Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thomas Harris, Hannibal Rising

Thomas Harris’ tragic character Hannibal Lecter was revealed in his youth form for the first time to the public eye when he bounced into our laps in the 2006 novel Hannibal Rising (2006), a novel which forces us to reflect on the true horrors of war, ponder to what effect karma actually has on our lives, and question the sugar-coated meaning of the word “love”, asking ourselves on the way how far humans would actually go for such a debatable, and under-defined emotion.

This early 21st century thriller novel follows the story of the grievous character Hannibal Lecter, afflicted forever by the horrors he experienced while in-hiding on the WWII war front. The story begins (as most thriller or horror novels do) with happy times at Lecter Castle, the castle that Hannibal’s father owns. Harris is not clear as to exactly where this story takes place in the beginning, but it is safe to assume that this is in Russia, because at the end of the first chapter he writes, “It was the second day of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s lightning sweep across the Eastern Europe into Russia.” (Harris p. 9).

After just a few paragraphs, readers see the happy times of the Lecter family begin to slowly dissolve as Harris writes, “The children felt three hard thumps in the ground and the water shivered, blurring their faces. The sound of distant explosions rolled across the fields. Hannibal grabbed up his sister and ran for the castle.” (Harris p. 6) After the Lecter family flees to their hideout, Hannibal’s parents fall dead and the shelter is taken over by looters, who soon run out of supplies and feast on Mischa. The cannibalism of Mischa little sister is a turning point in the story, because Hannibal cannot escape the images in his mind, the ones said to create who he is: “Mischa suspended in the air by her arms, twisting to look back at him.” (Harris p. 85). Lady Murasaki, Hannibal’s beautiful Aunt, is the one who propelled Hannibal’s killing spree, for as he grows fonder of her, he also grows more protective.

The book’s strengths may be numerous, but they are also debatable. Although this book was thrilling, fast paced, and kept the reader turning pages and wanting more, it only pertains to certain audiences, ones wanting something to ponder or an occasional chill on the back of their spine. But this book would not be recommended for someone searching for positive reading as this book always serves the question “How well do you know your loved ones, the ones closest to you?” This book is not a good choice for those looking for a piece of light reading. This book is a very good choice for those wishing to reflect, as we see prompts of thought pertaining to karma and love.

The novel makes us think about karma and revenge when paired together, and how it is a vicious cycle. Karma first appears in the book during the cannibalism of Mischa, as we see Hannibal later on hunting down the cannibals one by one. Another prompt is the book’s use on the word love, as the literary relationship between Hannibal and Lady Murasaki deepens. Hannibal’s feelings for Lady Murasaki are revealed little by little until after his liberation of her when he says, “I love you, Lady Murasaki.” (Harris p. 346). She responds by saying, “What is left in you to love?” (Harris p. 347) and then running from the cabin, disturbed after seeing Hannibal kill all the men on the ship. This scene holds for a discussion on the nature of love, and the reality of it. During the plot of the book, we see a sexual attraction forming between Hannibal and his Aunt, Lady Murasaki, but they react differently. As Hannibal fights for her and goes to all lengths to protect her, she fights against her feelings, not willing to give up her moral discipline for a relationship with the troubled nephew, seeing what he’s become. Sadly, they don’t know what kind of love their emotions fall under, or what love truly means, so they’ve confused it for their mere sexual attraction.

The book’s weaknesses fall under the author himself, Thomas Harris. Harris’ writing style tended to lack appeal, as somewhat awkward sentences, such as “Hitler’s lightning sweep across Eastern Europe into Russia.” (Harris p. 9) would break the flow. The author’s writing style is simplistic and straight to the point, and although this is not necessarily a negative thing, he lacked the charm of words needed to balance and pull off such a style. The final and most negative aspect of the novel is the blatant way that Harris breaks the original idea and characterization of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In an earlier novel, Harris stated that Hannibal has no official psychological condition, but this novel is full of moments which prove Hannibal to be psychologically unstable. In this book it is obvious that Hannibal is far above the average IQ when he solves calculus equations all before the age of 11, there is evidence of Hannibal’s mind not being psychologically connected to his body, there’s instances in which Hannibal shows skills of deceit such as the one where he fools a polygraph test by changing his stage of mind, and there’s many sections where Harris makes a reference to Hannibal controlling his heart rate. Harris has created the perfect outline for someone who is psychologically unstable. Harris still pulls out his old ideas of Hannibal having no known psychological condition, but just having a strong rage and temper, such as the scene after the polygraph test. Inspector Popil, a minor character in the novel, says to Hannibal after the test, “War crimes do not end with the war, Hannibal”, (Harris p.142) which gauges out his emotions of anger, forcing him to show a revealing tone of voice.

Although the author’s style was inevitably faulty, the book was fast paced and thought provoking, bringing out ideas and emotions those we never knew we had. With the fourth and most revealing piece literature involving this character, readers can be sure that the infamous and tragic character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter will be seared into our memories for years to come.
Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


Back to main page

1 comment:

  1. This is a very poor review, indicative of a basic lack of understanding on the part of the reviewer.

    I'm not saying the book was amazing - it wasn't, especially for Harris. But the reasons you cited are all off the mark.

    ReplyDelete