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Old 02-24-2012, 09:05 AM   #76
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Hey, to each their own I say. And if you come across any books featuring thoroughly evil and depraved 12 year olds defeating their goody two-shoes adult adversaries, make sure you tell me!
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Old 02-24-2012, 12:42 PM   #77
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Surely fantasy where the bad guys win is the definition of horror?

... on which topic, The Ratman's Notebook by Stephen Gilbert springs to mind.

I didn't see mention of Matt Woodring-Stover's Acts of Caine in this thread - but they are the closest I can think of to what you're asking for. Caine may be a hero of sorts, but it's hard to say that good is winning.

Part of the problem is that we naturally side with the protagonist, no matter how repulsive; good examples from a scattering of genres are the amoral Charlie Mortdecai (Kyril Bonfiglioni), Colonel Moran (Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the Durbervilles by Kim Newman) and even assassins seem positively sympathetic these days (Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, The Killer's Game by Jay R. Bonansinga, Robin Hobb's trilogy of trilogies).
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Old 02-24-2012, 01:48 PM   #78
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I've quite often found myself siding with the protagonist, hoping the hero would die a slow and painful death in a large vat of slightly watered-down acid or something. Much the same as when reading De Sade's Justine, where you (or at least I) just can't help thinking she deserves everything she gets for being so unbearably naive and prudish.

It's much better today though, now that most heroes have become "real" people rather than flawless saints.
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Old 02-24-2012, 06:37 PM   #79
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Hey, to each their own I say. And if you come across any books featuring thoroughly evil and depraved 12 year olds defeating their goody two-shoes adult adversaries, make sure you tell me!
the only ones i can think of are The Omen and The Midwich Cuckoos (aka Village of the Damned) lol.
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Old 02-25-2012, 05:29 PM   #80
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A lot of people seem to like it, I bought it (the first) because a) people kept mentioning it and b) it looked interesting. I'm not saying I don't like it - although I've yet to see what the fuss is all about - it just reminded me a lot of this thread.
It's a very funny series. For darker, more serious YA fantasy fiction I would recommend 'The Monstrumologist' by Rick Yancey and 'I Am Not a Serial Killer' by Dan Wells.
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Old 02-27-2012, 03:37 PM   #81
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'I Am Not a Serial Killer' by Dan Wells.
This and the two other (Mr. Monster, I don't want to kill you) in the trilogy are really good
And I guess a teenage sociopath isn't exactly heroic either, though he does try to be "good".
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Old 03-03-2012, 04:26 PM   #82
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A couple of older fantasy books which I am a bit surprised haven't been mentioned is Moorcock's Elrik series (available as ebooks) and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane series, which as far as I know isn' available as ebooks. Both were from the anti-hero school of fantasy and were originally written in the 60's and 70's.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:38 PM   #83
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And if you come across any books featuring thoroughly evil and depraved 12 year olds defeating their goody two-shoes adult adversaries, make sure you tell me!
Well, not so much evil and depraved but more like sociopathically self-interested and superpowered in a short story written by Tanya Huff, which IIRC is available in one of her two collections which are DRM-free ePub via Kobo (discountable using coupons). Her "If I Were an Evil Overlord" short from the DAW anthology mentioned upthread is somewhere in there too.

And speaking of would-be evil overlords, here's another temporarily freebied @ Amazon indie-written story which I don't vouch for the quality of but may nevertheless be of interest.

This apparently leads into a longer novel about a guy who "tries to help supervillains be more villainous. Or at least more profitable and sensible about the business side of Evil" and ends up in "direct conflict with the greatest superhero of them all, Excelsior. And so, the quiet, restrained intellectual is pitted against heroic force".

Consultation with a Vampire (How to Succeed in Evil) by Patrick E. MacLean

Edwin Windsor, Evil Efficiency Consultant, returns with his manic lawyer Topper and his faithful secretary in this prequel to How to Succeed in Evil. Edwin is approached by a vampire, who offers him the prospect of eternal life if Edwin will help him with the troubles the modern world has presented his kind. It's Edwin versus Nosferatu in this insightful satire of the highly exploited vampire genre.
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:54 PM   #84
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A couple of older fantasy books which I am a bit surprised haven't been mentioned is Moorcock's Elrik series (available as ebooks) and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane series, which as far as I know isn' available as ebooks. Both were from the anti-hero school of fantasy and were originally written in the 60's and 70's.
Elric is an old mate of mine, Moorcock's books being among the first fantasy literature I read after Lord of the Rings. I've got all the Elric books and ebooks, as well as the graphic novels (the original ones, published by First Comics in the mid-eighties, which are easily better than anything published since) and the same goes for Corum and Hawkmoon. While he certainly is an anti-hero, Elric isn't evil, or even bad, just a tragic, tortured soul who often ends up doing harm when he intends to do good.

What he indisputably is though, is one of the all-time classic fantasy characters, whom everyone with an interest in fantasy ought to check out. His other aspects (the main ones, that is), Corum Jhaelen Irsei, Erekosë, Dorian Hawkmoon, Jerry Cornelius and Graf Ulrich von Bek, are equally well worth checking out. They're not just cracking stories, but among the most imaginative and unique creations the genre contains.

End of proselytisation (sorry, I'm something of a Moorcock fan).

On a different note I wondered, when reading the Malazan series, if Anomander rake wasn't a souped-up version of Elric and Icarium a direct descendant of Corum....

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Old 03-04-2012, 02:10 PM   #85
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Yea, I've got most of the eternal champion books as well. The thing about Elric is that he's a bit like a cannibal in that he's not evil from his culture's point of view, but from our point of view, he does evil things. Most of the other eternal champion characters, such as Corum and Hawkmoon are basically good.
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Old 03-15-2012, 01:50 AM   #86
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Let me start by saying I understand this thread as a call for books where the protagonist(s) is not a paragon of virtues. I think the thread should be renamed. Alternate name could be "Fantasy books whose protagonists aren't so good they make you sick", or "Antihero fantasy"

1. The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson, **** 1/2* on the popular website, 19 reviews

A hidden gem.

A novel similar to a Norse saga. It's unoriginal as far as the creatures go (everything drawn from the mythology; it's mostly about the war of Elves and Trolls and some human... trespassers), but has incredible story and storytelling. There's a lot of violence and dark atmosphere that doesn't feel forced. It's not so much evil as amoral, there are no clear good guys in this book. It feels like Anderson accomplishes all this without effort, it's all a result of the sum of the parts.

Michael Moorcook (the guy that invented Chaos in books) values this book more than Tolkien. I'm not sure I agree (the book is MUCH shorter and let's not bring Silmarillion), but I can deffinitely see why he thinks so ! It's all the more baffling when you consider Anderson had a degree in... Physics ! But I seem to notice a pattern in SF/fantasy written by physicists. They can accomplish a lot (even create suggestive atmosphere) in few words.

2. Darkness Weaves (and Kane serries in general) - Karl Wagner, **** 1/2* on the popular website, 12 reviews
A lot of action, short but very evocative sentences, atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife. The book(s) is rarely mentioned. Yet everyone who read it seems to like it. As far as I can tell the only fault of the author is that he has only written several short books. I really wish there was more.

3. Conan the Barbarian books - especially Robert Howard
Careful, this is a mixed bag because there were many authors. Generally the earliest ones, written by Rob Howard, are the best. After all, they inspired the other authors to write about the character.

You may've heard Conan the Barbarian is stupid, primitive, or dumb. None of these. He is simple but not stupid in the way Carrot from Discworld can envy. He's much more sophisticated than vast majority of video game protagonists:
- despite being powerful, he doesn't miss an opportunity to use stealth; he started as a thief
- he doesn't touch stuff he doesn't understand. He says it explicitely at one point.
- it's not uncommon for him to run away !
- he's not a walking tank. From time to time he is injured, but he uses every way possible to avoid getting hit.

Why is Conan on the list ? Conan is quite amoral. Today, the author would be crucified for unashamedly treating women as objects. Conan has (at least) one woman in every city. He kidnaps a woman if he feels like it, and may have even sold one at one point. He can do a lot for the right price. Conan can keep his word, but there are also temporary aliances and backstabbing. Wizards are, by "our" standards, all evil and feared. They all use dark magics, necromancy, cruel spells. It's just that some of them are helpful while others are power hungry.
Conan is not evil per se, he has gray morality. I find it much more satisfying than outright "evil". Conan's goals are wealth, power, and women.

Even if you find Conan as a character dull (not much time is spent describing his feelings), you should enjoy the world, which is great, quite cruel, and full of dark secrets. Even though a lot of cliches have a source in Conan or the world around it, the writing is so good it doesn't bother. Howard doesn't spend 50 pages describing a temple of an evil deity until you fall asleep.

4. Stars my Destination (sci-fi) - Alfred Bester, **** 1/2* on the popular website, 264 reviews
A sci-fi book is on the list because I consider its protagonist one of best, if not THE best example of an anti-hero.

I don't want to spoil anything. Perhaps I like the book so much because the protagonist has a lot in common with me - he can find a lot of motivation in anger. I can understand him.

You'd think a book about revenge would be boring. A generic "killed my father" or other blah blah. There's an event early in the book that makes Gulliver Foyle really mad, and you should understand why. From that point Foyle doesn't stop short of anything to reach his goal. It will probably make you uncomfortable, because he can be cruel to the point of being chilling, and very much likeable at the same time.

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Old 03-15-2012, 03:42 AM   #87
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Thanks for the suggestions!

Poul Anderson is an old favourite and I agree The Broken Sword is excellent. I too found it somewhat similar to a Norse Saga, which I guess may have provided it some additional brownie points at the time.

Wagner is unknown to me apart from his name, but I'll certainly hunt down the Kane series. Sounds like my kind of thing.

Conan I do know, if only from the comics I used to devour as a boy. I've got the books (or some of them - no idea how many there are) too though; I just haven't gotten around to reading any of them yet.

Alfred Bester is another unknown, only this time I've heard the title mentioned. Couldn't have come up with the author if my life depended on it though. I'll be sure to locate The Stars my Destination as well, since it definitely sounds like something I'd enjoy. As for making me uncomfortable....I highly doubt it. However, should it manage to do so, I'll take that as a very rare bonus.
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Old 03-15-2012, 05:21 AM   #88
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About things that can make one uncomfortable - of course, there are books and protagonists where they simply kill everyone in their path. I don't find that kind of thing particularly disturing. It's dull, you know what's going to happen. I'm more moved if the story (or character) sounds plausible and realistic. This makes it harder for me to distance myself from the fiction. There's a barbarian woman in one of Song of Ice and Fire books who wears a neclace of human ears. She cuts ears of her opponents and sets them free to show she's not afraid of them !

Yes, I value realism in Science Fiction and Fantasy. No matter how stupid or whimsical the setting, I think it benefits if characters behave in believable ways and resemble humans more than cardboard cutouts.

--------------------

Another book which should be recommended (you probably know it, but I might convince some forum lurker):

A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) - George R. R. Martin

A dark and gritty book. Fantastic elements don't even come into play until later. It reads much like an alternative medieval history fiction. Death, disease, war, injustice are common. Characters are often so human it hurts, I was able to find a common trait with most of them. Sometimes they act petty when it's against common sense (and clearly harmful for them) but pride is at stake. Very unusually, George R.R. Martin doesn't hesitate to kill a would-be protagonist ! So there's always tension, because characters CAN die, and not just ones whose names have been revealed 5 pages ago. This is important to me because in a lot of fiction I can't feel suspense as I know the character will succeed and nothing really bad will happen.

I really liked the earlier books. I haven't read the last (released) one yet. The two late books I've found a bit boring, they felt stretched out.

--------------

About Conan - it's still worth reading, if only to see how a simple character and a predictable yet epic story can be told in a way that's not boring and doesn't come off as pompous or pretentious. In a way, it's anti-Warcraft. As for comics - you may like Frank Frazetta's illustrations (some used as covers for Kane books):

http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...athdealerV.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...c=ffcolr30.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...sonofvenus.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...arkkingdom.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...c=ffcolr30.jpg
(Unique in that Frank Frazetta usually depicts women as stupid,
helpless, nude damsels)
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...ampdemonII.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...ndianbrave.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...Golden_Sea.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...Fire_Demon.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...frazetta06.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...8_Sorcerer.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...e_of_Death.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...608_Combat.jpg
http://user.xmission.com/~wad/ff/vie...?loc=witch.jpg

http://frankfrazetta.org/

These illustrations have a very strong Conan vibe about them !

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Old 03-19-2012, 09:58 AM   #89
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They're not available as e-books, but if you're going to read Conan, I recommend Gollancz's two-volume Conan collection from their "Fantasy Masterworks" series:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Conan-Ch...2165227&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Conan-Ch...2165283&sr=1-3

These two volumes contain all of the Howard's Conan stories, as Howard originally wrote them. Many other Conan collections either include material from other authors, or have re-written versions of Howard's stories that have been altered to fit someone else's ideas about Conan. This set does not - it's the original versions of the stories.
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Old 03-19-2012, 12:01 PM   #90
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How about The Black Company by Glen Cook? None of the main characters are typical good guys and they get in to some pretty evil stuff throughout the series.
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