Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kicking It

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" was a Christmas present at least two years ago, and I don't really have an explanation for why I haven't read it before now.  In writing about it (as well as the movie, which we watched for the first time last night), I'm going to assume that the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts has run out for both, so beware if you care about such things.

It's a very good book, but in some respects the movie was even better.  Stieg Larsson appears to have been an author who needed someone standing over his shoulder telling him when something was a bad idea, and that person clearly was not present during the writing of "Hornet's Nest."  The entire subplot of Erika Berger going to work at a major daily newspaper and then encountering more general male unpleasantness - and a cyber-stalker - was fairly ridiculous, and did nothing to advance the main plot.  The movie avoided this issue entirely by completely ignoring the subplot, and instead incorporating the cyber-stalking into Berger's work at Millenium - which made infinitely more sense from a story-telling point of view.

The movie also improved on Larsson's treatment of Salander's psychotic half-brother Niedermann, by actually reminding us from time to time that he was still out there, waiting to get his revenge on Lisbeth.  In the book, roughly 500 pages pass between his appearances, which made the climactic ending feel tacked-on and rendered it much less effective than it otherwise would have been.

But I want to praise Larsson and not bury him, so kudos for writing a book that is much different in scope and tone than the previous two volumes in the series.  Although Salander remains the linchpin in "Hornet's Nest," there are at least 4-6 other characters who appear in it more than she.  Blomkvist is central to the story, as are the "good cops" who figure out what is going on with the "bad cops" who had sheltered Zalachenko for so long.  And Giannini, Blomkvist's sister, becomes a hero with an aplomb that Blomkvist can never quite seem to pull off.  And I do wish the movie had given us more of Palmer Holgren, who richly deserved his moment in the sun that Larsson gives him in the book.

But make no mistake about it, without Salander there is no story, and once her trial begins, you reach the part of the book where it doesn't matter how early you have to get up the next morning, you're just going to keep reading.  And with a thriller like this, there can be no better compliment.

1 comment:

Carol said...

I loved the book and saw the Swedish version of the movie. Really interesting analysis. Thanks!