More literary villains

And the list of well written, memorable villains in literature continues:

40. Edgler Vess: The worst kind of psychopath, the kind with authority, we’re introduced to Mr. Vess in the pages of Dean Koontz’s thriller Intensity (1995, Bantam Books).  Vess is a thrill killer with all the knowledge of someone inside law enforcement, thereby allowing him to escape retribution and punishment for his acts.  A self described “homicidal adventurer,” Vess returns home after a spree of rape and murder with a stowaway and it is shortly thereafter that we see the true depths of his depravity.

Edgler Vess knows that there is no such thing as a good or bad sensation -- only raw sensation itself -- and that every sensory experience is worthwhile. Negative and positive values are merely human interpretations of value-neutral stimuli and, therefore, are only as enduring -- which is to say, as meaningless -- as human beings themselves.

39.  Ben Reich: Reich chooses to take a life and this makes him a bad man. But what makes the killer from Alfred Bester’s classic science fiction novel The Demolished Man (1953, Shasta Publications) such a great villain, are the lengths that he goes to in order to attempt to get away with the crime.  In a world in which the police force is telepathic and thus, murder has not been committed in 70 years, Reich has to arrange for mental protection during the commission and planning stage of the crime.

If a man’s got talent and guts to buck society, he’s obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you’ve got left are the sheep

38.  Grendel: Far from a complex villain, I just had to include Grendel because the creature is the classic monster in literature.  First written about in an old Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf,  dating somewhere between 700 and 1,000 AD, the creature became the inspiration for multiple tales about dragons and other monstrous beasts throughout the years.  A horrible creature, Grendel attacked the mead halls, killing and eating everyone there.

Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike
and welt on the hand of that heathen brute
was like barbed steel. Everybody said
there was no honed iron hard enough
to pierce him through, no time proofed blade
that could cut his brutal blood caked claw
37.  The Queen of Hearts: This nasty matriarch frightened children everywhere with the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, Macmillan).  When your answer to every challenge is beheading the offender, sooner or later, there won’t be any challenges left.

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking round.

36.  Brutus: Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here because Brutus is someone from history.  But he’s also a character in William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (1623, First Folio) and this is the Brutus I’m referring to here. This Roman joined in a conspiracy against his close friend Julius Caesar, going so far as to help assassinate him, by plunging a dagger into his back along with the senators.  Granted, Brutus thought what he was doing was right because of a false rumor planted by one of the other conspirators in the Senate, but that just makes him a more tragic villain.

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

– Brutus

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2 Responses to More literary villains

  1. Samuel Mae says:

    This is a fun list, Steve. Keep ’em coming!

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