Hannibal Rising: Book Review

The final chapter in the Hannibal Lecter series takes us to Hannibal’s childhood in Hannibal Rising. To understand what made Lecter turn into the master he is today, we have to see things from his eyes and how God had forsaken him.

Hannibal Rising: Summary

As a child, Hannibal was always eager to learn. His father Count Lecter was so impressed that he hired a tutor for him at the age of six. Another big event that happens at the age of six is the birth of his sister Mischa. Hannibal didn’t like her at first but came to love her in a few short years. In 1941, everything changed as World War Two found the Lecter family in Lithuania.

The Lecter family is preparing to leave their castle as the Nazi’s advance across Russia. Hannibal, who is now 8, evacuates with his family to a hidden lodge to avoid the Germans. Three years later, the Lecter’s have survived and now a Soviet tank is outside their lodge. But misfortune finds them again as a German dive bomber bombs them and kills all the adults.

Hannibal Rising book cover
Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

Hannibal and Mischa are the only ones to survive but are captured by six deserters. The deserters take over the lodge and lock the children in the barn as they loot the lodge. With little supplies left, the deserters decide to turn to catabolism. The next thing Hannibal remembers is being rescued by a soviet tank crew and taken to an orphanage with used to be the Lecter castle.

All alone and traumatized, Hannibal becomes mute. But soon, his uncle takes him in and Hannibal finds a new home. But all that occupies his mind is his little sister and her last moments. Years later, Hannibal finds the trail of the six deserters and now revenge is all that matters to him. No matter the cost because he promised Mischa.

Conclusion

When I first picked up this novel, I did not know what to expect. But it was not this. I enjoyed reading this novel but it didn’t make me want to finish it in one sitting. Hannibal in the previous novels did not resemble this Hannibal and I soon found out why.

Thomas Harris was pressured into writing this novel. That seems to be what producer Dino De Laurentis implied. The story goes that Harris was “coerced” into writing this book or he would lose control over the Hannibal Lecter character. That sums up Hollywood for you. Money is what drives them no matter the price.

Hannibal Rising movie trailer.

With the success of the Hannibal Lecter movies, I am not surprised that the producer wanted material for another one. But that is the thing with great novels. They make for good movies when you honor the original source. Creating and rushing another novel sounds like it will be a disaster and the novel received poor reviews as a result.

My biggest complaint about the novel is that it ruins the continuity of the previous books. With all that occurs in this novel, there is no way Lecter isn’t easy to find for the FBI. But ignoring that, the problem with this novel is that Lecter is a good guy for the most part. He is avenging his sister and his killings are justified. That is pretty far from the serial killer we have grown accustomed to in the previous novels.

Overall, seeing this side of Lecter was intriguing. Even if it feels like a fan-fiction novel, I do enjoy the insight of Hannibal. We do get to see some of the stuff he has come to be known for. But the plot could have been better. It was too ordinary and felt more like a superhero origin story than that of one of the smartest madman we have come to know.

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