The Girl in the Spider’s Web

An unexpected continuation of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is written by David Lagercrantz, apparently with the support of Larsson’s estate but without the support of his long-time partner. Larsson’s familiar characters make a return to a plot that is at once new and entirely recognizable. Beyond that, there’s really not a whole lot to say: if you enjoyed the first three books, you’ll enjoy this one.

And while I did enjoy the book, I can’t help but feel that it lacks the electricity of the original series. I’m not familiar with Lagercrantz’ other work but this book reads more like a sequel to a Dan Brown story than something worthy of the Millennium Trilogy. The nuanced characters of the original become exaggerated caricatures of themselves who now have to save the world and while still fun, it’s ultimately just another action novel.

Recommend? Eh, no need to diminish the positive memories of the original.


The Partner

Some light reading from Christmas (not to disparage John Grisham, but his novels don’t exactly push the limits of the genre). The fun of this book is untangling the legal mess that has ensnared the main character. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear the mess hasn’t so much ensnared him, rather he has created this mess intentionally through his own meticulous planning.

Unfortunately, it’s an awful lot of planning that leads to a frustratingly unsatisfying ending. Recommend? Meh.


The Martian

This XKCD sums the whole thing up perfectly:

“You know the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says ‘We have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table full of parts or the astronauts will all die?’


The Martian is for people who wish the whole movie had just been more of that scene.”

Not sure I can do better than that. Ultimately, The Martian is a fun, light read with a whole bunch of interesting science mixed in. Weir’s writing style works really well for the portrayal of the main character (though other characters are a tad weaker). Overall: highly recommend.

Oh, and the movie is good too! But the book is better.



Irrespective of how you pronounce the title of this novel, Daemon tells the story of a near future distopia where AI runs amuck. It’s light-weight but engaging and you can probably finish it in a weekend despite its length (I read so much dense nonfiction that I forget how quickly time passes while reading an engaging novel). Okay, so the plot will hold your attention, but is it believable? Without giving too much away, there appears to be a computer program reaching into the real world from the virtual world and causing real harm to real people. The fundamental problem I have with this premise is that the apparent artifical intelligence runs without bugs and requires zero human intervention or support. In fact, it may have been designed by just a handful of people and set loose on the Internet. And in what seems like an incredibly short amount of time, it has developed an entire supply chain that employs human automatons who, with plans from the AI, have constructed an entire army complete with robotic cars and advanced weaponry.

The idea that just a handful of individuals could build such a robust application, in secret, with such a vast scope of capabilities strikes me as preposterous. Furthermore, even if such an AI could eventually be developed, the idea that such a system would somehow subvert all of the technological security mechanisms currently deployed on the Internet pushes me well past my ability to suspend disbelief.

There’s a bunch of disappointing stuff about character development and protagnosists as well, but I’ll leave that conversation out since it gives too much away. All of that said, I’m still going to read the sequel. On to Freedom™.


Cutting for Stone

First book in a while that I didn’t enjoy and left me with negative feelings. Things did not go well from the very beginning: the story could have easily proceeded without the interminable first 120 pages—nothing happens that we don’t already know about. And I while I grant that it is a book centered on the lives of surgeons (something I did not know when it was recommended to me), some of the surgery scenes veer from detailed descriptions to unnecessary gore. I also never felt particularly good about the protagonist: he is portrayed often as weak, or at least always uncertain, and yet this same person is strong enough to flee a war-torn country and put himself through medical school. It just didn’t add up. In the end, I feel like the author started with the idea of the story’s climactic scene (no spoilers!) and then wrote the narrative in reverse to fit that unique sequence. Maybe that’s what all authors do, but here it felt obvious. Do not recommend.