Archive for June, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – Review

June 20, 2012

At this point, there isn’t much to stay about Larsson’s posthumous hit that hasn’t already been said. It’s a good read. It’s quick. It’s thoroughly entertaining. At times, the writing is a bit weak, Larsson does labor through his characters at times (especially Salander – I got the impression that Larsson knew what he wanted the woman to be like but had a difficult time presenting her to us without beating us over the head with the traits he thought important). Blomkvist and Berger are characters the author clearly feels more comfortable with and who he creates with ease. It’s understandable, given how Blomkvist seems to be taken largely from Larsson’s own life, while Salander seems to be the antithesis of this, but it still stood out for its occasional clunkiness.

I’m not a huge mystery/thriller reader any more (though I used to love Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot mysteries, this seems to fall into somewhat of a different realm), so I can’t really speak to how it stands in its genre, or what it brings that is new or fresh. There are times where Salander’s ability to just pull something off the web seems like Holmes making a sudden leap in deduction where we’re never sure how or why he made the leap (or we’re given the reasons after the fact) and it seems a bit too convenient. Oddly enough, where the story works best is when she is without a computer, such as towards the end where she is forced to do some footwork and go through actual archives to find something. When the fallback of “Well, she’s a hacker” is taken away, I think Larsson’s writing picks up a notch and we begin to see how skilled of a writer he was and what he could have become.

Finally, what really stood out, was how closely the book resembled the original foreign movie version. There are some minor differences (such as the circumstances of Martin’s final scenes in either work, though the end result is the same), but I don’t recall anything huge. Also, the casting was dead-on, as I found myself envisioning characters roughly similar to those in the movie. I always hear the complaint that movies don’t do a book justice; though this is usually because someone is unhappy their favorite, entirely unnecessary, scene was left on the cutting room floor. The original foreign release did justice to the book. So, if you’ve seen the movie but have been hesitant about the book, or vice versa, you don’t have any real fears here. If you liked one, you will almost certainly like the other. The later American release, however, I have no idea about. I didn’t watch it.

So, give it a shot. It’s a good read, I found it quick, not something to be labored with. A good summer read. Here is the Banes and Noble link.


Home Improvement: Undead Edition edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner – review

June 12, 2012

Part of the reason I picked up Home Improvement: Undead Edition (HIUE) is that I’ve just been on a bit of a horror kick lately. This has mostly manifested itself in movies, usually bad ones. Seeing a new horror book that wasn’t eight hundred pages long piqued my interest. Also, I’ve never read anything by anyone (including Charlaine Harris) in this book , so I saw it as an opportunity to stretch my wings a bit and read some new authors while also getting my horror joneses.

To be sure, this is a different sort of horror than what I’m used to. I grew up a huge Stephen King fan (though, oddly enough, that started with the very non-horror title The Eyes of the Dragon), tried some Peter Straub, really like Phil Rickman (though, also perhaps oddly, none of the Merrily Watkins stuff) and have recently loved the Del Toro/Hogan vampire trilogy. In other words, a lot of wordy, violent, sexy, graphic stuff. Part of me wants to refer to the stuff in HIUE as horror lite, but that sounds derogatory. Really, it’s just a different sort of horror, something more fun, more playful, dealing with the tropes of the genre but skirting – for the most part – a lot of the nastier bits.

I have to admit, I did enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse story by Harris. It moved quick, with the assured pacing and development of an author who knows her characters and knows her materials. For a collection of stories focusing on horror and house repairs, I could best call it workmanlike, with the smooth touches of a finish carpenter. Being so unfamiliar with this type of horror, and seeing the row upon row of Charlaine Harris titles on the shelf, this seemed like a good way of introducing myself to the work to see if I would be interested in any of her other stuff. I’ll probably at least give some more of them a look now.

While all of the stories were enjoyable reads, a few stood out as personal favorites. The first was Wizard Home Security  by Victor Gischler. The idea of wizards needing to invest in home security systems, tailored to their unique requirements, was enjoyable. the protagonist isn’t entirely likeable, but he straddles that gap of being too unlikeable to like and being just unlikeable enough to be loved.  He’s curmudgeonly and cheap, and is what really drives the story from being just another story in an anthology to something you’d make a special trip to get a reading of.

Blood on the Wall by Heather Graham is a genre piece within a genre collection. While a bit of it isn’t as surprising as it may have intended to be, I got into the 1940-esqe hardboiled noirness of it. It’s a good romp through the cemetery.

Rick the Brave by Stacia Kane stood out because of its approach. There is nothing special about the protagonist, Rick.  Without going into overly cumbersome details, Kane lets us in on a world where the dead have broken through, and they’re mad as hell, prompting a rise of a new church that apparently led the way in fighting back the legions of the noncorporeal, and now works to keep them at bay. And all of that is just minor back story that Kane covers quickly and efficiently in relating her tale of Rick, the guy who just wants to earn a few bucks on the side and gets roped into fighting some pissed of spirits before helping an illegal witch (she may or may not be licensed by the church) close a portal the ghosts had been using to leak into our world.

Alright, quicky review is done. If you’re a Charlaine Harris, this is almost definitely up your alley. If you’re a horror fan and just looking for something a bit different and lighter, I don’t think you can go wrong here. Here is the Barnes and Noble link for it, if you’re interested. At the very least, get it out of the library and give it a read. It’s a good way of meeting several new authors.