I’ve finished them! I know they’re really the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, but I prefer to call them The Girl books. For one thing, the titles of all the (English-language) books start the same: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Cosmetically speaking, calling them The Girl books fits nicely. However, I call them The Girl books mostly because they are astoundingly vagina-friendly. The women are strong, intelligent, and capable, each in her own way, despite the many attempts of more nefarious folks to undermine and subjugate them. Though, I’m sure you’d have a hard time garnering a male readership for a series called “The Girl books.” And, of course there’s the whole translation thing, but all of that is beside the point.

*ALERT! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!*

I enjoyed all three of Larsson’s novels, each for different reasons. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was the slowest, but I also found it to be the most mature and the most demanding of me as a reader (in a good way). There was one satisfying chiasmus after another, none of which were uncomplicated. For example, I doubt it was a coincidence that Larsson sent Salander to Gibraltar to manage her billions of stolen kronor the day after she’s acquitted and labeled a victim by the court. He doesn’t want the reader forgetting that Salander is in fact a criminal; that is, she has broken many laws and continues to do so with impunity. The only true victim of her primary crime, though, was a misogynist who fell outside the grace of Salander’s morals. According to society, she’s guilty of a serious crime. According to her own set of morals, she didn’t do anything to anyone who didn’t deserve it. Then again, I’m sure the members of the Section, which locked her away in a mental hospital as a young girl, believed they were acting within the parameters of what they considered morally right too. (“We must defend the State no matter what the cost!”)

I loved the way Larsson played with the reader with these kinds of moral questions. The primary plot was an investigation into the many wrongs and constitutional crimes that had been committed against Salander, but there were numerous subplots in which the “good guys” reciprocated this behavior against the “bad guys.” Larsson puts the reader in the morally uncomfortable position of denouncing constitutional crimes against Salander but rooting for those same crimes when they’re perpetrated against the enemies of the good guys (most frequently by way of Hacker Republic). AND. The good guys appear to be blithely unaware of this double standard. The argument that the good guys would never have been able to find true justice without breaking a few laws and suspending the constitutional rights of the alleged assailants is a good one. Well, not good, necessarily. It’s a practical argument, which is where the moral ambiguity comes in. Larsson seems to have no qualms about indicting the quality and strength of his reader’s morals. I loved every minute of it!

Stieg Larsson is a sharp writer with a talent for clarity and detail, but not the sort that swallows you up until you have no idea where you are in the story. It’s a pity we only get three of his stories.

And now for the movies!

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