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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Strindberg's Star

Jan Wallentin

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To purchase Strindberg's Star

Title: Strindberg's Star
Author: Jan Wallentin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 447 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Strindberg's Star - US
Strindberg's Star - UK
Strindberg's Star - Canada
Strindberg's Star - India
L'Étoile de Strindberg - France
Strindbergs Stern - Deutschland
La stella di Strindberg - Italia
La estrella de Strindberg - España
  • Swedish title: Strindbergs stjärna
  • Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

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Our Assessment:

C- : conspiracy dosed too heavily with fantasy, and quite a mess

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Dagens Nyheter F 5/10/2010 Jonas Thente
Expressen . 5/10/2010 Av Nils Schwartz
Helsingin Sanomat . 3/5/2011 Pertti Avola
Publishers Weekly . 2/4/2012 .
Svenska Dagbladet D- 15/10/2010 Martin Lagerholm
Sydsvenskan . 5/10/2010 Karin Nykvist

  Review Consensus:

  Not exactly blown away; lots of Dan Brown comparisons

  From the Reviews:
  • "En god del av läsningen går ut på att inte läsa: det vill säga att försöka ignorera språkfel, havererat bildspråk och allmänna klumpigheter. (...) Å andra sidan kan man trösta sig med att samtliga översättningar av denna mysterieroman kommer att bli bättre än originalet." - Jonas Thente, Dagens Nyheter

  • "Strindbergs stjärna börjar som en kriminalroman, övergår i ett slags historisk science fiction och slutar i ren fantasy. Det innebär att min ursprungliga nyfikenhet efterhand svalnar och är helt iskall när gåtan får sin slutliga lösning i ett underjordiskt hål i den arktiska isen. Jag kan dock mycket väl tänka mig att andra läsare tvärtom blir alltmer upphetsade ju längre romanen avlägsnar sig från all realism och rimlighet. Jag ifrågasätter inte Wallentins kompetens att skriva äventyrsromaner som fångar en masspublik." - Av Nils Schwartz, Expressen

  • "Wallentin kirjoittaa paremmin kuin Brown, mutta mitä pidemmälle hänen tarinansa etenee, sitä epämääräisemmältä ja lapsellisemmalta se alkaa tuntua. (...) Tarina etenee vaivattomasti, mutta siinä on runsaasti heikkoja ja epäuskottavia kohtia" - Pertti Avola, Helsingin Sanomat

  • "The relentless pacing only partially makes up for less than well-developed characters and a plot that strains credibility to the breaking point. While comparisons to The Da Vinci Code are unavoidable, this is more accurately an audacious adventure novel à la Jules Verne steeped in Norse mythology and Nazi esotericism." - Publishers Weekly

  • "All respekt för Wallentins förmåga att verkligen hitta just de markörer som den läsande allmänheten uppenbarligen älskar att förlora sig i, men också för att han i sin debutbok faktiskt lyckats snickra ihop en historia på närmare 500 sidor. (...) Texten som sådan är lättsmält, renons på djupare persongestaltning, full av schabloner, undermåliga dialoger och grovt tillyxade miljöskildringar." - Martin Lagerholm, Svenska Dagbladet

  • "Wallentins bok innehåller dessutom det mesta man kan förvänta sig av maffigheter: ondskefulla gamlingar i hemliga sammanslutningar, ockulta mysterier och fantasieggande ledtrådar. Det är helt okej. Känslan av att jag har läst det här förut är också i sin ordning." - Karin Nykvist, Sydsvenskan

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Strindberg's Star begins well enough, Erik Hall doing some extreme diving in an abandoned mine shaft -- and coming across a corpse. That's not all that he finds there, but it's what attracts the initial attention of the authorities and the media. But it is that other object that he brought back with him from way down there, an ankh (shaped like the Egyptian symbol ☥) that is the really significant find, and attracts all sorts of attention.
       Enter Don Titelman. He originally studied medicine but wasn't fit to be a surgeon and became a psychiatrist instead, before a breakdown abruptly ended that career and he took up history instead, writing his dissertation in part on Himmler's Ahnenerbe-organization and eventually becoming quite the expert on symbols and myths in general. His expertise leads Hall to invite him to check out the ankh -- which soon enough leads to Titelman being both desperately on the run, as well as on a quest.
       By itself, the ankh is: "Only junk. A completely worthless antique". But when it is brought together with a certain star-object ... well, pretty amazing things happen -- and the set functions as a sort of key. To a very impressive place.
       The star is the 'Strindberg's star' of the title, so-called since it was Nils Strindberg's failed arctic balloon expedition of 1897 that led to the discovery of all this ... fantastical stuff. A relative of author August, this Strindberg isn't nearly as well-known but his circumstances work well enough with the rest of the far-fetched story, and allow for a bit of description of that tragic expedition.
       Of course, there are lots of other dark figures interested in this powerful combination and where it leads; of course, there's a Nazi angle, too. Titelman spends much of the time on the run -- with a woman conveniently at his side. Among the few amusing ideas author Wallentin comes up with is that Titelman has a sister -- a once "brilliant student of mathematics" who had lost her way into a "shady programmer subculture" -- who is able to provide him with an unusual means of both escape and transport which serves him well for quite a while.
       Eventually everything comes to a big Arctic showdown, complete with key and portal. Abandoning any semblance of realism, Wallentin goes all in with where that passage leads to -- and yet even here disappoints in not making the most (or, indeed, very much) of it.
       Awkwardly paced and presented, with lots of short chapters and rather stilted dialogue and interaction, Strindberg's Star isn't really very exciting -- its sole raison d'être. The symbolic hokum and those pesky Nazis don't help matters much, and the supernatural element behind it all also makes for an uncomfortable fit, the would-be realistic thriller turning into a fantasy story (though admittedly many of the 'realistic' elements are also ridiculously (though not supernaturally) fantastical).
       A second-rate B-thriller, Strindberg's Star is -- just -- readable, but really hardly more than a last-resort option to reach for.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 May 2012

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Strindberg's Star: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish journalist Jan Wallentin was born in 1970.

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© 2012-2021 the complete review

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