Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris - They Messed with Mischa

Pros: Chilling, intriguing, will keep you occupied for hours on end
Cons: Only if you don't like the lowest, most horrid points of human action

The Bottom Line: Only read it if it's your cup of tea...

A few months ago I ran out of books to read and found myself stuck at the library. I’d wanted to read Hannibal because I’d been so intrigued by the relationship of Clarice and Hannibal Lecter, and to see if there was any difference between the book at the movie. I’d ended up with The Silence of the Lambs instead, so I just went in order.

Lucky me, Thomas Harris unveiled Hannibal Rising quite recently, so I immediately put my name on the library wait list for the book. 70 people or so later, I finally had the book.

Hannibal Rising treats us to the history of Hannibal Lecter (also known as Hannibal the Cannibal). Those who have read Hannibal may remember that frightening memory of Mischa, Hannibal’s sister, and a few other glimpses into his past that I know made me wonder a great deal about him.

Hannibal Lecter used to live in Lecter Castle in Lithuania, but when he was eight, World War II drove his family from their home into a lodge deep in the forest. With Germans and traitorous villagers roaming around, bombs falling constantly, it is only a matter of time before death visits his family and Hannibal finds himself with only his sister Mischa. But even that is not to last long, and what happens to them will haunt Hannibal’s dreams for years to come. When he is next found, it is stumbling through the forest, a chain wrapped around his neck, and he is put into an orphanage, where the Hannibal we all know today is already emerging.

He is taken in by his uncle, Robert Lecter, and taken to France where he meets Robert’s wife, Lady Murasaki. He begins to recover from his ordeal and discovers the pleasure of art, scents, music, and the finer things of life. He’s a brilliant boy even at 13, and later at 18 is the youngest man to enroll in medical school. But he still occasionally wakes at night, screaming for reasons he can’t remember. He is determined to break into his memory, and when he does, it will bring death to those who killed him when they killed his sister.

It was refreshing for once to read the book before seeing the movie, and in which case, I’m not sure I’d want to see the movie. Not so much of what Hannibal does to the people responsible for basically breaking a young boy’s mind so that it heals into something else, but because of what happens to him and his sister Mischa. I get the feeling I would cry at that point or just feel sick to my stomach. The scariest part of this is that I don’t doubt something like this could have actually happened during the war. Eeeh. *shiver*

I like this book the best when compared to the other two. It seems almost like Harris hit his stride here and everything went like clockwork. The description isn’t too lengthy, but instead is just enough for me to get the image and do the rest of the work on my own. You stick with Hannibal all the way, from Lecter Castle to his move to America and you’re actually rooting for him almost the whole time. Yes, he’s going to creep you out a few times, but I don’t feel much sympathy for his victims.

I thought this book might actually take me longer to read, but the first time I cracked it open I read…and read…and read…and made it almost halfway in just one sitting. I did a few more chapters the next day and finished the remaining part (almost the full other half) last night. You can’t help but get sucked in. With Hannibal you might grow a little bored or impatient, and with The Silence of the Lambs you might know what’s coming (if not then you stand a better chance at getting your nose stuck in the book. But here you just become mesmerized with Hannibal’s transformations, his actions, and anticipation of what you know is going to come.

There is plenty of good stuff in here and I always like to wonder how much research Harris did for this book concerning medical information, Japanese language and poetry, German language, and other historical information. In the Acknowledgement section you get to find out a little but I always wonder at the time frame; how long did you study some of this stuff? It doesn’t matter, but it intrigues me because good, solid information just gives the book that much more power, I like to think.

Not for the faint of heart, you’re going to encounter some unpleasant things in this book. Naturally, that is to be expected, because how else are you going to go from a smart little boy who loves his sister to Hannibal the Cannibal? Actually I still wonder a little why he started eating people, considering the circumstances, it seems like the last thing he would do. But I can easily attribute that to some kind of psychological crack in his mind; something that got wired funny over the years. I wouldn’t call Hannibal insane; that’s the easy way out. We always call people insane when we can’t rationalize their actions or they freak us out too much to be called “normal.” No, Hannibal is something else altogether – and the only way for you to figure out your own assumptions is read all about him.


Note: I was going to make a pun about eating, but I couldn’t. It’s just too creepy now.

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