Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind!

The Broke and the Bookish host one of my absolute favorite weekly features: Top Ten Tuesday. Each week a prompt is given and book bloggers are asked to create a list of their top ten picks for that prompt. This week they're doing a rewind--each blogger gets to pick a past list that they didn't get to do. Since I only jumped on the bandwagon a few weeks ago, that gave me oodles of choices. I decided to pick a prompt that was near and dear to my heart:


I apologize for the all caps. I'm just really excited that I get to talk about my favorite type of character. I'm a softie for a bad guy and this is exactly what I needed to get me out of my exhaustion-caused bad mood.

In no particular order:

1) Severus Snape from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Okay, so, yeah (spoiler alert) he's not a bad guy. But he's also not a very nice one, either. Snape, who is also on my list of favorite characters period, takes cranky S.O.B. to a whole new level. While I was not particularly impressed by how his story ended (hey, J.K., you think maybe you could have, I don't know, made him NOT a whiny emo?), I identified and sympathized with Snape early in the series and was one of the only people I personally know who trusted him all along. (I actually got into an hour long debate with someone about the reasons behind his actions at the end of book six and it ended with the two of us being very cross at each other.) His eventual redemption (if that's what that was supposed to be in book seven) does not make up for the horrible things that he did in his past or the way he treated people during the progression of the seven novels. And I don't think it should. One of the things I love most about him is that he is, at heart, a morally gray person. He's not good, he's not bad, he just is. He does things for his own reasons--I just wish his reasons hadn't been so lame. 

2) Dowd from Imajica by Clive Barker
I'm going to admit something very shameful--it's been so long since I read this book (and it's such a long book) that I don't remember most of the details. I loved Imajica both times that I read it and am looking forward to another reread--with a review, of course--and one of the main reasons was Dowd. This man is a liar, a killer, and an all-around awesomely evil guy. He exits the story a bit too early for my liking, but he's just so delightfully awful that he really stuck with me long after I'd put the book down. A friend of mine had recommended this book to me during freshman year of college and after I read it she asked me if I would let her guess who my favorite character was. Knowing me as well as she did, she knew instinctively that it was Dowd. I think anyone who appreciates the beauty of sinister characters will find that he comes out at the top of their list, too. 

3) Crowley from Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The demon A. J. Crowley is described as "an Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards." Even though he's now a member of Lucifer's lot, he's not really such a bad guy. He just, sort of, fell in with the wrong crowd. He drives a Bentley, wears nice suits, and even has an answering machine. In short, he's a modern sort of demon. In fact, some might say he's even gone native. He's been on Earth since the first day--he was the snake in the Garden of Eden--and he's really started to like it. He likes people. He even kind of likes Aziraphale, that pesky angel who's been stuck on Earth with him. So, even if he did help to create the world's most (literally) evil highway and even if he did magically replace all of the paintball guns at a business retreat with real weapons and, oh yeah, he helped facilitate bringing the Antichrist into the world (although in his defense, he didn't really want to), he's really not a bad guy...once you get to know him.

4) Teatime from The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Possibly the creepiest assassin to ever darken a Discworld doorstep, Teatime is a heartless, soulless killing machine who hates it when you mispronounce his name (it's TAY-UH-TIM-AY!). He doesn't care who he hurts as long as he gets the job done and this Hogswatch Night his job is to kill the Hogfather (the Discworld version of Santa Clause), the Tooth Fairy, and any other anthropomorphic personifications who stand in his way. The actor who played him in the SkyOne version did an amazing job, but whenever I read this book, I always picture Teatime being played by Cary Elwes. It just seems to fit so well.

5) IT from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
IT is a brain that telepathically controls Camazotz, the planet where Meg and Charles Wallace's father is being held. Every person on the planet moves in the same way because of him--children bounce balls to the same rhythm, people walk down the street to the same rhythm. No one has any free choice and no one steps out of line without being severely punished. As IT cannot speak for ITself, IT speaks through the Man with the Red Eyes, who is also controlled by IT. IT is highly intelligent and managed to insinuate ITself into these people's lives by promising them a utopia in return for submission and conformity. What he gave them, instead, is a terrifying dystopia that gives children and adult readers alike chills. ITs ultimate act of evil, I think, is taking over the body of Charles Wallace, one of the greatest children ever created in literature. Harry Potter ain't got nothing on this kid in terms of sheer awesomeness. IT cannot love so the only way IT can be removed from Charles Wallace's body is for his sister, Meg, to love IT. This is such a powerful book and the presence of IT and ITs all-consuming evil make it even more so. 

6) Francis Begbie from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
As one of the only non-drug-addicted characters in Trainspotting, you would think that Begbie is a well-adjusted person who helps old ladies across the street and returns lost wallets to their owners without removing a single dollar bill. And you'd be completely wrong. Francis Begbie is violence. He's not just violent. He. Is. Violence. Personified. Begbie's addiction is to hurting other people, whether it's the mother of his child, a friend who double-crossed him, or just some poor bloke that looked at him funny. He is so full of rage and has such a lack of self-control that his heroin addict mates seem almost...tame. Almost. He's a hypocrite, a liar, a cheat, a thief, and he's definitely not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alleyway. Or a brightly lit street. Or a park in the middle of the day. So, why do I adore this character? I'm going to blame Robert Carlyle for this one, actually. I didn't realize the film was based on a book until after I'd seen the movie and by that time I had already decided that Carlyle's performance as Begbie was so outstanding that he deserved my favorite character nod. But quite a bit of what I liked about Begbie in the film was also in the novel, so I guess I can't lay all of the blame on the actor who portrayed him. But it doesn't hurt. 

7) Lord Havelock Vetinari from Discworld (Various) by Terry Pratchett
Oh, hey there, Terry Pratchett. That's three times you've appeared on this list. This time it's for Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, the biggest and dirtiest and most wonderful city on the entire Disc. Vetinari, who was trained as an assassin, came to power through, what else, assassination. And he's stayed in power. It's partly because no one can seem to kill him, but it's mostly because, well, he actually does a pretty good job at ruling the city. He's ruthless and sarcastic and cunning and all those wonderful things that make baddies so appealing to me, but he's also fair and intelligent and knows how to do what's best for his people...even if they don't like it. I had really liked him from the start but he became my second favorite character (after Death) after reading Going Postal, which is, ironically, the film from which this photo comes. I love the way that he manipulates Moist Von Lipwig into doing what Moist does best--swindling people--but on a legitimate level, by revamping the dying Ankh-Morpork Post Office. It's Vetinari, and Pratchett, at his finest.

8) Dom Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
I'm going to admit to actually liking the Disney version of this book. But I can only like it if I completely separate if from Hugo's incredible novel. The stories are so vastly different on so many levels (like the fact that the novel's end body count is significantly higher than the film's) but one of the main ways they differ is on how they characterize Frollo. Yes, he's a pervert; yes, he's crazy; yes, he should never be allowed to fill a seat of power. But there is so much more to this man. For one thing, he genuinely cares about Quasimodo. He sees him as a way to atone for where he went wrong in raising his younger brother, Jehan. He also, of course, sees him as a way to commit crimes without getting caught, but that's during his inevitable descent into destructive obsession and madness so, you know, it's a little understandable.

9) Inspector Javert from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
I want to take a moment to just pause and brag about the fact that I got to see Terrence Mann play Inspector Javert on Broadway right before the show closed. Okay, moment of bragging done.

I hate Jean Valjean. In fact, I hate Marius and Cosette, too. While I find this book to be absolutely incredible, it's one of the only novels in the history of the world where I despise most of the protagonists. Valjean is, in my mind, the worst of the lot, because he's a guy who keeps committing crimes because he thinks he can justify his actions by saying that he's on the side of right when really he's just a guy committing crimes. Okay, it's a very simple way of looking at it, but despite Javert's cruelty and his insane obsession with Valjean, he is actually pretty right about the guy. Neither player in this game of cat-and-mouse is free of blame but I kind of see Valjean's actions as being a catalyst for Javert's dogged pursuit, not the result of it. It's like he's toying with him, seeing how far he can push him. We all know that eventually it takes Javert over a freaking bridge so we can add assisted suicide to the list of catastrophes that follow in Valjean's wake. Team Javert for life.

10) Billy-Ray Sanguine from Skulduggery Pleasant (Various) by Derek Landy
What's not to like about a psychopathic Texan who uses a straight razor that causes wounds than never heal and who can travel anywhere he wants to by tunneling through walls, earth, concrete, and pretty much anything else that's thick enough for him to fit into? He's a smarmy, snarky guy who's just crazy enough to be a bad guy but just smart enough to know when it's time to switch factions. He's evil, yes, but he's also lots of fun and it's been really great watching his progression from the second book in the series up through to the latest book in the series. The way Mortal Coil ended, I'm guessing we're going to be seeing a lot of this guy in the next book and I can't wait.



  1. This week's top ten is tough, not only do I have to pick 10 items but I have to choose my own category. Gah! I like this one though, I might pick villians when I get home.

  2. I love Crowley from Good Omens!

  3. I've seen Trainspotting on a couple of lists today. I'm not really sure I want to see the movie, but I'd be interested in reading the book.

  4. I am in love with Inspector Javert from Les Miserables!!!! I love the conflict. He's amazing. I would have put him before Snape.

  5. I loved your choice for a top ten today, after all what's a good book without a good villain? Kaye—the road goes ever ever on

  6. pwb: For once, the choice was easy for me. I don't know what it is about nefarious individuals but I always find them to be much more interesting than the good guys.

    Anne: Me, too. I really want to own his car.

    Trish: It's a really good book. Both the film and the book have some parts that might turn a few people's stomachs, but they're definitely worth looking into. When I read the book, I read it out loud because of the dialect. It made it a lot easier to understand what they were saying.

    Nonners: Snape was just first on the list because that's who I thought of first. :) I never put my top tens in any order because I can never really decide who should be first, second, etc. If I were to actually rank these characters though, I would put Javert before Snape, too. :)

    kaye: I totally agree.

  7. I love Snape! He's one of my favourite characters of all time, and like you, I completely trusted him all along. I remember arguing with my auntie over his true intentions several times, haha.

    Frollo has always terrified me. I find him creepy, and of course evil! I haven't read the original novel, but I'm definitely going to some time soon. I find his character fascinating.

    Books of Amber

  8. I really loved the fact that after book six, most of the hype was over Snape. It made this fanboy very happy. :)

    If I can make a suggestion about Hunchback: read an abridged version first. I don't normally recommend doing this with novels, but Hugo is HUGE on architecture and he loves to describe Notre Dame. Abridged versions cut these bits out for the most part, making it a less daunting read. I love the unabridged novel and have read it several times, but I'm glad that the first time I read it I read the abridged version. It eased me into Hugo's works without having to slog through three chapters on the sewers of Paris (I'm looking at you, Les Miserables).

    I followed your blog. Every time I come across someone from the UK I instantly follow. It has more to do with the fact that you guys have books over there that we'll never see over here than it has to do with the fact that I love reading blogs where people spell "favorite" with a "u", although both reasons are pretty valid.

  9. Snape is a good one, great choices.

    Come by and see mine and my giveaways.

  10. Snape, Dowd, Crowley and of course Billy-Ray Sanguine are all fantastic villains.

    I have a confession to make. I am from Scotland and I do not like Irvine Welsh. I always feel like I am committing a crime by saying that. I have tried for the sake of being Scottish but I just don't. I have seen the film trainspotting and read the book. I can see the appeal but it's just not for me. I do like Robert Carlyle though and he does play a fantastic villain. I remember him playing a pretty nasty character in Cracker (which I think brought him to fame). I was pretty young at the time and I don't remember much of the show but I do remember him.

    Miss Havisham of Great Expectations would be on my list but possible not for the right reasons. She's a great character but I loved her more in the Thursday Next books. Couldn't class her as a villain at all in those.

  11. Crowley is a fabulous character, and I'm glad to see him on your list. I just watched "The Hogfather" a couple of weeks ago, and Teatime gave me nightmares. Ick.

    I never much liked The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but my favorite song in that film is the one sung by Frollo and Quasimodo: "Heaven's Light/Hellfire." The juxtapositions are so glaring, the music so creepy...I get chills every time I listen to it. Nice list, I loved your choices!

  12. I really wasn't expecting to like the Hogfather film so I was surprised to find that I loved it. I wish all adaptations of novels could be as good.

    I like that song, too. Although, my favorite character in the book/film is Clopin, I love how spooky and dark Frollo is. I actually have a friend from college who is obsessed with his character. It's rather worrying. :)

    Glad to hear you liked the list. I loved compiling it.

  13. So many good villains from so many good books!

  14. Karen: That's the second comment you've left today that slipped by my notice. Sorry about that!

    It's totally fine. I'm from America and there are a lot of American writers that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. I haven't seen Cracker yet, although there's quite a few of his films I have seen so that's not surprising.

    I didn't even think of Miss Havisham! So many people that I've talked to have hated Great Expectations and I can't begin to fathom why. It's such an amazing book and yet all people say about it is "it's boring." It drives me nuts.

  15. haha. where is damon salvatore? lol. he is my favourite bad boy, but a younger snape could be pretty delish too.

  16. I have absolutely no idea who Damon Salvatore is. What book is he from?

  17. First of all: "He's not good, he's not bad, he just is." - totally agreed! I found it funny that people started falling in love with Snape after the last book. The fact that he was in love with his childhood best friend, who was married to his high school rival, years after they were both dead; and still managed to be extraordinarily mean to their son, doesn't exactly scream "good"!!

    Second, I absolutely LOVED Crowley. Actually both of them, Aziraphale and Crowley!
    And obviously Teatime and Vetinari :)

    Awesome list :D

  18. Thanks!

    I absolutely agree. In fact, I find the whole Lily/Snape/James thing to be kind of a cop out. There are so many other reasons why Snape could have switched sides during the original war, reasons that are much deeper and rewarding than "I love her but she's mad at me and now I'm evil and oh gods she's dead and now I'm good".

    I liked Snape because he was an enigma and because he had a History--we didn't know all of it but we could tease things out from what we had read. Then all of sudden in the last book Snape fails at playing Clue by not guessing that it was Voldemort in the Shrieking Shack with the Snake and we get a whole bunch of memories dumped on us, taking away Snape's puzzling nature completely. Complete misuse of a wonderfully complex character.

    Aziraphale and Crowley have such great chemistry in that book. One of my favorite scenes is when they're drunk and they're going on about apes and birds travelling the length of the universe to sharpen their beaks. It's priceless.

    Glad to see someone else has really great taste. :)