Review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Aural Noir: Review

WHOLE STORY AUDIO BOOKS - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson; Read by Saul Reichlin
Audible Download – Approx. 18 Hours 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Whole Story Audio Books
Published: May 2009
Themes: / Mystery / Murder / Intrigue / Political Intrigue / Hacking / Violence / Sex / Sweden / Politics / Feminism /

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own family. He employs journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

Better to read than to listen…maybe. There are too many characters in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and we get to know all their names and all their breakfast habits, no matter how minor a role they play in the story. And like the overdeveloped minor characters, there are also many overly lengthy descriptions and over-described scenes that are not key to the plot. It may be that both the character and the storyline problems that I describe are more distracting in the audiobook version than in the print book. After finishing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I started reading the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, in paperback in order to compare the experiences. I still notice the excessive detail in the paperbook, but it is a more minor annoyance than in the audiobook. At first I thought my discomfort was because The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a translation from Swedish, but I recognized that the translation is seamless. The only other Swedish books, in translation, that I recall reading are those of Astrid Lindgren and, if memory serves, they weren’t nearly as cluttered as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A quick look at the paperbook edition of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo revealed that the print edition comes with a genealogical table for keeping track of the numerous members of the Vanger family.

On the whole the almost 19 hours of listening is pleasant enough. There is no doubt that the main character is compelling, the plot interesting and that the reader, Saul Reichlin, is brilliant – but as an audio experience it can be daunting – at least without carrying around a character map.

[Here’s one!]

The Vanger Family Tree

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold

SFFaudio Review

Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster BujoldDiplomatic Immunity
By Lois McMaster Bujold; Read by Grover Gardner
9 CDs – 11 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433213144
Themes: / Science fiction / Space Opera / Military / Diplomacy / Romance / Genetic Engineering / Intrigue /

Blackstone Audio has been publishing the entire Vorkosigan series read by Grover Gardner. There are several volumes out, and we’ve reviewed a couple of them (The Vor Game and Mirror Dance) before this one. I have little to add to the positive assessment of Gardner’s talent that the other reviews of this series have pointed out; I’ll just say that I enjoy his narration of these books very much. He’s got a dry tone that fits Miles Vorkosigan perfectly. A very pleasant listen.

In this particular volume, Miles is called into diplomatic action against the Quaddies, a genetically engineered race that we were introduced to in the novel Falling Free. In that novel, we learn that quaddies are genetically altered humans that have four arms and no legs which is an advantage if you live and work in zero gravity. The only problem? They were treated as slaves by the company that made them, and the novel is largely about their rebellion.

Diplomatic Immunity takes place 300 years after that one, and much has changed, though distrust for “downsiders” remains. Vorkosigan is called in when some citizens are captured and held by the Quaddies at their Graf Station. He meets with the representatives of the Quaddie government, hears their side of the story, then proceeds to uncover the truth while preventing a war.

Miles Vorkosigan is a fine character. He’s got flaws (and plenty of them) yet always manages to succeed despite them. His personality is entertaining, and the plot of this novel, in which Miles is called upon as both diplomat and detective, is just plain fun. Whenever I listen to one of these, I imagine how good a television series this would make. These novels are not meant to be masterpieces of hard science fiction – they are meant to be enjoyed, and enjoy them I do. I can’t wait to hear the next one, though I feel that listening to them in the original print publication order would add even more to the experience, the main reason being that the Miles I hear in this novel is not the same Miles I heard in The Vor Game, I expect due to events in the novels in-between.

Lois McMaster’s Vorkosigan novels have an interesting history on audio. A company named The Reader’s Chair originally came out with enjoyable unabridged versions read in tag team fashion by Michael Hanson and Carol Cowan. Unfortunately, the company didn’t survive. One of the first reviews I wrote when I got into reviewing audio was the Reader’s Chair audio version Falling Free, the Nebula Award winning novel that I spoke of earlier in the review. Click here to see it.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson