Meet the characters from The Girl in the Spider's Web
Familiar faces return alongside new ones in this extract from The Girl in the Spider's Web.
Before its release on Thursday, meet the characters, both old and new, that become embroiled in Lisbeth
Salander's world in these exclusive extracts from The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz.
Lisbeth Salander had hardly slept for a week and she had probably also had too little to drink and eat, and now her head ached and her eyes were bloodshot and her hands shook and what she wanted above all was to sweep all of her equipment to the floor. In one
sense she was content, though hardly for the reason Plague or anyone else in Hacker Republic would have guessed. She was content because she had been able to get some new information on the criminal group she was mapping out; she had found evidence of a connection which she had previously only suspected. But she kept that to herself, and she was surprised that the others could have imagined that she would have hacked the system for the hell of it.
She was no hormone-fuelled teenager, no idiot show-off looking for a kick. She would only embark on such a bold venture because she was after something very specific, although it was true that once upon a time hacking had been more than just a tool for her. During the worst moments of her
childhood it had been her way of escaping, a way to make life feel a little less boxed in. With the help of computers she could break through barriers which had been put in her way and experience periods of freedom. There was probably an element of that in the current situation too.
First and foremost she was on the hunt and had been ever since she woke up in the light of early dawn with her dream of that fist beating rhythmically, relentlessly on a mattress on Lundagatan. Her enemies were hiding behind smokescreens and this could be the reason why Salander had been unusually difficult and awkward of late. It was as if a new darkness emanated from her.
Mikael Blomkvist had slept for only a few hours, having stayed up late to read a detective novel by Elizabeth George. Not a particularly sensible thing to do.
Ove Levin, the newspaper guru from Serner Media, was due to present a strategy session for Millennium magazine later that morning and Blomkvist ought really to be rested and ready for combat.
But he had no desire to be sensible. Only reluctantly did he get up and make himself an unusually strong cappuccino with his Jura Impressa X7, a machine which had been delivered to his home a while ago with a note saying, “According to you, I don’t know how to use it anyway”. It stood there in the kitchen now like a memorial to a better time. He no longer had any contact with the person who had sent it.
These days he was hardly stimulated by his work. The weekend before he had even considered looking around for something new, and that was a pretty drastic idea for a man like Mikael Blomkvist. Millennium had been his passion and his life, and many of his life’s best, most dramatic events had occurred in connection with the magazine. But nothing lasts
for ever, perhaps not even a love for Millennium. Besides, this was not a good time to be owning a magazine dedicated to investigative journalism. All publications with ambitions for greatness were bleeding to death, and he could not help but reflect that while his own vision for Millennium may have been beautiful and true on some higher plane, it would not necessarily help the magazine survive. He went into the living room sipping his coffee and looked out at the waters of Riddarfjärden. There was quite a storm blowing out there.
From an Indian summer, which had kept the city’s outdoor restaurants and cafés open well into October, the weather had turned hellish with gusts of wind and cloudbursts, and people hurried through the streets bent double. Blomkvist had stayed in all weekend, but not only because of the weather. He had been planning revenge on an ambitious scale, but the scheme had come to nothing, and that was not like him, neither the former nor the latter.
He was not an underdog, and unlike so many other big media figures in Sweden he did not suffer from an inflated ego which needed constant boosting and soothing. On the other hand, he had been through a few tough years. Barely a month ago the financial journalist William Borg had written a piece in
Serner’s Business Life magazine under the heading: MIKAEL BLOMKVIST’S DAYS ARE OVER.
Serner did not interfere on the editorial side. It was business as usual, but with a slightly better budget. A new feeling of hope spread among the editorial team, sometimes even to Blomkvist, who felt that for once he would have time to devote himself to journalism instead of worrying about finances. But then, around the time the campaign against him got under way – he would never lose the suspicion that the Serner Group had taken advantage of the situation – the tone changed and they started to apply pressure.
Frans Balder always thought of himself as a lousy father.
He had hardly attempted to shoulder the role of father before and he did not feel comfortable with the task now that his son was eight. But it was his duty, that was how he saw it. The boy was having a rough time living with his ex-wife and her bloody partner, Lasse Westman.
So Balder had given up his job in Silicon Valley, got on a plane home and was now standing at Arlanda airport, almost in shock, waiting for a taxi. The weather was hellish. Rain whipped into his face and for the hundredth time he wondered if he was doing the right thing.
That he of all self-centred idiots should become a full-time father, how crazy
an idea was that? He might as well have got a job at the zoo.
August was autistic. He was most likely also mentally disabled, even though they had not received unequivocal advice on that point and anyone who saw him from afar might easily suspect the opposite. His exquisite face radiated an air of majestic detachment, or at least suggested that he did not think it worth bothering with his surroundings. But when you looked at him closely there was something impenetrable in his gaze. And he had yet to say his first word. In this he had failed to live up to all the prognoses made when he was two years old.
Hanna Balder was standing in the kitchen on Torsgatan smoking a filterless Prince. She had on a blue dressing gown and worn grey slippers, and although her hair was thick and beautiful and she was still attractive, she looked haggard. Her lip was swollen and the heavy make-up around her eyes was not there purely for aesthetic reasons. Hanna Balder had taken another beating.
It would be wrong to say that she was used to it. No-one gets used to that sort of abuse. But it was part of her everyday existence and she could scarcely remember the happy person she once had been. Fear had become a natural element of her personality and for some time now she had been smoking sixty cigarettes a day and taking tranquillizers.
Jan Bublanski been looking forward to a day off and a long conversation with Rabbi Goldman in the Söder congregation about certain questions which had been troubling him lately, concerning the existence of God.
It would perhaps be going too far to say that he was becoming an atheist. But the very notion of a God had become increasingly problematic for him and he wanted to discuss that and the feelings of meaninglessness which had been bothering him recently, and perhaps also his dreams of handing in his notice.
Jan Bublanski certainly considered himself to be a good murder investigator. His record of clearing up cases was on the whole outstanding and occasionally he could still feel stimulated by the job. But he was not sure that he wanted to continue to investigate murders. Perhaps he should learn some new skill, while there was still time. He dreamed about teaching and helping young people to grow and believe in themselves, maybe for the very reason that he himself often suffered from bouts of the deepest self-doubt. But he had no idea which subject he would choose. Jan Bublanski had never specialised in any particular field, other than the one which had become his lot in life: sudden evil death, and morbid human perversions, and that was definitely not something he wanted to teach.
Edwin Needham - Ed the Ned as he was sometimes called - was not the most highly paid security technician in the U.S.A. But he may have been the best and the proudest. Ed’s childhood paved the way for a life of trouble and during his teenage years he belonged to a gang who called themselves “The Fuckers”. They were the terror of Dorchester, and devoted themselves to gang warfare and assaults and robbing food stores.
There was something blunt and brutal about his appearance from an early age and this was not improved by the fact that he never smiled and was missing two upper teeth. He was sturdy and tall and fearless and his face usually bore the weals of a punch-up, whether from brawls with his father or as a result of gang fights. Most of the teachers at his school were scared to death of him. All were convinced that he would end up in jail or with a bullet in his head. But there were some adults who began to take an interest in him – no doubt because they discovered that there was more than aggression and violence in his ardent blue eyes.
A physics teacher with the Swedish-sounding name of Larson noticed how good Ed was with machines and after an evaluation – involving the social services – he was awarded a scholarship and given the opportunity to transfer to a school with more motivated students.
He began to excel at his studies and was given more scholarships and distinctions and eventually - something of a miracle in view of the odds at the outset - he went on to study Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, or E.E.C.S., at M.I.T. in Massachusetts. His doctoral thesis explored some specific fears surrounding the new asymmetric cryptosystems like R.S.A., and he then went on to senior positions at Microsoft and Cisco before being recruited by the National Security Agency, the N.S.A., at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Nobody understood how Gabriella Grane had ended up at Säpo, the Swedish Security Police, least of all she herself. Her old girlfriends from the classy suburb of Djursholm worried that she was thirty-three and neither famous nor wealthy nor even married, either to a rich man or to any man at all for that matter. “What’s happened to you, Gabriella? Are you going to be a policeman all your life?”
Most of the time she could not be bothered to argue back, or point out that she was not a policeman but had been head-hunted for the position of analyst, and that these days she was writing far more challenging texts than she ever had at the Foreign Ministry or during her summers as a leader writer on Svenska Dagbladet. Apart from which, she was not allowed to talk about most of it in any case. So she might as well keep quiet and ignore all these daft obsessions with status and simply come to terms with the fact that working for Säpo was considered to be about as low as you can go – both by her upper-class friends and even more so by her intellectual pals.
Holger Palmgren was a retired lawyer who had been LSBT’s guardian for many years, ever since the girl was thirteen and had been locked up in St Stefan’s psychiatric clinic in Uppsala. Today Holger was old and in a bad way, having had two or three strokes. He had been using a Zimmer frame for some time now and sometimes he could barely walk even then.
The left side of his face drooped and his left hand was as good as useless. But his mind was clear and his memory outstanding provided it was about things that lay far back in time, and above all if it was about LISA. No-one knew LSBT as he did.
Andrei Zander was twenty-six years old and the youngest person in the office. He had done his time as a trainee at the magazine and had stayed on, sometimes as a temporary member of staff, as now, and sometimes as a freelancer. He was also a fantastic team player, and that was good for the magazine, but not necessarily good for him. Not in this cynical business. The boy was not conceited enough, although he had every reason to be. He looked like a young Antonio Banderas, and was quicker on the uptake than most. But he was not one to go to any lengths to promote himself. He just wanted to be a part of it all and produce good journalism and he loved Millennium.
Plague lived on Högklintavägen in Sundbyberg, a markedly unglamorous area with dull, four-storey, faded brick houses, and there was not much good to be said about the apartment itself. It had a sour, stale smell about it. His desk was covered in all sorts of rubbish, McDonald’s remains and Coca-Cola cans, crumpled-up pages from notebooks, cake crumbs, unwashed coffee cups and empty sweet bags.
Plague was not a man who normally showered or changed his clothes much. He spent his whole life in front of his computer screen, and even when he was not snowed under with work he looked dreadful: overweight, puffy, unkempt, albeit with an attempt at an imperial beard. But that beard had long since turned into a shapeless bush. Plague was a giant of a man, though bent sideways, and he had a habit of groaning when he moved. But the man had other talents.
In front of the computer he was a virtuoso, a hacker who flew unconstrained through cyberspace. He was as light and nimble on the net as he was heavy and clumsy in the other, more material world,
It was Alona Casales at the N.S.A. in Maryland who was calling. When they had last met, at a conference in Washington D.C., Casales had been a self-assured and charismatic lecturer in what she somewhat euphemistically described as active signals intelligence –hacking, in other words – and afterwards she and Grane had stood around for a while and had some drinks. Almost against her will, Grane had been enchanted. Casales smoked cigarillos and had a dark and sensuous voice which liked to express itself in punchy one-liners and often alluded to sex. She was forty-eight, tall and outspoken with a generous bust and small intelligent eyes which could make anybody feel insecure. She often seemed to see straight through people and did not exactly suffer from an excess of deference to superiors. She would give anyone a dressing down – even the Attorney General if he came calling.
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