Review - The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, David Lagercrantz
In prison because of her actions taken to rescue a young and troubled child (detailed in the prior novel of the series), Lizbeth Salander is stoically serving her time. As with life outside, the prison environment operates with a delicate balance of power that can tip either way on any given day. These are all niceties that Salander prefers to ignore - unless it serves her own purposes to enter into the messy fray that is prison politics. The killer Benito rules the prison with an iron fist and her latest joy is to torture a young Arab inmate who does not have the defences and skills tha
Happily, we encounter here more of the same winning ingredients once again in THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE. There is the resourceful and charming journalist Blomkvist, the enigmatic and bitingly intelligent hacker Lisbeth Salander, and another action based plot populated with frightening villains. The relationship between the two mains is again reading gold (though we see less of it in this outing) and the dynamic between the two remains the strongest aspect of this now legacy series.
Author David Lagercrantz confidently continues his commissioned task of continuing the Millennium series, two novels in after the death of fellow Swedish author Stieg Larsson. We were all relieved when the previous novel, Lagercrantz’s first Millennium outing, was such a cracker of a read. Larsson’s spectacularly successful trilogy covered a lot of ground and firmly established Salander as an iconic figure of Scandinavian fiction. It was no small feat to produce a book which seamlessly carries on the story of Salander and Blomkvist in such a convincing fashion.
THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE is constructed on a smaller scale. The global concerns of the stock market are mentioned again, but not pursued as a major plot driver. Blomkvist is leading more of a regular life after all his hair raising previous escapades, and there is lot less of Millennium the magazine featured in this outing. It gets a bit wearying to seeing Salander put on her superhuman cape to solve the world’s problems once again and the novel is not as complex as what we are used to seeing in this series. The book struggles to keep momentum and is a mish mash of ideas that never quite gel to form a cohesive plot. The first half of the novel meanders about and Salander’s motivations never ring true as she concerns herself with the problems of others instead of focusing on what’s necessary.
This entry in the series is more of a catch up with what everyone is up to and there is another death of a regular to make sure that Salander considers to suffer, regardless of any improved circumstances. Not the strongest book but not a terrible one either; read this book for series continuity but the story will not glue you to the pages this time.
Review - THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, David Lagercrantz
She is the girl with the dragon tattoo. Lisbeth Salander. An uncompromising misfit whose burning sense of injustice and talent for investigation will never respect boundaries of state or status.
David Lagercrantz came to the attention of the estate of the late Stieg Larsson for his ghost-written autobiography of soccer player Zlatan Abrahimović. Lagercrantz was tapped on the shoulder to adopt Larsson’s style and approach and continue the globally popular Millennium series featuring everybody’s favourite punk hacker tough girl Lisbeth Salander and crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Lagercrantz takes a completely new angle as the jumping off point for this instalment, but many characters from the previous books make an appearance, and there are plenty of spiderweb-like connections to the previous books. The plot revolves around a Swedish computer genius, Frans Balder, doing ground breaking work in artificial intelligence and his relationship with his autistic son, August. It is when Balder is targeted by the criminal underworld that Salander and Blomkvist, still estranged after the last book, get drawn in.
Lagercrantz, while adopting Larsson’s style, successfully makes the series and the characters his own. He stays true to Larsson’s causes, using the characters and situations to explore issues of state and media power, gender politics, sexual abuse, child abuse, loyalty and honour. The plot itself is fairly straight forward - there are good guys, bad guys and some morally grey functionaries, who end up falling on the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side, in between.
Unfortunately, also in keeping with Larsson’s style, the novel takes an incredibly long time to set up, involving lengthy sections of exposition and explanatory dialogue. As with the previous volumes in the series though, once the pieces are in place and Salander is fully engaged in the plot, the action and tension ramp up. But even in this latter half, the tense scenes are padded by lengthy pauses and digressions to fill in backstory.
Lagercrantz’s last novel translated into English was The Fall of Man in Wilmlsow. This odd mix of historical and crime fiction with heavy doses of philosophy, explored the life and work of Alan Turing, the inventor of modern computing. Lagercrantz hijacks Larsson’s agenda a little by using this novel to continue to explore the issues of artificial intelligence and cryptography that he raised in that novel. Balder, himself a distant, social awkward computer scientist, comes across as a modern Turing-esque character. His son, August, among other things, seems to have an affinity for prime numbers which form the basis of modern cryptography. And the story takes plenty of time out to explore some concepts usually only broached in science fiction, including the “technological singularity”, a state in which computer-based intelligence has outstripped our own.
Overall, this return to the world of the Millennium magazine and nasty goings on in the state of Sweden and the wider world is a success. Lagercrantz, a more measured writer than Larsson and with less of an axe to grind, not only inhabits his world but gives Larsson’s characters more depth and humanity. His greatest success is with the odd couple of Salander and Blomkvist, a fantastic fictional pairing, once again brought vividly to life. And while the main plot points of the novel are tied up, Lagercrantz knows his audience well enough to leave much to be resolved in future Millennium books.