This review will be brief, but I finally had a chance to read Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series. I’ve been a fan of the movies for years, and of course watching the TV show Hannibal made me want to see how much was done according to the novels. I chose this because the character in focus here is in my opinion one of the greatest villains ever created in fiction. Here’s my brief thought on each book…
Hannibal Rising: This was the last one written in the series, but the first chronologically. To me, I feel that Harris just rushed this one. Yes, the background story and origin for why Hannibal is the way he is, feels complete… but there are points in the reading that had me going “wait, what the hell just happened?” It was like some details were skipped and you wonder how the characters got where they were or what was happening just before. As an overall story, I enjoyed it very much, but I’d never recommend the book… instead, I’d say to see the movie, because the film takes the best parts of it all and brings it to life. Continuity error found as well… in the 3 books after this, it is a noted point that Hannibal has 6 fingers on one hand. In Hannibal Rising I don’t recall this being mentioned once.
Red Dragon: Hannibal Lecter plays a small role in this book. The movie version gave him a slightly larger role, but the book is actually better. These events take place when Lecter is already captured and institutionalized. He helps Special Agent Will Graham and the FBI to take down a serial killer named Francis Dolarhyde (aka the “Tooth Fairy”). Lecter also warns Dolarhyde that they are onto him, so Hannibal plays both sides. We are given hints at the past (which the tv series Hannibal really brings to life in detail), but we are also left at the end with a severely disfigured Will Graham. In fact, the book ending was far superior to the movie ending, which the film captured well the book until this point. I actually dislike the movie and prefer what was done in the book over this. Of the four novels I’d place this book on an even field with Silence Of the Lambs.
The Silence Of The Lambs: The movie is really what sparked interest in this series, and it almost is dead on with what is in the book. In other words, if you’ve seen the movie, you really don’t have to read the novel because other than the 6 finger issue on Hannibal’s hand, there is not much different. This is an amazing psychological thriller that makes you almost cheer for the man who helps Clarice Starling to track down Jame Gum (aka Buffalo Bill). I must say too that Buffalo Bill and The Tooth Fairy from the prior book, are more disturbing to me than Hannibal the Cannibal. They are just mentally disturbed people while Hannibal is a clear thinking intelligent psychopath.
Hannibal: I’ll first say this. The MAIN reason I read these books other than what I mentioned above was because It all ends here, and after watching the movies I was downright angry. I have been hoping for a movie sequel to Hannibal for years but we wont probably ever get it. I hated the ending to that movie because we never get to see what happens to Hannibal Lecter. I hoped that the book would shed some light upon this. Now overall, this was my favorite book… until the end. You know that scene in the movie where Hannibal is feeding Ray Liotta’s character his own brain? It’s in here, BUT from this scene on the book differs immensely. I actually don’t know what is worse… the movie ending or the book ending. In the book, Clarice falls for Hannibal, and ends up “dining” with him willingly. Even with the two of them “riding off into the sunset” so to speak, I’m still left with a WTF feeling. What happened to them? Another story could be done here, and it should be. If we are going to get Hannibal Rising to originate his beginnings, then why not have closure? It’s almost like a tv series that you get bought into and then they cancel it with no real ending. Sigh. Plus, even though it is hinted at, I really want to know what happened to Doctor Chilton.
As a whole series I’d rate it at a high 7 out of 10 sCrypt coffins. Individually they stand strong, but work better together. I just wish that a followup would close it all out. What do you think? Have you read these novels? If not, what did you think of the movies/tv series? Feel free to comment.