A pint-sized hacker with a photographic memory and a dark past is the standout character is Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and fills out a trio of books called The Millenium Trilogy (in the US anyway, in Sweden it is referred to as The Men Who Hate Women trilogy).
Salander copes daily with her troubled childhood or, as she refers to it, as the time When All The Evil Happened. According t0 Swedish society, she is labeled mentally incompetent and is officially a ward of the state. In the novels it is hinted that she may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome, but personally, if I experienced this girl’s childhood, I might be more than a little anti-social myself.
Lisbeth uses her super-computer powers to facilitate her job as a freelance private investigator. She works when she wants, with whom she wants, on what she wants, and at her own leisure. She is surly, taciturn, and disappears for weeks, sometimes months, on end but turns in such brilliant work that her exasperated employer can not help but keep her on. Why? Simple, because Lisbeth is the best.
Salander is a problem solver. But what’s interesting is that she doesn’t get a thrill so much from solving a problem as much she does from the process. Her approach is what really snags the reader. The tougher the problem, the happier and more engaged Salander is. And believe me, her solutions are not for the weak. Burn her once and she’ll burn you back with an attack that makes Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like a water balloon fight.
Lisbeth is described in the book as an “information junkie with a child’s play on moral and ethics”. I couldn’t disagree more with the assessment. Lisbeth has an agenda and while her agenda does not necessarily meld with polite society, it is often effective and for the best of everyone involved. She is a highly rational actor with perceived unreasonable reactions.
If there is any complaint I would have about the character is that I would love to see more of her inner dialogue when it comes to methodology. Lisbeth is so utterly fascinating I find myself hanging on every word to see what she does next.
Josephine Hart once wrote that “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” No truer words could ever be written as it applies to Lisbeth Salander. She is no one’s fool and certainly no one’s victim. This girl has taken shots that would take down an elephant, but she refuses to acknowledge that fact. Not acknowledging keeps her going and decidedly drives her work and her thought process as exemplified in her constant mantra Analyze the Consequences. However, at the end of the day, this also prevents Lisbeth from making real connections with people, particularly those who wish to help her.
And Lisbeth doesn’t want those connections. She enjoys her anonymity and the peace it brings her by living on the fringe of society where she can be left alone to do her work. I wonder if she could be quite so effective at her job, blending in, sneaking about, observing, if she were more connected to this so-called “polite society”?