Monday, May 23, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series comes full circle with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, in which our cunning and resilient heroine has her day in court and ceases to suffer in silence. This sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire provides cathartic resolution for both readers and for the character Lisbeth Salander, as all the injustices committed against her from an early age are brought to light in the courtroom.

The “hornet’s nest” refers to the corrupt government branch that worked with Lisbeth’s sociopathic father and targeted her as a witness to his crimes. The branch’s officials do indeed become a swarm of angry hornets, fighting back with sabotage of the trial and attempted assassination, and thus begins a test of loyalty for the ones fighting for Lisbeth: journalist Mikael Blomkvist; his sister Annika Giannini, who becomes Lisbeth’s lawyer; her former employer, Dragan Armansky; and her former guardian and father figure, Holmer Palmgren.

In this volume, Lisbeth—an antisocial, self-serving and fiercely independent woman—grows and matures as she learns to trust her lawyer and others fighting for her cause. She gains some level of introspection and social conscience as she sticks her neck out for others in a way she hasn’t done before. This is a considerable milestone for her character, and readers who have become attached to her will surely follow this maturation process with some relief that she is slowly evolving from a sullen, socially awkward loner into a more responsible citizen.

This novel has previously been criticized for one too many subplots and an overtly convoluted and long-winded plot, but personally I thought it all came together exceptionally well. Larsson cares enough for his characters to tell their individual stories, regardless of whether the details of their lives are integral to the plot, and I believe that’s to be admired. He’s also not afraid to challenge his readers, and he keeps the pages turning with sharp dialogue, unexpected twists and the suspense surrounding Lisbeth’s eventual fate.

One way in which the book’s end is not satisfying is that Lisbeth continues to be an intriguing character, one that readers will want to continue to follow through further trials and tribulations. One gets the sense that her story is not over, that her life will continue once the pages have turned and the book is closed. Larsson has done an impressive thing in creating such a vivid character, one that has resonated with readers the world over. I believe she’s going to live on, one way or another.

I can’t help wondering how many Lisbeths we’ll see on Halloween this year.