I read, sometimes, then like to blab about what happened.
What can I say about the beginning of the famous Discworld series, really? Not much that hasn't already been said multiple times.
These are old-school, classic, wizards-and-magic fantasy novels. They're terribly clever and sharp, but an interesting thing to note is that the first 'two' novels - Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic - actually don't show off the massive and very interesting Discworld as well as the later books do. Which, I suppose, should be an obvious fact, but it's interesting nonetheless.They're fun reads, but don't feel as Pratchett-esque as the later books do.
Nonetheless, this is a good book to power through on a rainy afternoon. Terry Pratchett has a gift for words and even in this earlier book, it shows. He does not tend to go too overboard with exposition - quite the opposite in fact, writing with short paragraphs and sentences that still somehow don't manage to feel clipped. He's great at being very descriptive with very few words, which is something I've always enjoyed about his work.
The world-building does seem a little vague at times, but I can accept that considering it's Discworld and I'm not new to the series. (Haven't read any of the older books in at least a decade, but if you enjoy these they really stick to you).
A lot of the humour in Discworld stems from witty writing, things that make you smack your forehead while laughing and curse over how obvious something was and why didn't you think of that yourself? I've had to put these books down on a massive number of occasions just to bask in the brilliance of one word-play or another. Despite that, they're easy to follow and easy to get into. They're fantastic also in that most of the books can be read as stand-alone novels, though personally I would recommend reading them chronologically, if only to see the world-building and be introduced to various core characters who show up over the course of the series. Thankfully though, it's really not entirely necessary.
While I don't power-read these books as much as I blast through, say, Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, all of the Discworld books hold a very special place in my heart.
Hoping to catch up on my reading within the next few days, and get started on books for reviewing! I've mostly been reading things I've gotten through before, so jumping into something new will be a great change of pace.
Also hoping to catch up on Game of Thrones, finally. I've put it off for way too long.
Did I enjoy this book? I'm considering going out and getting the sequels tomorrow. I suppose that's a yes. Did I think it was as good as the hype made it out to be? I'm idling over getting the next book from the library rather than new. No, I do not think it deserved the hype and praise.
My #1 issue is simply unavoidable. I have to bow my head a little and admit that it's possibly something to do with the translation to English, but reading the prose was like chewing over a dry, flavourless steak. There was so little oomph to it that it was like reading tax forms at times. It was bland, beige to an extreme. It had periods from time to time that felt more natural and less like someone typing out notes, but for the most part...no. I've never found myself sighing and actually wishing for writing to be more purple.
Some very sensitive topics are brought up in this book, most of which I'm not even remotely qualified to discuss in any manner. I was extremely wary of how often rape and other atrocities regularly committed against women cropped up; on one hand, I feel it's important for sensitive subject matters to be included in books, but on the huge condition that it's handled correctly. Not used for a fridge encounter, not being made light of, and having it pointed out as being wrong by other characters in the book so that there's really no way it can be interpreted differently. Rape and human eugenics definitely fall into that category, even if the latter didn't really play a major part in the book. It's not enough for the author themself to thing that something is wrong - it needs to be made crystal clear in the book as well. Again, this is something way out of my league, but I hesitantly say that he made the fact that violence against women is simply wrong pretty clear, if the original Swedish title (Men Who Hate Women) and Lisbeth are anything to go by. Trying to figure out how to address this appropriately was, frankly, exhausting and I'm not sure I could do it proper justice.
I had problems with the sex in the book. I realise that saying that makes me sound an awful prude. Honestly though, I just didn't see the point of it. Why bring in the relationship with Cecilia? Perhaps to make her seem more viable as a suspect when she decided to split after calling it off? I don't know. It seemed pointless and extremely irrelevant to me. I liked the dynamic of Blomkvist's relationship with Berger, though. It's not often that you see a character written with more than one partner (all parties involved aware), and the situation actually being okay, and healthy. Didn't like how the relationship with Lisbeth ended up turning. I would just like to see one male + female crime-busting duo that doesn't end up turning into bed wrestling. It's old and really needs to die. It's fine when it works, when it actually adds something to the story, but I'm really not all that sure what it brought to the story here. I really hope it doesn't continue into the following books, and their relationship remains on good terms, but not sexual ones.
Speaking of which - certain events, as well as the PoV swaps, didn't make much sense and didn't seem to need to be in the story. I can understand why the PoV swapped from Blomkvist to Lisbeth, and enjoyed that, but sometimes they swapped way too often - if it's more than once per page, you need to calm down author - and I honestly couldn't see the connection. I thought perhaps they swapped because events in one PoV correlated with events in the other, either adding some contrast or to give a bit of perspective to the other, but it...didn't make sense to me. I tried to ferret out what the connections were, and couldn't. It's something I would've preferred less of, to be honest.
Mikael Blomkvist was boring. I'm gonna just say it. Not once could I picture him in my head while reading. I'm sure he was described at the beginning of the story, when he was introduced (skimmed the first few pages of his intro, apparently not) and while I'm of the firm belief that a physical description isn't always necessary for character development, in this case, I think having him be more there would've helped a lot. He didn't seem to have much going for him, outside of work-related interests. He liked boating, I think? He has a weirdly precise - and awfully convenient - knowledge of cameras? He read sometimes? I just don't know. He didn't seem to have any obvious hobbies. Lisbeth was much richer and more interesting since we were afforded some glimpses of her personal life. Odd, considering how much of a private person she is and how unwilling she is to share personal details with outsiders. And yet Blomkvist, open and outgoing, we get to know extremely little about. He was too much of a blank template to really feel for, and I really had no interest in Mikael himself, only the case he was working on.
As for the main case involving Harriet Vanger, it was interesting. Locked room mysteries are always a blast when done well. While I don't think this one was perfect at all - it was a little stale and honestly not much seems to happen for the first 250+ pages - it was still intriguing and addictive following it, wondering how exactly breakthroughs would be made after the crime and case had been put to rest so many years before and after Henrik had seemingly scrutinised every last detail available, to no avail. I accidentally predicted who the bad guy actually was a few times, but brushed it off as too unlikely.
I'm not entirely sure what else to mention. The book was a good read, but I don't think it deserved the hype it garnered. Lisbeth was an interesting character, but again, I don't think she necessarily deserved the attention she got (she was without a doubt my favourite character though, even if I didn't agree with some of the things she did/said). Mikael Blomkvist was unexceptional, exceedingly boring and really only there as a portal into the investigation. I had a hard time believing some of the twists, sometimes they seemed just too out there or too unlikely to work over such a long period of time. Blomkvist's unerring ability to just so happen to be well educated in particular subjects just as it was needed in the investigation set my eyes rolling more than once.
I'll be checking out the sequels from the library rather than buying them this time.
I enjoyed this book. Crime novels, mysteries or thrillers of any sort don't tend to stay with me long after I've put the book down, and I feel Cuckoo's Calling will be no exception.
The characters were all relatively interesting. Cormoran and Robin were both endearing and easy to read and attach to, though I personally wanted to see a little more of Robin. It was clear she had more to her than just 'secretary who was keen on detective work', and while we definitely saw some major hints of who she was, she clearly wasn't meant to take the limelight despite her competence and ability to surprise Strike at what she could do. Strike himself was interesting - not your typical white, brown-haired, blue-eyed, slightly cocky average height & trim man, but a very imposing, slightly fat, squashed face man with half a leg missing. Intelligent, yet built like a boxer. It was a nice change of pace. He wasn't entirely without fault (sexist at times, disconnected at others), and that made him more irritable and enjoyable. The only perfect character is one that isn't close to perfect, after all...not saying he was perfect, though.
The plot wasn't anything entirely new or unusual, exactly the sort of story I'd expect from someone writing crime for the first time. I didn't predict the ending, but wasn't entirely surprised when it was revealed - nothing more than an 'Oh. Huh.' before carrying on. There were a few red herrings - I honestly thought Deeby Macc would have a larger part to play in the story, that he was involved somehow. Though, again, the reveal didn't feel explosive or shocking to me. Simply like it's what I should've expected, and with the information presented, I should've seen that it was the logical thing to expect beforehand.
While she's a decent writer, I felt there was a little too much information at times. Nothing so bad that it clogged the story or impeded the flow of it, but just enough to question why it was included in the first place. Lots of little bits of info - that Strike's phone was charging on the floor next to his camp bed, some excessive detail about ultimately unimportant things like clothing, or details on the clothing, etc. Honestly, I've seen much worse info-dumps, and it wasn't terrible in Cuckoo's Calling, but I do feel that it could've been streamlined better than it was.
The pace of the story seemed pretty good for the duration of the read, though I personally would've liked to see more of the information we were presented with at the reveal to be sprinkled throughout the book, for people to either pick up on or call back and have an 'ohhhhhh, I get it now' moment. Personally, I'm terrible at picking up information like that but would've loved to see more of it, rather than a rather large exposition section at the end. I feel it should've been more of a connect-the-dots experience, rather than having the protagonist piece everything together behind our backs, while we only really saw the grunt work put into getting the answers.
So, 3.5/5. It was good, it was fun, it wasn't fantastic or overly exceptional. I'm looking forward to reading The Silkworm when I get the chance to do so, but won't go out of my way to rush getting a copy. A good book for grabbing a few pages with a cuppa during breaks or while on the bus, but perhaps not the sort of book you curl up with in the evening for a few hours.