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.