A Review of “Hannibal” by Thomas Harris

I know this book [HANNIBAL] is a few years old, and as thrillers go that is considered out-dated. However, as a fan of Steven King, Michael Crichton, Andy McNab and the like, I would place this book easily in my top five horror novels or thriller novels. Please consider this essay I wrote in 2000.

hannibal.jpg   The first thing I loved about this book was the setting. It opens in Florence, Italy, where Lector, after his daring esape in th previous book, is the curator of an important family’s Palazzo and living under the assumed alias of Dr. Fell. Florence has always been in my mind a “pretty city.” However, I never had any particular fascination with or desire to visit. Nevertheless, Harris describes Florence in such a detail and exactness that it becomes closer and closer to reality as the story progresses. He describes everything from architecture to food to society and hierarchical structure. Another aspect of the city’s description that I found fascinating was the Harris, through the eyes of Hannibal, examines the underbelly of the city. Incorporating all the lowlifes, corrupt officials and killers that live there. This provides excellent contrast to the romantic and spotless idealization of Florence. However, setting is not why this book influenced me.
Harris’ psychological probing into the inner minds of his characters, especially Hannibal, is what made the true impact of this book felt for me. What Harris does, and what I found so intriguing is that he explores not only the thoughts of characters, but also how and why these characters think the way they do. Hannibal is a very disturbing character in this book because he plays the role of both murderer and hero. The reader always has a desire to know what is going on in his head. Harris anticipates this and takes you on a tour inside Hannibal “the cannibal’s” mind. There the reader finds what lector calls his “memory palace,” a visualized palace where Lector stores his memories, where a picture of agent Clarice Starling hangs prominently, and where behind chamber doors, Lectors deepest secrets are stored away.
The idea of a memory palace was what influenced me. As I read, I would attempt to create my own “memory palace,” organizing my thoughts room by room as moving into a new house. I only created one room because probing ones own mind is very exhausting, however, what never ceases to amaze me is that, even after its creation, and there after lack of addition over the period of one year, it still is there, in my mind. This room is my office, a very bright and positive place, which is visually nothing like the dark and frightening palace of Hannibal (which makes perfect sense since I am not a psychotic killer and “the cannibal” is). When I open the door to my memory room and see the pictures of my family lining the walls, and the phrase that I always wanted to remember, “the quiet after the storm” engraved on my desk, then I cannot deny that this book has influenced me.


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