Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not a Fan of the Millennium Trilogy

Last summer, around the same time I picked up The Ten Best Days of My Life, I also started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Talk about your opposites...) I wanted to see what in the heck all the fuss was about with these Stieg Larsson books -- also known as "the Millennium series" -- that seemed to be EV-ER-Y-where. (What pushed me over the edge was when the first novel of the trilogy made Entertainment Weekly's cover in June 2010. I can't stand it when I'm clueless about a mainstream pop culture phenomenon.)

I mentioned to my friend Nerdy P that I was about to start reading TGWTDT, and she was shocked.

"You know it's really dark, right?"

I'm usually not one to seek out anything that's even the slightest bit scary, whereas P grew up on horror movies and most likely realized that I was treading into questionable territory -- and that I'd probably regret it. But at the time I thought, Hey, if everyone else in the world is reading these books, how hardcore could they be? Turns out my logic was seriously flawed. For what I can only assume is the same reason people are drawn to sad or violent stories on TV, the masses were/are attracted to all of the extremely effed-up stuff in Larsson's works. But since I'm the type of person who avoids watching the news at all costs so as to not be haunted by images of war, murder, or anything else horrific, the Millennium trilogy was so, so, SO not for me.

I'm not intending to write a review here or anything -- you can easily find out what the books are about elsewhere, and there are literally countless sites debating every last little detail about the series. Today I just wanted to bring up the fact that I abandoned the second novel (The Girl Who Played with Fire) about a quarter of the way through, and that is something I've never done. I've never STOPPED reading a book.

I loved the main characters Larsson's universe revolves around -- Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. And I always appreciate a complex mystery. I was impressed by Larsson's attention to detail and his incredible knowledge of the criminal underworld both in Sweden and elsewhere. But Nerdy P was right. The Millennium books are just too damn dark for me. I wasn't enjoying the second one in the slightest, because I always had a pit in my stomach about what awful, graphically violent scene was lurking around the corner (let's not forget the translation of the first book's title is Men Who Hate Women -- I should've known the series wasn't going to get any less explicit as it went on). I don't need to read about that kind of thing -- there are enough lurid stories we're all exposed to in other ways every single day. So I put the book down and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I now understand why there's so much hoopla about the world Larsson created, but I'm also OK with being on the outside of it.

The question still remaining is whether or not I'll watch the Swedish film adaptations of books two and three. (I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and simply left the room during the worst scenes... but forgot to hit the mute button. Big mistake.) Since I haven't read the other books, however, I won't know when to cover my eyes and/or hit mute in order to avoid seeing something that I'll never be able to erase from my memory. One way or the other, if I watch those films I'll be opening myself up to the same darkness I'd decided to avoid by shelving the novels. And so TGWPWF and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest remain in a box in my closet (I have them because of my redbox gig), taunting me.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who's not been able to get into Larsson's books. I'd also like to hear from brave souls who have read all three and/or seen the films. Let me know if you think I should risk a week of nightmares and watch the other two adaptations. (Because of my job I don't think I'll be able to avoid the American version of TGWTDT coming out later this year -- but I'm OK with that because 1) I already know what happens, and 2) David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club) is at the helm, and he's my favorite director.)

Now I'm off to spend the rest of my Sunday looking at pictures of kitties and puppies.

- e


Naternaut said...

I read the first book and saw the movie. I did not really like either one. There is so much other stuff out there I want to read (I read ALL kinds of books) that I didn't want to spend any more time on the other two books. You are not alone!

Katie B said...

I started reading the first book and when it started getting graphic, I stopped. I just did not want that kind of thing in my mind and what I had already read bothered me for over a week. I really don't know how other people can read it and not feel so heavy inside. I did want to find out how the plot-line was resolved, so I hopped over to wikipedia and they gave me a nice synopsis. Not the most literary solution but it works.

Pritch! said...

I ALWAYS finish books, and entire series for that matter, but I read the first book and the second book, and didn't really enjoy either. I never read the third book. And I have no desire to. And I REALLY have no desire to see any of the movies. Oh well...

Alex Yates said...

My wife read all three books as she goes through books like I do thin mint Girl Scout cookies by the sleeve.

I've never read the books. I'm slow to pick up fiction, I read lots of non-fiction biz books, like yours. :-)

But we did just see the trilogy of films, finished the third on Friday in fact. While a bit dark i think TGWTDT was the most intricate storyline and hence the best film of the three. While very dark with a graphic rape scene, her revenge is almost as perverse but fits the crime.

The other two films in the trilogy seemed to be mere extensions of the first movie and both end rather abruptly and leave you wandering away like an old man looking for his glasses. If you don't ever watch the second or third I can't say you're missing much because neither gives you the sense of finality provided by the first.

So stick to you to your true appeal for happier stories with brighter plot lines and know that you're not missing jack squat.

But be prepared, I heard they were looking to remake these films in America. If there's one thing that was appealing about these Swedish films was the very au natural casting, no pretty people that needlessly arouses your curiosity to distract you from the plot. Hope that doesn't happen.

Trevor Levine said...

I liked the 'road trip' aspects of the first book, but thought the overall mystery was uninteresting. Then, to my shock, the road trip aspect was the thing they cut from the movie. I was irritated. I couldn't even read through the second book.

Krystal Whitten said...

I've read all three, and the first one is by far the worst and most disturbing. I was so intrigued by the character Lisbeth Salander. She's so weird yet you can feel such sympathy for her.

The second half of the second book wasn't that bad, IMO, and the third one was borderline boring. But if you're thinking of watching the Swedish movies, be warned! They are very graphic and true to the books. I just watched the second one last night, actually, and I had to look away a few times. They are definitely "hard R," so I'm interested to see how the American version will play out. Will they omit a lot of scenes or allude to the horror without showing it. I guess we'll see.

seg74 said...

I didn't even get to the graphic stuff! I was so bored about 1/3 of the way through the first one I stopped reading. This was a big deal to me b/c like you, I never stop reading a book - always finished. But recently decided that it's not worth my time if I am not enjoying it, there are way too many good books out there. Feel a little left out of the loop on this series, but I decided I don't care!

Kim said...

My husband I are both listening to the recorded book version of the trilogy, and can't stop listening! Lisbeth Salander is one of the most unique, intriguing characters ever created, and we find the stories very suspenseful. The background of why the author chose these themes and why he names his character "Lisbeth" is very interesting. We're definitely going to see the movies when we finish the books -- we're both halfway through "Hornet's Nest" now.

audgepodge said...

Wow, this is really interesting. Like you (but to a lesser extent), I also need be in on anything that has a lot of buzz, which is the reason I had read the Hunger Game series. I actually bought Twilight (the book) before the movie came out bc of coverage in EW.

So I am an owner of the Dragon Tattoo paperback but never got past the beginning bc of it being rather boring (as everyone warns).

And I can't handle horror either (if you recall, I was already in turmoil over the HG books) but so many of my friends have read the series - girls that are as happy and "fluffy" as me, that I never once expected it to be too much for me to handle. But hearing this from *you* is making me think twice.

krnic1972 said...

I read all three books in a row then watched the first and second movie rather close together but haven't seen the 3rd one yet.

I have to finish a book and/or would bother me too much not finishing it.

I kind of like the books once you got over the bad translation and the number of sandwiches they ate or cigs they smoked. I quickly scanned over the graphic paragraphs and closed my eyes during the movies.

I feel like the 2nd and 3rd books could have been in one and much shorter. The 3rd book dragged on and on like my post!

Lani said...

Sadly, I'm the type of reader that *has* to finish not just the book, but the series as well. I've advised most of my friends to skip the Millennium trilogy. Though they were masterfully written, I hated the darkness in the books. And when my husband convinced me against my better judgment to watch TGWTDT, I also left the room early on. It's one thing for me to read graphically violent scenes - I can fairly easily forget about them. But putting the image and sounds in my head by watching a movie is a different ballgame. I somehow never forget that horror and always regret voluntarily subjecting myself to it. I refuse to watch the rest.

Though the books are good, I really think the hype surrounding them has elevated them to an undeserved status. They aren't *that* good.

Sherylm said...

Your post made me feel much better. A good friend of mine gave me the books and I couldn't even get through the first quarter of the first one.

Somewhere around the age of 40 and after living in France for many years, I suddenly realized that I don't have to finish books or movies I don't like or which are too draining emotionally. My feeling is that there is so much lurid horror out there in the real world that I have to avoid, why knowingly subject myself to more by fictional characters.

Rebecca Dupree said...

The series is crap. I really think this guy enjoyed doing voilence to woman. I know the backstory, and yes! he's a femminist, but these books are horrible! But, gosh, say that to anyone and you are labeled a reading freak. I totally agree with your post.