|Release: 1999, Pages: 544|
Short nitty-gritty plot description from the back cover is as follows: You remember Hannibal Lecter: gentleman, genius, cannibal. Seven years have passed since Dr. Lecter escaped from custody. And for seven years he's been at large, free to savor the scents, the essences, of an unguarded world. But intruders have entered Dr. Lecter's sanctuary, piercing his new identity, sensing the evil that surrounds him. For the multimillionaire Hannibal left maimed, for a corrupt Italian policeman, and for FBI agent Clarice Starling, who once stood before Lecter and who has never been the same, the hunt for Hannibal Lecter has begun. All of them, in their separate ways, want to find Dr. Lecter. And all three will get their wish. But only one will live long enough to savor the reward....
Oh boy, where do we begin. I'll get the positives out of the way first. From the first page, I was loving what Thomas Harris was doing. He was catching us up on the career of Clarice Starling, referencing the past novels and really making me invested in her character and all her struggles she's had to go through over the course of seven years at the FBI. A certain high profile FBI agent, by the name of Krendler (introduced in The Silence of the Lambs), is causing all sorts of problems for Clarice, as he just doesn't like her. Add on the fact that just recently she was in a shoot out and killed a woman holding a baby and a close friend died in the process, things are looking pretty bleak for Clarice, as the papers and TV are putting her down as a killer. Even Hannibal himself worries for her; Clarice finds this out by receiving a friendly letter from him, the first in seven years.
From there, we jump into what Hannibal Lecter has been up to in those years and we find out he's been hanging out in Florence, living large. He's appearance has been altered slightly and he's going under a different name. Everything is looking peachy keen, until a past victim of Hannibal's, wants to exact revenge on him and hires a corrupt investigator to find Hannibal and bring him in to get fed to the pigs, genetically engineered pigs that is. So far, I'm liking what I'm reading (genetic pigs aside).
However, we come to the second half of the book, where things tumble down so fast, you'll be dizzy from the drop in quality. Here, Thomas Harris goes into some weird perverse universe, changing Hannibal Lecter into a likeable hero and Clarice Starling into a damsel in distress. The "villain" of the piece, Mason Verger (the past victim) is unlikeable, which is great, but his life is just laughable, with a testosterone jacked sister and the strange need to drink the tears of children. (You can't make this shit up folks!) I understand his hatred for Lecter, as you would be mad too, if Lecter forced you into feeding your face to some dogs, but I just couldn't find myself caring about what happens to him. In fact, I couldn't care less for what happens to anyone in the second half, save for the dick head Krendler.
Now let's get to what is important and the thing that will tarnish your view of this novel completely; the ending. I won't spoil it here, so I can't talk much about it, but I will say that the movie Hannibal does it way better. In the book, character traits are twisted unnecessarily, only to invoke a shocking ending, an ending that is so insulting to what Harris established with Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs; you should've stopped while you were ahead Harris.
My plan was to finish Hannibal and continue on with Hannibal Rising, but now I'm not so sure. In fact, I think I'll take a break with Lecter and try something a little different and hopefully better. As for Hannibal, I enjoyed the first half of the book, but the second half was just plain awful. If I was to rate the book on just the ending alone, it would almost get a 0, but I can't do that. So instead, lets go with...
Rating: 2.5/5 (-0.5 for the drop in quality come the second half of the book. -0.5 for Mason, the tear drinking jerk head. -1.5 for an absolutely awful ending. +2.5 for a good first half.)