Review: Hannibal

Hannibal by Thomas Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books which I’m sure came with very high expectations, sort of like the second Matrix movie. It winds up being very different from its famous predecessor [b:The Silence of the Lambs|23807|The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter, #2)|Thomas Harris||22533], but y’know, that’s not a bad thing. Just unexpected, perhaps to a jarring degree.

This is a horror story, not a thriller. It’s about making choices, manipulation of weaker people, and an exploration of the psyche of a very inhuman killer. It’s slower than Silence, and the procedural part of Harris’s writing takes a bit of a backseat to darker recesses of politics and obsession. In short, I don’t know that there’s a “good guy” in this novel, which I suppose puts it on a level with Game of Thrones/Song of Ice & Fire.

I found myself rooting for Dr Lecter as an anti-hero. If there’s anybody besides Clarice Starling we get involved with, it’s him, and dammit, he’s fascinating in the gory way of a bad train-on-bus crash. By the time I turned the final pages, I didn’t know how I wanted things to end. That’s a good thing, a solid, challenging thing in popular literature, and it forgives some passages of jerky-jerky narration when Harris assumes his readers are as versed in the intricacies of madness as he obviously is. Sometimes it pulled me out of the magic of the story, making me re-read or infer where I should’ve been led via context through the technical schtuff. I guessed at motives behind actions, and I also found some of the dialogue, especially between the supporting cast, to be full of conversations with just a tad too much left unsaid, and so meaning is lost.

Bottom line, 4/5. If you haven’t read or seen Silence, make sure you do before reading this. I was creeped out, I had fun, and I’m ultimately left feeling like Harris reached toward greatness with this one and found his arm was just an inch or two short.

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