December 1, 2010

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

Poor M. G. Vassanji seems destined not to get read. First he was bumped by my need to indulge in some fluff, and then when I got half way through the book, I received an e-mail from the library saying that my copy of The Girl that Kicked the Hornet's next was ready for me to pick up.

The e-mail probably couldn't have come at a worse time - not only was I half way through another book, but I am just coming out of my busiest week in quite some time. I have been out almost every night, and have had a lot of music commitments, all of which have eaten into valuable reading time! And I only had a week to get through all 563 pages of this book! (Actually, one of my biggest complaints about this book is the sheer size of the hardcover - my hands hurt from trying to hold this book while reading. But more on the length of it later.) But I stayed up until midnight last night in order to finish it, and will be returning it to the library as soon as I am done writing this post.

You may recall that I did not enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (GDT), but quite enjoyed The Girl who Played with Fire (GPF). This, the final book in the trilogy, falls somewhere between the first two. It was not as slow going as GDT, but there was still a lot of detail about the Swedish government structure and history that I found myself skimming over. And while the plot centers around Lisbeth Salander (similar to GPF), she tended to be shunted to the sidelines (maybe because she spends most of the book in hospital or prison).

Overall, I though that this book could have used some better editing. As I mentioned, I found myself skimming over entire pages; and there was a whole separate plot line concerning Erika Berger that could have easily been left out without affecting the plot.

There are some aspects of the plot that bear some reflection given what is going on in the world today. Salander is awaiting trial and the government wants to lock her up in a psychiatric hospital for the rest of her life, despite knowing that she is not crazy, because they consider her to be a risk if she is left free based on what she knows. There is one section where the secret police are justifying to themselves that unlawful imprisonment and even murder is OK in "the interest of National Security". This inevitably draws comparison with what has happened around the world (especially in our neighbours to the south?) in the years since 2001. The ending of the book tells us quite clearly where the author (who was apparently the editor of an anarchist magazine!) stands on this issue. And it has been interesting this week, watching the aftermath of the WikiLeaks publication of classified documents and the Interpol warrant for the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder (wanted in Sweden, of all places). Though the founder is wanted on a charge of rape, and I definitely don't condone rape, but this book has triggered the conspiracy theorist in me, and comparisons with Salander's situation are inevitable in my mind!

B. Kienapple, over at A Certain Bent Appeal, said that she was disappointed in the ending as she read her way through all 3 books in the expectation that Blomkvist and Salander would get together in the end, and then they didn't. I didn't feel this way, simply because I don't think that Bomkvist deserved her. Yes, he's a great journalist. Yes, he's persistent and works doggedly to get the job done and to see truth prevail. But he's a player who doesn't care about the feelings of anyone else. It is all done for the glory of Mikael Blomkvist. His sister sums him up well towards the end of the book. "My brother is completely irresponsible when it comes to relationships. He screws his way through life and doesn't seem to grasp how much it can hurt those women who think of him as more than a casual affair." I lost count of how many women he slept with, but most of them ended up sad, lonely, and disappointed.

I did have some believability issues with this book as well. 2 characters surviving point-blank gunshot wounds to the head? And I lost count of how many hard drives Salander saved onto her tiny hand-held computer. How big was the hard drive of that thing?! It was also amusing at times to read about the computer use of the time. Anyone remember ICQ? And not a single mention of Facebook (no Facebook in 2004 - how did we ever survive without it?).

So am I glad that I read these books, and persisted to the end of the trilogy? Yes. Will I ever re-read them? Probably not. Will they make my top 10 books of 2010? Again, probably not. But they were good for an entertaining read, and Lisbeth Salander is one of my favourite characters in fiction in a long time!

Now off to the library to return the book before 9 and avoid overdue fines!


John Mutford said...

I guess I'm going to have to break down and read these books, too. For some reason though I just can't get my interest up.

Kate said...

John - I felt the same way about them; and after reading the first book while on holidays this summer, I wasn't going to bother reading the rest. But the second book is quite good, and this one not bad. And Salander is definitely a character worth getting to know!