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Hannibal Rising - Thomas Harris

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Author: Thomas Harris / Genre: Horror

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    4 Reviews
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      29.05.2009 17:31
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      The rise of evil

      If I was an author I would want to be as lazy as I could possibly be. To do this I would firstly have to become phenomenally popular - no problem, I am a genius. With my popularity intact I am assured that any book that I write will make me lots of money. I could earn even more by churning out one book a year, but that seems like hard work, better to wait 5 years or so and take my time. I can live of a few million as easily as 20 million. Perhaps I could have a prolific twelve months or so where I write two or three books. I could hand one to the publisher and keep the other two locked up for a few years - at that rate I could have 10 years off! If you don't believe that my tactics can work look no further than the likes of Dan Brown or Thomas Harris. These are authors living the dream of being relaxed writers.

      Hannibal Lector is one of the most popular antiheros of modern times, but how did he become the artistic cannibal? His childhood is a harrowing one and goes a long way to explain his present state. Part of a rich Lithuanian family Hannibal Lector was displaced by the invasion of the German army. Lector's family are killed and he is forced to watch some horrific scenes acted out by a group of treasonous men. Flash forward ten years and the war is over. Lector has already been accepted into medical school and his mind turns to murder. Can he find the men responsible for the death of his sister and avenge her?

      When you think about the character of Hannibal Lector you could be mistaken into thinking that the books could be intellectual affairs as Lector himself is a genius. Nothing could be further from the truth as the Lector books have been more about thrills and chills than intelligence. This trend continues in 'Hannibal Rising' as the growth of Lector's personality is the nearest yet that Thomas Harris has got to an action thriller. In terms of action and dark thrills the book really works. The bad guys are painted in a way that you hate them and Harris makes you back Lector as he dispatches them one by one. 'Rising' almost felt like 'The Count of Monte Cristo' in parts as it has the same basic structure of being a dark revenge thriller.

      The reason that the book works above all others is that Lector is a great character. I think that although this is a prequel you are best reading the books in the order they were written. This allows you to pick up the many subtle hints that Harris puts in the book and that are a joy to find. More than in any of the other books Hannibal Lector is painted as a hero and not a villain. He is known for dispatching the crude and unkind, but here he is after true evil. You almost feel like he is doing the right thing by murder. The cold and calculating way that his mind works is almost seductive at times and draws you into his dark thoughts.

      Personally, I felt that Harris may have finally gone down the antihero route too much. Throughout 'Silence of the Lambs' etc Lector has been painted in a way that you respect him even though he is evil. As the films and books progressed I got the sense that Harris liked the man. The films in particular seem to show him as a rascal rather than a psychopath at times. 'Hannibal Rising' is the clearest indication yet that I may be right. Here Lector is victim as much as suspect. Almost every action he takes is given a veneer of acceptability by Harris painting the enemy as the worse of two evils. Personally, I think making Lector too much of a 'good guy' undermines the earlier books as he will always be a psychopath to me.

      Readers of 'Hannibal Rising' will react to it depending on how they approach the book. For those new to the series they may expect a deeper and more intelligent take on the crime genre. These people will be disappointed as it is more of an empty headed actionathon. If you approach the book expecting this lighter tone, having read the other books, then you will enjoy the thrill of the ride. It is a strange book in many ways as it balances dark imagery with silly thrills, but for me Harris pulls it off. Hannibal Lector is, and will always be, an interesting character whose complex nature makes him a joy to read about. There is enough scope left in this book to allow Harris to write more young Hannibal books, or expand into the older Hannibal's life. All I know is that it may be another 11 years until we find out which will happen.

      Author: Thomas Harris
      Year: 2005
      Price: amazon uk - £5.59
      play.com - £5.49

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        12.02.2007 11:41
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        A prequel to one of the most famous literary series

        He is perhaps the most famous, freighting psychological killer to have ever graced literature. The return of Hannibal doesn't see him picking up where the last novel left off; rather Hannibal Rising gives an insight into what caused Hannibal to become the beast we all now know. The book explores his live during the war hiding away with his parents in the forest to escape the front lines. When his entire family are killed towards the end of the war, something changes in Hannibal and the rest of the novel explores and develops that change in personality and psyche.

        I've really enjoyed the previous novels in the Hannibal series and because of that it made Hannibal Rising a must read. Having picked it up quite cheap in Tesco's (£9.89) I actually read the book in two sittings, which although not unusual has been quite rare in recent times. The idea behind Harris's motivations for this book were undoubtedly a fourth film. In fact the book is written in such a way that it is the first of Harris's novels I've felt was specifically written with a movie in mind. While I felt the addictive side of his previous thrillers was still there, it seemed to be lacking a little in intense chapters that I felt Red Dragon et all had in abundance.

        The plot of the novel seems to be quite fast paced and really holds your attention as you carry on reading, in my case unable to put the book down. In the way that only Harris knows how he has a meticulous description of the locations of the story and he really brings his characters to live. Of course the exploration of the younger Hannibal was perhaps not the direction many would have seen this series going I have to say that it works very well. From an early age he seems to have an incredible intellect and as he matures and focuses he slowly starts to become the Hannibal we all know and fear.

        Of course by taking the unexpected direction it was possible that Harris would have severe problems in linking the new novel into the other 3. It would have been all to easy for him to have taken an aspect of Lecter too lightly and thus ruining the appeal of this and the other books along the way. Thankfully he manages to avoid doing that and rather than revealing too much of Lecter's psyche, he actually gives us a bigger taster that actually makes the other three even more appealing. There is something about Harris's writing that really hooks the reader into his thrillers and this one is no different.

        With the other three novels I found that Harris really excels when it comes to characterisation and once again he does not disappoint. Of course Lecter is the only character that any reader will have come across, but throughout the book Harris reveals a little more about our lead character. He gives enough to create a more insightful look into his mind, but still keeping enough of him a mystery to keep the reader hooked on the novel and more importantly the series.

        The rest of the characters, while clearly only there to aid with the development of Lecter really were described and put across very well. His family for starters and in particular his sister Mishca were very well built up and I thought Harris did very well with his secondary characters indeed. The same can be said about Lady Murasaki, the widow of his late uncle Robert. Harris shows the relationship between them very well and in a hidden twist the way she nurtures him. I thought that a lot of the sub characters that Harris has created and used to fulfil his ultimate means work very well and make this a compelling read.

        Overall I was very impressed with Hannibal Rising. I'd been quite worried that it might not live up to the expectation and I certainly wanted to read it before I seen the movie. I've felt that despite having the written for a movie feel about it, that Harris has created another page turning thriller. It hooks the reader from the very beginning and with a combination of addictive characters and shocking events it holds your attention throughout. If you haven't read any of the Hannibal series this would infact be a much better place to start than Red Dragon, but either way I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Hannibal Rising to anyone.

        Amazon: £8.99
        Amazon Marketplace: £7

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          10.02.2007 12:02
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          This is not a worthy prequel to the other books

          I’m not normally into the horror/thriller genre but ever since I saw Silence of the Lambs I have been a closet Hannibal ‘fan’ (if that’s the right word, I don’t want to sound like some sort of psychotic maniac!). I actually got Hannibal Rising as a present and couldn’t wait to read it before I saw it at the cinema.

          The book is basically a prequel to Silence of the Lambs. It attempts to describe some of the aspects that turned Hannibal into the monster that we know and, in a very strange sense of the word, love.

          The book follows young Hannibal as he goes through a very traumatic event which is to shape all of his later life. He ends up being brought up by his uncle and the uncle’s wife who he comes to respect and adore. When the uncle dies their relationship grows and this is the only person in the world that Hannibal seems to care about at all. For a long time he cannot remember the events from his childhood as he is so traumatised but one day they come back to haunt him.

          I read the book in one day in spite of not usually being a very fast reader. Unfortunately this was more to do with wanting to escape the torture that it was rather than anything else.

          The book seems to be something that has been written in a haste, not because Thomas Harris wanted to explain Hannibal but because the wanted the money normally associated with him. It was always a dangerous idea to try to explain Hannibal and I don’t feel that this attempt in any way manages to explain anything. It is fairly slow and sometimes can be a bit difficult to follow. Hannibal seems to change from a sensitive and protective child into an angry violent and cruel youngster with nothing really in between.

          After having read this I will not go to see the movie as it was such a massive disappointment.

          If you, in spite of this would like to read the book you can pick it up on Amazon for £8.99 but I’d wait until all the unwanted copies end up on ebay as that seems way too much money to spend on this mess.

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            07.02.2007 18:25
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            More of a light snack than a full blown feast

            Introduction
            ----------------
            Ever wondered why Hannibal Lecter turned out the way he did? Read on, as we delve into the memories of the world’s most famous cannibal.

            The Book
            -------------
            The book starts from an intriguing premise: how did Hannibal the child become the adult we know of from both Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs? How did he become so disturbingly good at killing? I’m sure it’s a thought that most of us have had at one time or another when reading the books or watching the films.

            I was certainly intrigued by the notion when I saw the book advertised. However, then I stopped and had second thoughts (always dangerous!). Surely, part of the appeal of Lecter is that he is such an enigma, that his inhumanity is so chilling and, apparently, so utterly without reason. By finding out his past, wouldn’t some of the mystery surrounding him be stripped away and the character actually become less interesting?

            It appears that author Thomas Harris shares these concerns and doesn’t actually reveal a great deal more about Lecter than we already knew. Depending on your point of view, you will either find this a relief (in which case you will enjoy the book) or annoying (in which case you won’t). Certainly, we find out about his past and about how his keen intellect was developed and even why he became so apparently cold and emotionless. However, these ideas are never fully developed and are always dealt with on a very superficial level, which leaves the book feeling a little light and frothy – attributes unbecoming in a Lecter novel!

            We also get to see a different side to Lecter, which is interesting and find out that he had a caring and emotional side which he gradually suppressed. What we don’t learn is how he became so disturbingly good at killing. In fact, from the book, it appears that he simply was always good at it, even from a very young age. In other words, we learn lots of peripheral information about the character, without ever coming close to finding out what actually makes him tick.

            There is the danger that Mr Lecter is not a strong enough character to support a book in his own right. After all, in both Lambs and Dragon, he was little more than a support character, albeit a very powerful one. The weaker third novel Hannibal undoubtedly suffered by giving him a much greater role. Here, he has to carry the whole novel on his own. Does he have the strength of personality to be the lead? The answer is a qualified yes. Hannibal proves a compelling character, as we see the world through his eyes and gradually see him falling deeper and deeper into himself.

            Much of this is due to the strength of Thomas Harris’ writing. Harris has a very readable style, chopping chapters into short chunks, making it the perfect book for train or bus journeys. It also has that ability to draw you in and you think “I’ll just read one more chapter before going to sleep. After all, it’s only short…!” Harris’ writing has also evolved well over the years and you can almost hear Hopkins’ clipped delivery in the way Hannibal speaks, which is curiously pleasing!

            The basic storyline is interesting and compelling, if a little unoriginal. As already mentioned, Lecter’s deviances are “explained” by childhood trauma and, strip away the more fanciful elements of cannibalism, the plot is one of revenge – something which has been done hundreds of times before. However, it is done in a way that keeps you reading and makes you want to know more.

            On the downside, Hannibal Rising has more in common with the overblown Hannibal and less with the superior Dragon/Lambs. Whereas his first two novels were interesting, psychological studies of the criminal mind (whilst also being thrilling crime stories), his last two books have clearly been written with the mass market in mind. Much of the psychological edge, examining why some people turn into “monsters” has been lost in favour of prurient and salacious deaths.

            The book might also be little slow paced for some readers, as the emphasis is as much on building the atmosphere as for the actual acts of violence and revenge. Indeed, the revenge element takes up only the final third or so of the book, with the first two hundred pages setting the background. On this basis, I fear for the forthcoming film. From the trailer it looks as though they may have added additional action sequences to try to compensate for this “slow” pace, and I’m worried this might unsettle the very delicate balance the book tries to set. I guess I shall have to wait and see.

            Finally, the other concern is that the book has been left open-ended. Thomas Harris has left himself with the option of continuing to explore both ends of Hannibal’s life – either by continuing with events from his youth, or taking up where events left off at the end of Hannibal. Personally, I feel that, entertaining though Hannibal is, the character has been taken as far as he can and it is time for literature’s most famous cannibal to vanish quietly back into obscurity.

            Conculsion
            --------------
            An interesting and entertaining read, without ever being thrilling. Just don’t expect to be that much wiser about why Lecter is the way he is by the end of the book. It’s a shame that the Hannibal books are increasingly playing to the popular market and losing the psychological elements which made Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs so entertaining.

            Basic Information
            ------------------------
            Hannibal Rising
            Author: Thomas Harris
            Publisher: Heinemann
            December 2006
            337 pages
            ISBN: 0434014087
            £8.99 from Amazon.com

            Copyright SWSt 2007

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          • Product Details

            He is one of the most haunting characters in all of literature. At last, the evolution of his evil is revealed. Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal's uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle's beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal.With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal's demons visit him and torment him.When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death's prodigy.