At any rate, I bought it from an independent bookseller, who said she'd read it and enjoyed it. I hadn't read any of the Amazon hype, hadn't heard more than the title of it, just read the jacket blurb, needed something to read, and jumped in with my glasses on.
The first thing I discovered was Stieg Larsson has been dead for a bit, and this trilogy has been translated from the Swedish by certain Reg Kreeland, which makes me wonder if Stieg would have approved. We'll never know about that, although it does give me an idea for a short story, where a dead writer's ghost comes back to haunt a translator he doesn't care for…
Anyway. The second thing I discovered was Stieg/Reg had broken most of the writing rules that have been drummed into me so thoroughly, I imagine a ruler thumping my knuckles when I try to break them. A lot of the book is written in passive expose, and it takes forever to get the back story of all these characters. For example, it takes eight paragraphs to explain how Mikael Blomkvist got the nickname Kalle. Really? Eight paragraphs? The read and critique groups at SCWC would have my head on a stick for that kind of self-indulgence.
Having read a lot of Dickens, Dumas, Hugo, etc, I'm used to stories that take awhile to tell, so I soldiered on. I've always wanted to visit Sweden; I thought I could immerse myself in the names and places and get a feel for the country. What with Mikael Blomkvist and his employer, Henrik, and the rest of the Vanger clan in Hedestad, I was soon steeped in Swedish.
And then this guy showed up.
For those of you who don't recognize him, he's the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show. Here's a clip of him in action:
(YouTube link here.)
By the way, while I was looking for the S.C., I found a blog by a guy who hates living in Sweden and posts ludicrous things that happen there. Check him out here.
Maybe the novel's pace is too slow, or perhaps it is all of the Scandinavian words, but I began to hear the story in the Swedish Chef's voice. ("SAL-andirr spint SEFF-rel DAYCE COOMing de EEN-ter-NET - hernder fernder bork-bork-bork!")
Hmm, okay. Jodie Foster is in the basement, in the dark, hoping to kill Buffalo Bill before he gets her. Suddenly, Death walks in the door, and we see that her conflict is not with a serial killer, but with Man's Desire for Immortality…
The book actually picked up when it started spending time with Lisbeth Salander, who turns out to be the main character. Unfortunately, she isn't introduced until page 36, which I'm pretty sure breaks yet another rule.
At the end of the day, I kind of enjoyed the book, in that I liked Salander's character, and I liked the way the mysteries were all tied up and resolved by the final page. But I am left to ponder: when is a genre book literary? Basically, Larsson wrote a thriller, but one that examines larger themes according to his agenda. If I had included, in Freezer Burn, my opinion of how the world should be, via expose and back story, would it be literary fiction? Would it get published?
And more importantly - could I get the Swedish Chef to read it for Books On Tape?