By Stieg Larsson
Well-- it’s been over year since I became The Girl Who Kicked Herself For Not Getting The Cheap Hardcover at Chainon.
The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth Salander was shot in the head by her estranged Pa, her semi-conscious body airlifted to the nearest hospital. Even though you know our heroine is going to pull through somehow, it was still one hell of a cliffhanger to nurse for a year and three months. When hubs got me an iPad last Xmas, I was tempted to get the e-book, but thought the $11 price tag was a little steep. Now that it’s finally released in paperback (for $8! so Why-TF was the e-version more expensive?), I promptly ordered a copy.
Lemme tell ya, it was well worth the wait, despite the fact that this 563–page action-packed tome kept me up multiple nights in a row. To quote that silly line from the new Cronenberg movie: “It excited me!”
Unlike the majority of trilogies or series where each sequel is like a watered-down and/or inferior version of the original (take The Dark Materials trilogy, for instance), each installment of the Millenium trilogy was better than the last. I liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo all right, but The Girl Who Played With Fire took it to the next level, focusing on the character development of the fascinating Lisbeth Salander, as well as allowing her to kick even more ass (physical and cyber-spatial) than before.
The second book also introduced a whole web of new characters and how they were all inter-related to one another. Of course, the common denominator was The Girl herself, but there were new writers working for Millenium, various police inspectors, government officials, secret police agents, biker gang members, old friends of Lisbeth, as well as not-so-friendly people from her tragic past.
The third book has many of the same characters, and then some. It’s like a crazy Swedish version of The Wire, except we have a young woman entangled in some secret government conspiracy to have her locked away in an institution for life. And all because her father happens to be a badass Russian defector and ex-spy who keeps getting into trouble with the authorities because he's an underworld gangster as well as a wife-beater!
Despite the fact that Salander is not able to kick as much ass as she did in the previous book (due to her recovering from a bullet hole in the head (--oops I gave it away, oh well!), Salander’s motley crue of unlikely allies (a few who have friends in strategic places) rise to the occasion to help her out of this conspiracy mess, and Lisbeth also turns to her comrades at the exclusive Hacker Republic for help. The plot of TGWKTHN has been criticized for being preposterous, which is ridiculous. I mean, the Millenium trilogy from the get-go has been about as realistic as, say, the Bourne books. This is escapist fiction, for chrissakes, and other than the not so subtle theme of Men Hating Women, these books aren’t pretending to be anything more. If you want to read a more realistic story, then go read some Margaret Atwood or something.
More importantly, despite the phenomenal number of subplots and characters, Larsson managed to tie everything together into something that was competently cohesive. There was a whole other seemingly unrelated subplot where Erika Berger quit Millenium to work as editor-in-chief for the major newspaper, SMP, and within the first two weeks of her new job, conventiently acquired a stalker. That storyline could have been cut out, but at the same time, it felt like it fit into the narrative, logistically and thematically. It could’ve been a structural mess in the hands of a less disciplined writer. As an experienced journalist, Larsson also did a great job writing about the bustling newsroom of a major daily, the inner workings of Swedish governmental politics or a general overview of constitutional laws. The complicated plot allowed Larsson to touch on various aspects of Swedish society, from the high-ranking offices of CEOs and government officials to some shabby apartment of a lowly drug dealer.
Even if you think the story was rather preposterous, Larsson grounded his universe in such a confident, straightforward maner that you won’t immediately realize how much info you’ve been absorbing at once… that is, until you’re having a fitful night of sleep as the various elements from the novel float about inside your head! Even after more than a year between the 2nd and 3rd books, I was able to remember many of the plot points and characters. I think, after reading the Millenium books, everyone becomes a little like Lisbeth Salander, with her photographic memory and careful observation of details. And the finale was awesome. There were no loose strings I could find.
Immediately after finishing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Olman and I watched the movie version, which was rather hurried, omitting tons of details and subplots. A few times Olman went “huh?” after the movie skipped or altered something from the book. Since he hasn’t read the Millenium books, I had to fill him in on some background info. So if you’re gonna watch the last movie, it might not make as much sense if you haven’t read the final book. It might have been worthwhile to split the book into two parts, like what they did with Twilight and Harry Potter. Let’s hope the American remake will do this!