Unless you’ve been hiding away in a hut in Outer Mongolia for the last couple of years you will have heard of Stieg Larsson and his trio of crime thrillers, the first of which is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. So many friends of mine have read and raved about it that I felt I should form my own opinion. So here that is….
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is pacy and entertaining and it keeps you guessing until the very end. It’s pretty gruesome in parts, which is not my cup of tea – but then I’m not a big crime fiction fan. I’m the sort of person who gets upset every time I watch the news and I can’t read the Metro in the morning unless I want to lie awake worrying every night.
But… even putting aside my distaste for the gruesome and the sordid I can’t say that I loved the book or that I felt the incredible hype surrounding it was justified. The characters feel like cardboard cut-outs, the plot is totally implausible and the book sorely needs some editing. To give an example, Lisbeth Salander’s computer breaks and Larsson says: “Unsurprisingly, she set her sights on the best available alternative: the new Apple PowerBook G4/1.0 GHz in an aluminium case with a Power PC 7451 processor with an AltiVec Velocity Engine, 960 megs of RAM and a sixty gig hard drive. It had BlueTooth and built in C.D and D.V.D. burners.” What????
Another classic example (sorry, I couldn’t resist it) comes about when Blomkvist is writing up the Vanger family tree. Larsson says: “The family was so extensive that he was forced to create a database in his iBook. He used the NotePad programme (www.ibrium.se), one of those full-value products that two men at the Royal Technical College had created and distributed as shareware for a pittance on the internet.”
Seriously, what the hell? What editor in his right mind would let that utter tripe slip through the net? You have to wonder how it was allowed to happen – no normal author would be allowed to stamp his feet and force such dreadful material through the editing process, I’m sure of it….
On that note, the story behind Larsson’s crime trilogy is much more interesting than the books themselves. (This is perhaps the x-factor that accounts for their runaway success.) The untimely death of the author (pretty much just after he turned his manuscripts over to the publishers) and the subsequent battle between his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, and his estranged family for control of his estate – these stories are the stuff of great fiction.
I was ready to blame Gabrielsson for the dreadful editing of Larsson’s book. It smacked of her being over-fussy about keeping his original text but in an interview with the Guardian she actually criticises the English translation of the book. (Since she and Larsson were not married she had no say when it came to the editing.) She claims that Larsson’s family has not taken good enough care of his existing work and she also complains that Larsson’s British editor, Christopher MacLehose, has ‘prissified’ his dialogue. (Is he also responsible for the other editorial crimes that occur throughout or should the family’s overbearing influence be blamed for those?) Either way, someone should be ashamed.
Gabrielsson complains that now Larsson is dead “the “mythology” is unbearable.” I can imagine her frustrations. As a reader, I think the mythology that surrounds the Millenium trilogy puts Larsson’s books on a pedestal when really they’re average crime thrillers (speaking for the first book anyway – which I am told is the best). If you’re not much of a reader and you’re not a pedant like myself, pick the book up at the airport and enjoy it. Personally, the whole thing was a bit sloppy for me and there were dull stretches where I felt my interest flagging.
Having read the ‘taster’ for the second book in the back, which again dealt with a gruesome rape, I think I’ve accepted that these books just aren’t for me. I’m not attacking Larsson for writing them – after all, he is essentially a feminist and good for him – but I don’t have the stomach for them. And if I want to know about the latest (or in this case outdated) computer gadgets I’ll go to PC World…