Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web

After finishing Stieg Larsson's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium) series, I was pretty much ruined on books for about two years.  Nothing I picked up was quite as exciting, edge-of-your-seat reading, as those three books were.  There are various opinions on this, but I personally thought the first in the series was outstanding, and then they got better from there.  By the time I got to the end of  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, I sat upright, rocking back and forth, legs shaking with anticipation on how it was all going to end.  If I were to have one complaint about those three books it would be that all three started painfully slow.  The first 100 pages of each book spent time on a backstory that was a bit confusing until it linked with the story later in the books, but it was a nonissue as the book moved very quickly after that.
Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, leaving the series' first three manuscripts finished on his computer.  Those were published beginning in 2008 by his girlfriend.  Supposedly, three-fourths of the fourth novel as well parts of a fifth and sixth novel were also left on his computer.  His girlfriend had wanted to complete and publish the fourth book, but since the couple was not married Larsson's estranged father and brother held the rights the series instead.  The family hired author David Lagercrantz to pen a fourth novel to the series.  He did not have any access to Larsson's unfinished manuscript.  His book was released here in September of this year.
The reviews on Amazon before the book had even been published (several precautions were made to keep the book from leaking ahead of time) were mostly scathing.  Many people were against the family taking control of the series as that was not what Larsson intended and seemed to be giving it bad reviews out of principle.  Regardless, a fourth book in the series peaked my interest because of how engaging the other three books had been, and that was my reason for picking it for book club.  We had read ...Dragon Tattoo a few years ago for one of our meetings, and everyone in the group had also read the rest of the series.
The Girl in the Spider's Web was an entertaining book.  The beloved main characters Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Bloomkvist were both present.  The story takes place about a year after book three.  Bloomkvist's career and magazine is on a downswing due to the current state of news media.  Salander has been working with an investigative hacking group and is in the midst of gaining access into the depths of NSA's secure servers.  Bloomkvist is contacted by a Silicon Valley computer scientist about a potential story of corruption and espionage.  Of course, this leads him to reach out to Salander who, as it turns out, has been finding evidence of the same in the NSA's servers.   In addition to a couple of murders with a young autistic witness, a member of Salandar's family comes back into her life with nefarious intentions.  The story has A LOT going on.
Once it was published, book reviews by those who had actually read it were quite good, with many saying Lagercratz's writing was a bit tighter than Larsson's. In my opinion, the book was far easier to get into than the other three were, having much less time spent on backstory.  It did jump around quite a bit, but that seemed to be necessary as there were a lot of pieces to the puzzle.  I found the character development to be lacking in comparison to Larsson's development of his characters.  It felt like the author didn't "know" the characters as well.  With that being said, maybe by the fourth book Larsson would have spent less time on the characters than before.  The investigation was current with its link to technology and securities.  Artificial intelligence was a center point of the story, but what that dealt with was only touched upon so it seemed to get lost in the book.  My expectations were high, so while I liked the book, it didn't ruin me for other books either.  There was no sitting upright in bed.  The ending was good but was also far less engaging than the others.  I will say that the author wrapped up this book well while still keeping things open for additional stories in the series.  If I were not comparing it to Larsson's books, this book stands up well on its own.  I do look forward to more books to come.
If you are familiar with the Millennium series there are few things I want to note.  First, Lisbeth Salander clearly falls somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum.  I enjoyed her relationship with young August Balder, the only witness to his father's murder.  He is one of the rare (according to the book) few who exhibits savant capabilities in both math and art.  Salander risks her life to keep him safe and is also the only one who succeeds in getting him to communicate.  That link in the story was significant.
Salander has also been the victim of violence by several men in her life, men who were supposed to protect her.  She, in turn, has exacted violent revenge on those attackers throughout the series and has stood up for others using similar tactics.  During one scene in the book, she confronts someone who has had a hand in the corruption (and who has treated women he has hooked up with via the internet very badly) and shares explicit details of what she will do to him.  When he asks if she is insane, she responds, "Probably, yes.  Empathy deficit disorder.  Excessive violence. Something along those lines."  I found that quote quite telling of her personality.  She's been the product of a system that couldn't protect her from violence most of her life and has been told by that system she's empathy deficient when she acts out that revenge.  However, while she is VERY violent, I wouldn't say she lacks empathy.  She just has more empathy for the abused than she does for their abusers.  I think that's why she is a compelling character.


  1. Funny that I knew nothing about this book until just recently, so I'm really glad to get your input on it. Will I read it? Probably not any time soon, but I'm sure I will at some point. If for any reason, because I love the Lisbeth Salander character. I enjoyed the first book in the trilogy (actually preferring both movies, I think- the Swedish version and the American), but loved the second two books!

    I remember all the mess about the girlfriend vs. the family but didn't realize they'd hired someone else to continue the series. I always have my doubts when a different author takes up another's work. But. It sounds like this might be okay. I wonder if it's anything remotely like what Larssen had started?

    I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'll certainly keep it on my radar.

    1. Yes, I wonder too what Larssen's version entailed. I haven't searched to see if the girlfriend has shared anything about it, but it is curious.

    2. I failed to ask... did you do food that related to the theme of the book? Swedish meatballs?! ;)

    3. No, I didn't this time. We have a on-again-off-again vegan and a couple vegetarians in our group and I find it really hard to cook the kinds of things that lend themselves to themes when cooking for various diets. Everything has to be kind of separate and out so each preference can just take what they want. But I did have SNOWFLAKES and I served soup because it was cold and it was cold in the book. :)

    4. And hearing you say this just enforces why I tell my group never to plan anything around my diet. I make a point of having supper before I go, assuming there won't be anything I can eat. That said, last time the hostess had hummus and there's often fresh fruit. (so I feel obligated to have some since they went to the trouble!).

      Personally, I think our group has gotten too wrapped up in the food and we may take a giant step back in that regard when I host next month! ;) I think your snowflakes were the perfect accompaniment for a book set in Scandinavia - better than any food could have been!

  2. It's really a bit rich to be all that much of a purist when what you're dealing with is a translation. But anyhowzies.
    In essence it would've been impossible to add on to the other books. The fat lady had sung. What could they do with them, have the killers come back from the dead.
    I think in part what made the old books was the process of character and plot development that went on 'in' the writing of it. You simply didn't know the next turn. But the pacing you were on about had to be there I feel in order to get you to the top of the slope, in order that you tumbled uncontrollably. You read without too much analysis.
    On the ghost writers. Any ghost writer. I'm not sure how in demand they are to ad to a writers canon. Look at Conan-Doyle or Ian Flemming, there they are focus on the character of Holmes and Bond. How many today actually read either anymore, they imply turn on the TV and the next instalment is unveiled.
    The worry I'd have is if we get a plethora of 'in the style of' gobbled up by a lazy population we get a dilution of the real.
    Answer me this. The books were written and happened to made into a film. Is this one a film script that's been bound.

    1. I will say that this book was translated by a different person than the other three, not surprisingly. And it wasn't nearly as well done as the other three. It wasn't bad by any means, but there were a few awkward moments.
      It's been said a lot of books these days are written with the intention of them becoming films. This one has a lot of parts to the whole and I would think it would be challenging to turn it into a film without major script editing. With that being said, the rights to it were purchased in November - whether or not it'll be made, someone is thinking about it.

    2. Oh, it'll be made right enough. That's where the real money is these days. There're expecting a billion off Star Wars over the first 3, yes three weekends. And if the plotting runs line like the first three the film will be made on shoe string.

      On another matter. I couldn't fathom why I was botching up text. Turning in into spagetti letters. It was the bloody battery running low on the keyboard. It was like your washing machine jingle.

    3. A battery on the keyboard? Is that a wireless keyboard then? I hope it was a battery you had on hand and not one that you've got to order online and wait a week or two to get it. :) Or maybe just a rechargeable fix?
      Yah, the Star Wars franchise has been something hasn't it. People already have tickets, and I know there will be lines to get in to see it for weeks. Other than the first three back in the 70s and 80s, I haven't seen any of the more current ones. It has such a following, I don't know what quality of the films are anymore. People will still go see it, even if only to complain about what the filmmakers did wrong.

  3. I have been on the fence about reading the book.. thanks for the review.

  4. I haven't read the series yet. It is on my list of must read books.