Thursday, June 24, 2010

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

You know the Millennium Trilogy has entered American pop culture when Nora Ephron, film director (Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally), writes an hysterically funny satire in The New Yorker (July 5) entitled "The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut." The humor is completely lost in translation, I won't try to paraphrase, so I urge the reader to enjoy Ephron's oh-so-clever piece at For all but die hard fans, this book suffers a bit from TMI, Ephron gets it right when she mimics a route in Stockholm that sounds like a GPS on steroids - "[Mårtensson] got into his Volvo and drove towards the city but turned off to go across Stora Essingen and Gröndal into Södermalm. He drove down Hornsgatan and across to Bellmansgatan via Brännkyrkagatan. He turned left onto Tavastgatan at the Bishop's Arms pub..." (p. 251). All jesting aside, the Stockholm City Museum offers Millennium Walking Tours, check it out at In fact the Södermalm area south of Folkungagatan ("SoFo," I mean, what else could it be ?) has become the trendsetting epicenter of the city. Get this, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section just did an article (June 20) entitled "Not so Sinister in Stockholm," detailing the M3 neighborhood.

This final volume can be considered the "day of reckoning" on the events that have transpired in M1 and M2. A silent but omnipresent actor enters the stage, the Government, in the form of the Section for Special Analysis (SSA) (p. 82), Säpo's autonomous top secret division, run by some die hard Cold Warriors. Since misinformation is the basis of espionage (p. 144), the author succeeds in building a very complex dialogue - the reader is typically prepped on reality and can see the misinformation propagate. M3 showcases true storytelling mastery. Larsson is making a bigger statement here, related to the constitutional rights of LS and the crime against her for which the State is guilty (p. 279). The SSA is acting outside it's constitutional mandate (p. 281) in a conspiracy. Many readers complain of the protracted discussions of these human rights issues, but Larsson is choosing to use his crime thriller to make a case.
Lisbeth Salander has been compared to Lara Croft (popularized in the 1991 Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider) and such a reference appears in M3 when she is communicating with her hacker partner Plague (p. 240) and an animated Lara Croft-like figure stepped out on her PDA.

Fröken Salander is a poster girl for injustice. Larsson, a self proclaimed feminist makes the case again and again that women have been victimized for, shall we say. Millennia ? As a preface to M3, he posts a little piece about Amazon women (p. 147) and the etymology of the word "Amazon." Later he references the Fon of Dahomey, a women's army in west Africa, finally defeated in 1892.
The book is rife with vigilantism, consider the private investigator Linder - "[Linder] knew that technically she had committed one crime after another this evening, including unlawful restraint and even aggravated kidnapping. She did not care. On the contrary, she felt almost exhilarated." (p. 401).
M3 is about hacking and of course we learn in M1 and M2 that Lisbeth is a hacker extraordinaire, under code name Wasp. So the Palm Tungsten T3 PDA (p. 237) is pictured here as co-star ! Lisbeth is held captive in the hospital or jail for the first 25 chapters of the book. As such her control is truly "action at a distance," all through her PDA, which is smuggled into her hospital room. In the end, all the loose ends are tied together, one could say "Larsson nails it." But, you'll see what I mean.
Post script - I cannot overstate how I enjoyed the reference to Sergio Leone's spaghetti western masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West, as a ring tone for Monica Figuerola's mobile phone (p. 471).

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