Monday, 23 August 2010

The Millenium Trilogy

By FJ Riley

I’m currently part way through Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy – specifically, I’m a third of the way through the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Of course you know what it’s called, because of course you’ve already read it, like everyone else on the planet. You probably enjoyed it as well.

I was trying to work out what the appeal of the books are. I don’t usually read thrillers. I don’t find them thrilling. I’m not sure why I’m particularly thrilled by this one, considering that I guessed the "big twist" in the first book a few pages in, but for some reason I just can’t stop reading. I’ll probably have the whole trilogy polished off by the end of next week.

I was going to tell you what I think about it, but what could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? In any case, having already read it, I’m sure you’ll have formed your own opinion.

What a pisser it must be for Larsson though eh? Unpublished in his own lifetime, and then as soon as he’s gone, he’s a publishing phenomenon. It’s a good job there’s no God, or an afterlife. There’s nothing more irritating than missing out on a successful publishing venture. Trust me on that – it happens to me all the time. (Apart from my work with Philistine Press, of course, which has brought me much joy. No, really, it has.)

I’d be tempted to say the Millennium Trilogy would have been less successful if the author wasn’t dead, but I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s done so well because it appeals to pretty much everyone who reads books. It appeals to people who like intelligent fiction, and people who like trashy thrillers. It appeals to people who are interested in politics, and equally to people who aren’t. Also, crucially, it appeals to both men and women.

Even better than that, the mass appeal of it doesn’t appear to have been intentional. It just happens to tick a lot of boxes. It's difficult to think of a reason why a series of books such as this shouldn't be a massive success. It's particularly refreshing to see a series of uncompromisingly left-wing works of fiction occupying positions one, two and three in the bestseller lists. It's equally refreshing to note that they were translated from Swedish, considering the distinct lack of translated works on British and American bookshelves. Hopefully this will open the door for more of the same.

I’d like to replicate Larsson's formula somehow, but in my own genre. I know us cool kids in the underground digital publishing world like to think of ourselves as above such things, but secretly we all want to be multi-millionaires. Don’t try to deny it.

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