Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reading: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Finally finished it.  Here's my official review:

While the book certainly had its strengths, it was a huge disappointment.  To summarily break it down to numbers, I would say if the author or editor had trimmed the fat 465 pages by say, 100 to 125, it’d be a better book.  (Not that long books are bad, as I’ll get into.)  At about page 250 I actually put the book down for a month, not sure if I cared to continue.  The reason: nothing had happened in 250 pages.  When I finally did pick it back up, something finally did happen; on page 253, there was finally a positive step into the mystery story of the book, thus it finally got interesting.  But to Larsson’s credit, I had kept reading it up to just before that point.  There was something simple, easy, and compelling about his narration that kept me going.  Okay, I admit, I am a somewhat impatient reader (impatient in general, but my reading time is very limited and valuable and this was maybe not worth all the hours it absorbed).  It was not the “definition of page-turner” as I was led to believe, to say the least.  Of the 465 pages, only about 150-200 of them directly dealt with the primary mystery story. 
            But that’s not bad in itself.  The good thing about the novel as an art form—which we, including myself, in these hard-and-fast, short attention span, flash-bang, more quantity-less quality times seem to lose—is that is doesn’t have to be just about a single linear plot, as does a short story or two-hour movie where the delivery has to be relatively short and sweet.  I am glad there is still success out there for the meandering, developing novel that weaves an entire world and doesn’t have to be pressured into getting it done fast and dirty (just ask Stephen King, perhaps the most successful and time-taking writer out there).  However, that said, this book meandered more than really necessary.  The first 50 pages were mostly about doing generational research on a family while drinking a lot of coffee and having sex with the villagers (okay, just one villager).  There was more day-to-day, mundane detail than needed for the story.  It was not page-turning, nail-biting suspense.  The primary characters were thoroughly wrought with their own ins and outs and developmental episodes (which is good), to the point where the murder mystery plot line was secondary, or at least no more important than any of the other lines running in this book (which isn’t good).  Other running lines include the characters own lives, the operations of a magazine, the financial ruin of a bad guy and his giant corporation, as well as criticizing the modern financial system and highlighting crimes against women (and very good points made there!).  Something else that struck me as strange was the author (or at least the character Mikael) seeing hackers as about the most despicable form of criminal; he almost seemed more taken aback by Lisbeth’s computer habits than by the rape and murder of women.  Perhaps that’s a cultural thing, or a journalist’s bias.  The author’s experience and interests as a magazine editor himself definitely shows through and maybe other editors got more enjoyment from those details spend throughout the book than I did. 
            Overall, not a waste of my valuable reading time, but it sure as hell did not live up to the hype.  Read it if you have time to spare.  If you’re pressed, find something more quality-dense. 

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