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on July 6, 2003
Well, I wrote a review a while ago of this book before I had seen the movie, and promised to write another one after I had seen the film. Well, before I watched Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs," I read the novels "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal." And the other day, I had a four film marathon which consisted of "Manhunter," "Red Dragon," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal." I must say I was just a wee bit dissipointed with the film version of this novel. I thought it was a very good movie, and have already watched it three times, but I have been hearing so much about how it was the absolute SCARIEST and absolute GORIEST and absolute BEST movie ever made, and I felt a bit dissipointed on all of those levels. While I was dissipointed, I felt it was still an excellent film. Compared to Brian Cox's subtler and closer-to-the-book version of Hannibal Lector in "Manhunter," I thought Anthony Hopkins' interprtation of him in "The Silence of the Lambs" was a lot better, and much more memorable. Hopkins eats up the screen with panache and remains the most memorable thing in the movie. He is simply amazing. I think I enjoyed the movie a little more than the book because it was easier to understand what was going on visually. For example, every scene with Lector, Lector's escape, the showdown with Buffalo Bill and the autopsy scene were all much more effective here. In the novel, all we have are Hannibal's words and Clarice's words, but in the movie, we see Hannibal's expressions and Clarice's face and it was all much more interesting to me in the film. I don't really "picture" characters when I read a book, so I wasn't dissipointed with any of the actors in the film version. Ted Levine was really, REALLY scary as Jame Gumb and that trick he did with his richard near the end will haunt me forever. Jodie Foster was good as Clarice and Scott Glenn was suitable as Crawford (though I preferred Dennis Farina in "Manhunter"). Anyway, in comparision to the film, my opinion on the book hasn't changed much. I enjoyed the book the first time I read and now that I've seen the movie I still think it's good. Not good enough for five stars, but still quite good. Thomas Harris' writing style was unique and it seems like hwe put alot of research into the way the FBI functions because the whole book seemed quite realistic.
Anyway, my recommendation is to read the book then see the movie. The movie, I thought, was better, but the book is still a good read. Incidentally, I liked the novel "Hannibal" MUCH better, however.
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on May 15, 2003
I may be 12, but I still can enjoy a good and sophisticated book. I have never seen the "Silence of the Lambs" movie, but I read the book. You see, I was checking out my grandma's book collection, and I happened to catch a glimpse of one book sitting on the shelf. I picked it up, dusted it off, and discovered it was "The Silence of the Lambs." I had heard the movie was really good, but I'd never heard anybody talk about a book. In fact, I didn't even know there was a book. I thought it might be an adaption of the movie, but the (really cool) cover said "The #1 New York Times Bestseller Is Now The Movie Event Of The Year." It was a pretty old book. My grandma let me borrow it, and I started reading it. It started a little slow, but quickly got pretty exciting. I think that it is best for me to review this book without seeing the movie, because I wn't make comparisions and stuff. Later, I'll write one after I've seen the movie.
Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee with a wierd past. She gets a call from Jack Crawford one day, and meets up with him. He tells her a killer only known as "Buffalo Bill" is on the loose and killing young women. He thinks that Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lector might know somehing. Hannibal is locked away in a very high security mental institution, where he amuses himself by reminiscing (sp?) about the past, drawing things and writing letters or words of wisdom. Hannibal is a genius, but an evil one. After eating a bit of a nurse, he's been locked away for a long time. Clarice meets with him, and discovers he is a true gentlemen. He is polite, uses appropriate grammar, but happens to have a fondness for eating meat that's not quite the kind we get at the store. He agrees to help her, if she'll exchange information about her past. With every complicated hint, she gets closer to finding out who Buffalo Bill really is and where he is. The clock is ticking, he has just kidnapped the senator's daughter, and it's up to her to solve the mystery!
This was a good book. I didn't think it was great, but I enjoyed it and finished it quickly. I'm aware that there are other Lector books (and movies) which include "Red Dragon" and "Hannibal." I haven't read these. I don't think it's important, because I understood the plot fine. I thought the creepy thing about this movie was that it was realistic and could actually happen. There are tons of sickos in this world like Buffalo Bill, and some evil geniuses like Hannibal Lector. My favorite part of this story was the final showdown with Buffalo Bill and Clarice Starling. The suspense leading up to it was great.
The way Thomas Harris writes was very strange. It was written almost like something you would read in a police file. It sounded factual and not fictional. I think that added to its sense of realism. I liked the character of Starling, but I found her a little dull. Maybe in the movie she's better.
Anyway, I'm gonna go have a movie marathon of Lector (in this order: "Manhunter," "Red Dragon," "The Silence Of The Lambs," and "Hannibal"). This was a cool book and I think you should read it.
Incidentally, the one my grandma had was old, and had a cover way cooler than the ones now. It showed half of Clarice Starling's face on the left side, tinted blue. On the right side was half of Hannibal Lector's face. The moth symbol was between them, and there are wings covering their lips. If you find this at an old used book store, get it because it is way cooler that the ones out now.
Hope my review helped. I'll write another after I see the movie.
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on December 19, 2002
As I have seen the film of the same name many times, I already understood the gruesome goal that piqued Jame Gumb's mind as he killed each of his victims and earned the name 'Buffalo Bill'. However, being aware of the murderer's intentions did not detract from the overall reading, rather it allowed me the freedom to analyze Harris' work from a craftsman's perspective and pay closer attention to the baited hints Hannibal Lector tosses to Clarice Starling akin to bits of bread flicked to greedy birds. These scenes between Lector and Starling are electrifying in their simplicity and nuanced with a psychological tension so taut it leaves the reader gritting his teeth and sucking in his breath. Harris' juxtaposition of Lector's insidious disregard for anything that barricades his way, with his refined tastes and superior brain powers creates a personality that evokes a fascinating blend of revulsion and admiration. Like Starling, we are titillated and repulsed--little flies in Lector's spiderweb.

The film covers the novel's ground to near perfection, so anyone who has seen and enjoyed the film knows what to expect. Crawford's character in the book is fleshed out with a little more detail regarding his personal life. Such details plunge the reader deeper into the dark world of criminal investigation where sleepless nights and stark conditions supercede any of the press-generated glory from a real time quality-of-life standpoint.
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on August 30, 2002
Thomas Harris is and will always be one of the best suspense writers that ever lived. That's because his novels grip you, scare you, excite, and entertain you at the same time. His descriptions may be a bit graphic but that's the formula he uses to keep us reading. I, myself, finished this book in three short days because it was amazing: the chemistry of the characters, the mystery that he wants us and the main character to solve, the drama that scares us and makes this book a page-turner. Overall, it's amazing. I actually read this book without reading Red Dragon, the book that took place earlier than this story. I admit there were some scenes in the book that I did not understand. But enough of that. The Silence of the Lambs is about a young trainee at the F.B.I. academy named Clarice Starling. She is suprised when she is summoned by Jack Crawford, Chief of the Department's Behavioral Science section, a buidlign that deals with murders and serial killers. Crawford tells the trainee that a serial killer named Buffalo Bill is on the loose and killing women and skinning them. Starling's assignment is to interview Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter, a captured serial killer held at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane ,known for his grisly ways. And as Hannibal starts handing out clues to Clarice, the case gets more personal. I won't tell you the ending but I'll tell you this: the ending does make room for a sequel. The characters are perfectly described, the suspense keeps your eyes glued to the page, and the climax is spectacular. No wonder that Stephen King, the master of supernatural horror wrote "This book simply comes at you and comes at you, finally leaving you shaken and sober and afraid on a deeper level than simple 'thrills' alone furnish." This is a must buy for all fans of suspense annd horror. This is the book that would go on to become a classic masterpiece and gain four Academy Awards including Best Actor Anthony Hopkins for his portrayal as Hannibal Lecter and Jodie Foster would win Best Actress for her role as Clarice Starling.
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on May 3, 2001
Thomas Harris' book The Silence of the Lambs has been reissued with a subtler, more artistic design, displaying a moth but no screaming death's head, and in a larger size that hints at the literary heft to be found between its covers. The publishers at St. Martin's Press know what they're doing, and if they want to argue for Harris a larger place in the modern canon, I will agree: we're being asked to pay attention to Harris with more than airport-reading consideration and we will be rewarded. The Silence of the Lambs stars Clarice Starling, a student at the FBI training academy, who becomes enmeshed in a disturbing serial murder case.
As the only woman in a male dominated behavioral science department, Clarice brings fresh insights to the search for mad killer Buffalo Bill. Strangely, the other person with insight into the case is locked away in a high security prison vault, sealed from the light of day-Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a madman in his own right. The two, bright-eyed, young, but worldly Clarice and human-organ-eating Lecter, make for an interesting team. But each has power in his or her way and each wants something precious from the other.
Lecter wants freedom and, to some extent, Clarice's company, while Clarice needs to close in on Buffalo Bill before he maims another woman. Along the way, she may also silence some of her self-doubt and lingering need for closure with aspects of her past. Buffalo Bill is on the lose trapping, holding captive, killing, and skinning overweight twenty-something women. The fact that he believes himself to be a transvestite and is making himself a dress out of woman skin has uncertain thematic implications, but there it is. The imprisoned Lecter, who originally seems to have uncanny and brilliant insight into the mind of this lunatic, draws Clarice closer to him by lending her clues in miserly fashion. With their dangerous tango in play, Clarice shifts back into the world of the FBI and on more than one occasion is forced to deal with a sexist environment to simply do her job.
Harris takes care to show us how the mind of this young trainee works systematically and deductively, qualities her male superiors can immediately appreciate, but also how she draws from her own unique experience as a woman and someone raised lower class. Driving her throughout the text is a deep sense of connection with the victims, a heightened empathy we fail to see demonstrated by the other investigators, and more importantly, with the living Catherine Martin. Buffalo Bill's latest detainee, Catherine is the daughter of a senator, and the question will be whether she and Clarice Starling can not only actively resist, but overcome the forces that move to stifle them.
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on April 24, 2001
With really only John Grisham and Steven King in mind, I must admit that I had somewhat low expectations for a book that I had seen made into a popular movie. However, The Silence of the Lambs went out of its way to make sure that I punished myself for ever making those assumptions. The book is fantastic. Although it was a thriller/horror novel, it made me smile as I read it because it did what I always hope every novel will do: allow a riveting plot to reveal the thematic elements of a novel in a way that draws the reader ever deeper into the novel. The story of the novel is fairly well-known; an escaped mental patient named Hannibal Lecter toys with the mind of Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee assigned to profile him. This is a plot that vaguely resembles the rough outline for any slasher film or grocery store thriller, but the fact that Thomas Harris is able to use his plot in such an inventive way that creates stimulating themes and subplots is where the novel becomes extraordinary. A lot of this is accomplished through Harris' superb characterization. Every character in the novel, no matter how central, is carefully depicted so that even in two or three sentences, the reader may no whether he or she is a sexist, racist, elitist, or raging psychopath. Another thing that Harris does to please the reader is he makes every item placed in the novel relevant. Every detail he gives us at a murder scene early in the novel comes back to mean something later. This is something that may not seem to be important, but it shows that Harris is taking care of his novel as well as the reader, which could be considered a primary function of a piece of literature. I mentioned the strong thematic element in the novel, which Harris achieves both through expositional narrative as well as characterization. In this novel, Harris allows his themes to simultaneously make his fundamental statement about the world. We see opinion on gender issues, as well as societal issues. Again, I look for this element as a vital part of any novel, and The Silence of the Lambs seems to be very complete in terms of necessary literary ingredients. My favorite thing about this novel is the fact that it reads as a very educated and sophisticated psycho-analytical work, while at the same time acting as a brilliant work of pure fiction. The parts of the novel which explain both Lecter's condition as well as the effect this condition has on his actions seem very realistic, at least to someone with no psychological experience. Harris just seems to have done his homework on the subject, which, again, shows that he is making an effort to take care of his reader while at the same time doing his book justice. I just think that this is a wonderful novel, from a literary as well as an entertainment standpoint. It satisfies all my wants of a novel and gives me hope for other novels that become movies.
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on April 18, 2001
"Hannibal" the movie has come and gone, and, well it has left a lot of people feeling deprived of a thrilling tale of the infamous Dr. Lector. So why not read Silence of the Lambs? I believe it is more bone shaking, heart racing, and thought provoking than the movie itself. And it expresses gender roles in an uncomfortable way! Is there a better way to spend an evening than reading a tale of flesh eating violence while critiquing the social portrayal of feminine culture in this novel? I think not.
If you are saying to yourself "I have already seen the movie, why read it." STOP thinking that. This book, though very similar to the movie, has more of a literary movement in it and some scenes that are quite different than on screen. Plus, you get the added bonus of letting your imagination scare the you know what out of you not the Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins.
If you have not seen the movie, definitely read the book first. You will get so much more out of it thematically and you'll get to read scenes not in the movie. Plus, you'll be that 'smart' person for having read the book before actually seeing the movie. What better way to impress friends!?
But down to the important stuff, Thomas Harris has beautifully illustrated feminine struggles in a masculine world in this novel. He captures the awkwardness of women when men doubt their abilities and he displays frustrations deeply rooted in this gender battle to make it to the top. Fall in love with his characters, hate his characters, but you will be befriended by the Hannibal himself. It is truly a love-hate relationship with Dr. Lector. As for the main character Clarice Starling, readers will follow her through strenuous F.B.I training all the way to Buffalo Bill. See her strengths, feel her weakness, hear the lambs, but side with her anyway.
Silence of the Lambs by Tomas Harris is beautifully written with chilling scenes and likeable characters as weird as that might sound. The author portrays the struggles of women, stereotypes that apply, and double standards. He explores the objectivity of women through scenes with Clarice and men opposite her. Read this book and find out what exactly the title means and see what it takes to silence the lambs.
Methodical prose will leave you clinging to blankets, covering your eyes with every strange sound, and yet, you'll still turn those pages. Is there a better way to spend an evening than reading a tale of flesh eating violence while critiquing the social portrayal of feminine culture in this novel? I think not.
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on April 18, 2001
Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs is much more than just an airport thriller. It is a bona-fied literary achievement. Yes it is a psychological thriller, but the novel also works on a deeper thematic level. I could tell that there was equal thought put into the composition of both the suspenseful drama, as well as the poignant themes. Harris is also aware of the issues that exist between men and women in today's society, and he exposes the problems that arise from these gender relationships. Suspense is the driving force behind this book and Harris is a master at using it to consume the reader. From the start the reader is anxiously anticipating the direction the plot will take. Following the path of the serial killer Buffalo Bill, F.B.I. trainee Clarice Starling is thrown into a world where women are objectified and have to struggle to obtain any form of power. She encounters opposition and encouragement from both sides of the gender line, which further fuels the conflicts at hand. The tension constantly rises throughout the sixty-one chapters, reaching a boiling point where forces collide, causing one side to be rewarded, the other, punished. While the suspense contributes solely to the plot, the careful use of characterization pushes the thematic level as well as the intense drama. Harris employs a wide array of characters in his analysis of gender relations. There's Clarice Starling, her boss Jack Crawford, the dangerously intelligent psychopath Hannibal Lector, the serial killer Buffalo Bill and the devious Frederick Chilton to name a few. The interactions between all of these characters scrutinize the psychological implications of gender relations in America. The fact that two of these people are extremely dangerous dramatically intensifies the conflicts within the novel. The aspect of gender is at the heart of this book. Every character's gender must be taken into account in order to understand their place in the world as Thomas Harris sees it. The language Harris uses is fairly simple, but it is incredibly real. If he were to use prose in an unconventional manner, much of the dramatic effect would be lost. Instead he presents the scenes in a very clear, yet chilling manner, enabling the reader to concentrate less on complex syntax, and more on the literal happenings of the book. This allows for a fuller experience with the story. From a cinematic standpoint, it is great to finally see an accurate interpretation of literature on film. The movie accurately depicts the gender driven thematics as well as the suspense riddled plot. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to experience a great mix of dramatic and thematic devices. Harris places equal importance on both aspects of literature, therefore creating a masterpiece for the literary community. If you have not read The Silence of the Lambs, don't approach it as a mere psychological thriller. Keep in mind that other levels exist, and that this book should be viewed from a literary perspective. If you have read it before, try it out again and see what else you can find. I bet you'll be surprised.
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on April 16, 2001
As I was reading some of the reviews for this novel I realized that not too many people liked this book. Well, I have to defend it all the way...I love this book. I thought it was way better then the movie (although the movie was good as well). I have to say that I enjoyed reading it more so then watching it. I feel that reading this book is more suspenseful then just watching the movie because the movie shows you everything. When you read any book, but especially, The Silence of the Lambs, you give your mind a chance to use its imagination. You allow it to envision what's going on by itself, rather then force it to see what someone else wants it to see.
I also like this book because it is told from a woman's perspective. However, this woman is not just any woman; this woman is Clarice Starling. Clarice is a young woman with a great body, an enticing smile, an accent, and a drive to succeed. However, her drive to succeed does not take off in the kitchen, where women are "meant to be"(yeah right). Instead Clarice's drive to succeed takes place in the "man's" field, the FBI.
The novel is not just a book about trying to put an end to a serial killer but more so, I see this is a novel as being about the will to succeed. An even deeper underlying theme one may consider would be that the novel is about the life of Clarice Starling or even as being about the life of women in general.
Granite there is a lot of gore in this novel, but I believe that there is an underlying theme. This theme deals with the roles women play. For example, look at the character of Mrs. Starling. We see her playing the role of a working mother, trying to keep life, as she and her children know it. But at this she fails. Then look at the women who are killed by Buffalo Bill. Their roles are as helpless victims, taken advantage of by something more powerful then themselves. Now look at the character of Catherine Martin. A kind young woman, taken advantage of, but continues to fight and use everything that she has to survive. She is gutsy, witty, and full of determination. Next look at Mrs. Martin, a woman who is in a high political position. However, in this novel we are able to see another side of her. A side that begs and pleads and bargains and cries for the life of her daughter. Finally lets look at the character of Clarice Starling. A bright attractive young woman trying to make it in a world of men. We the reader, get to see many sides of Clarice. We get to see her as a motherly/caring figure, a figure of control, a figure of sex, a figure of power, a figure of weakness, and a figure of success; as well as many other figures. The roles of women that I've described above, are not only for women, but are roles that men play as well. However, we don't see too much of male role playing in this novel, unless you consider the stereotypical "male power trip"(no offense men).
As stated above, this book is not for everyone, it is very gory and frightening in ways, however if you can handle all that then this is definitely an excellent book to read. It has many underlying themes and I think that due to the way it is written in some strange way, people on some level or another will be able to relate to it. So just read it!!!
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on April 15, 2001
This novel is an entertaining novel that seems to do well with the literary types as well as fulfilling its expectations as a work of suspense fiction. Thomas Harris gives us a character, a theme, and a plot plus an interesting style. These all fit nicely together. This is a novel that comes close to breaking the bounds of its genre and becoming accepted as "real fiction" by elitists. One can ask how Thomas Harris did it? My answer is he took the time to care more about the story than any convention or artsy style.
The plot is simple enough. It is well grounded and simply done. Suspenseful, yet not all that surprising. Harris drives the story foreword at a strong pace, not fast, not slow. But you will not be bored with the story by any means.
The themes are expressed in a straightforward way, using the form as a reflection of the function. For example, the book speaks a lot about the roles of women and any thing else you can imagine about the male female dichotomy. Buffalo Bill is after these women for their "femininity", not to have or posses, but to become. Other themes given attention too are the efforts of Clarice to get past her flaws, her own natural or biological advantages/disadvantages, and to outgrow her past. When you read it, just wonder what "The Silence of the Lambs" means.
Character is where Harris shines. Clarice is an interesting and complex character without being unbelievable. She has simple wants and goals and is not an unreasonable or whacked out character like those that usually embody the scope of literary fiction. Most important, however, she is a likable character. You go through the novel wishing her well, and hoping that she will succeed, unlike many other stories where your sympathies are not where they should be. As far as Clarice goes, she is believable and likeable, without being radical, which allows you the ability to put your self in her shoes, heightening the suspense!
Hannibal Lecter is the second of Harris' great characters. All the things above that apply to Clarice don't for Lecter. Lecter is a genius and a cannibal. He is not normal or reasonable. Harris, however, does a good job for making him believable. I personally found him an unsympathetic character, but most others I have talked to think he is really "a good guy down deep". Harris goes to great lengths toward crafting this character, I think we are meant to feel something towards him.
Another thing that Harris does really well, which is rewarding to the storytellers among us, is writes in a simple manner. He doesn't use incredibly flowery sentences, yet he is no illiterate. His description is direct and to the point, and most importantly, the story MOVES. It doesn't stagnate for 20 pages on a little bird that happened to fly past Clarice's eye. No, the story spends reasonable time on relevant concepts.
All the good points about this book come back to the care and love that Harris put into his novel. He didn't just type type type to make a buck and he didn't just plop down a hundred pages of stream of consciousness to fill up space. HE LOVED IT. The way he lovingly crafted the story speaks for his care of the thematic implications. This is the big difference; this is the one thing that makes a good story good.
I definitely recommend this novel. Read it for yourself, for pleasure, or for study, either way you'll get something out of it.
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