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The Girl in the Spider's Web - Book Review

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Published October 21st 2015
Rejoice, Lisbeth Salander is back
Lisbeth Salander is back with a new adventure, this time written by David Lagercrantz of I am Zlatan fame.

Series continues: David Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web picks up the thread where the Late Stieg Larsson left off in 2004, but falls slightly short.

Lagercrantz was chosen by the executors of the late Stieg Larsson's estate to continue the Millennium series, much to the chagrin of Larsson's fiancee, Eva Gabrielsson, who possesses the drafts of several manuscripts on her computer. To prevent leakage of his manuscript, Lagercrantz worked on it from a computer that was disconnected from the Internet. The result of his effort is The Girl in the Spider's Web.

In this book, Lisbeth Salander hacks into the severs of the United States National Security Agency after discovering that a rogue faction at the NSA may be working hand-in-glove with a criminal organisation led by her estranged sister, Camilla. Following the group's murder of a brilliant Swedish scientist, celebrated journalist Mikael Blomkvist becomes involved. His Millennium magazine has fallen on hard times and he is in desperate need of a scoop.

Most of the characters from the original Millennium trilogy make a return in The Girl in the Spider's Web. However, this book is far from what Larsson had envisioned before his death in 2004. In fact, Gabrielsson went as far as to invoke an old Viking curse on those who have made their fortunes from her partner's name. It seems quite likely that she could be an uncredited co-author of the first three books in the series, as some parts could only be written from a woman's point of view. That would have put Larsson and Gabrielsson in the same league as Lars Kepler and Adam Sarafis.

Indeed, there are strong differences between Larsson and Lagercrantz, despite both of their origins in the journalistic profession. Larsson was the founder of the left-leaning Expo magazine, and Millennium is supposed to be a parody of it. Blomkvist's character is likely representative of Larsson's normal self, while Salander could be his dark and wild side. Larsson was also among a group of Swedish writers who fearlessly inserted their left-wing views into the novels they wrote.

Lagercrantz, on the other hand, was a mainstream journalist. Most mainstream media outlets are either government-controlled or dominated by big business interests, hence they are usually reluctant to push boundaries of free expression or publish articles that result from in-depth investigation of questionable persons. Early in The Girl in the Spider's Web, Millennium is the subject of a takeover bid by a major publishing group, hence the pressure on Blomkvist. This problem is a real-life issue that many newspapers are facing in the modern age.

While the villains in the earlier Millennium books written by Larsson had relatively strong voices, Lagercrantz has made Camilla and her minions seem rather one-dimensional. Larsson's version of Salander can be compared to Modesty Blaise, while Lagercrantz's depiction of the same character seems to have been influenced by Marvel's Ant-Man. The climax of The Girl in the Spider's Web appears to have been lifted from one of the Marvel comics, not to mention that Lagercrantz takes great liberties with his knowledge of the Marvel Universe.

The overall plot of The Girl in the Spider's Web seems inspired by A Swedish Genius, another of Lagercrantz's works. On the whole, it falls slightly short of Larsson's benchmark, which had been set by The Girl who Played with Fire. Nonetheless, hardcore Millennium fans would love it.
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