Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the middle of the late Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. Unlike other series, you know this one will actually end because the author died of a heart attack soon after turning in the manuscripts.

Unlike The Girl with the Dragon Tatto, the form of this novel is not that of a mystery or detective novel, but rather a thriller. What I like about the novel is that the characters definitely changed between the first book and the second. In particular, we learn quite a bit about Salander, the computer hacker protagonist, and she does with her skills very few other protagonists in fiction would do, but in a way that is driven by the logic of her motivations and desires. I found that exceptional, and really enjoyed the plot. Her partner from the first book, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, plays a peripheral part in the story until the second half of the book, where he suddenly joins in the frenzied hunt for Salander.

A friend of mine warned me that the novel ends in a cliff-hanger, and I'd better have the third book handy. The book also starts by spoiling itself, foreshadowing what will happen later, which I thought was a very odd decision. The book also has a very slow setup, where it takes its time getting the plot rolling for the first third. Too much of the book is written in an extremely workmanship manner, describing police procedure in a matter of fact fashion, as though describing a kitchen recipe. The climax is also relatively unbelievable, with characters that take punishing amounts of damage like in a typical Chinese Kung-Fu novel, but still come out swinging.

Nevertheless, as entertainment this relatively thick novel is a lot of fun, and hence comes recommended. It might take a 3 hour flight to get into the plot, but once you do, it relentlessly sucks you in.
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