Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hannibal Rising (review)

I'll try to keep any spoilers to a minimum, but if you know much about Hannibal Lecter there isn't a whole lot you can really spoil. The book follows Hannibal from ages 6 to about 20 I think, and is mostly a self-contained story of revenge.

Honestly, in my mind the book was rather average. I think part of that stems from it only being written due to pressure from the general public, and studios, for more Hannibal Lecter. There really is no other need for this book to exist, and after reading it some of the charm the character had thanks to his myserious origin are a bit lessened.

Basically, the book is about how bad Hannibal's life was as a kid, and how he dealt with his situation. There is a lot of angst, art, culture, and violence in the book. Everything flows up and down like a movie, so I wonder how much of the book was driven by the need for the movie since it was filmed before the book was released.

Another aspect that bothered me was the usage of a Japanese woman as Hannibal's aunt (I would use her name, but at the moment of writing this it eludes me). Don't get me wrong, the idea that she's Japanese doesn't bother me. After WW2 I'm sure there were many men who took in a Japanese wife, even before the war, for the sake of exoticness. This is probably also to help reinforce the notion that Hannibal is 'other' just like many percieve Japanese things, and I think that is what bothers me more about her being Japanese.

The other major complaint I have about her character is that she has no depth. This may be in part of Thomas Harris not having researched a whole lot and having a limited knoweldge base to work from - I don't know. The way she comes off is very much the standard idea of what a Japanese woman is like, right down to the typical 'rarely speaks verbally, but speaks through poetry and music'. She reminds me a lot of Madam Butterfly, except that she has Hannibal by her side to defend her (because she needs defendng!).

Also included is the popular knowledge that people folded cranes to try to get well after Hiroshima was destroyed and irradiated by the atom bomb, as well as prearainged marraige. It's like all the researched performed was a quick look up in an encyclopedia and watching a few post-war movies set in Japan.

Anyway, the book is worth reading if you have interest, but isn't required reading by any means. Of the four books that feature Hannibal Lecter, this is the least impressive. I think it may also be the shortest. This does not bode well for the movie, but they may pull an American Psycho out of it (not so great book, awesome movie) - there isn't much hope for that though...

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