Thursday, May 27, 2010
In Which Trai Reviews 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'
** Given that this is the third book in a trilogy, there will be spoilers for the first two books. **
Okay, so I paced myself. I didn't want to rush through the book headlong without absorbing it all, and I didn't want it to be over quite so soon. Entirely without planning, I read a third of the book a day. I reached the end just a few hours ago. It's hard to accept there's not going to be any more, but all good things must come to an end, right?
The Book: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (book three in the Millennium Trilogy)
The Author: Stieg Larsson
How I Found It: If you look at the April entries, you'll see how quickly I fell in love with the first two books of the trilogy.
The Review: A quick rant before I start: I don't get publishing sometimes. This is the most minor quibble in the world, but the New York Times pointed it out, too, so I don't feel bad... the UK has Hornets' Nest; we have Hornet's Nest. First off, I'm wondering why the change from singular to plural possessive was made in the first place. Second off, I'm wondering why the US edition decided to go with singular. It's not like one hornet lives in a nest all by itself, and isn't it somewhat more threatening to kick a nest of more than one of them? Yes? Okay. Don't mind me; I'm just bugged by that completely unnecessary punctuation thing.
At the end of The Girl Who Played with Fire, we were left on a major cliffhanger. Lisbeth has been grievously injured and even buried alive by her two worst enemies: her half-brother Ronald Niedermann, who can feel no pain, and her father Zalachenko, a Soviet defector whom the Swedish government schemed to keep secret. Mikael Blomkvist finds her. It is the first time he has seen her in a very long time--but she is almost dead.
When we open Hornet's Nest, Lisbeth and Zalachenko are being rushed to the hospital: Lisbeth for her numerous gunshot wounds, including one to the head, and Zalachenko for being attacked with an axe by none other than Lisbeth herself. Both are saved, but Lisbeth is still in hot water. Once she recovers, she is to stand trial for the three murders she was accused of in the previous book--murders that Niedermann committed, not her. Incapacitated in a hospital room with no access to a computer and barely anyone who believes her story, Lisbeth must rely on outsiders to help her out of her situation. Mikael Blomkvist is unraveling the real story behind the Zalachenko coverup, while his sister Annika Giannini agrees to defend Lisbeth in the murder trial--where Lisbeth's declaration of incompetence could be revoked. However, many people want to see Lisbeth silenced, whether that means permanent institutionalization... or even death.
This book, in my opinion, was just a tiny bit slower than the first two simply because there is not much action. Whereas the first two books were about investigating a crime, this was more of a law procedural dealing with the events leading up to and of Lisbeth's trial. As a result, it could get rather talky at times, which tended to drag down the pace a tiny bit. There was a lot of discussing what could happen, and occasionally the same information would be relayed to different characters in the span of just a few pages, which could get annoying fast. Also, even more characters joined the already large supporting cast introduced in Played with Fire, so remembering who was who could get a little distracting. Eventually it didn't bother me as much, but this book is a slower read than the first two. It's worth it, though, for how well it ties things up in the end, considering Larsson's sudden passing after the manuscripts had been delivered.
It is because of Larsson's death that this book could have been a hit or a miss. Does everything get tied up properly, considering the supposedly mostly-finished fourth book will never come to light? Was it worth it overall to read the trilogy, knowing there will be no more (especially since the series was supposed to be ten books initially)?
Does everything get tied up properly? Yes, I would say it does. It is a little disappointing that the second book and this one had Salander and Blomkvist having little to no physical contact, instead communicating via the Internet. I did miss the actual pairing of the two of them investigating in Dragon Tattoo. But the relationship between the two of them is still preserved even if they do barely talk, and the little moments for the two of them were very sweet, as was their final resolution. Erika Berger also gets more screentime--a subplot of her own that, while it devolved into a too-common trope, raised an important issue. Berger has been asked to be editor-in-chief for a well-known newspaper, and finds herself receiving threatening emails as well as home invasions from an unknown employee at the paper. In order to discover the person's identity, Berger must turn to Salander. Erika's subplot addresses the male-dominated world of news, and how little women's opinions are valued there. It was interesting to read about, even if, as I said before, the stalker subplot eventually ends with a whimper because it felt too cliche.
That was one criticism I had of the book-- the villains felt too cartoony at times. Lisbeth's primary threat during her trial comes in the form of Dr. Teleborian, introduced in the last book. Teleborian is the psychiatrist who institutionalized the young Lisbeth, and he is exceptionally sick and twisted. Problem was, that twistedness bordered on hyperbole at points and I wanted to roll my eyes a little. Still, even if Lisbeth's trial was less of the book than I expected, I found it immensely satisfying. There might be no more Mikael and Lisbeth after this book, but everything is handled so well that I'm almost okay with there not being any more.
While the cast of supporting characters was sometimes too large, I enjoyed reading about most of them, and a few new additions and expansions worked well, such as Blomkvist's sister Giannini. I had some mixed feelings about Monica Figuerola--her chemistry with Blomkvist felt somewhat forced, but she had some pretty good moments and I did sort of like her. The characterizations were consistent with the other books as well. Blomkvist also displays a dry humor in this volume that brought some levity.
Overall, the book was a pretty solid conclusion that wrapped up loose ends and actually left me with a feeling of satisfaction, instead of just craving more. Larsson fans in the US like me have reached the end of the road--for the books. You can still expect my reviews of the Swedish movies when they hit Stateside in the summer (Played with Fire) and the fall (Hornet's Nest). I'm also starting a small blog for Millennium fans where I'll post news and interesting links and such. In the meantime, I'm incredibly grateful for Stieg Larsson's books and how much I've enjoyed them, and I hope other people will pick them up and feel the same way.