The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

I finished the second book last night and immediately began reading the third, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I really really love these books. I put off reading them, just because I figured they couldn’t be that good, that it was all hype. It isn’t. I’m so sad Larsson can’t keep writing. I’m a huge fan. :smiley:

Dunno. I’m not such a huge fan.

Larrson’s got something. I believe he was the most popular fiction writer in the world last year. I read all three books because I enjoy thrillers and because I wanted to try to work out how he did it.

I still don’t really know the answer. Certain things are good and clever: Salander is an interesting if sometimes incredible creation, Larsson’s take on the dark underbelly of Sweden is different and detailed. It’s terrific that he had a clear political point of view: left-wing thriller writers are rare and he was able thereby to revive an entire category of villain. I enjoyed his portrayals of magazine and newspaper journalism, if they are at times surprisingly unrealistic. And there’s nothing like a good true story surrounding a dead creator to boost sales.

But his prose is unimpressive (maybe that’s the translation) and the plotting though complex too often drags and loses logical drive. There are strange errors of editing. Why in Book 1, for example, do we get detailed discussions of MacBook specs and an entire IKEA shopping list?

After reading the trilogy - which I didn’t un-enjoy - I was almost forced to the conclusion that Larsson is deemed so strong because much of his competition currently is often not.

Two points. Well one point and one question. Actually one rambling whine and a question. Not really question, more one rambling whine and one “WTF! Are you trying to undermine my entire view of literature!?”

I am barely literate in one language, so I have to take all foreign works with a feeling of suspicion. Is this really an accurate translation? Did the editor/translator make subtle changes to the work to twist the meaning a little? Blah blah blah.

I’ve recently finished reading a translation of Hunchback of Notre Dam will be starting Moby Dick (for its now twice a decade read). These two and several other novels “older” novels all suffer the same malady of gratuitous information smack in the middle of an otherwise thrilling story. I always attributed this to the readers/authors desire to “know something extra” (Meville spends how many words describing whales?). Are you suggesting that this is “bad writing”?

My biggest problem with the series, and I’ll stay vague to avoid any spoilers, was the editing. Particularly in the second and even more so in the third book, there were several sub-plots that really could have been done entirely without as they ended up producing a zero-sum; they had absolutely no impact on the primary plots once resolved. It was enough to make me wonder if perhaps the author never got a chance to finish working on them. The last book kind of had the feel of Titus Alone, in the Gormenghast trilogy, where it was plainly evident that it had been pieced together posthumously from notes and fragments.

I have no issue with informative tangents, however. I rather enjoyed that aspect, but then, I am a sucker for Neal Stephenson.

I think modern readers are far less tolerant of information tangents than readers were back in those golden days when people actually read. Now, too many of us squeeze reading into small niches of busy days filled with email and Facebook and Twitter and cable TV and Netflix and multitasking and soccer-momming and fidgeting in unemployment lines (and monitoring Lit&Lat RSS feeds).

Back in olden times (which for my purposes I’ll define as roughly prior to the mid 1960s), when you laid down the tools of your trade for the day, you pretty much just read. Even up until the 1980s, you pretty much just read. And then Gulf & Western bought Simon & Schuster and Prentice-Hall, and everybody bought everybody else until only six remained standing, and hands-on editors became unnecessary expenses, and everyone got freelanced and offshored, and readers got too busy to read, and books began to be acquired because they were like similar books and thus could be sold similarly, and they mostly wouldn’t need editing because no one had time for that.

And so books began to be admired not because they were dense and rich and time-absorbing, but because they were quick reads, and written loud enough to cut through the background din on the commuter train to the cube farm.

At least, that’s how it’s all seen from the futzy old fuddy-duddy end of the publishing world.

Haven’t read the Stieg Larsson books, but they inspired me to re-read Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low, Lost Illusions, and Cousin Bette. True classics, and a cost leader–150 Balzacs downloaded to my Kindle for .95.

Not me!

I’ve no issue with informative tangents/gratuitous information either. But first, they need to be interesting, and second, they need to be part of what you buy the novelist’s work for - as you do with Neal S and Herman M. Didn’t buy Larsson for MacBook specs.

Hmm, I think I agree. I also think Larsson was building towards a fourth and possibly a fifth book, and the breadcrumb trails for them were not edited out.


The translation definitely leaves something to be desired. I’m reading book one, and there’s just one word I’ve run across that tells me the translator does not speak English as a first language: ‘forsooth’… as in :

After a disappointing read in the horror/fantasy genre (“Night Watch”), where other out-moded slang was used, I have to wonder if it’s worth it to read translations of popular fiction. Surely there are native English speaking editors that give such books the once-over before publishing. Or am I being naive about how much publishing houses care about quality?

Well, Robert, sorry to disappoint but I’m pretty certain that the translator is a native English speaker. I heard him interviewed on the radio the other day.

Seriously? I guess maybe it’s the latest slang word used by the damned kids these days, and verily I am out of touch. Alack and alas!

I don’t know, in high-school me and my pals frequently would shout out “forsooth!” at teachers, but we were decidedly odd—and all in the journalism class by our own free will (which says much concerning our mental stability).

Thou makest a fine pointe my dear fellowe, but in thy youth did ye ever say such in all seriousness and gravity? And what of thy scholarly writing that was not of matters historical or forsooth, literary?


I “did” the Millennium over Xmas too, and was shocked to read it in just three days, a speed which was partly the result of its page-turning style, but also due to the ease (newly discovered, for me) of reading ebooks. I just sat back in my very comfy computer chair and kept clicking and clicking!

I enjoyed it overall, more so the first volume, although at times I found the writing hovering not too far above Dan Brown’s style, which is to say, workmanlike but uninspired. But I agree that Salander was a brilliant creation.

I was looking to see if Larsson had used Scrivener, but didn’t find any evidence.There were a lot of plot-lines to keep tabs on, making it a project ideally suited to Scrivener.

I enjoyed this article in the Observer about D. Brown and S. Larsson:

Badly translated and edited as Larsson is, he’s better than Dan Brown IMHO. But I’d rather read something by Reg Hill any day.


Docx’ argument is interesting and amusing, but I can’t buy all the way into it. To do so, I’d have to consign writers like le Carré and P D James and (perhaps) Erdrich to the genre pile, and admire everything by Franzen and Amis and Roth (some, certainly; all, nope).

And Reg Hill? D&P are near the top of my list.


I can’t buy into Docx’s argument at all. Claiming that all literary novels are, by their complete and utter lack of the constraints of convention* superior to any genre fiction produced just kills me.

I will gladly pile on my poorly reasoned quibbles (as I have to this thread) of any writer’s book, but I will not ever assume that a lack of categorical description makes a novel better than one that can be described with a label like “Mystery” or “Fantasy”. If you apply his argument of limited creativity back onto non-genre fiction, then your choices for reading material would be very limited indeed. Try avoiding the past (Historical fiction), the future (speculative/scifi), alternative worlds (fantasy), the supernatural (horror), love stories (Romance) etc… By the time you remove all traces of genre from literature, you don’t have much left, do you?

Sure, the conventions of each genre can be limiting, and there’s a lot of crap out there in every genre, but that’s really not saying anything more useful than ‘There are a lot of badly written books in the world.’

I think my rant is better expressed by the following article, but I needed to get that off my chest. … -tiresome/

  • Italics in lieu of bbcode for sarcasm

I agree that the second and third books needed a good editing. No where subplots, some continuity errors, etc. But in a dead man’s defense, he only had just turned in volume two and three when he died. Larsson did NOT in fact edit two or three. As his estate is still not settled, there wasn’t even a person who could act in his stead. I believe legally, the publishers had to stick to what they received as there is currently no one to represent his body of work. They didn’t want to lose the momentum so they just printed what they had. Not bad for the first draft to the editor. BUT… not polished either. Maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.

What bugs me is that a dead guy has higher productivity than I do. :open_mouth:


I have only read the books in Swedish so I can’t say anything about the quality of the translation, but the language isn’t too impressive in original either.

Anna, thank you. That’s interesting. How is Larsson thought of in Sweden? What do Swedish readers think of his books? A phenomenon, I’m sure, but is he regarded as being of the same quality as, say Henning Mankell?


The trilogy has become a phenomenon here. Absolutely. But I haven’t heard anyone compare the quality to that of Henning Mankell. I think most think that the Larsson-books are entertainment and an easy read (however, long reads) and they have certainly made many people who don’t usually read books to read them.

I can’t but keep wondering if the phenomenon hype had been there if Stieg Larsson hadn’t died as he did.