Book: Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

Good story of fictional murderer's early years

Thomas Harris
Hannibal Rising
Bantam Dell, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-385-33941-4
ISBN-10: 0-385-33941-0
323 pages

Dr Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon (published in 1981) where he's a sociopathic serial murderer who was previously caught by an FBI agent and now helps him to find another serial murderer. Mr Harris's later novel The Silence of the Lambs (1988) made him rather more famous and Hannibal Lecter played a similar role in it. But then in Hannibal (1999), Hannibal Lecter appears to be an almost sympathetic character. Or at least as sympathetic as a cannibal can be. In that novel, we find out that he was born in Lithuania and we get some details of his early life. This book, Hannibal Rising, is a short novel about those early years from Lecter's boyhood in Lithuania during the second world war to his medical internship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Mr Harris has accomplished a pretty impressive novelistic feat in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. Hannibal Lecter was a very effective character in the earlier books partly because he was frighteningly inhuman. Mr Harris gives us those novels' back-story here and pretty successfully steers between humanizing Lecter so much that we're not prepared to believe that it's the same Hannibal Lecter and humanizing him so little that he's an uninteresting character as a child and a young man. Within the context of the novel, I was willing to believe that the events in it would turn a privileged boy into the Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs.

As I mentioned, the novel isn't long. It's also of limited scope. There's nothing in this book that's as memorable as the events in Mr Harris's other Hannibal Lecter novels. Still, it's an exciting story and well told.

I rather doubt that Mr Harris meant to write, "Lady Murasaki was in the water. In the water was lady Murasaki...." (p. 70). I also doubt that Mr Harris has actually tried to carry flowers on a motorcycle (p. 280). Even if shielded from the wind they rarely arrive looking very good.

Posted: Mon - April 9, 2007 at 07:05 PM   Main   Category: