Five Reasons You Should Read Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millenium’ Trilogy

5. Stieg Larsson writes with methodical and unrelenting fervor. His prose is incredibly detailed: the food, places, and people spring to life on the page. What’s more, since it’s set in Sweden, it has a very European feel, which is refreshing and fun. We learn things about Swedish culture such as what they call their public transportation, that McDonald’s really is everywhere, and that peanut butter and pickle sandwiches are a real thing. And once Larsson gets going with the plot, it never lets you go. When the person who coined the term “page-turner” thought that phrase up, they were probably seeing into the future because these books epitomize it. The structure of both books is simple and original, and most importantly, extremely effective. I think it’s also a testament to the greatness of his story and its ideas that even in translation (done in English by Reg Keeland), his words remain powerful.

4. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are emotionally realized, intensely 21st century characters, a rarity in both the crime fiction and mystery genres. Perhaps the thing that I like best about these books is that what care about in the end isn’t the plot (although it’s certainly a factor), but how the plot affects Mikael and Lisbeth. Larsson managed to create two three-dimensional characters in a purely two-dimensional world. Blomkvist is intelligent and fixated and handsome and charismatic, yes, but he’s also stubborn, rakish, and a bit of a man-whore, and he knows it. He’s honest about it. He feels so intensely real at times that it’s easy to slip into his head and experience the story through his eyes, and a lot of it is again, the intense detail about everything in the story that Larsson sneaks in when you’re not even looking. Lisbeth Salander, on the other hand, is simply one of the most outrageous and original fictional characters I’ve ever read. I’m not going to say much about her, because discovering who she is is half the fun of the books, and getting you to read them is the goal of this post, after all. She must have to come to him in a vision or something, already herself, because there’s no way he made her up piece by piece. Or maybe that’s just how good he was, that he could make me believe that.

3. The world of the trilogy is grim and fantastical but rooted in a horrific reality. You watch Law & Order: SVU, you know the drill. People live disgusting lives sometimes and do horrible things to one another, and the Millenium trilogy is no exception. Larsson’s books are filled with violence, yes, but it’s the kind of violence that never feels overstated or over the top, and which instead of making his books feel like fiction, makes them feel like real life. So, yes, there is murder, sexual assault of all kinds, domestic violence, underground cultures full of sex and fetishes, and corruption in government and law enforcement; but there is also kindness, justice, bravery, intelligence, determination, cleverness, and love, with the added bonus of some flipping cool technology.

2. You will become painfully aware of what is good and true and what is reality, and you will wish to do something about it. Like all good literature, The Millenium Trilogy (in what was meant to be a ten-part saga before Larsson’s untimely death in 2004) holds a mirror up to society. From the text of the novels he left behind, it’s clear that he held an admirable distaste for the power his gender can sometimes hold over mine, but unlike most people, he actually did something about it. While reading these books, I began to feel genuinely angry and frustrated at the evils Larsson was dealing with, two emotions that I tend to avoid at all costs. There are levels of unfairness that boggle the mind and injustices aplenty, all of which deal with a hatred that is all too real, not only in Larsson’s imagined world, but our world, too. These books positively wallow in it: exposing it, living with it, trying to defeat it. After all, the original title of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. Living in our post-modern progressive society, which on the surface professes to be above “all of that stuff,” it’s sometimes easy to forget that hatred and violence just don’t go away because you make them illegal. I have never considered myself a feminist — I’m more of a humanist, if we’re going to call me anything — but if any man ever deserved the title, it was Stieg Larsson. The man knew how to write women.

1. They’re on sale for ridiculously low prices right now at Amazon. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is in paperback, both Mass Market and Trade, and The Girl Who Played With Fire‘s paperback is coming in mid-March. Meanwhile, the hardcovers are selling for dirt cheap, so you have no excuses. The final volume, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, is due to be published May 23.

7 Responses to “Five Reasons You Should Read Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millenium’ Trilogy”
  1. ~Tim says:

    I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo just a couple weeks ago. I think you liked it more than I did, but I liked it enough that I want to read the others. And you’ve provided five good reasons here to convince other people to join us.

  2. vahid says:

    Okay, I’m sold. As soon as I finish reading some more of the books I promised myself I would read before going out and buying new books.

  3. myoctober says:

    Aaaaaggggghhhhh. I miss reading these books so much.

  4. Jen says:

    I went back and really read through this post after reading the books. When you posted it, I had just started reading the first one so I just skimmed. These are some really good points. I hope that people read them after reading this!

    I love the food parts of the books. The fact that they make a lot of weird sandwiches is somehow awesome.

  5. tony says:

    I loved all of them, for much the same reasons as you’ve put here.

    As one who doesn’t usually enjoy crime fiction/detective books, but loved these books and characters and themes, what would you recommend reading next?

  6. Fred says:

    My God! Are you serious? These books are atrocious. So loooonnng and brimming with irrelevant details and two dimensional characters. Has the whole world gone crazy!
    For proper suspensful writing read The Silence Of The Lambs. Thomas Harris is everything a writer could wish to be. Amen!

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