The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First, my criticisms of this book:
1. I think he should have named it Coffee and a Sandwich, given the number of times the characters drink coffee and eat sandwiches. Enough already.
2. It contained way too many characters and side plots--I had a hard time keeping all the various (and many, unimportant) characters straight at times. Did he really need to have three investigations (with multiple investigators) going on at once?
3. He included too many unnecessary details such as specifications of each computer and cell phone, IKEA furniture, and expensive coffee makers.
4. For a series about "men who hate women" (the original Swedish title of the first book), why are these books all titled about "girls"? I realize that the term "girl" is widely used in the UK and the rest of Europe, but I find it jarring considering that the book features a kick-ass, spunky, vigilante WOMAN. Yes, she might look like a "girl," but she is most definitely a woman.
5. Beyond the excessive detail, this book (and the first one) desperately needed a kick-ass, spunky, vigilante EDITOR to tighten up the text and hit the "delete" key.
6. I still struggle with the rampant promiscuity in these books--why would a man who presumedly respects women so much sleep with just about every woman he knows, with no apparent long-term attachments? It's not just the men, either--the women are just as promiscuous as the men are.
7. The math theories? I scanned them--quickly. Just not interested. And I wasn't too sure how they fit into the plot, but maybe it's just beyond me. But for her to solve a math puzzle just as she's about to pursue the killers? Come on already!!
8. Did she really have to get a boob job? That makes me have so much less respect for her. But then again, I've never known what it's like to have a flat chest, so I suppose I should not judge her decision too harshly since I cannot walk in her shoes (or bra).
And now for the good:
In many ways, I enjoyed this book more than the first one. A major reason for this is the virtual lack of extreme sexual violence that exists in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I liked learning more about what makes Salander tick (and explode like a bomb), and I understand much more about her simmering anger, character, and inability to form attachments now. Larsson deftly peels back layer upon layer of Salander's history (in addition to many of the other characters).
I think it's clear that Larsson didn't have a whole lot of faith in sibling and parent-child relationships...especially interesting given his own fallout with his nuclear family and their selfish fight with his long-time lover over his now-substantial estate. The only positive parent-child relationship in Larsson's books is Blomkvist's relationship with his sister (although in the beginning of this book we learn she was upset with him for not involving her during his libel trial). Most of the family relationships are bitter, violent, abusive, and sadistic....or just absent (note the complete absence of any mention of Blomkvist's daughter in Book 2).
In spite of this, it was a hell of a good read. Yes, much of it is unrealistic and far-fetched, just as most thrillers are. I won't reveal any spoilers, but suffice it to say that some plot elements are difficult to believe.
The bottom line is that Salander is a great heroine. Yes, she's violent, anti-social, and unfeeling at times. But who wouldn't be, given what she survived as a child? She is a survivor, and I find myself rooting for her.
And now onto the next one, because I don't know how long I can hang off this cliff.
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