14 August 2009

The Girl Who Played With Fire

After waiting on tenterhooks since last September (and failing to win an advance copy in every single giveaway I entered), Stieg Larsson's second Millenium volume The Girl Who Played With Fire finally arrived at the store. With an embargo date. Boo. And I was the one that received the packing cases that day - but I couldn't buy it and take it home for a week. Waaaah.

Suffice to say, I didn't die of deprivation. I also tried to savor Larsson's second book (once I was able to buy it on July 28) since I snarfed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I lasted until about page 175 with my "savory" style of reading then gave in and read the rest of it in one go. Yum.

Larsson has a very unique style (or what seems a very unique style to me) in that he describes exactly what a character is doing/buying/eating/wearing/etc. using brand names and prices. It's a bit like the description in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho but where Ellis's description is like a social commentary on consumerism, Larsson's description is like watching a video clip in your head. We all subconsciously notice logos, labels, and prices, so it seems Larsson just includes them in his characterizations (although it is a bit strange reading about Swedes eating at Burger King). The information isn't obtrusive, it's just there, and it adds greatly to the reader's ideas (or supposed ideas) of how certain characters will react in specific situations. I need to call attention to the translator's excellent work in keeping all the Swedish spellings of proper names and place names as well as certain nouns (i.e. tunnelbanna) because that really keeps narrative firmly rooted in Sweden. I also have to thank the editor for providing a few very specific footnotes to provide historical information important to that section of the narrative; a Swedish reader would not need the footnote but those of us with a very poor knowledge of Swedish political history would be at a loss otherwise.

One thing I loved about TGWPWF is how Larsson uses his knowledge of social groups and journalism in Sweden to drive the media frenzy surrounding the homicides of Dag and Mia and the police manhunt for Lisbeth Salander. Larsson pulls no punches; there are police officers who are obviously homophobic and sexist, investigators who leak false and libelous information to the press, and prominent members of society who make considerable use of (and abuse) young women illegally held as sex slaves while pontificating on the need for laws abolishing such behavior.

On one level, TGWPWF is a far less graphic work of fiction than TGWTDT. The violent rape and torture scenes used in the first book are not present in the second; one scene in particular from the first book is used to set up a character in the second book. However, Larsson brings to the forefront the ugliness of the sexual slavery trade and the level of violence purveyors of that trade will use to protect their "business assets" exceeds all logical boundaries. He also makes it very clear that the violence and prejudice of that trade is perptrated by men upon women; the implication is that such sexism and exploitation should not be tolerated and that is also a driving motivation that he gives to Lisbeth in the extreme.

Lisbeth is fast becoming one of my favorite creations in the fictional world. She is tough, self-sufficient, chameleon-like, and the most brilliant hacker in the world. She is also prone to uncontrolled rage and violence toward those who do her harm/would do her harm or seek to harm her loved ones; you do not want to be on the list of those against whom Lisbeth seeks vengeance. She is also one of society's rejects, thought to be mentally ill to the point of requiring lifelong institutionalization, and her uncanny ability to solve mathematical and logic problems is completely innate. Reading TGWTDT I wished we could know more about Lisbeth's life because such an interesting character must have a fantastic background; I got my wish in TGWPWF.

For those who like to read fast-paced mysteries and crime novels, this book (like it's predecessor) acts like a character study for the first 150 or so pages so have patience. Larsson uses his extensive descriptions to build the characters' patterns and world before tearing that world apart and setting the novel's true story in motion. I loved this novel and can barely wait until The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes out in May (or so I have been told).

Current books-in-progress: Foucault's Pendulum, The Pickup (for LbW August) and Frankenstein (for LbW September), The Embers, and Under This Unbroken Sky (for First Look)
Current knitted item: white lingerie top (mine), Kat's red socks (I think there's a pattern problem), I really want to cast on for my sweater that I've had yarn for for one year, and I have a $10 coupon to my LYS (birthday coupon - squeee)
Current movie obsession: Videodrome and Sleuth just arrived via Netflix; I also want to watch Ran and I'm pretty sure I might wind up going to the movies this weekend (movie unkown)
Current iTunes loop: Best 100 Film Classics - with the exception of the love theme from Titanic (*puke*) this is an awesome collection of recordings, and only cost $14
*for some unknown reason, I let this part of my blog slip into the ether in the last 4 months; I like it so I decided to resurrect it

1 comment:

  1. I just got this one today! I loved Girl with Dragon Tattoo and am looking forward to this one.