On reading “Brave New World” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

I recently completed the two works mentioned in the title, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World , and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Huxley’s work received nearly universal criticism originally, but is now highly regarded and ranks #5 on Modern Library’s Best Novels. Larsson’s work is perhaps best known for its Hollywood adaptation, though a trusted friend tells me the original Swedish film is much more compelling.

Brave New World (1931) is the story, perhaps the warning, of a futuristic society where individualism is not allowed. This story takes place primarily in London in the year 632. That’s 632 AF. That’s “After Ford,” a reference to Henry Ford who is revered for creating the assembly line which plays such a prominent role in this story. The foundation of this society is a systematic collectivism, brought about by industrial childbirth, chemical modification of embryos, a caste system (because society would fail if everyone were equal), and Pavlovian conditioning in which citizens are trained to be happy, to have unlimited recreational sex, not to question anything, and to routinely take the drug soma to prevent themselves from becoming aggravated or sad.

Bernard is the protagonist early on, and he travels by helicopter to a “savage reservation,” so named because it is a society still how life used to be and hasn’t been enveloped into the World State. Bernard and Lenina meet John, a savage who learned to read by memorizing The Complete Works of Shakespeare. He becomes the protagonist for the rest of the story, once he is brought back to the World State. I’ll skip the details and let you read for yourself.

Huxley gave many characters very deliberate surnames: Marx, (Lenin)a, Trotsky, Hoover, Watson, Bonaparte, and Engels, to name a few. I especially enjoyed the “action” in the story–not so much the opening chapters which were more descriptive. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this work but I feel like it was very simple writing. The final thirty pages were extremely thought-provoking, and I would recommend reading this just so you can experience Mond’s conversation with John. But the plot was very basic, very straight-forward, not difficult to read or understand, and I don’t feel like there would be any interest to every read it again.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) is the first novel in the Millenium Trilogy. It is a crime investigation drama that is way too intricate, detailed, and involved for me to give you anywhere near a comprehensive summary. So here is something quick. Lisbeth Salander is a waifish, misfit-looking woman who is a darn good computer hacker and private investigator. She gets a job at a private investigation firm and is tasked with researching a particular man, Blomkvist, who works at a political magazine entitled Millennium.  This is under the direction of Henrik Vanger, patriarch of the Vanger Corporation, a well-known company. Henrik convinces Blomkvist to discreetly take on a personal project – to find out what happened to his grandniece who disappeared many years earlier. In return, Vanger promises to deliver evidence to Blomkvist against Wennerstrom, a man whose previous accusations against Blomkvist sent him to prison.

The story is action-packed. Salander comes across as a very likable character to me – but I’m not sure if that was Larsson’s clear intention. She is certainly intelligent and has street smarts – though she seems quite insecure with herself. Early in the story,it is revealed that she has actually been ruled legally incompetent and, at age 25, still has a guardian.

All in all, a very exciting and satisfying mystery. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Finally, a curious note. The original title of this book, which was translated in English to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is “Men Who Hate Women.” That doesn’t sound like a title that would sell copies in the US. Good move, publisher!

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2 thoughts on “On reading “Brave New World” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

  1. As a Swede, I’m happy to read you are reading Swedish novels!
    To me, Stieg Larsson is the Swedish Dan Brown. Nice, recreational books, but nothing that stays in my memory for very long. 🙂
    I haven’t seen neither the Swedish nor the Anerican movie adaptations of the books.

  2. Yes, as I was reading I actually thought the style was very similar to that of Dan Brown. The Swedish film was recommended to me by a friend who watches a substantial amount of foreign films. She said that the American film’s Salander doesn’t accurately fit the description that is in the book, but the original one (Noomi Rapace) does.

    Thanks for writing!

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