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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Luftslottet som sprängdes (Millennium, #3)

Luftslottet som sprängdes (Millennium, #3) - Stieg Larsson I didn't like the second volume of the trilogy as much as the first, so I was initially wary about this book. But after the first few chapters, I was reassured. Despite some obviously implausible elements (even in Sweden, would you really keep two people who had tried to kill each other on the same corridor at a hospital?) it is extremely gripping and well-written.

Having now finished the book, I can confirm that, although it's not quite as good as the first one, it is indeed a fine end to the series. It's a little difficult to give detailed comments without creating spoilers, since the plot has numerous excellent surprises which it would be a shame to reveal. So keeping to generalities, here are some of the things I particularly liked.

First, his psychology is interesting and plausible. All the main characters come across as real people, and the emotions they feel for each other develop in a plausible way. Second, he is very good at describing everyday conflict in the early 21st century Western world, where it mostly depends on being able to navigate the bureaucratic jungle and the Web. Yes, there is hand-to-hand fighting, and this is OK too, but it's much more fun to see how someone takes care of a complicated legal problem, or a colleague at work that they don't get on with, or a series of offensive emails. Last and not least, he is really and truly not afraid of strong women. Lisbeth, Erika, Monica and Annika are all credible, tough chicks, who are in many ways stronger than the men, but without thereby becoming caricatures. If you like books about alpha females (Jordan, are you reading this? :) then get started on Stieg Larsson!


I was having an offline conversation with Moira about Lisbeth Salander. She complained that no one loved Lisbeth, and I replied that I loved her even more after hearing all those dismissive comments - that was the point, wasn't it?

Then, a few minutes ago, I was struck by one of those thoughts that really make you wonder why you haven't had them months earlier. Of course, Lisbeth is a Christ figure! That's why it's completely natural that hearing people revile her only strengthens my love and admiration. It couldn't be more obvious, in retrospect. She even rises from the dead.

But why have so few other people made this connection? A quick search on Google turned up nothing. Was every one else fooled, just as I was, by superficialities like her being an autistic-spectrum bisexual female hacker who's seriously into violence and covered in tattoos and piercings? I can accept that I'm that shallow, but surely other people aren't? I'd like to think so, anyway. Probably I'm just sleepy, and my internet search skills have temporarily deserted me. I'm sure Lisbeth would already have found several dozen hits.


I was struck by the following passage from Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint Antoine, which I'm currently reading. Anthony is being tempted by the mysterious Ennoia:
Innocent comme le Christ, qui est mort pour les hommes, elle s'est dévouée pour les femmes. Car l'impuissance de Jéhovah se démontre par la transgression d'Adam, et il faut secouer la vielle loi, antipathique à l'ordre des chose.

(Innocent as Christ, who died for all men, she cares for women. Now the impotence of Jehovah has been revealed by Adam's sin, and we must shake the old law, hateful to the order of things).
It does sum up my argument rather well.


We've now watched the DVD. As with the first and second instalments, the atmosphere is perfect, and Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Lisbeth, but they have taken huge liberties with the story. Whole subplots have simply been removed. Mikael doesn't get involved with Monica, and Erika never moves to the other newspaper. In general, I was sad to see that Erika's role was so much reduced - she is one of my favourite characters in the books.

I guess there just wasn't enough time to include everything. We'll never know what would have happened if they'd turned it into six films instead of three. Maybe it would have been too slow, and in fact they made the right decision...


My kind and wonderful friend Vivi alerted me to the existence of the long version (see comment #11). It finally arrived, and we watched the first half of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor last night.

Well, I am already a total convert. Yes, a bit slow, but it's supposed to be slow - the theatrical version felt horribly rushed. Erika turns out to in be there after all. There is a really nice sexy scene with her and Mikael which perfectly reproduces the feel of the book.

I'm afraid to say though that it's not yet clear you can get it with English subtitles. The DVD we watched only has them in Scandinavian languages. But I imagine it's just a matter of time before an English-subtitled edition is released.


Last night, we watched Lars von Trier's 2003 movie Dogville. I don't want to drop spoilers, but there are some interesting resonances with the Millennium trilogy; in particular, it's also possible to view Nicole Kidman's character as an unusual kind of female Christ figure, who, at least IMHO, has a certain amount in common with Salander. If you liked Millennium and haven't seen it, you may want to consider checking it out.