Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Since I had read "Red Dragon" and "Hannibal Rising" fairly recently I thought I would go back and re-read "Hannibal" (486 pages) by Thomas Harris, a book I've owned since its release in 1999. From Goodreads:

"Invite Hannibal Lecter into the palace of your mind and be invited into his mind palace in turn. Note the similarities in yours and his, the high vaulted chambers of your dreams, the shadowed halls, the locked storerooms where you dare not go, the scrap of half-forgotten music, the muffled cries from behind a wall.

In one of the most eagerly anticipated literary events of the decade, Thomas Harris takes us once again into the mind of a killer, crafting a chilling portrait of insidiously evolving evil - a tour de force of psychological suspense.

Seven years have passed since Dr. Hannibal Lecter escaped from custody, seven years since FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling interviewed him in a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. The doctor is still at large, pursuing his own ineffable interests, savoring the scents, the essences of an unguarded world. But Starling has never forgotten her encounters with Dr. Lecter, and the metallic rasp of his seldom-used voice still sounds in her dreams.

Mason Verger remembers Dr. Lecter, too, and is obsessed with revenge. He was Dr. Lecter's sixth victim, and he has survived to rule his own butcher's empire. From his respirator, Verger monitors every twitch in his worldwide web. Soon he sees that to draw the doctor, he must have the most exquisite and innocent-appearing bait; he must have what Dr. Lecter likes best."

The good:

I don't care what anyone says, I really enjoyed this novel both times I read it, second only to Harris' "Silence of the Lambs." Unsurprisingly there was a lot that I had forgot in my first reading more than a decade ago. Though the movie follows the novel very closely for the most part, the book adds quite a bit more particularly in its dealings with the Verger family. In fact Margot Verger is left out of the movie completely which is really a shame considering the impact she had on the story.

The novel, for me, moved at lightening speed in spite of the length and knowing what the conclusion would be. Chapters are short for the most part, clocking in at over 100, so the book can be put down and picked back up easily.

The middle of the novel, which takes place in Florence, is simply stunning. It kept me on the edge of my seat through its entirety, even knowing how events would turn out. If for no other reason I would recommend this novel just for these parts alone.

The bad:

I guess I should mention the ending, which seems to be the biggest beef with most readers of "Hannibal." Completely different from the movie, the ending takes a sudden turn which, admittedly, stretches the credibility of the characterization of Clarice Starling. It's the final chapter that really leaves the reader out on a limb to ponder just what the hell is going on with Starling. I think the movie did a much better job with the conclusion but the book didn't leave as bitter of a taste in my mouth as it seemingly did with most other readers.

The ugly:

Hannibal Lecter. Enough said.

Death by genetically mutated super pigs! That's how I want to go out.

Lobotomy dinner. Yummy.

Recommended for fans of suspense and horror. Despite his detractors I find Harris to be a highly readable novelist and I enjoyed his minimalistic style. Even with the controversial ending "Hannibal" is a great effort and a fantastic read.

I'd be curious to hear from others who've read "Hannibal," specifically their thoughts on the ending.

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