Well sort of.
The triumphant return of everyone’s favorite cyberpunk hacker with an allergy to bullshit happens with more of a whimper than a bang. In fact, the “girl in the spider’s web” barely shows up in the book at all. Instead, we’re back with our trusty companion Mikael Blomkvist.
Kalle Blomkvist isn’t doing great. The owners of his magazine are trying to get rid of him, and his reputation is taking a hit. He hasn’t had a great scoop since the Zalachenko affair from “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Perhaps a little desperate to regain his standing, he agrees to meet a source for a story on cyber hacking. Before he can meet this source, the man is murdered. His 8-year old son can’t speak, but he’s a savant who could draw the men who murdered his father. The bad guys are after him, but luckily our girl Lisbeth is there to swoop in and save him. And then we’re off to the races.
The initial trilogy was written by Stieg Larson, who famously died before he could see the phenomenon his books became. He didn’t leave a will, so his longtime partner never saw any of the royalties from the book. FYI he never married her because to do so in Sweden would have meant publishing their home address. Because Larson was a journalist who made his name exposing right wing terrorist groups, he was concerned for his and his partner’s safety. Because of that, his father and brother (with whom he was reportedly estranged) raked in the money, and approved publication of the new book, over his partner’s objections. Larson reportedly left behind an outline of where he wanted the series to go, but it hasn’t seen the light of day. So now it’s David Lagercrantz’s turn.
Larson’s books certainly had their issues (my kingdom for an editor) but he was always trying to say something about the world. Human trafficking, domestic violence, governmental complicity or indifference, Larson was always full of fire, banging away at his keyboard, condemning those who did nothing in the face of such evil. This book is about…hacking? Maybe? Ish? It’s difficult to get a handle on the bad guys, and not just because they keep introducing and losing new characters before we get to know them. It’s even weirder when we meet the Big Bad, who seemingly has no motivation beyond fucking over the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Even though Lagercrantz can step into Blomkvist’s shoes relatively easily, he seems to have a harder time pinning down Lisbeth. We spend a lot of time listening to characters describe her, rather than seeing her actually do things. Even when he tries to introduce new aspects of Lisbeth, the results are usually laughable. Really? Lisbeth’s hacker name is Wasp because she identified with the outsiders in The Avengers? And she chose the way she dresses and acts based off that comic book character? And now someone nicknamed Thanos is coming after her?
This book wasn’t bad necessarily. It just wasn’t the same. It’s like when someone tries to make a favorite meal your mom made for you when you were little. The same ingredients are there. But the end result is undefinably disappointing.