Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web

I was disappointed when Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy came to an end with no hope of a sequel because of the author's untimely demise. As I have written before, the books were  were my first foray into Swedish crime novels, or Schwedenkrimi, with the violence and  language typical of a thriller taking place in post-modern, post-Christian Europe. Nevertheless, I found Lisbeth Salander, the biker Goth girl, an unusual but compelling heroine. Lisbeth, the product of extreme abuse, despised by "respectable" society, uses internet technology to protect herself and her friends. The finale of the trilogy left me wondering about several points. Would Lisbeth ever truly forgive Mikael Blomquist for returning to Erika? What about Lisbeth's twin sister? Will Erika ever be able to give up Mikael?

Therefore I was happy to see that the Larsson estate had found a writer capable of composing a sequel. Davis Lagercrantz, author of the new Lisbeth book The Girl in the Spider's Web, has done a breathtaking job, not only in taking up where Larsson left off, but in fleshing out the characters, making them richer and deeper. Lagercrantz is actually a more elegant writer than Larsson and makes the story his own while being totally faithful to the original brand. The suspense is as tremendous as in the original books but there is not nearly as much graphic violence and libidinous clutter. I think that the descriptions of Stockholm and the Swedish countryside are more detailed and vibrant; I had a stronger sense of being in a Scandinavian country with the clouds, mist and snow of a stormy November.

The novel opens with Lisbeth hacking into the main terminal of the NSA; at least, we guess it is Lisbeth, but what her motives are remain clouded in mystery for a time. Meanwhile, Mikael is thinking of quitting the Millennium since he has not had a good story in a while; he is also wondering what Lisbeth is doing. He soon finds out. New characters are introduced; at first they appear to have no connection with each other, but that illusion vanishes as the story progresses. The main plot of the novel revolves around an autistic boy who is revealed to be a savant, and Lisbeth ends up trying to save him from an international pack of cyber-gangsters. And that is all I am going to give away. Be prepared to stay up all night reading.

Beneath the surface of the drama are relevant issues of concern for the safety of everyone on earth: what limits need to be on technology to protect the privacy of private citizens? Are there any ethical limits to how far technology will be allowed to go? How do ordinary people protect themselves from online mastermind criminals? How do we protect ourselves from the overzealous watchfulness of our own governments? Such questions are confronted by the various characters, with Lisbeth at the center. But the deeper personal question for Lisbeth is if she will let Mikael back into her life. Share


julygirl said...

Thanks for a great review.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit disappointed with it when compared to the first three books. Check out my review at https://explorerofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/lisbeth-salander-resurrected-book-review-of-the-girl-in-the-spiders-web-by-david-lagercrantz/