Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jenn's Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestSummary:  Two seriously injured people arrive at the emergency ward of the Sahlgrensa hospital in Gothenburg. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is Alexander Zalachenko, an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe.

In this third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth is planning her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and even more importantly, revenge against the government which nearly destroyed her life. But first she must escape from the intensive care unit and exculpate her name from the charges of murder that hangs over her head.

In order to succeed with the latter, Lisbeth will need the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He is writing an exposing article that will shake the Swedish government, the secret service and the whole country by its foundations. Finally there is a chance for Lisbeth Salander to put her past behind her and finally there is a chance for truth and justice to prevail.

Review: This final chapter is the confrontation we've been waiting for.  It's certainly the showdown that Lisbeth's been waiting for, but the question is, by whose rules will they be playing?  The tangled web of conspiracy gets more complex and constricting as it attempts to squeeze the life out of it's participants.

Larsson was a master.  He wove so many layers into this story that it blows me away.  The cast of characters expands with a plethora of names that are sometimes similar if you're reading fast.  When Larsson gets to switching point of views quickly as the story picks up, I know there were a couple of times it was jarring for me just because I had to stop and think who was who.  True, there is still some needless plot exposition (a page and a half on the Random Frequency Tracking System used to pick up and eavesdrop on cell phone calls, comes to mind as a glaring example).   However, the story itself more than makes up for the bits that drag a little.

The only tiny detail that irked me was that the police didn't seem to comb through Zalchenko's assets, which would have changed the outcome somewhat.  Although I suppose, in their defence, their attention was somewhat diverted due to the fact that they were chasing conspiracies.    I don't want to give too much away, but if a certain faction, was a little more skilled, instead of made up of retirees and rank armatures, this may have ended very differently.  It almost did end differently.  But here I am discussing this as if it were actual events again.  Larsson's writing is just that good.

The court room drama is so satisfying, on several levels.  Though the Swedish legal system has some obvious differences from the American system (for example, bench trials are held in a round table format and the concept of discovery seems to be absent), it makes for a far more entertaining read.  I can't wait to see how it translates to the screen.  Just reading it, I was very nearly booing and cheering aloud all the way through it.

Through it all, I think the character of Lisbeth grew.  No, she didn't change drastically, that would have been too much.  But her view of society and her place in it, changed and thus changed her.  It was heartening.

The story is left, slightly open, but in a satisfying place.  I know that there is a fourth unfinished manuscript out there, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  While I would love to read more, a la Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt, which is an incomplete manuscript published posthumously "as is", I don't want to be left in a precarious place wishing there was a resolution.  Yet I don't think anyone could finish it in Larsson's style, even if he left notes.  I have mixed feelings.

This is a brilliant series and I truly cannot recommend it enough.  If you put down the first book, please consider picking it back up... if you can push through that initial chunk of plot exposition in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and believe me, it's a definite chunk, it is worth every minute of the struggle. I will be watching the last two Swedish films, and I can't wait to see the American ones too.  I just can't get enough Stieg Larsson.

Final Take:  5/5

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