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T O P I C     R E V I E W
fs
Member # 1181
 - posted April 23, 2009 04:44
I'm currently reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the English translation of Stieg Larsson's Män som hatar kvinnor (translation: Men who hate women) and the first book of his Millennium trilogy.

Stieg Larsson was from a smaller town outside of Umeå, so his books are quite popular here. Even more now that they've really caught on in the U.K. Our local paper did a week long profile of him. I saved it somewhere to practice my Swedish on, between three and five full pages a day. It was a lot of coverage.

Anyway, I thought you guys would appreciate that the good guys are toting their iBooks all over Norrland while solving crime.

I was just astounded when I hit this bit:
quote:
Unsurprisingly she set her sights on the best available alternative: the new Apple PowerBook G4/1.0 GHz in an aluminium case with a PowerP.C. 7451 processor with an AltiVec Velocity Engine, 960 M.B. R.A.M. and a 60 G.B. hard drive. It had BlueTooth and built in C.D. and D.V.D. burners.

Best of all, it had the first 43-centimetre screen in the laptop world with N.V.I.D.I.A.* graphics and a resolution of 1440x900 pixels, which shook the P.C. advocates and outranked everything else on the market.

In terms of hardware, it was the Rolls Royce of portable computers, but what really triggered Salander's need to have it was the simple feature that the keyboard was equipped with backlighting, so that she could see the letters even if it was dark. So simple. Why had no-one thought of that before?

It was love at first sight.

*I just reproduced it as printed. I'm not clear on the weird punctuation i.e. R.A.M. and N.V.I.D.I.A.--it could be a British English thing, I guess, or somewhere along the line it was copy-edited or typeset by someone that doesn't know anything about computers. I haven't read the Swedish original yet, so I don't know if it appears like that also.

At one point, earlier in the book, he explains how a character is organizing his research, and gives the name of the program he's using--NotePad--and then goes on to give the url in parentheses next to it. That's something I've never seen in a novel before.

I'm about halfway through. I'm finding the story really excellent, though the translation has some quirks. At one point early on, it's made clear that one of the main characters dislikes his nickname--"Kalle" Blomkvist. There are two and a half pages about this, and it's not clear until near the end that it's because of associations with an Astrid Lindgren character, which is something any Swede would have recognized immediately. There's another subtle tie-in, too, which is totally lost in the translation. You would have to know that in Sweden, Donald Duck is called Kalle Anka. (And "Kalle" is also a diminutive for Karl.)

Another thing that drives me nuts is that the translator couldn't just pick a system of measurement and stick to it. Dimensions of locations are described randomly in either square meters or square feet. The only consistency seems to be that the same location is described in the same unit. It's a little quirky to see every location introduced with it's square meter/footage given, but that's very Swedish. Floorspace is probably the prime descriptor of living areas, before room number even.

One thing I'm finding fascinating is that Larsson's social views come through very clearly, but on the tolerable side of preachy. The history of right-wing extremism and Nazism in Sweden is wound into the plot, as is violence against women (which is clear from the Swedish title, but not so much from the English one). It's interesting to read about. In some places, I think he digresses greatly into what he sees as social injustices and systems in need of change, but I think it works in the context of the novel, and is probably even necessary for its success outside of Sweden. Without understanding the system of Guardianship that Lisbeth Salander is embroiled in, for instance, certain events just wouldn't make sense.

Larsson's background as a journalist comes through clearly, too. (Maybe a bit too clearly, like in the listing of detailed specs every time he mentions a piece of computer hardware.) The book feels impeccably researched.

That was a much longer opinion than I intended to write, but it's really a pretty interesting book, on a lot of different levels. I hope it can maintain its momentum.
 
fs
Member # 1181
 - posted April 25, 2009 00:40
Just an update.

I finished the book and ordered the whole Millennium trilogy in Swedish.

Have any of you guys read it? (Don't want to include any spoilers in the discussion, but I'm curious.)

One thing that I really liked was that it didn't absolutely set my teeth on edge with regard to technology and especially, the descriptions of the various hacking that they do. I think there was a good balance stuck between description of what was being done and not overloading it with too many details. (Paeans to Mac hardware notwithstanding.)
 




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