Monday, April 23, 2007


HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris

It starts like an exotic dream, the young Hannibal Lecter; the doctor and psychopath of evil fame from previous books such as 'Red Dragon', 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'Hannibal'; and his little sister Misha playing beside a pool with swans. It then proceeds as a grim but exquisitely written tale of the refuge the Lecter family takes in a farmhouse in the woods of Lithuania, surviving the Nazis for some years during the World War II. However the silence of the woods is soon broken, when calamity strikes the family, and the children are left to the mercy of a rag-tag pack of brutal Nazi collaborators. And as the winter builds food becomes scarce, and the children become this pack's target.
Hannibal manages to escape and post-war finds himself being taken home by his painter uncle Robert from an orphanage. There are scars from the bygone days and dreams that haunt Hannibal even in the comfort of his uncle's mansion and in the company of his aunt, the beautiful Japanese Lady Murasaki.
However things will not go the right way here too and in a freak moment, a butcher in the market insults his aunt, later his uncle loses his life and Hannibal extracts revenge. From here on, starts Hannibal's quest for revenge, to avenge his sister's disappearance and silence his dreams, nightmares rather. After his uncle's death, he and Lady Murasaki move into Paris, an unsaid affection builds between them, he enrolls in a French medical school as the youngest student and wows everyone by his drawings and intellectual caliber.
In parallel, Inspector Popil from the Paris squad is investigating the butcher's murder and suspects Hannibal and he and a psychologist Dr Fauche interrogate young Hannibal - but find no clues as the boy seems under perfect control and will reveal nothing. Later Hannibal's memory palace reawakens to the fate his sister had met, and he starts to kill that group's individuals one by one in a plot that at best seems make-believe and here the story loses a large portion of its credibility. The author seems to be in some form of a hurry and this last one fifth of the book is not up to Harris's usually taut and brilliant standards.
All said, the book is indeed a relish to read and gives us a glimpse into the origin of one of literature's celebrated evil genius and what the others for the lack of a word, term as 'monster'.