Hannibal Rising Book Review
We first met Hannibal Lecter many years ago in a frightening little tale, Red Dragon. A story with a detective as a hero - one torn and traumatized by the psychological roller coaster of the pursuit of Lecter. Then in Silence of the Lambs we were chilled, awed and strangely enchanted by Lecter and the unusual relationship between him and Clarice. The movie only increased our curiosity. In Hannibal we got to finish the tale of Clarice and Hannibal and we saw the hints of his past. The growing relationship between Clarice and Hannibal eery in it's compelling draw. Each a symbolic role for the other - father... sister... I enjoyed reading Hannibal.
When I heard of Hannibal Rising I was unsure if I wanted to read it. A story of Hannibal's life before Red Dragon. A story written and published amazingly close to the release of the movie. As someone who strongly believes a book is almost always better than a movie - I was a little cautious. Was the book truly another passage in the life of Hannibal Lecter? Or was is a means to an end - a movie?
Hannibal Rising begins in the Lecter Castle as the World War hits Russia. We have a brief glimpse of his life with his mother and his younger sister, Mischa. Lecter is a child prodigy. The family goes into hiding in a forest hunting lodge and almost survives the war. In one of those odd strokes of fate - his entire family is killed in one moment, leaving only himself and Mischa alive. Almost immediately following they are found by military deserters. The gang captures the children and chains them. Long story short - they eat Mischa. Another attack comes and they release Hannibal and each takes off. The story then finds a mute Hannibal in an orphanage. We see his life in the orphanage very briefly - in fact, just enough to see Hannibal attack a bully and attack an adult that attempts to hit him.
Hannibal is then whisked away to live with his uncle who happens to be a famous painter. His uncle is married to a Japanese woman, Lady Murasaki. There is a brief encounter with a psychiatrist and then disaster strikes yet again. A butcher gives the Lady some insults and Hannibal attacks. When the uncle finds out... he also attacks the butcher and dies. The death scene is rushed and unclear so I imagine I'll have to watch the movie to actually find out how the uncle dies.
Here is a snippet from that scene:
"Piece of filth, you would insult my wife!!"
Paul dropped the meat and shoved the count hard, the count's thin frame flaying back against a counter and the count came on again, slashing with his cane, and then he stopped, a look of surprise on his face. He raised his hands halfway to his waistcoat and fell facedown on the floor of the butcher's stall.
Hannibal kills Paul the butcher. He develops a love for Lady Murasaki. There is a police inspector, Popil, who knows that Hannibal is a killer. Hannibal enters medical school and then he decides to find the names of the men who ate his sister and get some revenge.
I love Silence of the Lambs. I think that Hannibal Lecter is one of the best Sociopaths to exist in a story. If you are hoping that this story is as intense and clever as the others - you may not be satisfied. It may have been me, but the writing is awkward in places. I struggled to get into the story - not because I wasn't interested, but because of the writing style. The other characters are flat and seem to just be in place to further the story of Hannibal and that is how I would almost describe this novel - a character study. We see the brief important moments when something happens that's noteworthy. Hannibal is an unfeeling, emotionless being. The writing reflects that, it's rushed and didn't draw me in as fully as it could have.
Don't get me wrong, the history of Hannibal is interesting and I'm all more interested in seeing the movie. In this particular instance, I think the movie will be better than the book. I find that disappointing because overall, I found this book unremarkable and forgettable. I know that I'll never have the desire to read this a second time and it just makes me want to go and read Red Dragon (or one of the others) again so that I can get some satisfaction.
Have you read this yet? What are your thoughts?