February 2012: When I first read it almost two years ago, I remember thinking that of the three Millennium books, Hornet's Nest was definitely the weakest, but either because I've really drunk the Kool-Aid by now, or because I've simply ceased to think of Larsson's creation as a fictional world, I liked it much better this time (and I did like it quite a bit before).
As I noted in my first review way back in June 2010, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is much less of a mystery-thriller than books one and two. Instead, TGWKTHN is more of an espionage-thriller. In the first book the big question was 'Who killed Harriet Vanger?" In the second, "Who is Zalachenko?" There isn't really a question in this book. We are treated to answers about The Section before the characters are, so the pleasure in this book, then, is in watching Blomkvist and Co. take down the men who ruined Lisbeth's life piece by piece, and giving her vindication. It's about airing dirty laundry and shaking things clean. And it is immensely satisfying (if a little unwieldy at times).
TGWKTHN is constructed around the trial of Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, Armansky, and several people within the police who believe her to be innocent, and even a faction within the Security Police, all work together to get Salander acquitted and take down the men of The Section, who have been committing crimes against the people of Sweden and infringing on their rights for decades. The build up to the trial is a little slow at times, but it's worth it in the end.
Stuff that I loved:
•All the random bits of Swedish culture and history.
•Everything to do with Salander. I loved her forced recovery period and her reluctant friendship with Dr. Jonasson. (Actually I love it period that so many unlikely people are able to see past her hostile exterior and plant themselves firmly in her corner.)
•Seeing all of the supporting characters we've met join together to kick some old balls.
•Seeing all those self-important wrinkly old white men get what was coming to them.
•Seeing everyone who ever mistreated Salander eat their words during her trial.
•I love that Salander dressed in her Sunday worst for the trial, just to scare the shit out of everyone who was there.
•The last line: "She opened the door wide and let him into her life again."
Stuff that should have been fixed but couldn't because Stieg Larsson is dead, you asshole:
•Blomkvist sleeps with yet ANOTHER woman (that guy is just a manwhore, but at least he's a likable one who is loyal to his friends and never pretends to be otherwise). I guess I like Monica Figuerola okay, but seriously, dude? At least he semi-commits to her at the end, but that might actually upset me more. Maybe I'm just a good old fashioned monogamist, but she isn't Lisbeth, and Blomkvist is hopelessly dense. Probably all of this would have been resolved in all of the books he planned to write afterwards, but he's dead, so that's not happening, and instead I will complain about it on the internet.
•I do not get the whole thing with Berger and the giant newspaper, or her thing with the stalker. it seemed out of place in a book that already needed to be cut for content. I suppose the impulse there was for Millennium to be in even more of a crisis than it already was, so thus we take away all-important Berger, but the book could have done without it.
•I hate that there isn't more.
All in all, this probably deserves four, or four and a half stars, but I don't care about being objective, as I've already stated, so five stars.
June 2010: Although The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is not as tightly structured or frightening as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or The Girl Who Played With Fire, it is nevertheless un-put-down-able (not a word). But I think it's slightly unfair to compare Hornet's Nest to the others for three reasons: 1) Where Dragon Tattoo and Fire were essentially thriller/mysteries, Hornet's Nest is more of an espionage legal thriller. There isn't really a mystery at all, unless you count the question of how Lisbeth Salander could possibly be able to get herself out of the mess she's in as a mystery, that is; 2) If we look at all three books, the first two are essentially set-up (#1 sets up the Blomkvist/Salander meet-cute or whatever so that we will care in #2 when everything goes to Hell for both of them, and the #3 is the conclusion to both of those stories). Conclusions are different by nature and should be judged accordingly; and finally, 3) Stieg Larsson is dead. There's no beating around the bush on that one, and I'm not using it as some sort of get out of jail free card, like oh, cut him some slack coz he dead, or whatever, but the fact remains that he dropped stone cold dead and never told anyone what he wanted done with his manuscripts. They were published post-humously, and who knows what went on with the editing (or didn't go on). From what I understand (and I'm certainly no expert), most writers and editors go through a lengthy process together weeding out the bad or unnecessary and beefing up the good. Larsson never had that chance, and Hornet's Nest being the third and last, logically he spent the least amount of time with it.
With that in mind, I've enjoyed getting lost in this trilogy. It's the kind of writing that makes you forget you're even reading and that forces you to stay up to ungodly hours. And, once again, Larsson managed to deliver an extremely powerful message on behalf of women everywhere, which is basically, don't fuck with us, you two-balled bastards. These books are the whole package. And who knows when I'll find *that* again?