Fiction: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

Oh man, maybe this was a bad idea. I was searching for a quote about dragons for this review, and accidentally refound the quote from Arrested Development‘s second season episode “Sword of Destiny,” where Gob is riding around on his Segway with his sword of destiny, and Michael says that it looks like he’s fighting dragons in the future, and then I made a huge mistake and decided to watch “Sword of Destiny” (no, thank you, Netflix), and now I’m afraid this entry will be rife with references to a show that only four of us have watched.

I apologize in advance. I’m sorry! (You’ll be sorry! Wait, that doesn’t work after his line … )

Anyway. This is really unfortunate, because this book is the exact opposite of Arrested Development. There’s a lot of development, and it’s dark, and gruesome, and above all, there is a lot of violence against women. A lot. A lot a lot. Like, I cannot say it enough: if you happen to have triggers for rape and violence, this is not the book for you. You should probably go find “Sword of Destiny” on Netflix and watch that instead.

No, go ahead. I’ll wait. (I need to finish the episode first anyway.)

For those of you who want to solider on and see what the fuss was about, or if you’ve already read it and are interested in what I have to say about it, let’s get to it. Although I’m going to try, for once, to not spoil everything, because if I did that, it would ruin it for you.

As y’all are probably aware, this is one of the most highly touted new series of the past decade. And yes, I am a sucker for hype. I’m also a sucker for upcoming movies starring Daniel Craig, so, y’know, there was also that. The saddest thing about this novel and the other two titles (aside from the violence against women) is that Stieg Larsson died from a heart attack with only three out of a proposed ten titles completed. So once I’ve read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, it’s all over. That’s very sad.

Anyway, I should probably talk about the book, huh? Considering I’ve just spend over two hundred words on a cancelled TV show and other miscellaney.

The book has two main characters: Lisbeth Salander is the titular character. She is a woman in her mid-twenties who is an accomplished hacker. She is extremely intelligent and also antisocial, but she has quite the career working with a detective agency. She is also prone to violence, but she only resorts to violence when defending herself or others. Due to her violent and asocial tendencies, she is a ward of the Swedish government, which poses problems for her in the first half of the book.

The other main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist with the finanical magazine Millenium (hence, this series is referred to in many sources as the Millenium trilogy). Actually, he is a disgraced journalist, as at the beginning of the story, he has just been found guilty of libel. He had accused in his magazine a financier named Wennerstrom, and thanks to me being a huge depository of pop culture, every time I read that name, all I heard was Professor Farnsworth from Futurama grate out “WERNSTROM!” Y’know, this guy:

My killbot has Lotus Notes and a machine gun.
[It’s moments like this that make me think I’m not a serious blogger.]

So while Blomkvist is dealing with forced unemployment, he gets a call from a Henrik Vanger, who wants him to solve a mystery. Forty-ish years ago, his niece, Harriet, disappeared from a family gathering. To this day, he’s unsure if she’s simply disappeared, or if she’s dead. Vanger asks Blomkvist to investigate her disappearance, which would require him to live on the Vanger Family compound for a year. Blomkvist initially wants to decline, declaring it an impossible task. Vanger sweetens the deal: should Blomkvist succeed, Vanger will give evidence that Blomkvist was correct in claiming that WERNSTROM (sorry!) is indeed a crook.

Meanwhile, Salander is incredibly violated. That’s all I’m going to say about that. That, and don’t worry, she gets her revenge in a fantastically awesome way.

In going through the investigation, Blomkvist realizes he needs a research assistant. When he learns that Salander was hired originally to do a background check on him for the Vanger corporation, he asks to hire her. She agrees, and they become a great team.

I’m not going to talk about the plot much more than that. Let me end with this: the plots are resolved (both Harriet and WERNSTROM), and they are twisty and dark and gruesome and it is more than worth it to remain as unspoiled going in as possible. I am a huge spoiler-er: with the exception of this book and maybe my no-spoiler stance on both Vampire Diaries and Veronica Mars, I like going in to things knowing how they’re going to end.

And here’s the part where we play a short round of Movies Alaina’s Never Seen, coupled with Things Alaina Knows About Those Movies Even Though She’s Never Seen Them:
Animal House: Bluto’s a zit, FOOD FIGHT!, Marion Ravenwood’s ass, TOGA, TOGA, TOGA.
Pulp Fiction: We never see what was in the suitcase, Uma gets shot with adrenaline on the dance floor, and they’ve never heard of McDonald’s in that universe.
The Godfather: Leave the gun, take the cannoli; “you come to me, asking me to kill someone for money, on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding?”; and the horse head.
The Shawshank Redemption: He escapes!
Caddyshack: There’s a groundhog that drives Bill Murray nuts, but he’s going to Heaven, so at least he’s got that goin’ for him, which is nice.
Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine’s a dick, Darth Vader is Luke & Leia’s dad, the Death Star gets blow’d up, and HAN SHOT FIRST.
Schindler’s List: Schindler rescues Jews. (Enjoy your Chanukah cookie, man!) (I’m going to hell SO BAD for that joke.)

So when I finally sit down and watch these movies (and I will, because I seriously need to shut Brad and John up about that shit, and like yesterday, but I’ve been kind of busy, okay?), I want to know what’s going to happen beforehand. But I cannot tell you how happy I was that I refrained from looking up spoilers for the book, because it would have totally ruined how the plot unfolded.

I am greatly looking forward to the movie, and not just because Daniel Craig is playing Blomkvist (although, not gonna lie, that’s a big part of it). David Fincher is also directing, and I know he won’t compromise out the violence for a more marketable movie. And while there are some people in my circle who are still pissed that Noomi Rapace is not reprising her role from the Swedish movie version, I have no preconceived notions on Rooney Mara, and am awaiting the performance with open eyes and an open mind.

Two final thoughts: Firstly, I cannot stress enough that while the main plot of the novel revolves around a missing girl, the undercurrent of the entire story is a plea to fight against violence on women. There are scenes that were difficult for me to read, so I cannot warn people enough of the trigger possibilities.

Secondly, the book is very slow to start. It takes about two hundred pages for the action to truly pick up. But I beg you, stick with it, because it is totally worth it.

And now, after that highest of highs, will come the lowest of lows.

That’s right, my friends: next on my list? Breaking Dawn.

Stock up on the vodka now, kids. That one’ll be a doozy.

Grade for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: 5 stars

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6 thoughts on “Fiction: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

  1. Alaina, I love your blog. You make me giggle. God as my witness, you should be writing professionally. So get on it 🙂

    It took me a LONG time to slog through Dragon Tattoo, though in the end I friggin’ LOVED it… as far as I was concerned it was boring boring boring boring HOLY GOD A HORRIFYING AMOUNT OF VIOLENCE boring but i’m still kind numb from the aforementioned violence boring boring Hey, a breakthrough boring boring ONE HUNDRED PAGES THAT I COULDN’T STOP READING IF YOU THREATENED TO HIT ME WITH A BASEBALL BAT.

    You should watch the Swedish versions of the books. They’re pretty damn good. I wanted to see them before the new version came out so I could compare/contrast Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara. We’ll watch the movies. We’ll discuss.

    Also, I miss the hell out of you.

    • Holy shit, your description of reading the book is exactly what I couldn’t put into words! It was “boring, financial jargon that I never remembered from college, boring, boring, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT, research research research, HOLY SHIT THAT WAS OH MY GOD HORRIBLE, research research, FUCK YEAH SALANDER, research research, *breakthrough*, teamwork teamwork teamwork, I’m falling asleep again and just as I think I’m going to put the book down and actually get some sleep, THE VILLAIN SHOWS UP and before I know it I’ve only got eighty pages left in the damn thing.

      I do intend to watch the Swedish version, but at this point, I’m so close to the Daniel Craig version, that I think I’ll watch that one first. I do intend to watch it at some point. Although I’ve heard that the Swedish Blomkvist is kinda sketchy, which doesn’t fill me with joy (hence, Daniel Craig first).

      I miss the hell out of you too.

      • I didn’t mind the Swedish Blomkvist. He isn’t Daniel Craig ruggedly handsome, but he looks… real… like a real investigative reporter that’s had a hard fuckin’ year haha. I don’t know. I admire foreign films for, generally, casting more realistic people than American films.

        They bullseyed Bjurman and Teleborian, however. I was like “Yep. That’s pretty much exactly who I pictured.” I liked Noomi Rapace a whole bunch. My major complaint with her is that she looked too damn healthy haha, and that’s pretty trivial. Seems they fixed that with Rooney Mara, however.

        Just so you know, I’m commenting on your blog rather than paying attention to ANYTHING on guard. You’re on your own for the next ten minutes, America. Try not to burn the house down 😀

      • Yeah, Europe isn’t as hung up on pretty people as we are here in the good ol’ USA. And holy crap yeah, I saw a picture of Rooney Mara today, and she looked downright scary. I hope she’s allowed to eat some things while she’s working on the next picture.

        Sarah! You know you can’t leave America to do ANYTHING on its own! What — what do we do when our shoelaces come untied? I — AAAAHHHH (runs around panicking, then trips over said untied shoelace) This is YOUR fault, Steig Larsson?

  2. I almost forgot! I had one more complaint about the movie. I watched the subtitled version so, obviously, they’re all speaking Swedish. My complaint is that I spent the entire movie waiting for someone to say “Bork bork!” and no one did.

    • WHAT?! What a missed opportunity.

      And someday (once you’re all caught up on Arrested Development), I’ll tell you about the missed opportunity I had in my post that is really, really funny but also completely inappropriate and mostly kind of horrible. So horrible, I posted it to Facebook for all of two minutes before removing it in horror.

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