Author: Thomas Harris
Page Count/Review Word Count: 564
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is one of those rare characters which becomes iconic, who becomes a meme and ends up appearing outside his original series in parodies, mash-ups and remixes. This book is probably one of the more well-known Thomas Harris novels, and one which sees the notorious cannibal at his best, and at his scariest.
The third book in the series, it’s set seven years after The Silence of the Lambs and features the return of the notorious cannibal, as well as FBI agent Clarice Starling. I’m not going to go in to too much detail about the story, because there’s a shock ending which caused a lot of controversy as well as a hell of a lot of character growth, probably more so than there is in any of the other Hannibal novels with the possible exception of Hannibal Rising.
I think that part of the menace in the novel comes from the fact that Hannibal is on the run, and the threat of him is very real not just inside a jail cell but in the real world, on the streets of cities that you might’ve visited. Then there’s the fact that there’s a second antagonist, a man who wants Lecter dead and who seems intent on using Clarice as an unwitting pawn in his game of cat and mouse.
And it’s not just me who enjoyed this novel more than the others – in fact, Stephen King is a fan of the series and has cited Hannibal as one of his two favourite contemporary horror books, alongside The Exorcist. If you ask me, the Exorcist is the better book, but that doesn’t mean that Hannibal isn’t bad – it’s just a thoroughly gripping thriller, rather than the gamechanger that the Exorcist went on to become.
The novel was also the second bestselling book of the year when it was released in 1999, shifting 1.3 million copies. Gone are the days when Thomas Harris’ work is never out of the bestseller lists, but his work has aged surprisingly well and I’m of the opinion that Hannibal is still just as fresh as the day it came out. Most people who read this sort of thing will have already read it by now, and so you’ll be falling behind if you don’t read a copy yourself.
All this said, it’s definitely worth reading the series in order, and so check out Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs if you haven’t already – when you’ve read them, you can move on to this, and you’ll get much more from the story-line if you know the history of the psychopathic antagonist that we all know and love, even if we’re scared of him. It’s just like any series – it’s always better to watch it evolve over time, rather than to dip in and out.
Once you’ve read the book, you should also consider checking out the movie adaptation, which was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Anthony Hopkins in the titular role. It’s a decent adaptation, but you’ll enjoy it all the more if you read and enjoyed the book. The book has more detail, and somehow the gristle and gore are more vivid in your imagination than they are on-screen. Thomas Harris has a knack for acting like an ignition.