Having loved the Stieg Larson books which were hugely successful and resulted in movies in both English and Swedish, I felt ambivalent learning someone else had taken over responsibility for continuing the tale after Larson’s unexpected death. Uber-hacker extraordinaire (and so much more) Lisbeth Salander and journalist-with-a social-conscience Mikael Blomkvist were so much Larson’s creation and so original. Nonetheless, I downloaded the book when it came out a couple of months ago and its been sitting on my kindle till work and other books permitted me a look, a look I was still reluctant to take. Well….
Scanning the reviews on Goodreads after finishing the novel, I feel like some folk read a different book to me (mind you, I often feel that way when reading or discovering other people’s responses to books – it’s why I love both reading and writing so much – how one person’s pleasure can be another’s opposite – it’s just hard when you’re the author and people don’t like your novel – actually, “hard” doesn’t begin to describe it – it’s beyond gut-wrenching, but also as it is and should be. Can you imagine how boring life would be, and how dull art (in its broadest sense), if we all responded the same way to the same things?). Anyway, I digress. In short, I could barely get my nose out of this new addition to the Millennium series.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz is superb. Some have complained the initial pace of the novel is slow. I didn’t find it that way as I not only loved being reintroduced to the characters I’d grown so fond of years earlier, but I enjoyed the gradual unfolding of the plot. Complicated, in style it’s analogous to the action and motives of some of the characters, the various groups they belong to – whether they’re hackers or legitimate IT specialists – all of whom are trying to navigate and either expose or conceal the secrets of “dark web” and seeking personal and professional gain and glory. For quite a while into the book, the reader remains in the dark as to what the purpose of the story is – what role exactly Mikael and Lisbeth will play. In fact, the story is a little way in before they even appear.
Instead, we’re introduced to new characters: an anti-social but brilliant Professor, Frans Balder, who is working on an AI that will supersede the human mind, his severely autistic son, August, his abused ex-wife and her narcissistic and violent partner and a range of other people.
All these introductions are essential and the back-stories hinted at before being revealed completely relevant, so when the tale proper begins, a tale of espionage, industrial secrets, betrayal, murder, professional jealousy, carers at stake and a sibling rivalry to counter all, the reader is braced with a semi-context that just begs fleshing out – and this is done with grandeur, depth and fine writing. Then, after once the ground rules are established, the characters placed in position, the novel takes off at beak-neck speed and doesn’t relinquish you until beyond the last page.
If you enjoyed Larson’s books and the wild, brilliant and wonderful Lisbeth, and dedicated, ethical and measured Mikael and want to read more of their adventures, then this is the book for you.