Title
Millennium trilogy
Author
Stieg Larsson
Genre
Thriller
Price
$21.72

This review is based on the Eng­lish trans­la­tions by Reg Kee­land (pub­lished by Vin­tage) and is not based on the orig­i­nal Swedish works.

The Millennium trilogy

23 November 2018

Title
Millennium trilogy
Author
Stieg Larsson
Genre
Thriller
Price
$21.72

This review is based on the Eng­lish trans­la­tions by Reg Kee­land (pub­lished by Vin­tage) and is not based on the orig­i­nal Swedish works.

A spoiler-free look at Stieg Larsson’s trio of mas­ter­pieces of the modern thriller: The girl with the dragon tattoo’, The girl who played with fire’, and The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest’.

It is as unfair to David Lager­crantz (who now writes the Mil­len­nium series, fol­low­ing Stieg Larsson’s demise) that we should com­pare his work to Mr Larsson’s as it is to us that he should expect any better from read­ers so fond of the orig­i­nal tril­ogy. Read­ers often tend to get attached to a writer’s style and writ­ing style is often inim­itable. It is with this mind­set that I decided, some­what haugh­tily some might say, to cut this review off at the first three books that Stieg Lars­son wrote and — going a step fur­ther — to call them a tril­ogy. Indeed Mr Lars­son him­self intended this to be a series of ten books but died before even the first one came out in print. Both he and Mr Lager­crantz have back­grounds in jour­nal­ism so there does seem to be some common thread con­nect­ing the five books out already and, pos­si­bly, the five that are yet to come. Nonethe­less my biggest reason for writ­ing about the tril­ogy is that I have not yet found in myself the courage to break from Mr Larsson’s Mil­len­nium uni­verse and enter Mr Lagercrantz’s ver­sion of it.

The Mil­len­nium tril­ogy is so called because of Mil­len­nium mag­a­zine at which one of the pro­tag­o­nists Mikael Blomqvist works. While he is one of the pro­tag­o­nists, and the sta­bler one by any mea­sure, the real charm of Mr Larsson’s work lies in the second lead char­ac­ter, a wiry, les­bian hacker called Lis­beth Salan­der. Since this is a spoiler-free review I will not go into any spe­cific plot details but it is safe to say that the Mil­len­nium tril­ogy is all about how the two fight evil.

Thanks (allegedly) to Mr Larsson’s past expe­ri­ences, the tril­ogy deals with sen­si­tive issues like rape and murder and the ill-treat­ment of women. As you read the books you realise that this is a good thing for two rea­sons: one, it is on par with cur­rent dis­cus­sions around the world; and, two, the way Mr Lars­son han­dles these issues through Salan­der is classy and steers clear of making them sorry topics used as a trick to draw atten­tion.

Lis­beth Salan­der is a riddle. She is not a fem­i­nist but she does speak for women when it is sen­si­ble to; she is not strong but capa­ble of han­dling her­self; she is not main­stream but her quirks make her ever more allur­ing to the reader. The beauty of the tril­ogy lies in how it leaves Salan­der just a little bit open — just a tad bit, just enough to let the reader make of her what he will. Blomqvist’s job is to bal­ance Salander’s some­times impul­sive, often crit­i­cal solu­tions with a more weighed approach to the whole sit­u­a­tion. Need­less to say it is Salander’s (some­times ques­tion­able) approaches to prob­lem solv­ing that even­tu­ally wrap things up.

As hard as it may be to describe who Salan­der is, it is much easier to describe who she is not. Salan­der is not a fem­i­nist; Salan­der is not an inac­tive nerd; Salan­der is not a gun­slinger; Salan­der is not a tat­tooed goth trying to be Jason Bourne, fight­ing Big Gov­ern­ment Agency. Salan­der is not the type of typ­i­cal action film hero­ine and David Fincher cap­tured this per­fectly in his film based on the first book (The girl with the dragon tattoo star­ring Rooney Mara as Salan­der along­side Daniel Craig as Blomqvist). Alas he made no more films from the series after that so the biggest ques­tions now are whether Mr Lager­crantz has kept that up and whether the upcom­ing film based on Mr Lagercrantz’s first book in the series, The girl in the spider’s web’, can keep that up. Unfor­tu­nately for the second film I find that I have a lot more faith in Mr Lager­crantz.

Nonethe­less, having read almost the entire final book from Mr Lars­son in two days (and the tril­ogy in a few months since the first one drew me in), I can attest that regard­less of where the series (of books or films) go you can count on Mr Larsson’s three books to easily make their way straight to the top of your favourites list. What is more, the Swede’s three novels, regard­less of their trans­la­tions, have unar­guably found their place among the best modern thrillers today.