Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is Stieg Larsson's third, and final, novel in the Millenium series. It begins where the second novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, left off.  Lisbeth Salander, the "girl" referred to in all three titles, is being sent to Sahlgreska Hospital in Stockholm after sustaining a bullet wound to the head and massive wounds to her shoulder. Surprisingly, she's still alive. After a long, intense surgery, Lisbeth is placed in the ICU, where she is only visited by medical staff, police and her lawyers, since she's under arrest for pretty serious offenses - attempted murder, aggravated assault and the like.  There's also talk about getting her committed to a mental hospital for pretty much the rest of her life. But the book itself, like it's previous two books, centers around government corruption and conspiracies, hatred and abuse of women (and Larsson's obvious concern and hatred of that hatred), and the threat to Swedish democracy by right wing elements in Swedish society. It's secondary themes seem to be loyalty and friendship and love.

I read this book as quickly and voraciously as I could, considering that I work full time, am on a broken ankle at work (yes, I finally returned!) and have a 2.5 year old.  It only took me one week to read a book that is 500 + pages. I was happy that the first one hundred pages or so resolved a number of mysteries left over from the first two books, even though I struggled to remember what had happened. I had to skim synopses from the first two books in order to remember.  What I didn't like was how Mr. Larsson introduced new characters so quickly; it was done so quickly that I had to keep a list and refer to it often to keep straight who was who, especially because there were at least two sets of characters whose names were fairly similar to each other. I thought that Larsson did an admirable job in his social commentary. He takes on really complex issues - issues that people have fought over and will continue to fight over for years to come - and he does so morally, cleverly and in a way that people can understand.  Some of his characters can be trying at times - for instance, while Mikael Blomkvist is an astoundingly dogged and loyal friend, who will do anything to make sure their voice is heard, he is unerringly vain and that vanity rubbed me the wrong way.  Of course, having a flawed hero isn't necessarily a bad thing - one can't have someone completely unrealistic take the helm otherwise readers won't necessarily identify with that person. The action sequences were good but what I really appreciated was how he made women equal players on the scene - police officers, lawyers and the like. It was fantastic.

Highly recommended but make sure you start with the first in the trilogy - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

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