Friday, December 29, 2006

Time To Take Away The Typewriter

Just got done listening to Thomas Harris's Hannibal Rising. Wow. It's remarkably unimpressive. Rather than feeling like a groundbreaking piece of fiction it harkens to a slapdash film-to-book adaptation that makes the works of Alan Dean Foster look like Charles Dickens in comparison.

Apparently, Hannibal Lecter became far more interesting as he grew older (but not too much older!) as he feels completely two dimensional and more lucky than smart. In Hannibal Rising we're made privy to the childhood of a young Lecter as he struggles to stay alive in Eastern Europe during World War II. Here he confronts evil in the form of a handful of wartime scavengers who apparently find nothing too dastardly -- from cannibalism to white slavery to stealing art, they practically snarl and twirl their mustaches in melodramatic glee. After they chow down on Hannibal's little sister, he makes it his life work to track down and kill these men.

Not pleased by his vigilante justice is Inspector Pascal Popil. A font of misguided rage, Popil is as inept as Inspector Pazzi of Hannibal but without any of the charm. Popil may or may not be in love with Lady Murasaki, Hannibal's adopted stepmother (whom Hannibal may or may not be in love with also). Lady Murasaki just kind of hangs out, arranging flowers, spouting poetry, and accepting Hannibal's murderous ways. She's as three dimensional as a pressed flower, fitting in well with the other paper thin charaters that Harris presents.

Similar to the "make a quick buck" work that Harris did on Hannibal, this latest from the author who actually could pen decent fiction back before the success of The Silence of the Lambs apparently blew his mind reminds me of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" with its chorus of kids saying, "So that's where he got the flying reindeer." In this case it's, "So that's why he eats people!"

Harris should have given up Hannibal after The Silence of the Lambs and left him to other authors. He seems to have forgotten what made Lecter enjoyable in the first place. Not only that, but he has even forgotten the physical description of his character. At no time during Hannibal Rising does he mention Lecter's polydactylism. A small thing, yes, but it just shows how out of touch Harris is and that he seems to be writing more for the screen than the printed page.

Based on what I read, I'd already recommend skipping HANNIBAL RISING.

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