While it has a lot going for it, this book is a complete mess.
Braunbeck has written, at heart, a very affecting book about loss and bereavement, but tWhile it has a lot going for it, this book is a complete mess.
Braunbeck has written, at heart, a very affecting book about loss and bereavement, but the excessive horror undermines much of what should be sensitive work, but which descends into gross-out far too easily. (I've been reading horror - from the lyrical to the grotesque - for 35 years, so I've certainly seen it all, but the scene in the morgue will be hard to stomach for many people.) Adding to this detraction, the protagonist spends much of the first third of the book flailing uselessly - this may be realistic, as far as it goes, but it's a terrible slog to get through as a reader, especially when the presumed antagonist becomes a partner and excuses his previous actions with a flip comment that infuriates more than explains.
The second half of the book seems pathetically indebted to the sharp and incisive work of Jonathan Carroll, a sentiment and style utterly at odds with the rest of the laborious horror that has come before.
Unbelievably - as I had persevered with this book because of its glowing reviews, despite my almost complete lack of interest or enjoyment - Braunbeck somehow managed, in the final pages, to pull off a scene with such uncloying sentiment and heartfelt emotion that I finished In Silent Graves with an honest and unexpected tear in my eye. Really still not sure how that happened....more
**spoiler alert** This should be a five star book, but that it doesn't quite climb the heights and ambitions of Harris's previous Lecter novels. But s**spoiler alert** This should be a five star book, but that it doesn't quite climb the heights and ambitions of Harris's previous Lecter novels. But still, Hannibal Rising is a quick read, and - in full Thomas Harris tradition - full of hidden delights for the more careful reader. And I'm afraid this review is going to sound snobbish, but this is such a misread and misinterpreted book that it really deserves redress.
On the surface (which, sadly, is all a lot of people seem to read), this is a quick and easy explanation of Hannibal's origins, written quickly for the movie of the same name. It seems to explain Hannibal's pathology - his earliest years, his introduction to cannibalism, and a tale of revenge on those who forced him to this and stole the family - and the education and privilege - of his youth.
Underneath, however, is plenty more to enjoy. The book is set within Lecter's 'memory palace', the method by which his particular genius is nurtured and structured. As such, it is fragmented to our view, and further muddied by Lecter's own blocked and misremembered recollections of his childhood trauma during WWII, and the death of his family - most poignantly, his sister Mischa. An unreliable narrator, one who may well lie to us, even as he lies to himself.
Here is the origin of Lector's cannibalism, forced upon him by wartime looters and collaborators faced with starvation - subtly, as the book reveals it, so that we have to infer whether Lecter is forced by his captors or his circumstances into eating his dead sister. If forced by his captors, then Lecter's later tale (as he hunts these men down one by one) is more simply one of revenge, and his taste for flesh then becomes hard to reconcile; if, however, Lecter chooses in desperation to survive, and eats his sister through choice of survival, then his hunting of his captors becomes more layered and thoughtful, and his later cannibalism something of a penance, a levelling of the playing field, to honour his sister and to debase himself in her memory. I prefer the latter reading.
Likewise, Lecter's absorption of art and culture is a way to reclaim his birthright - a castle full of art and literature, with an education to suit his intellect, taken from him by war and then the avarice of baser men. Little wonder Hannibal dedicates the rest of his life to the pursuit of these finer things denied him in his youth, or that he enters psychiatry, for a greater understanding of men such as these, and men such as himself.
And within this tale, flashes of the author intruding: not, as many reviewers have wrongly criticised, poor writing or editing in repeated lines, or in keeping the tense of a scene constant, but note which lines are repeated and why, where the tense of a scene changes from past to present, when it is done and what effect it has; these are authorial flourishes, done with intent and thought, to make you note a line or a description, to make you take notice. That you do not, that you criticise this as poor writing, says more for your reading comprehension than it does Harris's craft.
Not a book for the 'movie adaptation' crowd, then. This is a novel, and literature, and a mental exercise for the reader prepared to read carefully and look beneath the surface of the text....more
Within the genre of science fiction there are many sub-genres, the most prevalent of which include first contact with aliens, space warfare, harWow...
Within the genre of science fiction there are many sub-genres, the most prevalent of which include first contact with aliens, space warfare, hard SF, future earth, and big dumb objects - I've never read someone put these all together as well as Watts does here.
This is in many ways a difficult book; the science is by no means easy, and the characters (including the non-empathic (and intrinsically unreliable) first person narrator) are humans augmented beyond humanity; the aliens are truly and unknowably alien, and the plot (and the novel on the whole) relies a great deal on the reader keeping up.
If there are faults, it's that the climax seems rushed and oblique, and the lack of characterisation means that the essential connection with the cast is diminished. But the pace is brisk, the science is cleverly handled and explained, and the themes of consciousness, sentience and intelligence are rare in a book overflowing with so many other good qualities....more