disgusting and as far from reality as you can get.  


 Now the plot. To me, the plot did not at all move along at the same pace as the first book. Mind you I didn’t like the first book. In addition, I managed to find a number of somewhat annoying grammatical errors, sentence fragments, etc. Mind you, I am not a native English speaker. There are entire sections of the books that meander on and on with no apparent purpose with regard to moving the story forward. Frankly, the whole “Erika at the big newspaper” subplot was unnecessary – one of these sections  which would have benefited greatly from some serious editorial paring.

The writing style is juvenile to say the least of it. A lot of paragraphs are quite irrelevant, not offering anything more than some mundane conversation or uninteresting commentary on the characters repeated over and over again. Many of these are, literally, shopping lists: “a jumbo pack of Billy’s Pan Pizza, three frozen fish casseroles, three bacon pies . . .” This  is clearly an attempt to capture the texture of everyday life, but sometimes I wish Salander’s or Blomkvist’s  weekly shopping for food and such could be, as lawyers say, stipulated. Not to mention the fact that Lisbeth, a billionaire now, after purchasing a 21-room luxurious flat furnishes it in…IKEA. Is she a student or a blue-collar worker or a single mom? Honestly I snorted loudly reading it (and yes, there is a whole list of her newly-bought furniture presented). Was the author sponsored by IKEA or what? Billionaires, or rather their assistants, just hire an interior designer and pay the bill.
Finally Larrson left too many of the characters and sub-plots in the books without any resolution. For example I kind of remember in the first part Blomkvist had a teen daughter from his marriage. In the second and third part you won’t find the slightest trace of her. Is she dead? How come her daddy is no longer interested in her? Perhaps the author did plan to write some other parts. Who knows.
Final verdict:

I did not enjoy these books. They made me bored for starters, leaving bad taste in my mouth. Add to it the fact that there was little or no humor in them and here we have a total book failure – I should have given up, but being stubborn, I wanted to finish them against my better judgment. I found the ending really dismal, empty and unpleasant. It served me right. Curiosity can kill not only a cat but also your reading experience.


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13 Responses to Review:Millenium series by Stieg Larsson: The Girl who Played with Fire (02), The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (03).

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    Lol! Loving the review.First errors, must be a bad translation. bad bad.Oh and yes Ikea, sure exactly where I would buy stuff if I was rich. I mean you must put them together yourself. let's see, no thanks if I am rich ;)Anyway I did read 10 pages in book 1 and was bored. So not the books for me. Genre wise, but it seems they are bad too 😉

  2. Just because people have money doesn't mean they have taste. 🙂 Ikea has some nice things. Funny you should blog about this today. I was watching the last movie of the trilogy last night. I liked it but then the script writers and producers tidied up the story. Now that you have mentioned it, there must have been a lot of filler in the books because the movie tells the entire story but doesn't feel rushed at all.

  3. Tracy says:

    . Not to mention the fact that Lisbeth, a billionaire now, after purchasing a 21-room luxurious flat furnishes it in…IKEA. Is she a student or a blue-collar worker or a single mom?LOL – but it's quintessentially Swedish!I don't fall into any of those categories, but I do sometimes shop at IKEA, though I agree, if I was a billionaire, I'd have no need.Thank you for your wonderful review of the rest of the series, now I don't have to feel guilty about not finishing it!

  4. anachronist says:

    Well IKEA is basically ok, I have bought there some trifles now and then (but not any piece of furniture – generally not my style and those I liked were still too expensive for my budget) but I really had hard time imagining it to be the shop of choice of the Swedish Haves.Blodeuedd Salander hired two men to put the furniture together – the utter luxury I suppose. 😉 I envy you – you can ditch a book after ten pages. I must train harder.Funny you should blog about this today. I was watching the last movie of the trilogy last night. I liked it but then the script writers and producers tidied up the story. Now that you have mentioned it, there must have been a lot of filler in the books because the movie tells the entire story but doesn't feel rushed at all.I suppose it might be that unique case when the movies are actually better than the books. Tracy my pleasure! You certainly don't miss much not finishing the series!

  5. Blodeuedd says:

    Aha, ok..well I would still buy from another place if I was rich 😉

  6. IKEA… ROFL!True about the programmer stuff… at least make it an unknown or little used back door!I tried to watch the movies in this series. I found myself picking up a book nearby tired of waiting to connect to any character in the story. So, no, I don't find this review too harsh… just honest (and a bit funny… lol).

  7. anachronist says:

    I would still buy from another place if I was rich 😉Hear, hear, Blodeuedd, especially as currently you can order your furniture via the Internet and Lisbeth is supposed to be a hacker extraordinaire…Melissa I am always pleased to amuse my readers – thanks! (mwwwah…a big friendly kiss).

  8. Thank you for your honesty and candid opinion of these books. The blogosphere needs more writers like you. Keep up the great work!

  9. anachronist says:

    Thanks Todd that was a bit unexpected but very nice! *blush* I've been waiting for a fan of this series punching my blogging head.

  10. Tracy says:

    I've been waiting for a fan of this series punching my blogging head. And this series is surprisingly and disturbingly-popular amongst the blogging community! Each to their own, I guess.

  11. anachronist says:

    Each to their own, I guess.Definitely. I decided to read the first part just because I had been a victim of these tremendously positive reviews…it taught me a lesson.

  12. Deepali says:

    Yea, one of those sleeper hits – this series.I finished the series by skipping the harder-to-swallow bits, and all of Blomk's philandering.Been all over your blog today, commented on posts I got drawn into reading!!

  13. anachronist says:

    Thanks Deepali, nice to see you again and I appreciate! :*

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