Which of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector books are worth reading?

I was very young when I found out who Hannibal lector was. I had heard that The Silence of the Lambs was the ultimate sicko film. I remember staring at the vhs box in the video shop after mass when I was kid, wondering what the butterfly had to do with lambs. I asked my very Catholic parents, and while they wouldn’t give any details about the sexual-pervert, Buffalo Bill, they didn’t have a problem telling me all about the cannibalistic doctor. I would have been in my early teens when I finally saw it, and I spent the next 10 years quoting it to my friends. It’s one of my favourite movies..

About a year ago, I started reading a bunch of books that have been made into movies. These were just comfort reading, nothing to do with this blog, but then I realised that I should read The Silence of the Lambs and the other Hannibal Lector books.

I read Red Dragon (1981) last May, and I loved every page of it. I honestly can’t think of another book that sucked me in as much as this one. I had seen the movie version once when I was a teenager, but I didn’t remember much of it. Francis Dolarhyde is perhaps the creepiest character in any of Harris’s novels. This book was absolutely brilliant.

The Silence of Lambs (1988) was also excellent, but I was so familiar with the film version that it didn’t seem quite as tense as Red Dragon. I find it hard to imagine somebody reading my blog who hasn’t seen the movie, but if you’re in that position read the book first. (The movie version is obviously excellent too.)

It seems like common knowledge that Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are masterpieces of suspense. Opinions on Hannibal (1999), the third book in the series, are more varied. It’s a bit more gory, and the ending is contraversial. I was warned by a pal to avoid it completely. I didn’t, and I actually quite enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not as good as its predecessors. The titular character doesn’t show up until a quarter of the way through the book, and he plays a very different role here than he does in the first two books. Before he shows up, the reader is introduced to Mason Verger, a mutilated child-rapist with a whole bunch of money and power. What follows is a bit of a Varney the Vampire situation in which the original bad guy turns into the hero. I suppose Hannibal isn’t really the antagonist in either Red Dragon or The Silence of the Lambs, but he is definitely very, very bad. In Hannibal, we’re completely rooting for him.

The ending is silly. It’s not believable. I think the ending to the movie version was a far better idea.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, I’d say you will probably enjoy Hannibal. It’s not as good as those books, but it’s still quite entertaining.

While opinions on Hannibal were varied, it seemed that Hannibal Rising (2006), the fourth and final entry in the series, was universally hated. Harris supposedly only wrote it because Dino De Laurentis wanted to make a prequel movie and threatened to get somebody else to write it when Harris refused. I was warned to avoid this one, but I’m not a quitter.

Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It’s over 300 pages long, and I finished it in 2 days. I found teenage Hannibal hunting down the Nazis who ate his baby sister enjoyable. It’s a prequel, so there’s no chance of any big surprises, and it doesn’t come close to the suspense of the first two books. Also, it humanizes Hannibal too much. He’s very clearly the good guy here. All that aside, this is still an entertaining thriller. I was never bored. It felt a bit like fan-fiction written by the original author.

Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are as popular as they are for a reason. They are two of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. They’re deeply unsettling and hugely exciting. If you haven’t already, I command you to read them. Hannibal and Hannibal Rising are not as good, probably even unnecessary. In saying that, I still had a good time reading them.

“Hannibal the Cannibal” though? I only thought about this on the way home from work the other day, but that is the cheesiest name for a villain imaginable. Realistically, what are the chances that a person named Hannibal would actually end up as a devourer of human flesh?

Sex, Satanism and Cannibal Freaks: Mark Mirabello’s The Cannibal Within

The Cannibal Within – Mark Mirabello

Mandrake of Oxford – 2005 (first published 2001)

A friend recommended this to me a few weeks back. I found an ebook version online, but after reading the fourth paragraph, I ordered a physical copy. This is one I knew I’d want on my shelf.

We may think we are special – holy, honoured, valued – god’s chosen primates – but that is a fraud. The dupes of superhuman forces, we are misfits and abominations. We have no higher purpose – no saviour god died for our sins – we exist, only because our masters are infatuated with our meat.

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Mirabello is an academic. He has a Ph.D, and he has lectured at different universities. His fields of research are fairly wacky, but I have no reason to belief that his research itself is questionable. He has appeared on some ridiculous documentaries and talk shows about aliens and conspiracies. Having an education doesn’t necessarily make a person a good writer, but Mirabello’s credentials, along with what I knew of this book, made it seem very, very intriguing.

The narrative in The Cannibal Within is framed as a memoir that was presented to the author due to his academic standing. A crazy lady walks into his office and gives him a document describing her bizarre experiences. She was abducted by cannibalistic trans-humans after her and her friend performed a Satanic ritual. The unholy freaks eat her friend and then kidnap the protagonist and lock her in a cage in their underground layer for decades. They do really bad stuff to her, but she takes it rather philosophically. While recounting the utterly horrendous abuses she suffered, she quotes from and/or discusses the work of Yukio Mishima, Friedrich Neitzsche, Plato, Aleister Crowley, H.P. Lovecraft, De Sade, Goethe, George Bataille, Octave Mirbeau and Philip K. Dick.

Oh, and there’s a big part at the end of the book that talks about how the trans-humans evolved from brain eating cannibal monkeys. This sounded very familiar to me, and it was immediately followed by a quote from The Beginning Was the End, my favourite book. Hell yes.

Also, the Satanic ritual that kicks things off is supposedly taken from the Red Book of Appin. Anyone remember my post on that mysterious grimoire?

If you’re not familiar with this blog and/my reading proclivities, let it suffice to say that I have an interest in the above authors and texts. I felt very much that Mirabello had somebody like me in mind when he was writing this book. I can’t really say that it’s a brilliant book, but I also can’t pretend that I didn’t enjoy every page. I finished it in an afternoon. I really found it hard to put it down.

Who could resist?

When the book isn’t discussing the absurdity of life, it’s shoving giant mutoid cocks down your throat. There’s an awful lot of rape, in here, and the pricks doing the raping are all hilariously large. One of them is described as an “enormous fascist rod”. LOL.

Objectively, The Cannibal Within fails as a novel. It sets the scene, but doesn’t really go anywhere. The ending of the book felt like the point at which a team of marines, armed to the teeth, should have been entering the freaks’ burrow, Aliens style. I don’t need (or want) a happy ending, but I would have liked a bit more conflict. I suppose it would have taken a lot of effort to ramp up the gross-out sequences as a plot developed, but it would take that kind of commitment to make this a real masterpiece.

Mirabello, if you’re reading this, please write a sequel, a long one.

The Cannibal Within is splatterpunk for grad students. If you’re a misanthropic book-nerd with a penchant for the disgusting (and you probably are if you’re reading this blog) you will likely get a kick out of this horrid book. Honestly, I doubt anyone else will get past the first few pages.

Monkeys Ate my Brain: Oscar Kiss Maerth’s The Beginning Was the End

Thomas Ligotti is one of my favourite authors of fiction. He is also an anti-natalist philosopher. He believes that life is inherently bad, and his fiction reflects this pessimistic outlook with dark absurdism. The universes inhabited by Ligotti’s fictional creations are not always governed by the same laws as our own, but this has little effect on the stories’ outcomes. According to Ligotti, any existence is as absurd and bad as all of the others. Oscar Kiss Maerth’s The Beginning was the End reads like a treatise written by a character in a Ligotti story. Not only is it deeply pessimistic, it’s also set in a universe that operates only similarly to the one we inhabit. There is a dark madness in this book.

The Beginning Was the End – Oscar Kiss Maerth
The Scientific Book Club – 1974 (Originally published 1971)

The central premise here is that all of the troubles faced by mankind stem from the fact that his simian ancestors became addicted to eating each other’s brains for the purpose of sexual arousal. Oscar Kiss Maerth believes that human beings are irrevocably flawed, stinking, utterly decrepit mutants. We are deeply unhappy, unfortunate freaks that should not exist.

In ways, this is similar to some of the pseudoscientific stuff that I’ve discussed here before. The author accepts the notions of telekinesis, communication with aliens and a bunch of other kooky ideas. Also, the logic used to arrive at the claims herein is often laughable. But this book stands out from the classics of “fantastic realism” in one important way. Pauwels and Bergier claimed that mankind was on the verge of a miraculous awakening. Colin Wilson believed we were about to unlock the secrets to faculty x. These guys all thought that human beings were about to enter a new glorious age of Aquarius or other such nonsense. Oscar Kiss Maerth believed that humanity was going to be wiped out in an Armageddon of cannibal warfare. This is an extremely bleak read.

The Beginning was the End is presented as non-fiction, but the author does not list his sources. (I think at one point he says he spoke to a real cannibal, and he admits to having tried monkey brains himself.) The lack of a bibliography might have been excusable if this was a book of philosophy, but many of the claims made in here are entirely verifiable and clearly unsubstantiated. Some of them are obviously untrue. The author says that apes never masturbate or engage in homosexual activity and that dolphins and whales can only make noises when they raise their heads above water. (A quick search on youtube will immediately refute these ideas.) Other claims are clearly just exaggerations about things that the author had an opinion on. At one point he claims that mental hospitals are overcrowded because people’s underwear is too tight. This disregard for his audience’s expectations of coherency is both confusing and admirable.

According to the author, only male monkeys ever engaged in cannibalism, and this is why women aren’t as smart as men. Now, there’s a few things about that idea that confuse me, but let’s ignore common sense for now and look more closely at what Oscar Kiss Maerth says about the fairer sex:
“Women can learn and understand philosophical ideas, and even act according to them. But they cannot conceive ideas of decisive significance and effect in this field. For this reason all great thinkers, philosophers and founders of religions were men, and so it will remain. If a woman is exceptionally successful in one of these fields of learning, then there is something wrong with her sex hormones” He continues, “To bring female intelligence up to the same level as that of man by means of education is just as impossible as to bring the intelligence of an aboriginal of New Guinea up to the level of that of a Chinese by education.” (p.66) This guy is basically a 1970s Jordan Peterson.

The way the book deals with race is… problematic too. Some of the stuff in here is shockingly offensive, but it’s a twisted form of racism that’s on display. The author claims that tribespeople from remote parts of the world aren’t capable of learning English or counting past the number 3. He claims that some Polynesian women’s bodies show visible signs when they are in heat. He also thinks that races should not interbreed with each other because “Hottentots” and “Australioids” have tiny brains compared to Europeans and the Chinese. (p. 181) All of this will sound quite offensive to anyone reading today, but you have to keep in mind that one of the main premises of this book is that intelligence is inherently bad. Yes, Oscar Kiss Maerth is saying that anyone who isn’t European or Chinese is extremely primitive, but he means this as a compliment! The less developed a person is, the closer they are to their true nature. He also claims that black people’s hair is curly so that it doesn’t get caught on trees when they are running from predators in the jungle. He concludes his discussion on race with a plea for people to practice strict racial discrimination, but he makes it very clear that he has no time for racial hatred and persecution.

A book for adults with 8 pages of spot-the-difference activities.
(Different editions have the other photos in different orders.)

Copies of this book are quite scarce. Apparently this has something to do with the band Devo being obsessed with it, using its art on one of their album covers and taking their concept of devolution right out of its pages. There has been a pdf copy online for years, but it’s missing half a chapter. (There’s also an audiobook version on youtube that some absolute legend made, but he was reading the pdf version, so his version is also missing the end of chapter 5) I only discovered the missing pages when I was halfway through, and I had to order a copy from a weird Christian university on an interlibrary loan to finish it. The effort was worth it. I had so much fun with this one. I’m completely unconvinced (and utterly appalled) by the ideas in here, but I reckon this is probably my favourite book of all time. Its claims are so bizarre and so transparently false that I couldn’t help but be charmed by the lunatic who wrote it.

An inscription on the library copy I read.

There’s not a lot of information about Oscar Kiss Maerth online. He lived in a mansion and was super rich, but I can’t find any details on how he made his fortune. How does a person go from being a successful Hungarian “industrialist” to writing this utterly insane book in seclusion in a Chinese monastery? His daughter went missing and was retrieved by a psychic in the early 80s. There’s a chapter on this book in Strange Creations by Donna Kossy, but it doesn’t shed much light on Oscar Kiss Maerth as a person.

The Beginning was the End is a remarkably dense and intense piece of writing, and I ended up reading it twice. As I did so, I took notes so that I could summarise it in this post. Unfortunately, to get to the heart of quite how crazy this book is, I had to go into quite a bit of detail. I realise that very few people are likely to actually have the attention span to read my full summary, but I’m going to include it here for my own reference in the future. If you found the above discussion utterly fascinating, then read on. I did my best to keep things coherent, but the source material made this extremely difficult. This gets seriously mental.

Chapter by Chapter Summary:

(Some of the details here have already been mentioned above, but I kept them in the summary for the sake of context.)

Chapter 1: Human beings are relatively new to the Earth, and we are newer still to the realisation that we are not the most important creatures in the universe. Modern science has revealed how we are not the centre of the universe, but we are still unaware of quite how pitiful we truly are.

Chapter 2: The theory of evolution tells us we are the descendants of apes, but the current theory seems to confuse the direction of the descent. We are far worse creatures than our simian ancestors. Apes are better at moving than human beings. Human beings walk more than apes, and this means we’re actually more stupid than apes because animals have to sit down to have truly deep thoughts. Losing our body hair put us at a serious disadvantage. “Any ape living in freedom will always be found to have exceptionally clean, healthy and odourless skin although he never has a bath. Man on the other hand without artificial hygiene is unclean and foul-smelling” (p.28) This is because we don’t have fur to keep us clean. Also, when a female ape is ready to mate, this is made apparent by changes in her body that are visible to potential mates. With the exception of some women living on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, human females have lost these sex signs. This resulted in humans having too much sex. Finally, our brains got bigger, and this enlargement of the brain was very, very bad for us. Intelligence is a curse. In conclusion, we are worse than apes because we have lost our fur, we have lost our fertility signs, and we have gained intelligence. Oscar sums it up nicely by reminding us that “deficiency and excess are diseased conditions.” (p.35)

Chapter 3: Having learned that man is “a physically and mentally ill creature at odds with himself and with nature, who neither knows nor understands himself” (p.39) we have to wonder, what made him so? What was the catalyst for the great changes listed above? Why has the noble ape devolved into the scummy human? Well, it all started when one ape noticed that eating another ape’s brain made him really horny. The author notes that eating ape brain had the same effect on him. Anyways, the naughty monkey and his mates started eating brains, and then they realised that they were also becoming more intelligent. Eating brains gives you the intelligence of the person who you are eating. Cannibalism also allows the transference of memory. The women monkeys didn’t partake in cannibalism because it would have made them go mad. (I’m not a biologist, but something about that idea seems problematic. How did the females’ brains increase in size if they never partook? Does the author believe that women today are only as intelligent as prehistoric apes?) The author’s theory of cannibalism is proven by the fact that most of the skulls of early humans we find have holes in their skulls. (Do they?) Cannibalism was hugely widespread. It was abandoned once our brains got uncomfortably big for our skulls. This happened in the smart countries first, and wherever cannibalism is still practiced, it’s because the people there still have fairly small brains.

Chapter 4: This chapter is where the book gets utterly insane. As humans evolved, we realised that the changes we were going through were bad, but there was little we could do to stop the harm we were causing ourselves. We needed to keep eating each other so that our cannibal tribes would reproduce more and be more intelligent than our rivals. Originally humans had many sexual partners through their lives, but cannibalism led to male monkeys being more possessive over the female monkeys and this led to marriage and the patriarchy. Masturbation and homosexuality were caused by hormonal imbalances from eating too many brains. The author claims that these “abnormalities were undoubtedly not in existence when man was an ape”. Just in case you didn’t know monkeys masturbate and engage in homosexual activity all the time. It’s a bit shocking that this dude was willing to write a book about creatures that he knew so little about. Circumcision was actually invented so that sex would be less fun, and we’d want to eat less brains.

“Man who began his career as a sex-obsessed ape and who by eating brain wished to make his sex life the source of happiness, has achieved the exact opposite. He transformed it into the source of dissatisfaction and suffering.” (p.65)

The author goes on to discuss the difference in intelligence between men and women. Women are only as clever as men when they are in situations that their monkey ancestors may have faced. “They can’t adapt to the modern world.”

“Women can learn and understand philosophical ideas, and even act according to them. But they cannot conceive ideas of decisive significance and effect in this field. For this reason all great thinkers, philosophers and founders of religions were men, and so it will remailh. If a woman is exceptionally successful in one of these fields of learning, then there is something wrong with her sex hormones” p66

That’s likely to upset modern readers, but it gets worse:

“To bring female intelligence up to the same level as that of man by means of education is just as impossible as to bring the intelligence of an aboriginal of New Guinea up to the level of that of a Chinese by education.”

Now, this sounds bad, but you have to understand, Oscar Kiss Maerth means this as a compliment to both women and the aboriginal peoples of New Guinea. The whole point of this book is to say that modern man is a digusting, insane freak. Anything closer to our ape like ancestors is actually good in Maerth’s book. That might sound like a sketchy excuse, but he actually seems to mean it. This dude sees intelligence as a bad thing.

Cannibalism also gave us a sense of shame. When we think of sex, we think of what made us horny and we feel bad about ourselves. When we think of sexual organs we think of sex, so we needed a way to not see sexual organs. This is why we wear underpants, but underpants are making us go even more insane:

“The supposedly fitting modern underpants have contributed more than a little to the fact that the pride of western culture, i.e. the number of mental hospitals, doctors and medicines, has grown.” (p.70)

We can also blame baldness on another hormonal imbalance caused by the cannibal apes. Baldness isn’t all bad though. Hair contains and releases energy, and “The sum of energy no longer used for growing hair, because the hair roots have died away, benefits either the intelligence or the sex urge, often even both.” (p 91) Bald dudes are smart and/or horny.

Cannibalism gave us curly pubes, and these curly hairs hold in stink.

“No ape or any animal at all on earth suffers from smelly armpits”p93

We only walk upright to keep our long hair out of our faces.

Human beings are miserable, vile, stupid, deformed, horrible creatures.

Chapter 5: As our brains grew, our skulls did too, but only to a point. When the skull stopped growing, the brain didn’t have enough space and started to short-circuit. This is when we lost our powers of extra sensory perception. All animals communicate through ESP. This is why they don’t talk. Our powers are diminished, but some people (Jesus, Buddha…) experience atavist throwbacks. Everyone still has the capability to intercept psychic transmissions, but only subconsciously. This results in mass psychosis. All kinda obvious when you think about it, right?

The speed of thought rays is faster than the speed of light. 50,000 years ago we were in communication with aliens on other planets. Unfortunately, the different races of humans intermixing messed this up.

Cannibalism was first used as an aphrodisiac, but later turned into a way to talk to gods. As we developed more intelligence, we could understand more of what the aliens could say. The phallic statues erected by ancient peoples proclaim “the triumph of the sex obsessed ape: by means of the sex drug, I have become as God.” (p.126)

When humans started realising that our psychic powers were in decline, the most powerful psychics started trying to breed with other psychics to keep the powers alive. This resulted in inbreeding and death which in turn diminished our collective psychic abilities.

The reason we want to explore space so much is that we subconsciously desire to get back into contact with the aliens we used to talk with.

In response to this book, scientists will test these theories on lab animals and make them eat each other’s brains. Unfortunately, some people might try to improve their own intelligence by trying cannibalism. Militaries will be very interested in this, and wars will break out so armies can harvest the brains of their enemies to make super soldiers. Evil scientists will lead us into brain wars. They must be stopped. If we get smarter than we are now, we will all die. That idea is crucial to this book. Intelligence and progress are inherently bad. On page 140, the author claims that, “The greatest achievement is to achieve nothing more.”

Chapter 6: This chapter looks at how language evolved when we lost our ability to communicate telepathically.

The idea that the number of sounds an animal can make corresponds to their intelligence is not correct. Chickens can make more noises than apes. Dolphins and whales can only make a few noises, and they can only make these when they are above water. (p.152) Animal noises are actually just signals telling other animals to get ready to intercept some telepathic communication.

Human beings never gesticulated until we lost the ability to communicate telepathically.

Primitive peoples can’t make the same sounds as civilised people as their tongues aren’t as evolved as ours. That’s why they rely on clicking noises.

There’s more to this chapter, but I don’t want to get into it. Nearly everything the author of this book says about language is incorrect. He has no idea what he’s talking about. This chapter ends with the author claiming that education is detrimental to our wellbeing and reading and writing leads to unhappiness. “Every human being is a poet as long as he does not open his mouth or put a sentence to paper.” (p.164)

Chapter 7: This chapter discusses how the different races of humans evolved from different kinds of apes.

An African ape had sex with an Asian ape. She got preggers and their hybrid offspring was abandoned at birth. It turned into a tough guy and beat up the leader of a tribe of apes. He was so hungry afterwards that he ate this lad’s brain, and this made him so horny that he mated. The offspring of this mating was the first human being. Human beings didn’t turn into cannibals. They came into being through cannibalism.

In India, rich people pay to watch humans having sex with monkeys. If these couplings produce offspring, the hybrids are strangled to death. LOL. I wanted to look this up to see if it had been mentioned anywhere else, but I don’t want that in my google search history.

After a while, the cannibal monkeys realised that the brains of other cannibal monkeys had stronger effects than the brains of vegetarian monkeys.

Because of the warm temperatures near the Equator and the remoteness of some islands in the Pacific, the apes that lived there were the last to turn cannibal and had a harder time cannibalising each other. This is why their descendants are still primitive tribes people who can’t count past the number 3. The women of these tribes still manifest visible signs of their fertility. The author includes a graph showing how small these people’s brains are. He also maintains that these people have retained some of their psychic powers. Black people have curly hair so it stays closer to their heads so it won’t get caught in a tree when they are running from a predator in the jungle. (This is Oscar Kiss Maerth’s idea, not mine!)

Yetis are unevolved, less cannibalistic, psychic apes. Cannibal apes pursued them east until they crossed over from Russia into Alaska. This is where sasquatches come from. (This is not the first time I have come across the notion that Sasquatches have psychic powers.)

Stress increases fertility. (This is the opposite of true.)

Humans prefer missionary sex because it used to be a means of holding the woman down so she couldn’t escape. Women find it easier to escape from a rapist who is riding them from behind. The reason men like looking at ballet and women in high-heeled shoes has to do with the way that the female monkeys’ feet would would while they were being pinioned by the rapist cannibal male monkeys.

Orgy goers are “neurotic members of a mentally sick society.” (p.192)

Measuring the intelligence of different races is as pointless as studying the age of the moon. (I checked google, and the moon is 4.53 billion years old.)

The author returns to his notion that intelligence is a very bad thing. He claims that “the most important task of every nation is therefore to keep their surplus intelligence under strict control.” (p.195) Again, while a lot of what he says is extremely racist by today’s standards, he literally means it as a compliment. He claims that racial and cultural discrimination are absolutely essential to world peace, but that racial hatred and persecution are abhorrent. He believes that racial hatred will lead to a new era of cannibalism. Interbreeding among races should be discouraged as some races are genetically incompatible. We must segregate if we want to live peacefully and philosophically.

Chapter 8: The author takes a look at the book of Genesis from the Bible and attempts to show how this text gives evidence for his theories.

The book of Genesis tells the whole story, but it has been misinterpreted over the years. The fruit of Knowledge was obviously brains. The story had been passed down for eons mentally, and it was written down just before men lost the ability to psychically look back on past events to verify that it was true.

Genesis was first written in hieroglyphs, and it lost accuracy every time it was written into a new language or alphabet. This is why it’s not crystal clear. (Despite this, the author takes very specific quotes in support of his claims.)

Eve was the Asian monkey we talked about earlier. Adam was the African. As you remember, Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. This is why Asian people have bigger brains than Africans. (This is a little confusing though as Eve was a woman and women didn’t partake in cannibalism.)

The tree of knowledge was a man in the original version. It changed into a tree because a hieroglyph of a tree would look a bit like a hieroglyph of a man with a big dick. The dick was mistaken for a root.

Chapter 9: These ideas might seem unbelievable, but overpopulation and environmental destruction will lead people to realise the truth. The world will change, and a new philosophical system will come into power. The author had more details on the imminent downfall of civilization and ways we might survive, and he planned to write two more books in this series. It is a great shame these books were never published.

I’ve been running this blog for almost 8 years now, and I have read many strange books in the process. I’ve come across Nazis in the hollow Earth, Alien Jesus, psychic Soviets, Satanic UFOs and an exorcism in Loch Ness, but nothing I have read has approached the misanthropic insanity of Oscar Kiss Maerth’s The Beginning was the End. You should definitely find a copy of this book and read it immediately.