By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: David Lagercrantz
Narration by: Simon Vance
One of the most interesting fictional heroines of the 21st century is Lisbeth Salander. It is sad that the creator of Salander dies before the success of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; i.e. the first of Stieg Larsson’s hugely successful literary triptych. David Lagercrantz, a fellow Swedish author, manages to resurrect Salander’s life in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”.
Lagercrantz offers more background to Salander’s life. He more fully explains how and why Salander becomes an avenging heroine, a superhero for abused women and children. Lagercrantz’s background of Salander introduces an Ian Fleming theme; i.e. a “Specter-like” criminal organization updated to the 21st century with government surveillance, computer hacking, and modern corporate espionage. Lagercrantz achieves a fair semblance of Salander’s complicated personality but loses some of the dynamic of the Mikael Blomkvist/Salander’ relationship. Blomkvist becomes more like a James Bond with a sidekick than a complementary ally for an extraordinary computer hacking genius.
Salander is now a mature adult in her early forties. She retains her extraordinary mental capability. She continues to carry an uncompromising hate for men who abuse women and children. She retains her photographic memory and prodigious computer hacking skill. But, without medical assistance, her survival from a serious bullet wound stretches belief beyond its boundary and diminishes Lagercrantz’s story.
However, Lagercrantz skillfully expands the legend of Salander’s notorious father (killed in the last of Larson’s triptych) by exploiting the character of an evil twin sister to Lisbeth who takes over the remnants of their father’s network of criminals. The evil twin emulates their father’s psychopathic personality. She personifies and admires her dead father’s abusive treatment of women and extends misogyny to misanthropy. She distorts belief of survival-of-the-fittest into survival-of-the-strongest. The evil twin is an amoral sadist who covets power over others.
Unlike Lisbeth, her sister is not a genius but an extraordinary beauty, and a master manipulator of others. What she cannot do herself, she seduces others to do; i.e. a perfect recruiter and manager for any organization. Lisbeth and her twin sister are mortal enemies. Their enmity reaches back to childhood. Lisbeth resents their father’s treatment of their mother while her twin admires their father’s dominating bestiality. Lisbeth sees her mother as a hapless victim. Her sister sees her mother as a hapless weakling. Lisbeth rebels against her father. Her sister idolizes and emulates her father.
What holds “The Girl in the Spider’s Web…” together is the inherent threat of an information age; i.e. a world-wide web that draws everyone into a surveillance honey pot that can hold you hostage, anesthetize you, control you, or kill you. The concern revolves around who spins the web; i.e. the government, private enterprise, a criminal organization, a moral hacker, an amoral hacker, anyone, no one, some one?
One can imagine this book becoming another Blomkvist/Salander’ movie but if it strictly follows Lagercrantz’s story, it will be more a James Bond’ than Lisbeth Salander’ tale.