This is it. The final frontier. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the last Stieg Larsson novel. Sure, there are rumors of a partially finished fourth installment (Larsson intended at least ten novels) featuring dynamic duo Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkivst. There's a bitter battle raging in the courts between Larsson's long-time romantic partner, Eva Gabrielsson, and his father and brother, who have inherited his estate. (Read more here.) Until this is resolved, it's unlikely we'll see much of Larsson's unpublished work. In the future, we might get to read Larson's early work in science fiction and his nonfiction essay and books. And we can always read about Larsson, that media darling, because he's now the subject of tons of biographies.
Since his untimely death in 2004, Stieg Larsson has been haunting the bestseller list and popular media worldwide. Sweden has already produced a trilogy of films based on the novels, and now Hollywood is taking a crack at them with recent James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, set to play Blomkvist, and newcomer Rooney Mara to play Salander.
Stephen King calls the trilogy "a relentless, unputdownable narrative" (source), and we totally agree. This, the final installment, picks up right where The Girl Who Played With Fire ends. While Salander is in the hospital recovering from being shot in the head by her dad, she must hack up a storm to clear her name and win back the freedom that was stolen from her. Part spy novel, part social commentary, part parody, this novel neatly ties off most of the threads of Salander's saga, but leaves lots of tantalizing threads dangling for us to speculate on for years to come.
Will keep us together
We could steal time
Just for one day
We can be Heroes
For ever and ever
What d'you say
- David Bowie, "Heroes"
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, notoriously tone-deaf, unmusical Lisbeth Salander (who is maybe the biggest reason to care about this book) uses lyrics from Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" as inspiration. So, we decided Bowie could only improve the situation here. Plus, this song points to a good reason to care about this book: it has the potential to inspire us to get in touch with our inner heroes.
OK, you are probably somewhat familiar with the literary genre known as the chivalric romance passed down from medieval times. If knights with fantastic abilities having adventures, slaying dragons, and saving damsels in distress come to your mind, then you've got it. If you're thinking King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, you've got it. If you're thinking of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, then you see how influential these early romances are.
You might also know that in the early 1600s Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote, one of the most influential novels of all time. Cervantes parodies the chivalric romance, and turns it into social and political commentary (satire). We lit lovers appreciate his work's rich in irony, wordplay, and allusion. Cervantes also tried to give women substantial roles – though his depictions of women are a topic of continuing debate.
Larsson is clearly following in Cervantes' tradition. When Blomkvist puts together the army of people needed to help Lisbeth Salander he says, "When this is all over, I'm going to found an association called 'The Knights of the Idiots Table,' and its sole purpose is to tell stories about Lisbeth Salander" (7.10). We can see all the hallmarks of the chivalric romance – fantastical adventures, violent battles, romances, heroes with almost supernatural powers, and communities in peril due to gruesome monsters that the heroes must take down.
But unlike the early chivalric romances, heroes in Stieg Larsson novels are both boys and girls, and they are all around us – they are us, the ordinary people who really aren't so ordinary. This is a major aspect of Don Quixote, the idea that we are all heroes. The Blomkvist-Salander trilogy can be looked at as updated versions of Don Quixote, with enhanced technology and contemporary perspectives on social justice and gender roles in society. So, if you get to the end of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and crave something similar, might we suggest the 400-year-old classic?