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Hannibal Lecter appeared for the first time in the books 'The Red Dragon' and 'Silence Of The Lamb' and he was expertly brought to life in the movies of the same name by Anthony Hopkins. So this was our position: We had a unique fictional character, without past and an open ended conclusion which only gave an indication of his future. 'Silence Of The Lamb' screamed for a sequel and fans of Hannibal Lecter demanded a story, describing the reason for the protagonist's deviant behavior.
Thomas Harris must have felt the same way, for he published 'Hannibal' and 'Hannibal Rising'. The last in the series, 'Hannibal Rising' which funnily enough, is chronological the first book in the series about Hannibal Lecter.
In 'Hannibal Rising', we follow Hannibal Lecter from the time when he was eight years until he is about twenty years old. Hannibal is the child of a noble family which for generations had lived in the castle Lecterborg in Lithuania. Their secure lives are broken by the Germans campaign through Eastern Europe. The Lecter family must escape from Lecterborg and hide in a three hundred year old hunting lodge. Here Hannibal lives in relative safety with his little sister Mischa and the rest of the family along with their attendants. But nothing lasts forever. The German army lost its footing in Russia and was forced to make a desperate retreat. At this time, civilians were left without any protection whatsoever. Both the advancing Russian army and the disillusioned German soldiers plundered and robbed the locals, and one day the bliss was broken around the small hunting lodge ...
I will not reveal the further action, but just mention that the seeds of Hannibal Lecter's deviant personality traumatically were laid in this period ...
'Hannibal Rising' does not contain the same sophistication in individual descriptions and in the environment. It may seem disappointing to the reader, but I will choose to regard it as a stroke of genius from Thomas Harris. Although the book is written in third person, it is obvious that the author has chosen to write the book with the same amount of details, that Hannibal has been able to conceive at the present time. I will also be fair to remember that while the action of the other three books unfolds within a relatively short period of time, 'Hannibal Rising' evolves over a period of twelve years. So we are talking about a fast moving story with little time to delve into refinements.
Personally, I prefer the style of the other three books about Hannibal Lecter, but 'Hannibal Rising' is definitely a necessary piece of the complex puzzle that ultimately paints a complete picture of the art lover, gourmet and cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. Allow me also to mention that when Thomas Harris writes mediocre by his own standard, he is still outstanding compared to most authors.