on January 25, 2009
In THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, the second volume in the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, publisher Mikael Blomkvist and the police are conducting parallel investigations into three horrifying murders -- and their initial evidence points straight at young computer genius and social misfit Lisbeth Salander. Kalle Bastard Blomkvist (as Salander has begun referring to him) hasn't seen Salander in nearly two years, except for one night when he happened to witness a huge man attempting to kidnap her and both she and the attacker eluded him. He's bewildered about why she cut him off cold, but had accepted her decision -- until now. He doesn't believe Salander killed these victims. Well, at least not two of them. He has to contact her, find out how she's become embroiled in this, and help her. Salander, as usual, has her own ideas about who she'll see and when....
In THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Larsson partnered Blomkvist and Salander as they unraveled a twisted tale of corporate greed, Fascist connections, and perverse sex and violence. FIRE highlights another subject on which Larsson wanted to shine light, namely the underbelly of the sex trade, a swill of human misery being forcibly imposed for money and simple loathing of women. Blomkvist's magazine, Millennium, plans an issue devoted to the subject based on the interviews and reporting of a criminologist and a journalist, and there follows much in-house discussion of the lurid material and how it should be presented to the public. But the three murders turn the magazine and its people on their heads.
Meanwhile, Salander travels, changes her appearance, and matures in the early chapters of the 569-page book that covers four months in total and is told in four parts. Among her pursuits: attempting to proof Fermat's Last Theorem in a way Fermat himself might have done, furnishing her new abode, and keeping tabs on Bjurman (whom, recall, she memorably tattooed in DRAGON). Then, she disappears for quite a spell as the murder investigation gets cranking, and finally, she regains the spotlight as the book rushes headlong into a heart-stopping denouement.
The last book in this series -- tentatively entitled THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST in its English translation -- is not scheduled for release until 2010. However, the entire trilogy has already been published in Swedish (naturally), French, and German. Larsson reportedly had planned a ten-volume series. He had written part of the fourth book and had outlined volumes five, six, and seven. Sadly, due to his early death, only the trilogy is complete and will, according to his father, be published. After reading FIRE, the thought creeps in that perhaps the trilogy will not provide closure, and that the reader could be left dangling, unsatisfied. That would be a crying shame because Salander and Blomkvist -- along with other continuing characters -- do burrow themselves deeply into the reader's (at least this reader's) affections. Fortunately, reviewers who have read, in the other aforementioned languages, the entire story arc, including the final novel, seem generally very satisfied. Some claim that the last book, also the longest, is a grand finale that answers all outstanding questions. A few are less effusive, stating that the last book can't meet the anticipatory heights set by the stunning, unusual first one.
This last criticism can be applied to the second book as well. FIRE does not pack quite the punch of uniqueness that DRAGON did. One can perhaps think of the movie trilogy THE MATRIX, MATRIX RELOADED, and THE MATRIX REVOLUTION as an analogy. The smash introductory film awed with its mind-bending perspective. The second and third passes were very solid, even amazing, partners, but they only reiterated the cutting-edge magic so novel in The MATRIX, building on it, not inventing something mind-blowingly fresh. Familiarity takes a bit of the bloom off the rose, but it certainly doesn't breed contempt in these instances. Larsson's FIRE lags a little during the mid-section in which criminal investigation procedure grinds along and the author belabors certain points, seeming to believe his readers novices at crime mysteries. But overall, FIRE accelerates the enthralling story of Lisbeth and Mikael with panache. One can't help thinking the world they inhabit is too slimy, too vicious, but Larsson was a man with many crusades and causes, and his trilogy vividly paints the harsh pictures of society that he hoped to reform. The Millennium Trilogy encompasses uncompromising social critique; prickling thrills; and curious, bittersweet romance. FIRE drew me like a moth, and I can't wait to get my hands on HORNET. 4.4 stars.
on April 13, 2009
I found this book to be a solid sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in fact, I may have liked it ever better than the first.
In this book we learn more about Salander. Skillfully exposed throughout the course of the novel, bits and pieces of her background appear until by the end a full picture has emerged. Some statisfying, some not so satisfying. A couple points easily guessed early on.
She's a fascinating character, and the parts about her were my favorite in the book, (even the parts that were seemingly plot irrelevant and never resolved). She's a smart, strong, flawed underdog, and you can't help rooting for her.
This book tackles a lot of topics. Sex trade, the media, police corruption, authority abuse, on and on. I like it because it keeps it interesting, but sometimes it was all over the board. Especially interesting to me is learning more about Swedish culture throughout the course of the book.
What's best about the book is the pace. It kept me captivated throughout the 569 pages (in my copy), and I couldn't go to bed until I finished. It's a well-done thriller.
Incidentally, I didn't find that you needed to have read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo first, but certainly that would be preferable.
Looking forward to the 3rd, and sad that it will be the last. This is a really interesting series.
on April 22, 2009
This is the second book in the Millenium series created by Stieg Larsson. The plot revolves around the human and sex trafficing industry in Sweden and the murder of three individuals with connections to the Lisbeth Salander character.
I found this to be a pleasing (yet inferior) sequel to "Dragon". While one does not need to read Dragon, I would recommend it. For my money it (Dragon) is the superior read.
The Lisbeth Salander character is a very interesting protagonist. When Lisbeth is being written about in The Girl Who Played with Fire, the story seems to move - when she is not, the story drags.
The Mikael Blomqvist, Erica Berger etc. characters and how Steig Larsson created and developed the characters seemed deeper, fresher and have more substance in the first novel. I thought the first book had a better focus, pace, fewer hanging threads, was more intricately plotted and had a better overall story.
With that said, the sequel is a good, not exceptional, read. My recommendation is to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first, then this novel to fully appreciate the world that Steig Larsson created.
on April 6, 2009
This is the second in the late Steig Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. I was so hooked by the first in the series, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," that I decided to send away to www.amazon.co.uk for this sequel, because I was not willing to wait until July for the U.S. release of an English-language version. These days, the pound has been kicked around as badly as the dollar, so I ended up paying largely what I'd pay in the U.S., and the shipping fee was minimal.
I really couldn't wait to crack the 700-page volume to revisit the characters: Mikael Blomqvist, the heroic investigative journalist; Lisbeth Salander, a petite powerhouse afflicted (or gifted) with Asperger's syndrome; Erika Berger, the fearless editor and Blomqvist's sometime bedmate; and the intrepid staff of the magazine, "Millennium." Whereas "Dragon Tattoo" was largely about Blomqvist and his search for a presumed-dead heiress, this sequel focuses squarely on Salander and her difficult adjustment with society. At the end of the first book, she abruptly walks away from the faithless lover Blomqvist. She continues her aversion in "The Girl Who Played with Fire," ignoring him, hanging up on his cell phone calls, tossing out letters, and otherwise pretending he doesn't exist. He's broken her heart and Lisbeth Salander is not one to forgive.
However, she soon learns she needs friends--plenty of them--as an ever-tightening noose of danger tightens around her, made up of her evil legal guardian Nils Bjurman, a cadre of nasty social-service doctors and psychiatrists, some rogue cops, members of a Hells-Angels-like motorcycle gang, and a shadowy figure known only as Zala. When one of Blomqvist's best reporters and his wife, are gunned down, police find Salander's fingerprints on the gun and the hunt is on--with the entire police force, plus the host of the other bad guys after her.
Larsson keeps the pace breathless throughout the story, which hinges on a seamy sex trafficking trade. Even when he stops to explain what is at stake and how "Millennium" will cover the story, he never slows the movement. You'd think that in a novel of this length there would be myriad subplots, but there really aren't too many threads to follow. Salander's sad past is deconstructed chapter by chapter, and Blomqvist gets to the bottom of police malfeasance and international espionage. But nothing takes the focus off the chase that Salander eludes so brilliantly.
I'm sure there are things that a savvy editor could do to tighten Larsson's prose. He adds a love affair too many and drags out the tense ending to a breaking point. Also, it may not seem odd to Swedes, but Larsson's habit of using the last name for every character becomes extremely confusing, because everyone is an Andersson or an Ericsson or a Nilsson. The sameness becomes mind-boggling. It's impossible to even know the gender of the character.
I know about this problem personally, for my own grandfather changed his last name because there were too many Nilssons in the army. He chose a name that was a little more distinctive. Larsson could have learned a lesson there. Using a few first names now and then also would solve the problem nicely.
But these are nitpicks. I'll be waiting for any news that an English version of the final version of the "Millennium" trilogy is available. These books are just that good.
on December 28, 2008
This is the follow up to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I suggest you read that one first, though this novel is reasonably self-contained.
This book opens with Lisbeth Salander enjoying her newly ripped of wealth lazing in a hotel in Granada. No one knows where she is (as usual), and back in Sweden, Millenium magazine are preparing a an expose of the sex slave business in Sweden. The journalist who is preparing the expose is murdered, along with his partner, and Salander's legal guardian. Salander, now back in Sweden is the prime suspect, and the police hunt is on.
To say things get complicated from this point is an understatement. There are multiple investigations (Salander's of course, the police and Millenium's), multiple suspects, more murders, red herrings galore, and just general mayhem. Dark as all this is, it is actually quite funny in places: the police have no idea at all what is going on, despite a well meaning and competant detective in charge.
This is all tremendous fun for the reader. It is as anything remotely boring (and probably realism suffers) has been left out, yet despite the novels sheer page turning ability, (I read this too fast, I will need to read it again), it still has the power to inform.
So buy it, read it once, and then read it again.
It's a tragedy for world literature that Stieg Larsson is dead, and we'll never have more than three books with Lisbeth Salander as the heroine. She's an absolutely fascinating creation. This is the second book in the series, and every bit as riveting as The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.
In the eyes of Sweden's social services system, Salander is a deeply disturbed person who needs a guardian to supervise her and handle all her affairs. But unbeknownst to the authorities, she's a world-class hacker with a photographic memory, brilliant at chess, wildly rich from an Internet coup - and a vicious fighter. For relaxation, she has sex with men or women, as the spirit moves her, and reads books on spherical astronomy and higher mathematics. All this in a very small package: Salander stands less than five feet tall and weighs 90 pounds.
The plot of this book is too complex and full of twists and shocks to summarize. But to oversimplify, three people are murdered because of a book two of them are writing about sex trafficking, and Salander, by a quirk of circumstantial evidence, becomes the prime suspect.
Salander is in hiding for much of the book, baffling all the cops, well-wishers and thugs looking for her, while doing her own highly irregular detective work.
In her twenty-five years of life, Salander has come in for a lot of sexual abuse. But she also has a genius for pay back. Her unique display of brains and aggression is utterly satisfying.
The characters in this book are wonderfully drawn, the pace breathtaking and the fight scenes terrific. I can't wait to read the third book in the series.
on June 2, 2010
This is not really a full review as much as a critique of an aspect of this book which drove me crazy. Why is it that in airplane novels everyone has to be not just good at something, but superhuman in every way. I read the first book of the trilogy and thought it was implausible, but ok. I didn't buy that a 20 year old middle school dropout with aspbergers could actually be a world renowned hacker, but whatever. In the follow-up, she is not just the world's best hacker (there is no system she cannot break!), she is also a world-class boxer (at 90 pounds, no less), a master of disguise rivaling James Bond, a chess grandmaster, an unparalelled math genius (she solves Fermat's Last Theorum in her head...seriously), and a billionaire white collar criminal. She's kind of like a genetically-modified Rain Man on steroids.
This just drives me bonkers. I would really like to see what would happen if you put Lisbeth Salander up against Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan - after all, he was a Navy SEAL, saved the world at least twice, and eventually became president (he filled the role with honor and humility). It would be like one of those irresolvable debates that 10 year olds have about whether Superman could beat up Batman.
In all seriousness, this convention made this novel really more of a comic book than a read for serious adults. The ultimate effect on me was that I found the book to be juvenille and felt silly reading it.
on May 19, 2010
***SPOILER WARNING ***
I could be wrong, but this book has all the tell-tale signs of an author who has written a hot debut and then gets pressured into rushing a second book to market long before it's ready. It virtually screams out for an angry editor in a bad mood, with its almost-700 pages of rambling back stories, an unceasing stream of extraneous and crudely drawn characters, ridiculously implausible and irrelevant situations, and deus ex machinas raining from the sky. This is like a graphic novel without the pictures.
A disfigured and irredeemably sadistic madman? A gigantic, soulless henchman who conveniently can't feel pain? A world-famous ex-boxer who shows up for no other purpose than to get in a fight that has absolutely no bearing on the plot? A protagonist who is declared dead and then RISES FROM A SHALLOW GRAVE TO SEEK REVENGE UPON HER PERSECUTORS? (Huh? What? You mean... she wasn't... really dead? Who could have IMAGINED that an author might hesitate to snuff out the titular character of his series?)
This plot would be laughed out of any beginner's fiction-writing class. I wish the author was still with us so I could ask why he presumes his readers are this stupid. (Although, reading some of these four- and five-star reviews, he may have been onto something.)
Okay, we GET it. Salander is brilliant. Really, REALLY brilliant. Like, so unbelievably brilliant you mere mortal readerss can't even, like, grasp how brilliant she is. Yeah, Stieg? I got it when you said she has a photographic memory; I got it when she single-handedly pulled off a multinational bank scam and stole millions of kroners; I got it when she invented the software necessary to hack into a major security firm AND police headquarters; why do I need to read endless pages of her effortlessly cracking complex theoretical math problems and THEN have to hear the history of Fermat's theorem, with the added bonus of learning that she solves it in the midst of also solving baffling crimes? Can't wait for the next exciting installment, in which Lisbeth Salander resolves the unified field theory while wiping out whole armies of cyborg ninja pedophiles.
Sorry for the sarcasm fest, fans. This is just bad. I enjoyed "Dragon Tattoo," despite its flaws, but this one has me thinking twice about coughing up money for a third, especially with a monumentally absurd non-ending that might as well have been titled... "to be continued."
In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander electrified the story, even though she had a relatively small part in the plot; here, in the second novel of the series, she is given center stage to Blomkvist's secondary role, making The Girl Who Played With Fire much tauter, more exciting than the first book. Larsson begins to expose what makes Salander tick, and the result gives her character an interesting vulnerability, one that makes her more human and less crazy.
But let's get one thing straight; even with the more humanizing portrait, you would not want to corner Salander in a dark alley. Nor do you want to give her access to your computer. She is every bit as gritty and clever as she was in the first, and her stark determination to live by her own moral code drives the plot. When a journalist working for Blomkvist and Berger and his PhD candidate girlfriend are murdered, it's bad enough, but when those murders are linked to that of Salander's sadomasochistic guardian, Salander becomes the only suspect. On the lam, she seems to make no attempt to clear her name and instead gets in deeper. Throw in a "blond giant" (similar in many ways to the albino monk of The DaVinci Code), the seedy underpinnings of the sex trade, and returning characters, and you've got a suspenseful, likable, satisfying thriller.
As a pure thriller, The Girl Who Played With Fire is stronger than its predecessor because it has fewer meandering subplots, more unrelenting suspense, and more deftly drawn characters, even if Larsson occasionally resorts to types. The author seems to have found his narrative stride with this. If you liked the first, you'll love the second. I just hope Larssen's third manuscript was polished enough before he passed away to build on his already finely-tuned skills as a novelist.
-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
on May 11, 2012
I couldn't get past 12% on my Kindle.
I usually read mostly fantasy (which means I am used to descriptions and lengthy reading), but I enjoyed the movie from the first book and decided to try this one as a book. And what happened during those 12%? Laundry-list type descriptions, about the Powerbook, about the zip file she downloads for 370kb or 390kb, the useless description of what she buys at the grocery store, the trip to Ikea with the name of every item she buys, etc. etc. Mostly page after page of filler rather than an actual story. I put the book down, annoyed by the Ikea description, then picked it back up the next evening, read a few lines and decided I'd rather sleep than continue reading the Ikea catalog.
This was terribly in need of some serious editing and cutting, and it seems to be a lot better suited to a movie, where some of those details can be put in casually without boring the reader page after page. It just feels like complete amateur writing to me.
Just cannot read this, a waste of $10.