1.0 out of 5 stars
A Waste of Harris's Talent, May 30 2000
To echo the sentiments of many previous reviewers, Hannibal was one of the most disappointing books I have ever read, given Harris's previous masterpieces, Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon.
The book fails in three unforgivable ways: (1) Harris makes Clarisse Starling (Jodie Foster for those who have seen but not read Silence of the Lambs) act totally out of character; (2) Harris inexplicably gives us the reasons why Hannibal Lechter became insane; and (3) the plot is boring.
Since many other reviewers have also expressed the same disgust for Starling and since a detailed description would involve ruining the book's conclusion, I will not go into that failure further, but refer readers to previous reviews.
The second failure of this book, Harris's explanation of Hannibal's insanity is terrible because it takes the scariness away from the series. The Hannibal Lechter series worked in the first few books in large part because of the incredibly frightening thought that an extraordinarily intelligent, witty, well-educated professional is also, inexplicably, a monster of unspeakable proportions. In this book, Harris is turned into a run-of-the-mill maniac whose past explains his present actions. Instead of the psychological fear we had of Lechter, the only scary things in this book is the violence wrought by Hannibal.
This is even more unforgivable because Harris shows us how wonderful a writer he can be when he describes Hannibal's intelligence, as opposed to his insanity. The description of Hannibal's intelligence is beautiful, imaginative and intriguing, while the description of how Hannibal became insane is dull.
Which brings us to my last criticism: the book as a whole is boring. Although the violence scenes are well-written, the main plot, having to do with the search for Hannibal by the Clarisse and the authorities and by a former victim of Hannibal bent on revenge is uninteresting and shows off none of Harris's considerable abilities as a writer. Finally, because of Harris's decision to devote so much time to the horrible ending involving Clarisse's startling metamorphosis, Harris gives short shrift to the plot, having it come to a climax before the plot even has a chance to become interesting. Therefore, I suggest you skip this book and hope that Harris's next book is better.