I just finished The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz, book 4 in the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve decided to skip the book out of loyalty for Larsson. That was my plan but it went off the rails when my fellow audio book junkies (aka my IT office mates) decided to read the book.
Still I resisted. When Robert Jordan died and Brandon Sanderson took the helm for the Wheel of Time series, I stopped reading it. (Actually, I jumped ship in the middle of book eight.) As much as I loved some of the characters, I couldn’t continue reading the series. Loyalty accounted for only part of the decision. The rest came from the simple fact that no matter how good a tale Sanderson spun, it would still be something drawn from his imagination, not that of the series’ creator. Same argument held true for book 4 of the Millennium series with one really big exception.
Simon Vance returned to narrate. I love Simon Vance. Hands down he is one of the best vocal actors out there. If he’s narrating then I, like so many audible members, are lured into purchasing. I knew he’d do an outstanding job and he did. So that’s how I ended up purchasing The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
Simon Vance narrating + peer pressure + curiosity = audio book purchase.
I’m weak when it comes to audio books narrated by Mr. Vance. They are the audio version of dark chocolate. I’m not alone in this. Both my coworkers (who happen to be male) purchased The Girl in the Spider’s Web because Simon Vance returned to narrate it. They trust him to breathe life into a good yarn.
Yes, he’s that big a draw. If you don’t believe me, grab a copy of him narrating Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat or The Tale of the Body Thief or Chris Ewan’s The Good Thief’s Guide series or any of the hundreds of other books he’s narrated. Pure aural magic, but I digress.
Mr. Vance did an outstanding job as expected. His performance gave the book a surreal continuity that wasn’t born out in the prose. Lagercrantz put a lot of psychic distance between the reader (listener!) and the characters. So much that at times, It felt like there was a freeway between us and the narrator. One of those really wide ones like they have out in California where you can just see across it to the shrunken buildings on the other side.
Lots of backstory showed up right when the climatic event of the book took place off camera. Backstory that went on for a good bit and came across as justification that this yarn fit into the series rather than as information the reader needed. Some of it the reader did need to know though I had already guessed some of it already.
Yes, off camera the big face off happened. The climatic event of the novel that we were waiting for. We the reader (listerner) got it third hand from a witness explaining it to the police and then in flashback from Lisabeth’s perspective. Lots of awkward camera cuts and head hopping made it hard to get to grips with the story. We spent comparatively little time in the heads of the main characters. Heads we had spent a lot of time in previous books exploring as the characters figured out what was going on. A lot of the figuring happened off camera and we were treated to a report or were related the thoughts of a new character who in one sentence gave it all away.
All of that left me unsatisfied by books’ end. Though I can’t argue that it wasn’t a good tale because it was. August shined; he was the gem in this book and we never once ventured into his skull.
Next up in my audiobook queue is Mycroft Holmes, written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. I just had to buy it after reading that Abdul-Jabbar is a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. Something I can relate to since I have read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings on Holmes. Audible has a great collection of Holmes stories, The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Heirloom Collection. Narrated by, you guessed it, Simon Vance. It’s 58 hours of pure bliss that includes all of the short stories as well as the longer works such as A Study in Scarlet, Sign of the Four, Hounds of the Baskervilles, etc. If you’re a Holmes fan, it’s a must listen.
Abdul-Jabbar’s Holmesian tale is not narrated by Simon Vance and that’s ok. I like a great many narrators that pop up in Audible’s ever growing collection. I’m just dying to know what he’ll do with Sherlock’s elder brother.
Go get your read on.