The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
”It’s always the wrong people who have the guilty conscience. Those who are really responsible for suffering in the world couldn’t care less. It’s the ones fighting for good who are consumed by remorse.”
David Lagercrantz, a novelist and journalist, was asked to assume responsibility for the continuation of a trilogy of novels that frankly took the publishing industry by storm. The books left readers stunned with the marvelous insanity of the writing. More importantly Stieg Larsson created a character who is forever immortalized as one of the greatest anti-heroes to ever step out of the pages of a book.
It doesn’t surprise me that Lagercrantz is a little afraid of her. Who isn’t? His fear might be reflected in the fact that she is a shadowy figure in the book until about halfway through when she answers a call from Mikael Blomkvist.
”Shut up and listen,” she said.
Ahhh, yes, that’s my girl.
She doesn’t look like much, just an androgynous girl? with piercings, tattoos, and strange hair. She is undersized, but bristles with attitude. The outward appearance is not just for show...it is bone deep. She is blessed/cursed with a photographic memory. She doesn’t have the patience or sympathy for stupidity. She has no time for social niceties. If you were her “friend,” you would see her only when she wanted to be seen. If you are involved with her sexually, you will find that you are not really “involved” with her at all.
But the sex...well...is by all accounts...fantastic.
If you are someone who gets aroused by beating up women or children, you better pray to all that is holy that Salander doesn’t find out who you are because you will find yourself with her boot on your throat wondering how this diminutive creature incapacitated you so quickly. You’ll want to hurt her, but she is capable of not only hurting you physically, but also taking your whole identity away from you.
she is also a hacker. A vengeful hacker, but also a prideful hacker. When she gets the chance to hack the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C., she goes through their system like buttered bread.
All hell breaks loose.
Lagercrantz might have underestimated just how much America would overreact to such a breach of security. In reality, Sweden might have found themselves invaded by Marines, tanks, and Apache helicopters as the Americans turned over every stone looking for someone with the hacker handle WASP.
For the first part of the book, Lagercrantz puts Mikael Blomkvist center stage. It would make sense that he identifies with him since they share a similar profession. Not that I mind spending time with Mikael. Blomkvist, if he were a real person, would give me hope for journalism. He is a person obsessed with the truth. Other journalists either revere him or hate him. He is a target for those that loath him. ”Your uncompromising attitude makes people feel pathetic. Your very existence reminds them just how much they’ve sold out, and the more you’re acclaimed, the punier they themselves appear. When it’s like that the only way they can fight back is by dragging you down.”
Millennium, the magazine he founded, is in trouble. They had to sell out a portion of their ownership to keep the publication afloat, but now those same corporate people who bought them to add some integrity to their own list of titles suddenly want to compromise the integrity of Millennium by adding more human interest material.
For me, now that I’m one of the owners of the publication I work for, the trials and tribulations of a magazine to keep up subscription levels hit home. Any soften of the economy turns subscription renewals into luxuries, not to mention all the competition from free publications online that also erode print subscriptions.
So Blomkvist is in a funk; more is going wrong than is going right. He is spending most of his time, even the time he is supposed to be sleeping, reading Elizabeth George novels one after another. I can relate to that for there is nothing like escaping into the pages of a good book when life becomes TOO BORING, TOO DEPRESSING, TOO REAL.
A call from Frans Balder finally gets Mikael reinvigorated. Balder is a leading expert on Artificial General Intelligence or ”Something with the intelligence of a human being, but the speed and precision of a computer.”
The plot explodes.
It doesn’t take long for Salander and Blomkvist to realize they are working the same problem from different ends of the stick. With her behind the scenes, beyond the law approach to finding out the truth and his unflinching, uncompromising need to expose hypocrisy, the duo form a team that scares everyone from criminal elements, to large corporations, to governments. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between those elements.
There is techno jargon, but Lagercrantz does a great job of explaining everything. He also does a fantastic job talking about autism and savant tendencies in socially compromised children. I thought it was cool that an autistic child becomes an important plotting device. Lagercrantz did not have access to the notes left by Stieg Larsson for continuing the story. This probably was more of a blessing than a curse. Larsson’s, long time girlfriend ( that term seems so out dating and doesn’t quite explain the situation), has been in a legal battle to obtain ownership or rights to Larsson’s unpublished works. It seems the Swedes, so advanced in so many ways, might be lagging behind in the common law aspect of inheritance. I believe that Lagercrantz by using the first three novels as his only source documentation kept himself from being hampered by Larsson in making this novel his own creation.
I read this book in two days. I thought the plot was great. I thought the writing was very good, even if it did lack some of the flair that was such a Larsson trademark. It is hard to wear a dead man’s suit, but I have to say Lagercrantz, even if the jacket was too big in the shoulders or too short in the arms, still managed to make me believe that even as he left the funeral he was leading me back to a new beginning and creating a new life for characters that were relegated to retirement much too early.
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