Pros: Loved the characters, interesting read, nicely done
Cons: Verb tense switching, can easily be substituted for the more visual movie
The Bottom Line: When you're done, go check out the real Death's Head Moth - it's super cool looking...
A week or so ago I had to leave the house for a few hours so it could be shown to potential buyers. Now, I’ve got a list of books I want to read, so whenever I leave the house for showings, I head to the library and scope out new possibilities. Except half the time I end up ordering books from other libraries anyway. Still, this time I was hoping that Hannibal would be on the shelf for me to read. I'd seen the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted to see how its paper counterpart would treat me. That’s right – enough of this Fear Street kid stuff and into bigger and better things.
Well, much to my dismay, Hannibal wasn’t there. But Silence of the Lambs was. I actually hadn’t intended to read all of it…but I figured why not? Might as well read this first anyway and see how the novel by Thomas Harris differs from the movie. Haha…
Clarice Starling, FBI agent in training at Quantico. Pretty student with exceptional skills. Jack Crawford, head of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section has noted Starling’s dedication and has come up with an assignment for her. No one has successfully interviewed the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter, aka Hannibal the Cannibal. Lecter has killed nine (known) people and had a taste of most of them. However, he is also highly intelligent when it comes to psychology, and it may be possible for him to add some insight into the FBI’s latest case.
Buffalo Bill, as the media has dubbed him, has been snatching up women, skinning them in various places, and dumping their bodies in the river. There is no pattern, no understood motive, and no way to find out where he will strike next or where he is located. What began as a simple interview with Dr. Lecter turns into a multi-state hunt by Clarice, seeking out clues to Dr. Lecter’s words that can lead to the capture of Buffalo Bill. There is more to this than just kidnapping and murdering women, and to figure it out, she has to get inside Lecter’s head – after allowing him inside hers – and must overcome her own prejudices, self-criticism, and ignorance of others to save Buffalo Bill’s latest prey.
If you are like me and happen to be curious of how this compares to the movie, let’s just say you can watch the movie and not miss much of anything. At all. The movie actually follows the book as close as I’ve ever seen a movie version do before. There are only minor alterations, and they only add to the movie.
In this way, I am a little disappointed. I was hoping for more details, more interaction between Lecter and Starling, things that weren’t in the movie that would have been great there. No such luck. The description is actually pretty cut and dry. That’s not to say it isn’t good description; some of the ways Starling sees Crawford were good and I enjoyed her little thoughts that popped up from time to time. And I never knew Lecter had six fingers.
Taking the movie out of the equation, it’s a good book. Good story, steady plot, very nice pacing, and dialogue that went right with the characters. One thing I particularly liked is some of the detail Harris put in when it came to guns, the moth, etc. It makes me wonder how much research Harris did before working this novel out. Unless it’s all fake, but somehow I doubt that. Real life detail always adds an extra bit of zing to a book. I’m certain I’d be a lot more excited about this book had I never seen the movie. However, I did like other parts of this book because they explained things to me I don’t believe I ever caught in the movie. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, I don’t know, but I never understood what Starling was doing asking questions near the end in the little town in Ohio when she knew the SWAT teams were moving in on another house near Chicago. Now I do. Hooray.
One thing Harris did that I don’t really get and wasn’t really fond of was switch his tenses. Most of the time a chapter would start out in present tense “The desk faces east and Crawford stands next to it,” and then a few paragraphs later would slip right into past tense, “Starling walked from the room and went down the hall.” I failed to see the purpose of this. Personally, I don’t like tense flopping unless it’s used to emphasize something, but it didn’t seem to do that here and I can’t exactly figure out why Harris did it. To get us back into the moment quicker? To lure us in more somehow? I can only speculate. I got used to it after a while, but it still struck me as odd.
I very much liked Clarice Starling in this book. She was bright, strong, and a much cooler Starling than I ever took Jodie Foster for. I never liked her in that role and was excited when Julianne Moore took it in Hannibal. Starling to me was much younger here, sharp and ready to go. Lecter, admittedly, was creepier in this book because I couldn’t picture him as Anthony Hopkins, haha. Hopkins was simply great and creepy in his own way, but this Lecter and the way he was described, was just…something that could lead to skin crawling. I enjoyed all the character insights Harris gave his readers.
A very good and compelling book. It can be difficult to put down at times – especially when you’re looking forward to the Lecter-Starling chit-chats. Now to read Hannibal and then revert back and check out the newest Thomas Harris installment, Hannibal Rising.
Originally published on Epinions.com.