The Summer of the Trilogy

It all started, as many of these things do, as a conversation on Twitter.

I was raving about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and looking forward to reading the next two books in Stieg Larsson’s Swedish crime mystery trilogy, also referred to as The Millennium trilogy.

That lead to recommendations for the Inkworld trilogy (the first book, Inkheart, is the best, but the other two do their jobs), and to me realizing that the last book of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy was due later this month.

It’s been a busy summer for books. I didn’t reread Inkworld, yet, although I have offered to lend it out. As I said, the first book is the best because it’s so ground-breaking, with a completely fresh story. It’s targeted to young adults, and it’s probably best for teens (and older readers) as the menace level may be too scary for younger readers.

Stieg Larsson’s trilogy is completely adult in nature. The story line is convoluted, involving everything from the Swedish foster system to magazine publishing to hacking to Russian spies. At the same time, the books are real page-turners (after the first 80 or so pages of …Dragon Tattoo). I was completely in love with Lisbeth Salander half-way through The Girl Who Played with Fire. I think that book, which is the middle saga, is my favorite. I have to give credit to Larsson, too, for neatly tying up (or nailing down as it were) a loose end in the penultimate chapter of …Kicked a Hornet’s Nest. I had completely forgotten about that guy.

There is a dry matter-of-factness to Larsson’s novels. While ranging all over the landscape plot-wise, the overall focus in on a darker side of Sweden than any of us Americans are used to seeing. When I think of Sweden, I think IKEA and Volvos. (And chocolate, but then I realize I’m getting Switzerland mixed up with Sweden, and then I just want dark imported chocolate. This tangent brought to you by pregnancy cravings.) The first novel in the original Swedish is called Men Who Hate Women, and Larsson’s goal, if I’m reading this right, was to use a fictional story to examine the way women are oppressed (still) by sex and violence in Sweden, which many of us probably think is a very civilized part of the world. There are parts that are chilling, and of course the overall conspiracy against Salandar is downright appalling.

The story of Larsson is itself quite a drama, and I suggest clicking through his Wikipedia entry for some fascinating reading. It’s too bad he isn’t around to give us more of Lisbeth Salandar and Mikael Blomkvist.

The final trilogy is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I started this book because I read Stephen King’s review of it in Entertainment Weekly, and I was instantly captivated. Again, it’s targeted to readers in the late teens and up, and is pretty violent. Not grisly, but the title refers to a yearly “sporting” event that pits 24 teenagers (tributes) against each other for ultimate survival. I reread The Hunger Games and the second book Catching Fire in the past month in anticipation of the final book Mockingjay. Which I have preordered on Amazon. And which doesn’t come out until August 24! Seems like a long time to wait.

Something that The Hunger Games has in common with both Inkheart and the Millennium trilogies is the presence of a kick-ass heroine (Inkheart’s heroine, Meggie, eventually starts to play second fiddle). In The Hunger Games, we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen and the dystopian world of Panem. Katniss is practical and plucky, and finds herself plunged into the arena as the female tribute from District 12. Unlike Meggie in the Inkworld series, she stays central to the story, and unlike Salandar from Larsson’s books, she is clearly conflicted emotionally for any number of reasons. But this just makes her more human and likable, and I imagine she will especially appeal to teen girls — although I liked her very much, too.

So, there’s nine books for you. Get reading! Tell me what your favorite trilogy is in the comments. Of these three, I admit to being most partial to The Hunger Games. The Millennium trilogy is fantastic, though, and shouldn’t be missed.