**Note - After my re-read on 3/24/15, have bumped from four to five stars and edited review a little. - updated from 2007 review **
I read the four books in order of sequence, not publication, ending with Hannibal. I'm not sure if it was following them in order or my mood, but I was more enamored this time around. It's turned out to be my favorite in the series. I know this isn't the popular opinion, but I think Harris did a brilliant job wrapping up the series.
The plot is as diabolical as Silence of the Lambs was, this time concentrating more on Clarice and Hannibal’s “relationship.” Hannibal Lecter is explored a lot more through internal dialogue; I learned a about his though process (disturbing as it was). I sat back in awe at his life experiences, his true motivations, and the odd little ‘room in his mind.’ The person inside of me interested in psychology found his detachment methods fascinating. His motivations, while not morally just, were made clearer by seeing it through his point of view. While I’d never agree with his actions, it was still better than being left in the dark. As always, I loved being in Clarices’ head. She’s morally righteous, determined, hard working, loyal and honest; the change she went through nearly stopped my breath.
As mentioned before with the story, I DID lose interest after the beginning to a little after the center. The pacing was even during that time, but the material just didn’t keep my eyes wandering. I'm referring to that stint in Italy, which dulled a little and I wish Harris had spent a little less time in that section.
Harris’s style, particularly when focusing on Lecter and Sterling, was intense and clever. His wording was sophisticated and drama-filled, sounding disturbing when it should have been. His use of dialogue was realistic, his action scenes well sketched so that the most damage that could be done to my nerves was. His sense of irony with plot really sang through.
The ending of Hannibal is one of the most powerful I’ve ever read. I literally sat back and had to think for over an hour afterward…seriously. Not many books shake me up like that at the end; the last was a few years back by Sidney Sheldon. The novel wrap up was different than it’s cinema relative; don’t go in expected the same thing you see on screen, because it WONT HAPPEN.
I wasn’t sure what emotion was appropriate when I read the finale. Mainly I was disturbed, as well as saddened, but in a strange, strange, strange, place deep inside, I was also pleased. (!) I don’t know what this says about ME, but the bottom line is Harris did his job so well with the last scenes, he almost did it a little ‘too’ well.
It ties into the becoming, that bizarre act of transformation focused on by Jame Gumb, made famous in the series most famous work, Silence of the Lamb. To wrap up the series on that note is genius in its circular resolution. What Clarice revealed about herself, the price she paid as she sought to stop a madman from transforming an innocent woman into his vision of himself is now transferred to the second madman, the one who helped her stop the first.
I couldn’t decide whether I should give it a four or a five rating; because of the middle lagging, I was going to settle on a four, but because of the powerful influence the ending had (it’s hard to impress me on THAT level), I just have to give it a five. It more than made up for its faults.
Read Hannibal and experience the trauma for yourself. This novel doesn’t hesitate to psychologically assault its reader.
“The tragedy is not to die, but to be wasted.”