Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Report 2/6/14

Currently Reading (fiction): The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson

I read through the resolution of Berger’s stalker subplot, which managed to involve Salander if not be directly related to her story. Again the hacker genius, with minimal resources and the help of her friend Plague, manages to do what no one else could, figure out who was stalking Berger and sending her all those nasty emails. The final resolution was rather dull. Nothing too original or enlightening here. And Salander’s skills with computers and information networks have a magical Deus Ex Machina quality that defies reality. We are told that she (or one of her compatriots) hacked into a computer and retrieved, or deleted or otherwise meddled with the data stored there, but the specifics of how this is done is rather vague. Of course we don’t really want to complicate an irrelevant subplot by adding exposition on the exact methods of the hack, but for the sake of reality these efforts might on occasion fail, or require more work and time than they appear to. And again, with this particular subplot, involving Salander does not make it relevant to the main plot. Sure the connection with Berger allowed her to warn Blomkvist about a secret meeting between the psychiatrist Teleborian and an intelligence operative, but that’s too weak a connection to justify padding such a long novel with a generally pointless subplot.

Currently Reading (nonfiction): Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

LeDuff continues his examination of the physical, psychological and political decline of Detroit in a manner that remains very personal (for the author).  He rides along with on a fire truck through a city that many of the residents seem eager to burn down, observing firefighters who do their best to extinguish fires with dilapidated equipment and little support from the city’s leaders. He continues to examine the corruption of local elected officials, many who come off as cartoon characters. They are almost as incompetent at being corrupt as they are running the city. He observes a coffin being removed from a cemetery, because even the dead are moving out of the city and into the suburbs, something he calls ‘dead flight’. Yet somehow, even as the facts presented point only to inevitable doom, there is a tone of optimism in the narrative, as if both the author and the people he writes about believe that there is still hope for the city. Then again, you don’t complete an autopsy on something that still has a chance to live.

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