10A114 The Girl by Jim Davies, 12/29/2010    

Since Thanksgiving, I've joined 27 million other readers of Stieg Larsson's monumental "Millennium" trilogy, and if you like a good mystery, you'll love these too. Set in Sweden, written in Swedish and flawlessly translated by Reg Keeland, these are three full-length, self contained mystery novels, built around the same cast of characters and best read in sequence beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The plot of each is expertly woven with great complexity, but each finishes with every loose end neatly tied off; and that's where some writers fail. P D James, for example, can write a complex whodunnit better than most, but I found two occasions where her characters just did not behave true to form; I wrote her to point out the flaw, but she never even replied! Unbelievable! This trilogy is not for those with delicate sensitivities - there is plenty of sex and violence, and more foul language than the situations demand - but if you can tolerate those, you'll not be able to put it down.

Larsson's hero is a journalist dedicated to exposing fraud and hypocrisy - his alter ego, perhaps - but more interesting is his heroine, a slip of a girl shockingly treated all her life who uses her formidable hacker skills to defy Authority in all its forms, notably by remaining totally silent whenever questioned. This is classic anarchist conduct, and the author evidently approves.

I have no doubt that Larsson understands and empathizes with anarchism as The Girl expresses it - a natural, intuitive repudiation of manipulative intruders. But he also clearly empathizes with all kinds of other philosophies and viewpoints (except Nazis) in the novels, and that's one of their strengths; he can even take the reader inside the mind of the most villainous and let us see how he ticks. But it's also disappointing, for it leaves the author as a supposed external, dispassionate and uncommitted observer. He's actually no such thing, see below.

The anarchism he portrays is too limited by far. He shows no grasp of real-world economics or morality, that is that society with government is founded squarely on intellectual and ethical garbage. Towards the end he has his heroine reluctantly agreeing, for example, to accept the "privileges and responsibilities of citizenship"; what nonsense! "Citizenship" is a fraud, and so it carries neither privilege nor responsibility; every human being is sufficient and sovereign in him or herself. In the end, Larsson tries to show that "the system works" - but we know it does not work, and ultimately never can work, for it is founded on mythology.

After finishing my read, I looked Larsson up on Wiki and found that all his life, he supported Communist causes, even trying to benefit them in his will. He handed in the Trilogy manuscripts in 2004, then died of a heart attack in 2005, aged 50. So near, yet so very far; I like to think that had he lived a full span, he'd have extended his understanding and concluded accurately that government in all its forms and disguises is anathematic to human nature.

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Have you browsed the bookstore yet? There are about forty titles that every serious student of liberty should have as the nucleus of his library.