The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series
After reading this novel, I desperately longed to pen a review. In fact, I grabbed my iPad and opened a blank page.
It was then that I realized that I wasn’t sure where to begin. I knew at a very conscious level that I was empty and unfulfilled by the work, but I found myself having a difficult time explaining why.
Part of me was convinced that my shock and sadness over Larsson’s passing had after all this time somehow tainted my reading experience. Without ceremony, I turned off the iPad and tried to turn to other activities.
My mind, however, kept returning to the book and to Lisbeth. What was it that had left me so wanting? I have ruminated on this for several days, and I think I’ve finally come to some place of understanding.
Whilst I’m sure that Larsson’s absence still weighs heavily, there are other considerable deficits here that just make the entire novel unsuccessful.
First and foremost, I found Lisbeth’s character to be too far removed from the majority of the work.
I have read the series primarily to follow her development as a character, and far too little of that character appears here. Throughout the three previous installments of the series, Salander moves along a linear path, upon which we see her gaining maturity that is reflected in her actions. At times she becomes more sadistic, more vengeful, more reckless.
With that said, she also becomes more insightful and introspective. The myriad layers of her being are consistently peeled away then reapplied, allowing the reader to anticipate the unexpected whilst Larrson still maintains continuity of character.
It’s a juxtaposition that is brilliantly build upon from the first sentence of the work through the last. It’s that expectation that is amiss in this novel. Lisbeth also makes her entrance far too late in the game for my liking, instead lending the spotlight to Mikael Blomkvist.
In earlier works, Blomkvist was vibrant and alive, a moral and stable foil to balance the scales. Here, however, he strikes me as simply tired. The author attempts to elevate him to the journalist he once was, but we see that only through the work he produces.
His dialogue and actions, unfortunately, remain that of a tired old man who has managed to salvage his reputation and career by stumbling onto a story that is as convoluted and difficult to follow as his own reflections. One moment he is ready to give up, the next he muddles through, making decisions that are in complete contrast to the man I had thought him to be.
Lisbeth Salander is almost an afterthought, added, as mentioned, far too late and then treated as a sidebar of sorts whose only function is to further the action, not BE the action. I kept waiting for her to become integral to the work; to become the center of attention.
I wanted to follow her evolution after so much time has passed. Unfortunately, I was instead treated to a cursory introduction of a Lisbeth who has not progressed beyond the last novel in the series and who is now more of an enigma than she ever had been. I was left wanting and disappointed in Salander, Blomkvist and the book as a whole. I wish I had let Lisbeth Salander die with Larsson.
I wish I had mourned them both and been allowed to move on with those memories intact. It was a wild ride with them both, and trying to continue that journey without one of them was akin to allowing a team to play without a coach.
The direction was fuzzy and vague, and the cast of characters seemed to be as out of sorts over Larsson’s passing as the rest of us.
I won’t be reading any further extensions of the Salander series and will try to celebrate them as they were before I indulged in this last piece.