Book Review: Red Dragon

July 10, 2017

Red Dragon cover

I hope that everyone had a good weekend, and are ready to
get back to the daily grind, or at least finding ways to be productive during
the long break.

Things are going pretty well, even though I had some
annoyances, including possible interruptions in the schedule that would have ruined
for plans next week, and I am at least happy to be able to do something that I
can enjoy.

Earlier in the month, I had gotten a few books from Amazon
that either piqued my interest or were continuations of series that I regularly
follow, and I have finally been able to get around to them.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those titles, which is
called Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.

Grisly murders have taken place in Eastern part of the
United States and the FBI is having enough troubles that an agent goes to bring
Will Graham, a retired profiler that gained fame for the capturing an infamous
killer that who is a mystery to psychology experts and majors alike, to help
them hunt down this new menace.

However, in order to get anywhere, Will has to get help from
the Hannibal Lecter, the same man he captured before retiring, even though that
same man could very well make things even harder for the person who captured
him.

There are many famous fictional characters out there, from
Sherlock and Dracula to Arsène Lupin, and many have read books featuring them,
whether they were from the original creator or those that decided to created
their own works using them, but there are some characters out there that are
more well known because of the movies featuring them than the original work,
such as Hannibal Lecter, and after reading about Hannibal Lecter in Detective
Conan
, and finding out there were books, I thought that I would check out
one of the original works.

And after reading this, I must say that I was kind of
impressed.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started
reading it, I did not want to put it down for any reason, even though I have to
satisfy the same needs as every other human.

While it was not exactly like a work from Agatha Christie, or
some other well writer that I would consider great, as it did take a while for
my interest to be garnered, it was still able to fulfill the bare minimum needed
to make a work quite well.

The first step to getting a reader to enjoy a book s to pull
them in quickly and that is dependent on a few factors, such as if the writer
can write in an engaging way and other factors, which I cannot really pinpoint,
since it depends greatly on the kind of story that is being presented, and
Thomas was able to fulfill one part of this quite well.

If he had not been able to do this much, I would not see how
each of the four books featuring the infamous serial killer we all know and fear
today ended up becoming four different movies, five if you take into account
that this book was adapted into a movie twice, that made Hannibal Lecter as
well known as the likes of Dracula and Sherlock, even to the point where people
are pitting him against Sherlock.

Fortunately, Thomas Harris did not fail quite as badly as I
thought he would to the point where he ends up looking like a joke, since many
of the books out there are not as good as what people have been led to believe,
and it makes me want to check out the other books in the series, such as Silence of the Lambs, which was the book that
Gosho Aoyama recommended in the mystery library segment of Detective Conan Volume 19.

I also liked how I got the very feelings that I expected
from a thriller.

Even though most of my time is spent paying attention to
detective, mystery, and crime fiction or manga, I am not totally inexperienced
with works in the thriller genres, as the elements of a mystery do enhance the
quality of a work of thriller and the elements of a thriller can make works in
the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres much more exciting, which
might be a reason why some distributors will the four genres together, other
than the fact that people often use mystery as a synonym for detective fiction.

In the case of this work, the thing that really propelled my
interest and desire to finish the book was the very thing that Scott Rhine had
done right in Quantum
Zero Sentinel
.

Now, Scott Rhine's book was not a complete and utter
failure, like John Grisham's The Whistler,
as I did end up liking it overall, but the thing that both this book and Scott
Rhine's book did was keep me on the edge of my seat by delivering feelings of
suspense, excitement, anticipation, and/or anxiety.

However, unlike most works of thriller, these feeling did
not come completely because of the elements of a mystery. Back in my review of Quantum
Zero Sentinel
, I stated that a thriller can be done quite well, when
perspectives change between protagonists and antagonists, and psychological
works, regardless of whether they are psychological thrillers, like Death Note,
or psychological horror, which this book is considered, really thrives with the
back forth switching, because there needs to be some kind of cat and mouse game
to keep the reader interested. Thomas Harris understood this quite well, at
least back when he worked on this book back in 1981, and it makes me want to
give him a nice round of applause.

If this aspect was not present, I would have considered not
checking out any of the books even further, especially because of the content
that is suggested to be present in the three remaining books in the tetralogy,
one of which was supposedly written because Thomas did not want a
prequel done by anyone else, though I cannot verify it, because this aspect of
the book was what made it more interesting than Thomas's writing style.

Another thing that I liked was how Hannibal Lecter's
presence in this book was relatively minimal.

While Hannibal Lecter is quite well known to be a cannibal,
both by those that have seen the movies and/or read the books and the public at
large, seeing that his name is as familiar as Sherlock Holmes, people do not
know the other interesting aspects about him, as he is called “Holmes in Prison”
over in Japan, according to mystery library segment of the aforementioned 19th
volume of Detective Conan, and it made me quite interested in checking
him out, and it really made me look forward to reading this all the more.

However, in this volume, Hannibal Lecter did not seem to do too much, and the fact that he was mostly off screen made me all the more interested in him as a person when he did show up, as Thomas showed that Hannibal could definitely hold his own in a battle of wits with Sherlock, even if he does not come out victorious.

If Hannibal had been much more active and present in the
book, I do not see how he would even gain the notoriety that he has, and I
would have agreed with Thomas that Hannibal would have been better to have in
only one book, since Thomas said in the foreword that he did not think he would
be writing any more books featuring Hannibal after this, but because he was
offscreen much of the time, Hannibal ended up becoming just as interesting as
he appeared to be in Gosho Aoyama's Mystery Library.

The thing that I liked the most though was how I could see
practically everything going on.

Over the course of my life, I have read tons of different
books, varying between prose, like this, and graphic novels, and one of the
things that teachers try to drive home in writing a story is how important is
for an audience to be able to draw the images of what is happening in a story,
and both professional and amateur have a tough time realizing that the audience
does not see what they see as they write the book, and a lack of details in
prose fiction makes it hard for the audience to follow because they cannot
really imagine what is going on.

However, in this work, I had no troubles being able to draw
the images and could see quite well how everything progressed or even what the
characters themselves were imagining.

For as difficult as that it might be to read this book, as
Thomas Harris's style is not on the same level as Weston Kincade is in being
able to deliver writing that can make a reader feel engaged, he certainly knows
how to string words together to create images.

The best example of this was in the first chapter, where
Jack Crawford originally came to Will Graham for help.

In this moment, it seemed like things were going in much the
same direction as The Whistler, in which the audience was about to be
introduced to the case at hand, and after a bit of conversation, Thomas took
the time to give details of exactly what he was picturing, and it helped me
escape into the world of the book.

Writers need to learn the difference between showing and
telling in a story, as well as understand enough psychology to make the
characters feel realistic and believable, and I do not think that I have been
able to see anything better than this.

If Thomas Harris was not able to do this, I definitely would
have been disappointed with him, because there would have been serious
questions as to why his work was even considered to be adapted into various
movies and television series.

Fortunately, Thomas did not mess things up as badly as John
Grisham, and it helped to make this book a bit better.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else
that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out on its own.

Because my interest was captured and held from beginning to
end, especially because it delivered the feelings fans of thriller expect and
was able to help me draw images of what was happening, and it made me more
interested in the infamous killer Hannibal, this was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about,
such as typos, and one thing that seemed to be necessary to understand the
antagonist and his motivations, but I do not feel like talking about, only two things
bothered me.

First, the book was not that easy to become engrossed in.

Even though I did say that Thomas was able to capture my
attention relatively easily, it was not as quick as I would have liked it to
be, especially because some people consider this a page-turner.

Thomas may have done quite right with this book, in making
me interested in what was going on, but the way he wrote this book made it
really hard for me to get to the point where I did not want to stop reading.

Words and thoughts are tools a writer uses on a regular
basis to convey their ideas, and, just like any other tool, the way they are
used in crafting a work can mean the difference between creating something
decent and something that is just okay, and the work presented by Thomas Harris
is more often than not on the line of okay.

I am not expecting to be enamored by a work from page one,
but if I do not feel like I just need to read the work before chapter 10, I
cannot see how this would even be considered a page-turner.

With the kind of display Thomas Harris presented here, I am
not even too sure how his name became so well known, seeing as adaptations are
an entirely new work, according to the foreword by Yoshihiro Togashi in Yu
Yu Hakusho Volume 10
.

Seriously, how could have this been the book that introduced
so many to the killer we know and fear today, when Thomas could not even find
his groove so quickly?

Then again, I guess this was not the book that made Hannibal
famous, because I hardly hear people talking about it as much as Silence of
the Lambs
, so I guess I can let him off the hook a bit, especially because
people are not claiming this particular book to be absolutely perfect to the
extent that Attack on
Titan
is considered to be the greatest anime to be created.

The thing that bothered me was the use of profanity and
other language.

Now, I am pretty much okay with seeing profanity in a work,
as long as it does not come off as unnatural as it did in Aria
the Scarlet Ammo Volume 1
, because it can add some emotional weight, but
this was a bit too much for my liking in both occurrence and how it was used.

Yes, the books and movies are not necessarily geared towards
a young audience, and the movies are all in the R rating category, which will
keep those that are members of the same church as me away from the movies,
instead of what the leaders said should really be avoided, but that does not
change the fact that it ended up feeling rather distasteful, in comparison to
the profanity used in anime, light novels, and manga and/or how it is used in
them today, at least when you stay away from the pornographic titles.

According to at least one person that read this book, and
was willing to give this book a perfect rating, this is supposed to be a great
book to study writing craftmanship, yet it resorts to use profanity and
vulgarity to try and make things much more enticing to read to the casual
reader in the demographic intended.

This must be why there is often a huge debate about whether
such language is absolutely necessary in a work of fiction, because Thomas
Harris has definitely taken things a bit too far.

If Thomas had worked at it a bit more, he could have
delivered what he had intended to, without coming off as so unappealing and
disgusting.

However, because he delivered the story in this manner, I am
not too sure I even want to continue on with the Hannibal tetralogy anymore, as
I can find much more high quality writing from something like Spice &
Wolf
, and I doubt that I would be alone in this.

Thankfully, nothing else bothered me too much to ruin this
any further, and I can finally leave this thing behind.

While there were only two problems with this book, they were
both bad enough to put a damper on my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Despite the fact that there were a few problems, this was
definitely worth reading, if only to see how certain language can ruin a
reader's overall enjoyment.

I recommend this to fans of Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris,
thriller, and psychological horror, as they will be able to enjoy this the
most.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, but
I would more likely recommend against it because the same things that turned me
off would cause problems for other.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me
on Patreon or, if you
really want to, buy the reviewed title from Amazon,
so that I can continue finding more worthwhile reads for you guys, and do
whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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