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Old 01-22-2012, 06:18 PM   #1
Belfaborac
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Non-heroic fantasy?

More specifically, books where an evil bastard is the protagonist and where good does not triumph in the end. Does something along these lines exist?

Now, I'm no more evil (not a lot anyway) than the next man or woman, but the inherent absurdity of good always standing triumphant as the last page approaches sometimes gets on my nerves and I'd like to sample something different.

Any ideas?
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Old 01-22-2012, 06:24 PM   #2
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Perhaps, Grunts by Mary Gentle
http://sfbook.com/grunts.htm
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Old 01-22-2012, 06:31 PM   #3
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good question.

Ari Marmell tried it in The Conqueror's Shadow but he merely had a bad guy fighting someone who was worse. Still a really good book but he could have gone further with the premise.

David Dalglish's Half-Orc series makes one of the 2 child killing orc brothers the "hero". despite one of the brothers going on a somewhat more heroic path, the fact remains that he has slaughtered hundreds of innocents and helped his brother murder children for necromantic experiments. its a very dark series.


those are the only 2 examples i can think of. unfortunately i don't know of any books where someone wholly evil is the protagonist/victor. it would be a refreshing change.
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Old 01-22-2012, 07:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BenG View Post
Perhaps, Grunts by Mary Gentle
http://sfbook.com/grunts.htm
A credible suggestion, but those Orcs aren't really evil as far as I remember. Rather it was simply the story as seen from the perspective of amoral mercenaries hired by "the other side".

Excellent book, but not quite what I'm after.
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Old 01-22-2012, 07:49 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by xg4bx View Post
good question.

David Dalglish's Half-Orc series makes one of the 2 child killing orc brothers the "hero". despite one of the brothers going on a somewhat more heroic path, the fact remains that he has slaughtered hundreds of innocents and helped his brother murder children for necromantic experiments. its a very dark series.


those are the only 2 examples i can think of. unfortunately i don't know of any books where someone wholly evil is the protagonist/victor. it would be a refreshing change.
That's more like it. As it happens the series is actually on my reader already, although I had no idea it was that close to the mark. I bought it since I'm reading the Shadowdance trilogy at the moment, which I quite enjoy, so I assumed it would be up my alley.

Not quite there yet though, so keep the suggestions coming if you've got them.
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Old 01-22-2012, 07:49 PM   #6
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I can name for you books where an evil bastard is the protagonist (but good triumphs in the end, for selected WTF values of "good") and books where an evil (or at least grossly indifferent and uncaring) bastard is the antagonist and good does not so much triumph in the end as manage to cut its losses so that it's not a total rout.

But I don't think I could name for you one with both off the top of my head (or even after examining my bookshelves e- and paper).

BTW, if you are interested in one of the 2nd category, I highly recommend Barbara Hambly's "Darwath Trilogy" which involves Lovecraftian horrors "defeated" (well, more like understood the inevitable doom imposed by) by properly-researched historical scholarship. And her Asher & Ysidro historical vampire murder mystery/spy novels are pretty good in that good-not-triumphant-and-evil-kind-of-gets-away-with-it sense, and the 1st one in the series won both a Locus Award for best horror novel and a Lord Ruthven award.

They are apparently set at insane prices outside North America, so one's best bet for e-book purchasing is probably to lie about one's address.
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Old 01-22-2012, 08:04 PM   #7
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And there's Drake-san again, with good suggestions.

The Darwath series was some of the first fantasy books I read (though post-LotR of course) and I enjoyed them quite a lot. It's not actually a trilogy, there being five books, although I think perhaps the latter two were written at some later time. At least I too thought it was a trilogy when I first picked them up, only to discover two additional volumes when I revisited the series a couple of years ago. I wouldn't particularly suggest hunting them down though (if that flashed through your mind just now), as they're not really up to the standard of the first three.

Asher & Ysidro I was unaware of, so I'll consider picking up those.

Still not there, so keep 'em coming. Surely one or two such stories must exist somewhere...
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Old 01-22-2012, 08:16 PM   #8
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It was originally a trilogy that wrapped up in the three initial novels, but she later wrote sequels. I own the lot of her books, but I agree that the sequels, while nice to read to find out what happened next to the characters, are just not as engaging and compelling as the original story.

If you're okay with an sf suggestion, I think that Robert J. Sawyer's Golden Fleece comes pretty close. One of the viewpoint-narrative characters does have a vested interest in steering things in a particular direction, and I would definitely not call the ending a triumph for either "side". And it's a rather good locked-room murder mystery set on a spaceship, to boot, and the whydunnit will probably surprise you.

His The Terminal Experiment also comes sort of close-ish.

To get an idea of how close-ish I mean, perhaps you might like to read his award-nominated novellas Identity Theft and The Hand You're Dealt, free online at his website. Oh, and I think Just Like Old Times is very close to what you originally had in mind.
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Old 01-22-2012, 09:55 PM   #9
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Thought of another that might qualify.

The Spell of the Black Dagger is possibly the darkest work in Lawrence Watt-Evans' high fantasy normally light-to-comedic Ethshar series.

The antagonist is one of the viewpoint characters, and you can see her slide into justifying her self-serving actions which gradually escalate in ways I won't spoiler you for. While she doesn't exactly get away with it, the people up against her don't exactly come out unscathed, and in fact there may be more problems for some of them than get solved.

This is available as DRM-free MultiFormat via Fictionwise (so you can use the weekend discount coupons), and Watt-Evans has put up a number of his Ethshar short stories for free reading online (I recommend Sirinita's Dragon as being closest in tone to SOTBD, if you're interested).

You can read the novels mostly standalone, although some have main characters who show up as guests later (SOTBD has some characters who were in With A Single Spell play a medium-important supporting part).
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Old 01-22-2012, 10:11 PM   #10
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Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" series?

Virtually nobody is a good guy.
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Old 01-22-2012, 10:33 PM   #11
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The Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson? The protagonist isn't evil, per se, but he's definitely an anti-hero. When discussing the series, it would not be uncommon to hear him referred to as an asshole leper rapist.

I've never read them, but Michael Moorcock's Elric series might fit the bill.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch features a gang of thieves and con artists as the protagonists. They're essentially good at heart, so may not be what you're looking for. Excellent, though. The Gentlemen Bastards is the name of the series.

George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is certainly filled with despicable characters.
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Old 01-22-2012, 10:42 PM   #12
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The Steel Remains, Richard K Morgan
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Old 01-23-2012, 05:12 AM   #13
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James Maxey's Bitterwood trilogy might fit that description. The protagonist is definitely not heroic, and only some of the characters get what they're after in the end.
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Old 01-23-2012, 07:51 AM   #14
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Donaldson's Thomas Covenant is generally regarded as an anti-hero and isn't a particularly nice character, but he's definitely on the side of Good in the series. Personally, I found the characters in the SF Gap series even worse - I couldn't get past the first book so I couldn't say whether Good triumphs over Evil, or even if the sides are clear-cut.

Not fantasy or SF, but you might try John Fowles' The Collector.

I've heard some things about John Ringo's Ghost, but never read it. It's available at the Baen Free Library.

If you're interested in stories that are more ambiguous regarding good and evil you might like Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan. Neither side is good or evil. The two protagonists are good men on opposite sides.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:25 AM   #15
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Thanks a lot for the suggestions folks, much appreciated!

Drake-san: once again I have a few of your suggestions already on my reader or in my Calibre library, namely Terminal Velocity and The Spell of the Black Dagger (the entire Ethshar series in fact). My book-buying habits are, somewhat unfortunately, akin to a splice of Scrat's pathological hoarding instinct with the behavioural characteristics of the packrat*, which makes for a rather too large selection to keep mental track of.

I'll move those up the TBR ladder, especially now that I've read Just Like Old Times.

jgaiser: The First Law is excellent and good guys are certainly thin on the ground, but the main characters aren't really even close to being evil bastards either. Admittedly they're seen as such by others, but the reader gets to find out otherwise.

AndrewH:
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant have been in my Top 5 list ever since I first read them three decades ago. Anti-hero and asshole leper rapist he may be, but nowhere near evil in my opinion. Simply woefully and tragically flawed.

Elric can't be said to be evil either, simply an amoral (sometimes less so), non-human übermensch who at times end up doing or causing very bad things without meaning to. Since you've not read the books I strongly suggest you remedy that forthwith and if you enjoy them go on to read more, much more. Moorcock's "Eternal Champion universe" is undoubtedly one of SFF's greatest creations (in my opinion, of course) and any fan of the fantastic ought to read up on Corum, Jerry Cornelius, Count Brass, Hawkmoon and the rest. Of the entire "super-cycle" my personal favourite is the first book dealing with Ulrich, Graf von Bek: The Warhound and the World's Pain.

The Gentlemen Bastards is very much on my TBR list, but there's no way I'm starting it before it's all done. A Song of Ice and Fire taught me that, as well as Wheel of Time before it. No more unfinished series for me, ever. Ice and Fire certainly has plenty evil people, but not as protagonists and I rather suspect that good may have triumphed (at least partly) when all is said and done.

Elizkcampbell: The Steel Remains sounds like my kind of thing, if perhaps not exactly what I'm after here, so I'm certainly picking that up. Thanks for the tip!

Nancy Fulda: despite being a computer game spin-off (I assume), Bitterwood actually sounds quite intriguing, so I'll pick up this series too. Thanks!

jehane: The Collector is an excellent book, but once again I wouldn't call Clegg evil. Mentally defective, sure, but without actual evil intent.

Ghost and the entire Paladin of Shadows series sounds like it may be closest to the mark of all so far, so thanks a lot for that! A definite pick-up.

As for Guy Gavriel Kay, he's also in my permanent Top 5 list (which very likely has many more than 5 entries) and Lions of al-Rassan is one of my favourite books ever. In fact, along with The Fionavar Tapestry it's one of the very few books which have managed to bring tears to my eyes. Great books (every one of Kay's), but no evil protagonists.

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