Friday, November 4, 2011

Lisbeth Salander with a British accent? I think not

If you love Stieg Larsson's novels, may I suggest not attempting to listen to them.

I discovered, while listening to the more than a day's worth of audio that comprises Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," that there are some novels that really don't lend themselves to audiobook.

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I like to entertain myself on long car trips by getting in a little "reading." I chose Larsson's novel as an option for a 28-hour roundtrip to St. Louis recently. But it didn't make the cut.

So I started listening to it on a shorter trip - a three-hour tour as Gilligan might say. And when that trip was done, I still had nearly a day's worth of book to listen to.

I thought, "No problem. I'll just listen when I'm in the car on shorter trips and maybe before I go to bed or while I'm working at my desk and I'll have this book back to Pottstown Regional Public Library in no time."

Well, two renewals and two additional $1 rental fees later, I did finish the novel, which was every bit as exciting as the first two in the trilogy. It's fascinating writing, in that it's such a different kind of thriller than I've read before.

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" was Larsson's final book in his Millenium thriller/mystery trilogy, which included "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl who Played with Fire."

While the story, which follows the outlandish escapades of unlikely Swedish friends Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, is the same (completely unabridged) in audio as it is in print, I've concluded that any of Larsson's Millenium books - are best read as words on paper. I don't even think the movies do them justice (the original Swedish versions of the movies, that is).

"Hornet's Nest" is 563 pages in print (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010), which translates to 16 CDs - a whopping 25 hours and 13 minutes of audio.

The audiobook is read by British actor Simon Vance, who narrates the first two Millenium novels as well and is quite an accomplished voice actor. (Click here to hear Vance's voice on a YouTube clip from the "Hornet's Nest"audiobook.)

But, I have to say, it jarred with my vision of the story and its characters to hear it told with a British accent. Blomkvist, Salander ... all the Swedish folks who populate the book seemed wrong as Britons. To me.

I don't claim it would've been better read by an American. I'm just saying there was a certain disconnect there for me. It was also more difficult for me to keep straight in my mind the host of characters, of which there are many.

Shame on me. I should have read the actual book. In print.

That said, I recommend the Millenium books for anyone. I think I preferred the third book, as I've heard others say as well, possibly because I had the benefit of the knowledge of the first two. The late author was very clever indeed to come up with this tale, with all its plots and subplots and general intrigue. Indeed, the writing can be cold and the situations violent, the but the underlying story is genius.

Below is the plot summary of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" from the official Stieg Larsson, "where Stieg Larsson's spirit lives."

Two seriously injured people arrive at the emergency ward of the Sahlgrensa hospital in Gothenburg. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is Alexander Zalachenko, an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe.

In this third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth is planning her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and even more importantly, revenge against the government which nearly destroyed her life. But first she must escape from the intensive care unit and exculpate her name from the charges of murder that hangs over her head.

In order to succeed with the latter, Lisbeth will need the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He is writing an exposing article that will shake the Swedish government, the secret service and the whole country by its foundations. Finally there is a chance for Lisbeth Salander to put her past behind her and finally there is a chance for truth and justice to prevail.

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