The Designer’s Drugs: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Anno: 2010

Star Wars really destroyed the concept of the trilogy. George Lucas’ original sci-fi epic is really two tales: the introductions featured in A New Hope, followed by the cliffhanger of The Empire Strikes Back and the resolution of Return of the Jedi. Since the Holy Trilogy came out it seems as though this brand of three-parters has become a dominant form. You have The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, Back to the Future, and the new Star Wars trilogy as examples. In the uncertain and high-risk world of cinema, this is an understandable approach. Yet as it comes to Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – a tale told in books before they were translated to the big screen – the Lucas form of trilogy doesn’t quite work.

Following up on the cliffhangers presented in The Girl Who Played with Fire, (a book which bears more than passing similarities to Empire,) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest concludes the Millenium Trilogy by concerning itself with little more than wrapping up the hanging plot points. The conspiracies set forth in the previous book are expanded upon, yet there’s little sense of danger.

Adding to this are a few more objections. Superhacker Lisbeth Salander, the most compelling character in Larsson’s stories, is largely absent from the proceedings, leaving the straights to untangle her web and detracting from the story’s appeal. Furthermore, there is a completely pointless subplot halfway through involving the stalking of a supporting character. This is Larsson’s biggest misstep in his writing; the stalking plot feels contrived and amateurish, designed to pad the comparatively dry story with cheap intrigue. Finally, the story’s ending could have done without its predictable surprise final confrontation.

On the positive side, Hornet’s Nest is a greater display of Larsson’s skills of multiple characterizations. Though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is centered on Salander and her straight man counterpart Mikael Blomkvist, the following books bring together the perspectives of a large cast of characters in a way that doesn’t wear thin.

Yet ultimately, this book feels incomplete. The easy way to look at this is to assume that Stieg Larsson, who died before any of his books were published, polished this story the least. That may or may not be true, but what seems clear is that his Millenium Trilogy begins with one of the most captivating mysteries of the last decade in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and falls victim to Lucas Trilogy conventions as it moves on. At least there are no Ewoks in this Return of the Jedi.

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