Sufferingbruin's Reviews > Hannibal

Hannibal by Thomas Harris
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Sep 03, 11

Read in June, 2002

Lord, what an awful book. Awash in mediocrity from first page to last. It has mediocre characters (the same which were so captivating in "Silence of the Lambs"), mediocre dialogue, mediocre scenery, virtually no suspense (but a plethora of pointlessly putrid acts), and a meandering narrative that often lacks consistency of time and place. "Hannibal" does not induce fear or revulsion so much as groans and guffaws. But don't worry: there's a bleeding HIV-postiive woman holding a baby whose last line is "let's swap fluids, bitch" before she's shot to death mid-crime. There are man eating pigs who are intended to be filmed in the act by people from the porn industry, at the behest of a sub-villain recovering from having his face chewed up by dogs. Thankfully, he gets by with having the tears of children put into his IV. No, that last sentence was not a joke. And of course, our two rivals are back.

Clarice Starling gets the worst of it in "Hannibal". She has lost all trace of vulnerability and trepidation so there's nothing to overcome. In other words, she's lost what made her human in the previous book. Here, she's wizened super-woman; so cynical, so powerful and of course, distant. We don't know why she is all of these things and Harris doesn't seem to care. There are hints of being passed over at the agency and we can guess from her dour persona that Special Agent Starling is weary of the world but these are only guesses; nothing Clarice says or does leads to inferences one way or the other because it's her turn to play second fiddle.

Harris' previous efforts, "Red Dragon" and especially "Silence of the Lambs" are both terrific. In both, Lecter plays a role (small in "Dragon" and of course, much larger in "Lambs") but supporting roles. "Red Dragon" explored profiling, a valuable but punishing trade. How much damage can happen when you take on the mind of a killer to catch the killer? Will Graham finds out in a brief visit to Lecter, ostensibly to get information on another serial killer when Lecter memorably calls him out: "You came back to get the smell back, didn't you? Smell yourself." Harris went further with "Lambs", with a myriad of themes, all of them intriguing, all of them meticulously developed. Which brings us to "Hannibal" and a crucial question after a painful week of reading: What is the theme here? Lecter is the unquestioned star of the show but what does Lecter have to tell us? I'm at a loss. We know he insists on only the best material accoutrements (to borrow a phrase from our sociopath)--the best food, the best cars and for heaven's sake, the best clothes. He travels the world, sniffing at the coarseness of his fellow citizens when he's not killing them. So Harris, in his infinite wisdom, has made Lecter a snob whose only relief from the utter pain of flying coach (oh, the humanity) is the foie de gras he sneaks on board.

It takes awhile but the two engage. By that time, the reader is either beaten into submission or baffled as to why another page is to be turned. If--and it's a big if--reading continues, there is a conclusion so laugh-out-loud ridiculous one has to wonder about Harris' true intent. The best that can be said is that he wants to wash his hands of the whole enterprise. If so, mission accomplished. There is literally nowhere left for either to go, no worlds left to conquer though the world they inhabit doesn't resemble anything like the one we are living in.

Shorter review: this is a book that makes you wish a zero star rating was possible.



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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Bill (new) - rated it 1 star

Bill Well said!


Alexis Mcmillen Very well said ... I thought about them the first time around. What sparked me to retread them is the Hannibal tv series which is so much better written then the books. Hannibal himself for all his intelligence is pretty bland for a serial killer and I didn't like starling until the movie...


Fargnell you are a sped


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