The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest

Posted: June 8, 2012 in Reading
Tags: , , , ,

This is outside my normal reading habits. Contrary to what a lot of people think of the genre reader, I do try to venture outside my normal section of the bookstore now and again. It’s very needle-in-a-haystacky for me though. I read the first Stieg Larsson book way back. Normally, when things get all big and full of hype, the hype itself turns me off them, kind of a “so big, it’s just annoying” deal. But I read it anyways, had a tough time getting through the first hundred pages, then devoured the rest of it and the second one. But I put off the third one. I have that thing I’ve mentioned before about mass market sized books. The third book was only in hardcover at the time so I dragged my feet for a real long time. Eventually I said “close enough” and got the taller-than-mass-market size.

And now I’ve finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

Back of the Book time!

In the conclusion of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.

But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she’ll seek revenge – agaisnt the man who tried to kill her and the corrupt government institution that nearly destroyed her life.

First off, remember how I said I haven’t read the other two in a long time? Like, a year and a halfish? Yeah, totally forgot that book two ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t actually read the Back of the Book before cracking it open. I was all like “Oh! Book three, I’m all up in that.” SoHornet jumps right into things head first. I’m all for that. I like openings that start with movement and happenings.

But then bam! It gets bogged down real bad. I’m not sure if it’s a Swedish thing or a style specific to the author. I don’t come across too much non-English things translated, the Russian Night Watch books and the Japanese Battle Royale the only ones I can think of. Regardless, it slows down and gets very distracted from itself. The nature of the story requires a large supporting cast what with its conspiracies and murders and investigations, but the whole trilogy is undoubtedly at its best when it’s focused on Salander or Blomkvist. Salander, in particular, is one of the more fascinating characters I’ve read in years. The book focuses mostly on the supporting cast in the first half of the book. Ok, I can accept that. It’s still well written and a good mystery and such.

Too bad that the author clearly has an agenda. Now, a writer’s views on life and whatever seep into text whether consciously or not. And there are high profile authors I love like Orson Scott Card and China Mieville that have controvercial beliefs which turn off chunks of the audience. I like to let text stand for itself so can enjoy a book anyways as long as it doesn’t distract for the story.

As long as it doesn’t distract from the story.

I said it twice, it must be true. Larsson is all over women’s rights and such. Do not misconstrue my words, equality is a damn fine agenda to have, as long as it’s actually equality and not “let’s give someone else preferential treatment to someone else” crap. But that’s a different rant and not applicable to this because Larsson’s agenda really does seem to be about equality. The problem here is that it majorly distracts from the story. There’s the parallel plot, I can’t say subplot because it doesn’t really involve itself with the rest of the novel except in the most minimal way, involves Erika Berger, one of the other Millennium editors with Blomkvist, as she gets a new job and a stalker. It’s wickedly distracting from the story to the point where I was not only groaning aloud at a Berger chapter, but I was seriously thinking of abandoning the book if it didn’t pick up again fast. Again, don’t start thinking that I’m pro-stalker or some other nutty stuff like that.

The story is god. The story trumps all other aspects of the book and the soapboxing here just pulls me right out of the whole thing.

Fortunately, Hornet refocuses on Salander and Blomkvist when I was about ten pages from ditching the whole thing. From that midpoint, Hornet picks up a lot and becomes the fast investigative piece like the first two with minimal Berger-stalker diversions. Around the three-quarters point that bit wraps itself up completely and there’s two hundred pages of focused awesome. All the lose ends get wrapped up just the way that you want them to. Certain people make their mark, the right people get trounced and said trouncing is thoroughly satisfying.

I thought the character growth in Hornet was better than I remember from the other two, espicially for Salander. It gave a very impressive character arc through the whole trilogy and was one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole thing. Unfortunately, as a whole, I think this was the weakest of the trilogy, partly because the bar is set pretty high. It was a worthwhile read, despite the soapboxing, and I’m glad I got a proper ending to the trilogy.

Next up, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman.

  1. Jay says:

    Did you watch the movies?

  2. Mike says:

    Haven’t gotten around to the Swedish ones, but we did see the David Fincher one in the theater and I thought it was an excellent book to movie adaptation.

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