Monday, July 22, 2013

Characters in Literature

You thought I forgot, didn't ya?! Well I didn't, here's part one of three for Character Week.

I'm going back to my old Top Five style, where the order doesn't matter except for the last slot meaning best of the best.


Scarlet Spider/Ben Reilly 

(Several comic books series)
Hopefully making a comeback!
If you didn't except to see some Scarlet Spider love here, you're new. I love Spider-Man. I love that Peter Parker is a relatable guy who just happens to be able to do whatever a spider can. He has girl problems, money problems, and bad guy problems.

Ben Reilly, if you didn't know, is his clone. During the '90s, when Marvel was trying to retire Peter Parker (the first time, anyway), they brought in Ben. He has a tormented past and, due to more plot twists than you can shake a stick at, identity issues. Marvel played around with him being the real Peter Parker, just replaced years prior.

I espeically enjoyed Ben because he was everything Peter was, but with a darker tint. When he fought characters like Venom or Carnage, he had his own reasons for doing so and his own approach. He was a damaged character that did his damnedest to do right.

Also, I loved his Scarlet Spider AND Spider-Man costumes.

Corwin of Amber 

(The Amber Chronicles)
If you have no idea who this is, I forgive you. The Amber Chronicles are a series of books written by Roger Zelazny. One of his other characters, Jack of Shadows, almost took this spot, but Corwin pulled ahead by having one of the most interesting introductions ever.

Gotta love that cover art.
Well. Most interesting cliche introduction, anyway, because we meet Corwin when he's waking up in a hospital bed with amnesia. The thing is, amnesia doesn't stop our boy from being suspicious of everything, and we follow him along as he breaks out of the hospital and, using proto-Jason Bourne skills, slowly discovers the truth about who he is.

And THAT'S when shit really hits the fan. Corwin is a Prince of Amber, one of the two "real" worlds. Everywhere else, including our Earth, is a "shadow," a twisted, shaped reflection or refraction of the two real worlds. And we learnt his all through Corwin as he stumbles blindly into a fantastical world of literally infinite possibility.

When Corwin does get his memories back, we find out that he actually blows Jason Bourne out of the water in regards to awesomeness. His character continues to evolve in the five novels that follow him (and the others he appears in) and, while it does get pretty weird, it still makes for an engaging character you support the entire journey, even when he's a revenge-seeking tyrany-wannabe. Or a blind prisoner, confined for years. Or when he... Well... I don't want to spoil anything more. Read the books, they're amazing, and 90% of that awesomeness is pure Corwin.

David Rice 

David as I know him, sorry Hayden.
While the movie ruined the character, it still didn't tarnish my love for the literary David Rice. This is another example of a damaged boy getting great powers, but the novel follows David in such a way that it feels completely new.

David's father is abusive. This and David's attempt at running away cause him to "jump" for the first time. Then we get to follow a broken boy on a journey by himself to discover himself and a world where he can, maybe, be happy. It's not always easy, but it is always interesting.

Teleportation is my power of choice, and this novel sets up a character that will explore this ability, his past, and the future with a wonderful sense of reality.

And, in the two books of the series that I've read (have yet to read the recently released third), there are no Paladins, no Samuel L. Jackson character, and there IS an engaging romance.

The novel, mainly due to David, is also an easy read targeted to young adults. I'd suggest this for anyone at any age, however.

Lazarus Long 

(Multiple novels by Robert A. Heinlein)
Lazarus is a strange character. He has an excessively long lifespan that allows him to go on many adventures (and create enough progeny that he's almost related to everyone). I wouldn't want to pin him down in one novel, simply because his story is so widespread, but Time Enough for Love is a good sample of the strange character and the even stranger settings he's put in.
Yeah, they're probably related.

The biggest draw to Lazarus is his completely unapologetic outlook on life. He does what he wants, when he wants to and, as long as it fits with his arbitrarily defined morals, it's all kosher. His life, lasting over thousands of years, has had lots of impacts, and the best part about the character is watching him as he bounces along the universe like a stone across water, leaving spreading ripples in his wake.

If you want an unusual character involved in time travel, parallel dimensions, and the undying pursuit of free love, look no further, you've found your man. And many of his children. And possibly a clone or two. Oh, and his mother who he... oh. Well. Let's leave that at that.

Julian "Bean" Delphiki 

(Ender's series)
I've mentioned this before, but I read Ender's Shadow BEFORE reading Ender's Game. Because of this, I was slightly disappointed by Bean's portrayal in the actual origin novel, and I'm concerned with how my favorite character of all time will be shown on the big screen.

You wish they'd stay this small...
Bean is my favorite character simply because of his precocious personality. His bizarre back story helps, but we get to follow Bean as he grows up (and up and up) and watch his personality shaped by the people and
events around him, even as he knows that he is easily smarter than them all. His intelligence his unparalleled due to a genetic manipulation that also puts him on a quick path to a very young death. We see him in the beginning of the Ender saga, but then he heads back to earth and an entire series follows him, his friends, and his family.

I think I enjoyed Bean so much because I actually felt smarter while reading his thoughts, seeing the way he inferred large amounts of detail with very little evidence and, even more so, catching on to things slightly before this massive intellect given body did, simply due to an almost-unseen naivete.

One other thing that made Bean especially great, even when compared to Ender, was his arch-nemesis, Achilles. Their relation far outshines many rivalries I've come to enjoy, and I voraciously read any scene that promised the two going head to head.


Well, there you have it. I know I'm leaving out plenty of characters, but I'm very happy with this selection for the first Character Week on the Arbitrary Nerd.

Special shout out to (pretty much) the entire cast of Saga. It's still early in the series life, but I love Marko, Alana, the in-laws, The Will, Lying Cat, and many others. There isn't a single character I dislike popping up across the panels.

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