Monday, October 31, 2011

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Book Review

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.

This is the second in the series and is just as long as the first. I finished the first book of the series a couple of weeks ago, but it was now time to move this series along.

And hopefully the violence would be a little bit in my face this time. I'm not a fan of violence in any form.

But then again, I know that this series is predicated on the presence of violence in the world.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

I wanted to like this book. I really did.

I had liked the first book, in spite of all the violence. It was complex, intriguing, and I wanted to keep reading. This second book was definitely complex, but I wasn't quite as intrigued. Luckily, there were a few surprises for me and I wanted to continue reading.

This book opens with what turns out to be an odd interlude that apparently doesn't connect with anything else, either in this book or in the first book.  I can only hope it connects somehow with the third book.

I'm continually reminding myself and making allowances that these books were published posthumously. They need editing. Lots of editing. The kind of editing that only the author could authorize. No pun intended.

One example of needed editing is the long list of IKEA furniture names. It feels like the author sat with an open catalog on his knee while he typed those paragraphs. Irrelevant. The names of the pieces of furniture are irrelevant. And annoying. If I had been ask to edit this book, those would have been the first to go.

Again, this book is deeply rooted in Sweden. The author relies heavily on the Swedish names of locations and streets and buildings. Rightly so, for a Swedish book. Unfortunately, as an American reading, I'm hopelessly unfamiliar with all of them and have a hard time distinguishing between them. I can hope that if the author had lived to see them published in America, he might have opted to edit and revise his reliance on place names.

Going hand in hand with the Swedish locations is the author's use of Swedish names. The cast of characters is large and it is very difficult to keep them straight. Usually when this happens, I can rely on some distinguishing characteristics or unique names to keep them all memorable. Not so here. I found that I was constantly and continually struggling with figuring out which name belonged to which character and which was involved in the current action. Several of the names were very similar, and while this is probably quite realistic, I struggled with the similarities.

On the up side, this book had far less first-person violence. This was a relief, but there was still plenty and more than I care for. Some of the violence seemed a bit over the top. Where the first book pushed the limits on sheer quantity of violent acts, this book pushed the limits of believability. At least we are spared getting more frequent acts of violence.

The first book made a prominent show of the protagonist's relationship with Erika Berger, but that relationship was almost non-existant in this book. This seemed odd. That relationship played a pivotal role in the ending of the first book as it relates to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, we see almost none of it. Maybe it will be explained in the third book.

It was nice to see at least two unexplained things from first book cleared up. We get to learn the specifics of Girl's early childhood (which explains how her life has unfolded since then) and where money went at the end of the first book. That money plays a key role here and enables our characters to carry on in their characteristic ways.

In a very general way I liked this book, mostly due to the established characters and wanting to know what happens next. That's good. That's what authors want us readers to want.  But I certainly did not like Plays with Fire as much as Dragon Tattoo, when things were new and shiny. Still, I liked the lesser amount of violence and certainly the author is extremely adept at pulling frayed plot lines back together and knotting them. Without that, this story would have completely unraveled.

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