Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest: Out On A Low Note

Put it this way: The 2010 Literary Hype Machine was only 1 for 2, in my view. Of the two most anticipated book of last year — Freedom and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest — only Franzen's novel delivered. The conclusion to the Millennium Trilogy is a dull, scatterbrained police, journalistic and courtroom procedural with a foregone conclusion. The drama  — indeed, the thrill of this supposed thriller — is too few and way too far between.

I know this probably won't be a popular sentiment, but the reason I was bored is that the entire plot of this novel hinges on a mystery that Stieg actually spoils for us early in the novel— i.e., who is part of the Section, that the Section protected Zalachenko, and what they're planning going forward to protect the secret. This means that Mikael and the law-and-order folks of Constitutional Protection spend most of the novel hunting for answers the reader already knows. Not much drama there. 

As usual, there's some "romance," some computer hacker stuff, some legitimately thrilling scenes here and there, and several side stories — including a semi-interesting one about Erika Berger and a stalker at her new job as editor-in-chief of a big Swedish newspaper. But in this case, which is another negative in my view, there were too many damn side stories, and the interesting ones got lost amidst the boring ones. For instance, when a section about the Section would start, I'd immediately look to the next pages to find out how long I'd be bored by their maneuverings. Usually, mercifully, it wasn't too long, as Stieg jumps back and forth between each story line on almost an every-other-page basis. But this also means the parts that include the interesting story lines — Mikael spying on his those spying on him, etc. — were just as short. There's no flow and the reader (at least this one) feels totally disconnected from the narrative.

Writing negative reviews is no fun, so let's end on a positive. Even though Hornet's Nest was a let down, I really did enjoy the first book in the series, and I also enjoyed a lot about the second book. In fact, I just looked at my ratings on Goodreads for these — 4 stars for Dragon Tattoo, 3 for Played With Fire, and now 2 for Hornet's Nest. I can assure you, that symmetrical descent in rating wasn't on purpose — just happened that way. And I can also assure you that this is the last New Dork post about Stieg. How disappointed are you right now?

If you've read these novels, which was your favorite (see poll in sidebar)? Anyone have a similar reaction as me to the last one?


  1. The Girl Who Played with Fire was my favorite of the series. I enjoyed the last one, especially for the strong female characters that seemed to play more of a role.

  2. I TOTALLY agree. First, all Lisbeth gets to do in this instalment is lay about in bed. That is not what you want from a kick-ass heroine. Second, the whole Erika thing was reasonably interesting....but what was it FOR? Except to fill up more of the endless, endless pages? I liked Dragon Tattoo best as well, for its self-containedness.

  3. My favorite was the girl who played with fire, followed by hornet's nest, as they are one continuous storyline. I feel that the character development in these 2 is much better than in dragon tattoo, but that's just my opinion.

  4. I didn't even get this far and by the sounds of it I'm glad I didn't. The first chapters of Played with Fire bored the living daylights out of me..

  5. @Suzanne - Yeah, Erika certainly asserted herself throughout the novel - she was a very admirable character. And even though Lisbeth was incapacitated, she still managed to wreak some havoc!

    @Lydnsey - Yeah, that was a lot of story to show that a) Erika is a strong woman, and b) that Lisbeth will do anything, even help a woman she considered her enemy, to give women-hating men their comeuppances.

    @Dadrocant - Yeah, we finally learn Lisbeth's backstory - why she is the way she is - in Played With Fire. That is a big piece of her puzzle!

    @Relixh x - I was totally bored at the beginnings of all three books actually. But Dragon Tattoo gets really good quickly, Played With Fire takes a bit longer but eventually is good, but Hornet's Nest just kept right on sucking, in my view.

  6. Well said! I haven't been enticed by this series enough to take a crack at it, though I've always wondered if I should. After reading your mediocre --> disappointing reviews (meaning you found the books to be so, not that I found your reviews to be so) I don't think I'll bother with these.


  7. I thought this was a good ending to the trilogy. The main story which interested me was the court room drama and how Salander got the system working with her and not against her (which was largely her fault). If I remember correctly the ending was rushed but Larsson did a fine job with this book, in my opinion.

    I read this book about a year ago but the one thing which stands in my mind is the blatant activism.

    My thoughts are here:

  8. I've seen the Swedish movies! (They are a monstrous hit in Canada). I preferred the two first segments also, number three took for granted that the viewer/reader had a strong emotional connection with Lisbeth Salander. (Which btw, Noomi Rapace really nails)

  9. I'm going to be the odd one out here - I think this was actually my favorite book of the trilogy. I slept through most of the second novel, which colored my memories of the first negatively (that and all the women Blomkvist slept with in the first book), but this one worked for me even with the heroine laying in bed for most of the novel and knowing what blomkvist was trying to figure out through the whole novel and all the side plots that weren't always "necessary" in the strictest sense of the word.

    it also helped that i read this on vacation and it was my only reading material for the trip. i either had to enjoy the thing or go two weeks without anything to read, so i think i read it with a less critical eye than i normally would have.

    -- ellen

  10. I didn't like the last one when I first closed the book, and as I started to think about it later and have more time away from it, I realized that I actually really, really hated it. I mean, what was the deal with Mikael and the tall cop lady? Could. Not. Stand. It.

  11. I agree with your ratings and your take 100%. I just finished Hornet's Nest a few days ago and I was thinking the exact same things - Erika's side story would have made a good short novel by itself (outside the Millennium world, of course), the thrills were rare and scattered and that there were too many characters and side stories to actually care any longer.

  12. I'm midst of Playing With Fire at the moment but have heard some similar disappointment vibes about Hornet's Nest elsewhere. I'll probably be able to make my mind up once I finish the entire trilogy but don't feel too bad about reading Stieg there,Greg-at least it gave you something to write about on the blog for a while,right?

  13. @Connie - Thanks for clarifying the subject of your adjectives. ;)

    @Man - The thing is, though, it wasn't supposed to be the end. I read somewhere that Stieg had planned up to 10 novels in the series, so it's a false ending, with still a lot of unanswered questions. Presumably some of the other novels would've dealt with Lisbeth's twin sister. Also, will Blomqvist's romance continue? Etc., etc.

    @Ben - Just watched Played With Fire last night, and am going to watch Hornet's Nest tonight. Like the books, I enjoyed the movie version of Dragon Tattoo best so far. But I do agree that Noomi is awesome!

    @fatbooks - Interesting theory on the vacation thing. I actually read Dragon Tattoo while on vacation, so maybe that's why it's my favorite. Hmmm....

    @Coffee - That romance is so freakin' improbable, and was so hilariously rendered (What I want to do now is take you home and undress you, she says). Just awful. Besides that, there's no way in hell those Constitutional Protection folks would've let Blomqvist in on their investigation, even if they did have information to share.

    @Biblibio - Yeah, it seemed like Stieg just got in over his head on this one - like he realized there wasn't much intrigue, so he kept introducing subplots, which meant he needed new characters and new ways for it all to come together, and therefore lost control of his novel. There's a good novel in there somewhere - it just too hard to locate it.

    @lady t - This is true - I've boring my non-Millennium-Trilogy-reader readers for the better part of two months now. When you get to the end of Played With Fire, it's almost hard not to jump right into Hornet's Nest, as they're really the same novel. Only the second part isn't nearly as good.

  14. The movies are so much better than the books. So much of the side crap gets edited out. Blomkvist isn't sleeping with everything that moves. Noomi Rapace is so amazing as Lisbeth. If I had to choose one of the books, it would be Girl Who Played with Fire, even though I thought it was stupid that Larson had Blomkvist get involved with Harriet Vanger.

  15. Your review is exactly how I feel after just finishing the last book, couldn't have said it better myself. I actually skipped and skimmed, something I rarely do. Disappointing to say the least! Loved the first two so much.