My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As all the reading universe knows, Swedish author Stieg Larsson died before his three books featuring "The Girl" were published and so he never knew what blockbusters the books became. Sad.
Sad, too, were the fans of those books who realized that there would never be another one, but soon the clamor began to find an author to carry on the series. Larsson's brother and father, who, under Swedish law, controlled his estate rather than his domestic partner of many years whom he never married, at length decided to pursue the possibility of continuing the series. They chose another Swedish journalist, David Lagercrantz, to carry it on. Thus, now, more than ten years after Larsson's death, his creation, Lisbeth Salander, lives again in The Girl in the Spider's Web.
But readers dreaming of encountering an exact replica of Larsson's Salander in this book will probably be disappointed with it. Lagercrantz is a very different writer and, frankly, I found some of his prose a bit turgid and overwrought. Moreover, his device of ending every chapter on a cliffhanger began to irritate me a bit after a while. Nevertheless, overall, it was a good reading experience, and, after a bit of a slow start, he certainly kept me turning those pages.
The plot, as usual with these books, is rather complicated, but, of course, the main element of it is the world of hackers - the good hackers vs. the bad hackers. The good hackers, naturally, are the group with which Salander is associated. Though they get off on invading the privacy of corporations and government agencies (including the NSA) right around the world, they do not do it with evil intent. They are interested in righting wrongs and correcting injustices.
On the other side of the equation is a group known as the Spiders and these guys are pure evil. Surprisingly, Lisbeth's twin sister, Camilla, is a part of the Spiders, so we not only have good vs. evil but also twin vs. twin. This does not become apparent, however, until fairly late in the book.
The tale begins with a Swedish professor who had divorced his wife and left his son in her care to take a job with a Silicon Valley tech firm. There, he worked on a project involving self-learning artificial intelligence. But at a certain point, he becomes concerned about his son, who is autistic and mute, and he abandons his job in California and returns to Sweden. He goes to his ex-wife's home and tells her he wants to take custody of their son. She gives him up without an argument.
The professor tries without much luck to connect with his eight-year-old son. He then receives a warning that his life may be in danger and that bad guys may try to steal his research on AI. Alarmed, he contacts journalist Mikael Blomkvist, thinking that if he goes public with some of his research, there will be no reason to attack him. As Blomkvist arrives at the man's apartment to meet with him, a dark figure comes rushing out, and he finds the professor shot to death and his terrified son in shock.
The plot really takes off at this point. Things had not been going well for Bloomkvist and his friends at Millenium magazine, but suddenly he finds himself sitting on top of a huge story that could possibly put him back on top and reverse the fortunes of the magazine. He needs the help of a hacker to get the information he needs for his story, so who's he gonna call? Lisbeth Salander, of course!
My favorite parts of the book were when Lagercrantz was writing about Salander and about the autistic child, August. He seemed to have a real feeling for them. I thought the Bloomkvist parts were less successful, but then I've never been a big Bloomkvist fan. I could never understand why all those beautiful women wanted to tear their clothes off and throw themselves at him whenever they see him.
It turns out that August is a savant whose special abilities are in the world of mathematics and drawing. He is able to draw scenes that he has glimpsed for only a moment, right down to their smallest detail. Bad news for the guy who killed his father while August watched in terror. And bad news for August when the bad guys realize this.
But never mind! Lisbeth Salander is on the job. She connects with August because he reminds her of herself, and it turns out that they do have a lot in common. Salander is one of the good guys whose numerous tattoos and piercings cover a heart of gold and she will protect August come hell or Spiders.
All in all, this was a worthy successor to Larsson. I wonder if there will be more?
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