I'll be the first to admit, I've only seen the movie based on the novel, once maybe twice in my entire life. It was good but I didn't get the hype. I mean, Hannibal Lecter seemed like an interesting character. A smart, manipulative (oh yeah, cannibal) murderer that was good at dangling carrots in front of Clarice's face to get her to jump through his mental hoops.
I picked up the book just out of curiosity and was very quickly drawn into the story. I have to go back and watch the movie again, but to me the book definitely outshined the movie. Yes, I did see Anthony Hopkin's face when I was reading the Hannibal parts and Jodie's face when I was reading the Clarice's bits, but other than that I enjoyed it much more.
The story, the characters, and the plot was very well developed (obviously) and was intriguing. I actually think the only thing that would have made it better is a bit more back story with Jame. I know they did hit on a few key character points, but I wanted to know much much more about him. Though part of me likes that I'm left wanting to know more about him. I hope that makes sense?
Thomas Harris' writing was engaging, the characters felt real. Clarice was a very strong, well written female character that didn't fall into the "Oh I'm so smart and pretty everyone must love me" cliché that some male writers like to tap dance on. She was tough, she worked for what she got, and she was smart. I think that's why I loved the interaction between her and Hannibal. She's no where near his intelligence level, but she could hold her own and he knows it. I think by the end of the book, they have a pretty messed up sort of friendship.
All in all, I loved the book. I will give it a 4.5 out of 5.0
I'm definitely going to read the other books that star our fun cannibal friend Hannibal.