I am a non-smoker. I don’t gamble excessively. I have a beer at dinner and a scotch before bed, but I don’t stand up at AA meetings and say “Hi, my name’s Pete.” I’ve never been a meth head. In short, I don’t really have any serious addictions. I don’t know what it’s like to need a fix of anything.
At least I didn’t until I finished reading The Girl Who Played With Fire and realized that I didn’t have a copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I panicked. Being in China, I couldn’t run to the nearest bookstore. Being a stubborn traditionalist, I don’t have a Kindle or Nook or any other gadget with a cute name onto which I could download a copy. It was like reading halfway through a really good book and suddenly dropping it in an incinerator. Luckily, I was able to find a copy on Taobao.com, the Chinese e-Bay. With expedited delivery, my withdrawal only lasted a few days.
As I mentioned in a previous post, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not the best book ever published. But it’s smart, well-written and as addictive as literary crack. The second two installments of the Millennium Trilogy fit the same bill. In fact, it’s pretty easy to think of this trilogy as a single work – stylistically, there’s little difference between the individual books and the quality of writing is consistent throughout all three. While the first book stands alone so far as plot was concerned, the second book is seamlessly integrated with the third. Rather than ending one book and starting another, there could have simply been a chapter break. All of what I previously said about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could be said about The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
However, I do have a few observations specific to the other two books. First, the character of Niederman in The Girl Who Played With Fire seemed a bit….recycled. This isn’t necessarily a huge criticism of Larsson, especially since his other characters are quite original. With Niederman’s character, however, I get the feeling that Larsson copped out a bit. Here’s what I imagine going through his mind:
“Okay, bad guy… Needs a physical abnormality… how about he’s a…a… giant! Check. Next, extremely rare genetic condition….hmmm….I know, albino! Wait – Dan Brown’s already got that one…Drats! Ok, ok, I got it. He can’t feel pain! Perfect. Finally, a crippling psychological Achilles heel which saves the heroine at the last moment…. coulrophobia? Too pedestrian, Stephen King’s already exploited that one. What about ghosts? Yeah, ghosts are popular now. He sees ghosts. Done and done.”
However, despite his lack of originality, Niederman was a genuinely menacing character and I suppose that’s what’s really important.
Secondly, I couldn’t help but notice how perfectly suitable these books are to movie adaptations, specifically The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Within those 700+ pages are everything needed for a major Hollywood production: a rogue government agency, a scrappy investigator, an innocent heroine, a band of comically stereotypical computer hackers, high-tech intrigue, staged suicides, and a trendy moral about the evils of human exploitation in a globalized world. The only thing needed to make it a more popular blockbuster would be vampires and there’s probably someone in Hollywood right now trying to squeeze them in as well. I haven’t watched the Swedish movie adaptations yet so I can’t comment on how well they actually translate to the silver screen. But it seems to me that, so far as adaptations go, it would be hard to make an unsuccessful movie from these books. Whether they will actually be good films or not, Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record.
I do hope that the casting is done very carefully. Reading a book, especially one with intriguing characters, creates an entire cast of living, breathing beings – even if they only populate the reader’s mind. A miscast actor or actress can shatter that world, sometimes beyond repair. Last I heard, Daniel Craig was slated to play Mikael Blomkvist. That seems like a decent enough choice to me. The role of Lisbeth, however, will be much trickier. My vote, if I had one, would go with some unknown face who could bring some grit and reality to the character.
A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned to me that it seemed ‘everyone in London is carrying around one of these three books.’ It’s easy to see why they’ve become such a literary phenomenon – despite their shortcomings, they are well-written, intelligent, and insanely addictive.