Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire AND The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Last night I refused to interact with anyone in the house. I was bound and determined to finish Stieg Larsson's trilogy. On the one hand, I really wanted to know the outcome - how was he going to wrap up all of his story lines? On the other hand, I just wanted to finish the damn series!

Stieg Larssoon loves details! He goes into amazingly explicit minutiae for the sake of the story. In the long run I understand why he included every single aspect. Nothing was extraneous. It all tied together in the end. And all the sideline stories were crucial to bring the people together how and when he did. But... 250 pages into The Girl Who Played with Fire he *finally* set up the plot. It was somewhat laborious to keep reading and wonder where in the world he was going with his stories. Similarly, in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest I had to wonder why I was spending so much time reading about Berger and her personal problems. It all made sense in the end, (there was one particular moment in the story for which it was necessary for Berger to implicitly trust Salander) but I don't know that that much space was needed for some of the information.

It is an amazing series. Larsson has combined police procedural, John LeCarré style spy intrigue, and current social gender intrigue into an intricate and intriguing storyline. I won't debate the merits of Larsson's trilogy. Instead, I am going to take a minute to debate a few small issues I had with the series.

In the beginning of The Girl Who Played with Fire Salander is wandering around the Caribbean. As I said before, I understand the logic of setting up the story in the way Larsson does. But, given the character he had described in book one, I had a hard time buying some of her character traits in book two. Suddenly this sullen, untrusting girl is sitting chatting casually with a bartender and helping people out. It didn't fit for me. It was too abrupt of a change.

My husband and I have been having an ongoing conversation about the role of sex and violence in the series. We've debated why Bloomkvist has to take so many women to bed - is it necessary for the storyline to set him up as an individual who is very casual about relationships? is it indicative of Swedish society? or is it sheer selling value to include lots of sex?

My mother and I discussed why the series has gained so much popularity recently. Her conclusion: it's about Sweden which is currently "hot," and its for sale at Costco which seems to dictate bestseller list these days. I agree with both of her statements, but I would add that the intrigue of Larsson adds to the power of the series. Knowing that Larsson is dead and can't write anymore allows readers to wonder what was supposed to happen next.

I'm glad I read The Millennium Trilogy, as it has been dubbed. It's a fast-paced, interesting series that raises a lot of questions about how society views outsiders. But I also am glad I read it because it keeps me abreast with current trends. Now I'm ready for something without a lot of sex, violence, or coffee drinking. :-)

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