I tried to find a thread that rated the latest book you read, like we have one for the latest movie you've seen. But I could only find one about which is your favorite book. If there is already a propper thread for this, be sure to point it out so I can move my post and delete this one.
P.S. Just read the the first and the last paragraph if you find the text too long all in all.
I'm a little behind on my reading, a few parties in which I've been given a lot of books combined with seemingly having less and less free time to read them have made it so that a number of books accumelated on my shelf. When I went on vacation last week I saw an opportunity to take with me one of those neglected books. "The girl who played with fire." If you're not familiar with this book, it's the sequal to "The girl with the dragon tattoo" and is the second book in the 'Millenium' trilogy. Which has already been made into a movie starring Daniël Craig and an earlier movie from Sweden that I haven't watched yet. (Though the first book and the Craig-flic are pretty darn good.)
Off the bat this book is great. Without giving away too much the place where the main characters find themselves in, be it in the world, in the media or in relationship to eachother, is totally in line with their personalities and the events from the last book. This may seem like a dead-give-away for a sequel, but I disagree. It's a necessity, but not a given. Too often a sequel reverts the characters back to a previous state so that the dynamic between the personalities in the book can grow again. Or they change the parameters of the story too much and leave a gap that makes us whonder what happened and how these characters turned out the way they did in the sequel. In the 'Girl who played with fire' there is none of that; the transition is smooth and totally in line.
And regarding the characters themselves; we have the great continuation of the protagonist Salander and the dueteragonist Blomkvist. These grew into great and interesting characters in the first book. Salander is perhaps the best heroïne I've ever seen in books. She's been compared to Laura Croft for adults, but that is doing her short. She is quite unique, hard to describe, intruiging and has a completely different attitude. I would describe her as 'super-sane' rather than insane as most of her antagonists do. However it's this mystery's Watson that I find myself most closely connected to. Blomkvist is less smart but has as much integrity as Salander, his resourcefullness and drive can also be put on par with Salander. Though it's the fact that we get to reflect on Salander through his eyes, that makes the reader bond with this fictional persona. Like Blomkvist we feel Salander is from another world, that she won't let us in. (Even when reading her own thoughts in the book.) But reading Blomkvist's opinion about the girl makes us understand how we feel.
Their dynamic was enjoyable and touching in the first installment. However in the second there has been a fall out and most of the second book revolves around the deuteragonist searching for Salander and trying to prove her innocence from a spoiler that I won't go into here. This in my opinion is a clear metaphor for how Blomkvist is the one who seeks out Salander's companionship and friendship while Salander has never learned to express such emotional links properly and hides behind her own walls. The metaphor may be a bit overtranscendent, but it does not bother the reader at all. Because it fits in the storyline, and the storyline is simply amazing. It takes the lock-in murder case of the first book and turns it into a much faster paced tale. Again, I can't go too much into this for spoiler's sake, but I enjoyed it (even) more than the more 'dark' and 'eerie' sphere of Hedeby Island.
Perhaps my experience differs from that of the average female reader. This is a point I feel should be adressed. As this book can, I think, be categorized as a feminist thriller. At first, I admitt, this put me off to the series. In Dutch, my native language, the first of the books I saw was titled 'Mannen die vrouwen haten'. Which translates into 'Men who hate women'. Which is a pretty prominent part of the series, it would seem. I was afraid that if I'd start reading the book I would find that had pictured all men as disgusting and immoral pigs. (Which is a strawman-vision of feminism I admitt. But not one that I’ve not encountered by some ‘modern feminists’.) And I didn't want to suffer through all that for three entire books. But after seeing the movie, I realized I'd been judging the book by it's cover and that my prejudice was unwarranted. At least, mostly unwarranted.
Men are depicted as both villains and heroes in this series. Stieg Larsson, the deceased author, makes it very painstakingly clear which is which about as soon as we get to know a new persona. From the get-go we know if a character is an immoral creep or if (s)he is one of the good guys/girls. With perhaps the exception of officer Bublanski who is at first portrayed rather vague, but later turns into a more decisive good guy. When the good side’s thoughts are shown we are clearly shown a broad and wide way of thinking and analyzing. With liberal views surfacing quite a lot. While the thoughts of the bad guys are much more focused (on bad things) and much more narrow. This is a good technique to write, but I could have done without all the distracting lines popping in in the bad guy’s brain saying stuff like ‘fucking whore’ and ‘slut’. I get it, they hate women. But I think even most mysagonist assholes won’t think of how a gangster enrolled him semi-against-his-will into a gang for over a page and then blame it on the girl they raped together. Even a mysagonist would in that instance, I think, be more likely to think ‘it’s all the fault of that asshole’ than ‘it’s all the fault of that whore.’ The only exception to this is the blond giant who’se identity I can’t reveal. And that’s pretty much only because his thoughtpattern is quite necessary to be explained in the climax of the book.
For the most part it’s quite clear: either the guy is a clear white knight, or he is an immoral and quite probably criminal bastard. There is no grey area in the ‘Millenium trilogy’ which sounds more drastic than it feels when you read it. It actually works well with Salander’s vision on morality, which is pretty strong. I only wish the same dichotomy could be placed on the female characters. So far in two books I’ve only encountered four unlikeable female characters while unlikeable male and likeable female characters keep piling on. One is one of the women of the Vanger family in the first book, one is old teacher of Salander only mentioned in one paragraph (I think), one is a foster-mom who is also only excplicitly mentioned in one paragraph and one is a relative of Salander that isn’t even shown by the second book, just talked about. For all the other female characters we are to grow sympathy, empathy and respect for their strive. Which we do effectively, Larsson certainly succeeds and shows his great writing skills in this. But I would have thought it a more ‘empowered’ book if women could also have been more prominent as Salander’s adversaries. I’m not saying all should be women, or even most. But the lack of female antagonists is striking and I think a bit unfair. And ultimately, I feel, that’s too bad. Because while the book seems to try and get across the sensible and justified message that society should treat women as full and equal human beings and that we should recognize them and be harsh on mysogany, it dabbles at putting women on a pedestal. It excludes them from parts of human behavior that women, like men, are capable of. It ignores the ‘dark side’ that is in every human being and portrays most women as either morally-high-functioning or as victims of mysogany or both.
But all in all, this is a fantastic book and deserves a 9/10. The writing is swell, the story draws you in. The characters are, for the most part, interesting. The dynamic between Blomkvist and Salander is precious due to it’s scarcity in this installment but both show to be determined and powerfull players in the story even without eachother, though they’ve grown dependend (even if they won’t admit it) through the first book. This sequal was enough to make me dive straight into the third book as soon as I got home.