Author: Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (translator)
Type: Fiction, novel
Part of series: Millennium (#3)
I read it: August 2012
I had a creative writing teacher who used to hold up a copy of The Stand and flip to any page break. She would read the first sentence out loud and you would know which character’s point-of-view you were hearing, as well as where they were, when it was, and what they were doing. It was the bible of scene-setting, and here’s the thing: Stephen King was simply doing what any novel writer should do.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a nearly unreadable mishmash of shifting point-of-views set against a backdrop of stiff, dictated narrative. I waited two years for it to come out in paperback (just so it would fit nicely with the others on my shelf) and now I can see I was not missing out on anything during the wait. Unforgivable POV issues aside, it is not promising that within the first 400 pages, Lisbeth Salander is only around for 40 of them. It becomes apparent that the climax of the book will revolve around a court case that is expectedly tidy and lacking any sort of danger.
The book reaches supreme eye-rolling status when Mikael Blomkvist has to spell out the point of the book series for dense readers, in a quote that may as well have been from an interview with the author: “When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.” Yep, we knew that when you titled the first installment “Men Who Hate Women.” It still does not mean the story carries much weight. This may not all be Stieg Larsson’s fault, though. There is no way to know how much revision could have gone into a posthumously published work. At best, this book (and each in the series generally) reads like an outline, where facts are stated but little time is spent on style and characterization.
I can’t help but picture Lisbeth lying in a hospital bed and turning to notice Katniss in a bed next to her. They are doing nothing of interest, as plot happens to them, not because of them. They fade into singular dimensions, ideas of characters who flared up with potential but then flattened into gray and boring tones by the end of struggling trilogies.
If only our creators could have stopped at one, they think.