Archive for Millenium trilogy

a journal of the plague year [post-december reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2021 by xi'an

Read a (French) novel by Fred Vargas, Sous les Vents de Neptune, after finding it in the book depository near my office. And enjoyed it very much, partly because it was partly taking place near Ottawa [which I visited many times while my wife was completing her EE Master there] and partly because of the author’s ability to make us doubt the main character and to keep the suspense tight enough for most of the book. There are a trip to Montréal to attend a concert and a journey to Detroit and back to find a lost relation, both reminding me of drives on these roads more than 30 years ago. What annoyed me though was the caricaturesque depiction of the locals, with a Québecois French that sounded overdone. Checking for a local perspective on that aspect, I found a book review in Le Devoir of 2004 sharing the reservation on that aspect, if with humour.  (I would also have rather done without the super-hacker character à la Lisbeth Salander.)

Watched Still Life (三峡好人) a 2006 film by Jia Zhangke, as it was proposed in the list of my local cinema (which I support during the endless lockdown of cinemas and theatres in France). This is an amazing film, which at the same time feels incredibly remote or alien… It follows two characters arriving by boat on the at the Three Gorges Dam under construction in search of a runaway spouse. The search for their respective spouse takes place among the demolition of the old Fengjie, soon to be drowned under 150 meters of dam water. This demolition makes for a unique soundtrack, workers hammering in cadence as blurred black shades against the sky. The dialogues are full of long silences, except for the background hammering, and it often feels theatrical. But the characters maintain a strong dignity throughout the film and the depiction of the last days of Fengjie is gripping. The film received the 2006 Venezia Golden Lion.

Cooked a few Venetian dishes from a Venetian cookbook that was my Xmas gift. And finished that way past-the-date polenta boxes. Managed to escape unscathed from both the bûche and galette weeks! And found that cooking spelt bread with spelt yeast was unbelievably easy, taking less time to work on the dough than to reach the closest bakery!

Could not manage to achieve a coherent discussion with some anti-vaxxer relatives over the Xmas break. And gave up, still hoping they would change their mind.

Watched the first episodes of The Expanse, which started as a collection of eight novels and eight shorter works, before turning into a TV series which won the 2020 Hugo Award. Enjoyable if a rather conventional setting, with the usual disregard for space physics! Reminded me very much of the Takeshi Kovacs novels.  To quote from Wikipedia, “Ty Franck began developing the world of The Expanse initially as the setting for a MMORPG and, after a number of years, for a tabletop roleplaying game.” Some of the actors are terrific (even though Steven Strait’s Holden painfully reminds me of Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow, to the point I wondered for a while if they were the same actor…)

Millenium 1 [movie]

Posted in Books with tags , on August 9, 2010 by xi'an

After reading the three novels in the Millenium trilogy, with mixed feelings, as shown by this post versus that one!, I had a (masochistic?) go at the movies! The first film corresponding to The Girl with the dragon tattoo is fairly efficient, with a fast pace that is  not surprising given the style of the book. So I overall enjoyed it, even though having read the books before spoiled most of the surprises about the detective story and the murders. (The reverse is true: the film contains spoilers about the second book, The Girl who played with fire.)

The scenario avoids some of the heavy goings of the book, the hacking super-powers of Lisbeth Salander being for instance toned down (or at least suggested rather than described in boring details). What I considered as a side story in the book, namely the uncovering of the serial killer, is central to the film, while the revenge of Kalle Blomkvist is rushed through the final minutes. Maybe the major appeal of the movie comes from Noomi Rapace, the highly convincing actress playing the role of Lisbeth Salander as she manages to render the psychological specificities of Salander by a mostly internal acting, i.e. a lack of normal reaction to extreme situations and an almost always expressionless facial behaviour… (By comparison, the character of the journalist Blomkvist lacks substance, charisma, and conviction. Even more than in the book.)

The Millenium Trilogy (tome 2)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by xi'an

Salander was at a loss. She actually was not interested in the answer. It was the process of solution that was the point. So she took a piece of paper and began scribbling figures when she read Fermat’s theorem. But she failed to find a proof for it.

Enforcing a prediction made on the earlier post, I have read through the second Millenium Trilogy volume, Stieg Larson‘s The Girl who played with fire , due to a chance encounter in the convenience shop of the hotel in Benidorm. My overall impression is better than after reading The girl with the dragon tattoo, maybe because there are less raw cruelty scenes, maybe because the hunt-within-the-hunt plot is more compelling, maybe because the action mostly takes place in the present.

By the time Andrew Wiles solved the puzzle in the 1990s, he had been at it for ten years using the world’s most advanced computer programme.

The book feels much more fast-paced than the previous one, it only covers a few calendar days where the police is searching for the “asocial” Lisbeth Salander, who is searching for a Russian sex-trafficker, who is himself searching for Salander! The very first bit taking place in the West Indies is completely unnecessary and does not even play a role in the rest of the novel (except to let us know that Salander was away, can face a tropical storm, seduce a teenager, and kill an abusive husband!). This volume tells us a lot about Salander’s childhood and the reasons why she and her mother ended up in psychiatric institutions. I also like how the book depicts the way the gutter press presents the worst possible picture of Salander from the very few tidbits leaked by the chief investigator (“lesbian Satanist psychopath”).

And all of a sudden she understood. The answer was so disarmingly simple. A game with numbers that lined up and then fell into place in a simple formula that was most similar to a rebus. She gazed straight ahead as she checked the equation.

Now, the inconsistencies and implausibilities I deplored in the first volume are there to be found  as well. First and foremost, Salander is again acting as a super-woman in this novel, mastering parallel financial networks and computer hacking, fashionable clothing and German and Norwegian accents, home modelling (in case you cannot access an Ikea catalogue, the book provides the whole series of references, maybe a Swedish habit of replacing e.g. bookcase by Billy, etc…) and chess playing, fighting techniques (against two Hell’s Angels, no less!) and, best of all!, number theory. I do not understand the motivations of the author for including this mathematical connection (unless maybe he thinks autists all make good mathematicians [when the opposite is closer to the truth!]) but he presumably read some piece on Andrew Wiles’ resolution of Fermat’s Theorem and decided that Salander could as well get a go at it! Hence a sequence of (rather dumb) mathematical quotes about equations and a few idiotic sentences like the ones above. It sounds like the author (or at least Salander) believes that Fermat had a complete proof of his theorem…and of course that Salander, unlike the four-century-some of mathematicians who vainly tried before her, can recover this proof! I have no competence in hacking but the tricks used by Salander to penetrate the whole police force computer network sound rather primitive and unlikely to work, even when obtaining the password from a police officer. Similarly, the fact that private detectives get incorporated within the police team with no suspicion nor limitations and that the first leak ends up with one officer being incriminated instead of a private detective does not sound plausible. The greater picture, namely that all characters are connected, is a weakness of many detective stories, but the book seems to be recycling about every useful character from the previous volume! At last, the relation between Blomkvist and Salander is not well-done, as it is very predictable in Salander being over-reacting vis-à-vis Blomkvist’s long-term relation with Erika Berger and in Blomkvist being completely unaware of this…

The Millenium Trilogy (tome 1)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on August 29, 2009 by xi'an

After watching so many people reading Millenium Trilogy in the Paris metro for more than a year, I decided—while in New York—to buy the first volume of Stieg Larson‘s The Girl with the dragon tattoo to check whether or not it was worth the hype. The book is definitely gripping: I started it yesterday late afternoon, read it till midnight and finished it tonight! I am nonetheless not completely impressed by the novel, nor do I understand the fundamental reason for its success (more than a million copies sold in France, where the three novels were apparently translated in 2006-2007, much earlier than in the US). The central mystery plot is a classical “huis-clos”, with a murder being committed in a closed place with no obvious murderer and no corpse to show, the solution being rather predictable (because of the flowers) and anti-climactic. Some elements of the financial plot are highly unrealistic, like the school failure Lisbeth Salander speaking Oxford English and perfect German, and breaking in a few minutes into any computer or off-shore bank account, or the major villain Wennerström keeping all the informations about his criminal activities on a single hard-drive. The side inquiry about an unsuspected serial killer is more interesting (for a while) but again not very innovative compared with the rather large current literature on serial killers and female detectives (like Sara Paresky’s V.I. Warshawski)…. This is particularly striking since I read the book in English rather than in French and I did not find much differences in the style and more globally in the setting between The Girl with the dragon tattoo and current American detectiitve storiites like Paresky’s or Cowell’s. (Of course, some Swedish specificities pop up from time to time, but it could almost take place in northern Maine!) In that regard, the criticism of the Swedish social-liberal model is much more present in the older series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö… At last, and in connection with the previous point, while the character of the autistic and unlikely investigator Lisbeth Salander is a fairly interesting creation, her vigilante attitude of implementing her own justice does not really fit within the moral higher grounds of her associate Mikael Blomkvist. Nor with the author’s left-wing and non-violent positions. Nor with the feminist Similarly, the brand name-dropping, especially for Apple products, is a bit at odds with the author’s ideological principles. To be completely honest about this book, I must add that I will most likely read both next volumes of the Millenium Trilogy when they appear in paperback, because they still make for an enjoyable one afternoon read but, again, nothing to rank it as the [Swedish [detective [techno-killer]]] novel of the century!