The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, the best-selling book of Swedish author Stieg Larsson, has created quite a stir all over the world. The book, along with The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (which comprise the Millennium Trilogy) are certified bestsellers that have propelled the late Larsson to the top of the most popular authors in the world. The books were such a success that they spawned movie adaptations in Sweden; Hollywood has followed suit and is now preparing their own movies based on the novels.
So what makes The Millennium Trilogy such a great read? Here are some reasons:
Stieg Larsson has created two of the most memorable characters in recent contemporary fiction. They may not become literary juggernauts like Captain Ahab or Jay Gatsby, but Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are fully realized characters that are absolutely well written. They are great additions to the pantheon of memorable crime fiction characters. What also makes them very memorable is that they are polar opposites. Salander can be described as socially inept, while Blomkvist is a playboy to use a polite description of how he manages to get into bed with practically every woman he meets. But despite that this they are cunning, intelligent characters with a relentless drive to find out the truth using the unique skills and talents they possess.
Sweden, as a country, is one of those places that everyone has heard about but know little about as well. We know it’s the land of Ikea and the birthplace of the Ericsson company that will eventually become Sony-Ericsson. But other than that, there is little else we know. Reading the Millennium books allows us to dive into Swedish culture in a way that is so different from just reading a travelogue. Larsson may not be an absolutely excellent writer (though he is infinitely better than Nicholas Sparks or Dan Brown), but he deftly paints a picture of modern Swedish life. You don’t just get to read how they shop, what they cook, or what they usually do during weekends or weeknights, you can practically feel how time flies in Sweden or how the Swedes go about their everyday life. This is a testament to the talents of Larsson as a writer.
The world of Blomkvist and Salander is truly an exciting one. It may not be a Michael Bay explosion extravaganza but they do get into scrapes and situations that are truly exciting. The fact that Larsson sets these events in the midst of the humdrum of everyday Swede life makes it even more powerful as you get this feeling that underneath the veneer of life in Stockholm, there lies a darker, more sinister world that only a few has ever glimpsed. And it is Larsson that has pried away that curtain to allow us to peek inside. Larsson describes some events that are filled with violence and are truly horrible, but before he goes over the top he ends it. He just gives us enough to allow our imagination to take over then he stops, allowing us to fill in the blanks. He gives us the opportunity to paint that mental picture ourselves, which makes it all the more compelling to read what will happen next.
4. Layers of meaning
The Millennium Trilogy may be pulp fiction in its core, but Larsson still manages to inject it with some deep musings about relatively controversial topics like the justice system, the welfare of the marginal sector of society, sexual double standards, sexism, prostitution, white slavery, government corruption, a lazy financial media, and law enforcement.
It’s still a good time to pick up the books without looking like you just began to read it because it’s in fashion. For once, you could be ahead of the curve.