My sister is absolutely obsessed with this series (as is much of America, as one book or another from the series has been on the bestseller list forever now). My stepmom hated it. My dad said it takes about 250 pages before it’s any good but the rest is great. So naturally, I had to see for myself. Conclusion: I agree with my dad, it takes about half the book before it gets interesting.
My initial reaction: how did this ever get published? I’m surprised that any manuscript reader ever read beyond the first couple chapters in order to get to the good stuff. Even more surprising is that readers enjoyed it enough to read that far into it and that it managed to garner the enthusiasm needed to make it the success it is. Had I not been reassured by my sister and had it not been one of those books that I feel like I’d be missing out on important pop culture (and my desire to get what the big deal is) I would not have read beyond chapter one.
Much of Larsson’s writing seems to show poor writing ability. There’s a lot of passive “filling in” to be endured before the story finally starts. The most interesting and title character doesn’t really play any part in the story until nearly halfway in. The passage of time is so detailed that it made me want to rip the pages out. (At 7:00 he walked to the shop and ate a bagel with a cup of coffee. At 8:00 he walked back home to read his newspaper. At 9:30 he turned on his computer and began typing…) The final twist wasn’t as surprising as it might have been, but that can be forgiven at least. My dad thinks the biggest issue is that Blomkvist is the dullest character on the planet and seems less appealing than the many women attracted to him find him. Remember how the end of the Lord of the Rings movie dragged on for an extra thirty minutes? So did this book. There are also so many characters in the Vanger family that it is nearly impossible to keep track of them all.
There are plus sides of course. Lisbeth is an interesting character and the moment she becomes more prominent the story picks up. Even Berger is more interesting. While I could have liked a smaller amount of family members, the family drama was interesting and even compelling at times.
I know there are more negatives than positives listed, but the second half really did make up for the first and I will be reading book 2, which I hear is infinitely better.
Random note: it’s so funny how clear it is to see when this is written, because of the line “After discussions with her mother, they had agreed to give Pernilla an iPod, an MP3 player hardly bigger than a matchbox…” Presumably they’re talking about the iPod mini, since the original iPods were certainly not that small, but the fact that he needed to explain what an iPod was just goes to show you how new they were to the market. He died in 2004 with all three books in the trilogy complete, so it must have been written some time in the early 2000s.
It is interesting how the book was titled Men Who Hate Women in Sweden, since while that’s clearly part of the book, I wouldn’t say it’s THE book. (Especially considering that Blomkvist is anything but a woman hater.)