Greetings, and welcome to… Villains Month on the Hex Dimension. This week we begin our recommendations with a look at novels with some very villainous individuals. Yes, most dastardly they are… Mwhahahahahahahaha!
When I found out about The Lunar Chronicles I was pretty much sold on the concept immediately. The titular main character of the first book, Cinder, is a cyborg. She is treated awfully by her Stepmother – cyborgs are pretty much scum of the earth, and the stepmother is quite villainous herself. When a deadly plague hits the world and Cinder’s city of New Beijing, her stepmother sacrifices her cyborg daughter for testing. It’s something that will change Cinder’s life forever. The second and third books track the adventures of Scarlet and ‘Cress’ (Repunzel) respectively, the characters colliding, until they realise they have to fight for a common cause.
And that common cause is the villain of this series: the beautiful, yet terrifying, Queen Levana.
Based on the evil queen in Snow White, Queen Levana is quick to be jealous of any of the main characters. More importantly, she is of a changed human race, specifically ones who went to live on the moon. They are all highly-strung and stunning: they hate the humans on Earth, and they especially hate cyborgs.
It’s not too hard to guess that, in her twisted way, Queen Levana had something to do with the plague that is killing millions: that she wants to ensnare the prince of New Beijing. She has designs for Earth: and unfortunately, her plans are largely working.
Levana makes such a great villain because she is mysterious: when reading the books, she felt like Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings: stunning, but incredibly deadly. The hate for races and characters drip from her which makes you hate her in return. She is devastatingly clever and a force to be reckoned with in the amazing sci-fi world that Marissa Meyer has created.
I can’t wait to read the conclusions of this series with Winter (that comes out, unsurprisingly, in winter 2015) but in the mean time I can read Fairest – a Queen Levana origin story, which I’ve heard makes you feel sorry for one of the most evil characters in YA fiction. She fits so well into these faiytale reimaginings that it makes the books even better
It’s often the case that the best villains are the ones who think they’re the hero. Characters who do despicable things, but have absolute conviction that they’re the right thing to do. Religious zealots and overreaching scientists and politicians serving the “greater good”.
In most cases, of course, the writer makes it clear that these characters are not the heroes they think they are. But what if the writer saw them that way too? What if the writer thought the villains were the good-guys? Well, then you get something like Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.
The “hero” of this series is a guy called Eragon. Here, in no particular order, are a few examples of his heroic deeds: Eragon accidentally curses a baby girl to suffer a life of pain, then treats her with suspicion and disgust because of it. He yells and screams at the same crying child (technically still a baby, just magically aged) because she refuses to fight for him in a war she has nothing to do with. He exterminates an entire sentient species on two separate occasions, and fantasises about doing it a third time, to a race that have long since become his allies. He kills a young enemy soldier in cold blood, mid-terrified-surrender, because leaving him alive might cause a minor inconvenience. And he tortures an old blind man for literally years because he made one bad decision to try and protect his daughter. Eragon, throughout the series, cares only for himself – feeling nothing and meeting every challenge with violence. Even his “epic romance” (the books’ words, not mine) is the story of an obsessed stalker slowly wearing down the woman who keeps telling him no.
This is a character with a completely broken moral-compass. His friends and allies aren’t much better either – they’re all selfish, violent sociopaths – and the story constantly rewards them for it. The terrible crimes of the actual villain, on the other hand, basically boil down to never leaving his castle, having an army, and collecting taxes. He’s so evil!
The Inheritance Cycle are by no means good books (far from it – they’re badly written and tediously paced) but they provide an incredible window into the mind of every villain who thinks they’re the hero, and an author who doesn’t know the difference.
Most people who’ve read The Dead Zone, will remember the protagonist that King created for this work, the very unassuming but most incredible, Johnny Smith. But who tends to be forgotten is the individual whom Smith ends up pursuing across the country before he can unleash hell on Earth: Greg Stillson.
Much of The Dead Zone is focused on helping us understand where the depraved individuals in its pages come from, including Stillson. A two-faced villain: the public, as he runs for office, sees an everyman figure who is on their side and knows their pain. But the side that Johnny senses and the side that Stillson’s henchmen know is one that is fully capable of instigating some pretty horrendous acts. And as Johnny comes to believe: a man who is capable of starting a war to end all wars.
It actually takes quite a while for Stillson and Smith to cross paths and for his full villainous potential to be revealed. Instead we spend much of the novel experiencing Stillson through a series of sketches where we witness the character doing increasingly depraved things, from kicking a dog to hiring a biker gang to do his dirty work.
Stillson as a villain, for me, encapsulates secret fears that the public of democratic societies have when it comes to electing people to seats of power. You’re kind of taking it on good faith that the woman or man you elect isn’t some sociopath with murderous tendencies. And because no one can see the future, you never know until they’re in power just what these people may be capable of.
The Dead Zone is definitely worth a read if you want your villainy a little less pantomime and a little more on the insidious side.
When the topic of villains first came up, loads of names sprung to mind doing. Yet for books only one entered my tiny little mind. A man who seems to be sly from the first page he is introduced, a man full of many secrets yet to be told.
He remains a strong villain for me thanks to the way J. K. Rowling wrote the character, giving him a sinister style, yet one that makes you think. Many times during the Harry Potter series I found myself feeling sorry for this particular snake in the grass. As parts of his past dropped like a blanket thrown from a bed – you found yourself second guessing his true nature.
Wondering whose side he was on, was he truly evil or did he have another goal in mind. Some of his actions proved to test even my emotions towards him. This is why for me Snape was a perfect villain. Wrapped up in secrets and deceptions. Making us second guess his motives right till the end!