According to Wikipedia, Harris wrote this prequel (of Red Dragon, another prequel) because a movie producer threatened to have it written by somebody else. The drop in quality is palpable. The story is about Hannibal's childhood and coming of age and flits exotically between Lithuania and France with an even more exotic Japanese character thrown in the mix along with a garnishing of Japanese literature and poetry. The resulting soup is very contrived.
While this 1981 prequel to The Silence of the Lambs does feature Hannibal Lecter, he plays more of a cameo and is not a central character. This immediately downgrades the novel into one of those run-of-the-mill serial-killer tales, albeit about ten times more macabre. There are also a couple of largish plot holes that are difficult to digest.
On the whole, a disappointment.
The sequel to Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is not as tight in terms of plot. But it more than makes up for it in character. I was simply bowled over by Dr. Lecter's character and especially, but the non-standard ending.
I wish I could give this a higher rating. But the plot got a little too unbelievably contrived in certain areas.
While Hopkins and Foster add the je ne sais quoi to the movie, The Silence of the Lambs, that end up making it better than its source, Thomas Harris' book is quite phenomenal. In many ways, watching the movie before reading the book helps visualise things better as Hopkins and Foster leave such an indelible mark on your memory.
This is a must read.