Warning: This article contains spoilers on the books, please be advised.
I just finished “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter and I feel pretty miserable. The only thing that really motivated me to finish the book was the hope that the main characters managed to get justice for their sister. Who was one of many girls tortured and killed by sick, twisted monsters (in the figurative sense). In short, I really wanted slow, painful deaths for those villains. Sadly, the ending didn’t really satisfy me. Any form of justice OR VENGEANCE wouldn’t be able to undo the tragedies of that happened to the victims and their families (who are also victims in another way).
Which is why I temporarily turned to those instances wherein I derived a lot of satisfaction from villains get their final comeuppance. Just to take my mind of my melancholy
So first of all, a question: Have you ever felt joy during and even after reading of the death of a particularly despicable character? Then you might appreciate these books
This is not to say that you are a horrible human being for being happy when said horrible fictional character dies. For one thing, I notice that these despicable villains are written with no redeeming qualities. And within the context of the story, it is very clear that:
1.) The villain has absolutely no remorse for doing wrong or do not even think what they did is wrong
2.) The villain intends to continue to dole out death and/or suffering. Whether this is the end goal or merely what they consider an inevitable “side effect” to gaining what they want depends on the character. But it is very clear that they have little to no care in regards to the harm their actions would do to other people
Hence it is very natural for readers to eagerly anticipate and even enjoy the death of an evil character.
Again, I wish to reiterate that I don’t think readers are horrible to feel this way. Unlike real life, the context of the stories makes it clear that the villains will not be having any “change of heart.” And by the climax of the story, the readers have most likely sympathized with the main characters enough to want them to live happily ever after. In other words, the readers have grown to love the main characters enough to want them safe from a villain who clearly wishes nothing good for the protagonists.
So why am I happy with these deaths but not with what happened in Karin Slaughter’s book (spoiler: the characters manage to find out who killed their sister and find their sister’s body)? For one thing, the characters I love live through the ordeal and it is pretty clear that they will get through whatever hell the villains have put them through. But things are different for Karin Slaughter’s “Pretty Girls. You grew to love the characters there and sympathize with them. And then you learn that there’s no chance for some of them to live past their ordeal because they’ve been robbed of their lives and thus the chance to do so.
In any case (if you’ve ever experienced this sadness and would like to take your mind off things), I hope the following books give you some assistance:
A word of warning that the following may contain spoilers (because I’m pretty much telling you who gets killed off and why it felt good).
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Greed motivates the “resurrection” of dinosaurs in the modern day. The dinosaurs were supposed to be the main feature some sort of amusement park & zoo combination. But obviously, things go very wrong.
At the start of the book, a bunch of paleontologists are invited to consult prior to the park getting launched. They are informed that there are only a specific number of dinosaurs in the island. And with all dinosaurs genetically engineered to be female, it would only be logically sound to say that no new baby dinosaurs will be coming out the “natural” way.
But then, they realize that there are more dinosaurs than what was on record. And one attack shows a male dinosaur living on the island (*cue horror music*)
For those who haven’t watched the film, I suggest you read this book. Very interesting. The main characters were pretty likeable: Grant, Malcolm and Tim. Though I really felt like b*tch slapping Lex many times during the course of the book but then felt bad about it because I know she’s just a little kid.
Don’t worry. Nothing happens to Lex. She’s not the villain I’m talking about. She’s no villain. Just a very annoying character.
I’m actually talking more about their grandpa who lied through his teeth to get people to invest on his plans for re-creating dinosaurs (dinosaurs that managed to breed and some of which got off the island to prey on little babies in some rural parts of Costa Rica) and felt no remorse for the havoc his greed caused on the people around him. And for his general unconcern for his grandchildren’s well-being. For some reason it was seemed like poetic justice when he got killed off/eaten by the very dinosaurs he had a hand in creating.
All in all, a very enjoyable book. I’m not a fan of dinosaurs at all. But I was pretty engaged by everything that went on. But most of all, I wanted to get an explanation of how the dinosaurs multiplied.
There’s a lot of science being discussed in this book. But don’t let that intimidate you from trying it out
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Meg Corbyn is a golden goose for a lot of unscrupulous people. Basically, cutting her skin would produce an accurate prediction to any question posed. Meg and all Cassandra Sangue like her are kept in compounds and basically have no lives of their own. They are preyed upon both for financial gain and sexual gratification.
When Meg manages to escape and chooses to live with the Others (this world’s equivalent to the Supernatural), the villain’s greed is undaunted. He gets a lot of unscrupulous mercenaries to attack the Others’ home to get to Meg, with help from a social-climbing human named Asia Crane (who by the way, doesn’t care about Meg going back to slavery as long as Asia gets her own TV show). So it just made me happy to know that those mercenaries and Asia will no longer be alive to create misery for my dear Meg and the Others
What made this book unique is that the Others (the vampires, wolf-shifter, bear-shifters, etc) are portrayed as non-human. They may take on human form but their thought processes are alien to humans. We have so many books that portray the supernaturals as no different from humans in their cruelty and pettiness. But the Others are truly different. They see human cruelty as an anomaly that no self-respecting Other would do to their own kind. And the Others aren’t being hypocritical about it.
This is not to say that the Others are perfect. Their punishments are very severe. They won’t hesitate to kill and eat humans especially when said humans break their rules and trespass.
But what makes them sympathetic is that you understand their rules and you know that you have nothing to fear from them as long as you abide by it. The Others relationship with Meg is at the heart of the story. And it is what draws readers to Anne Bishop’s books IMO
You really grow to care for these characters. And thus, you feel happy in the knowledge that any human persecutors are gone and will no longer try their cruelties on them again.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Far in the distant future, death is no longer unconquerable. People can be revived. But with that comes the problem of overpopulation. Thus, the Scythes are appointed to deal with this problem.
If a Scythe kills you, you will not be revived. It’s as simple as that. However, Scythes are chosen based solely on the judgment of the older Scythes. Each of whom remain human and fallible.
Thus we get Scythes who actually enjoy doling out death with no one to punish them for their indiscretion. Because by law, no Scythe can kill another Scythe. The only legal way for a Scythe to die is for the Scythe to kill himself.
Thus, it is such a relief to see the main character dispose of that particular group of Scythes (some may call them psychotic but all I’m sure of is that they lack any form of empathy).
Honestly, I enjoy the creativity of this book! I initially thought it was another “grim reaper” book. But I was mistaken. The author created a world that I can pretty much believe would occur once death is taken out of the equation.
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
The book starts out with a serial killer luring a young girl into his house. What’s different about this book is that it is set after an apocalypse and there are few female survivors. And you pretty much learn why this book is titled Poison Princess.
My main draw to this book is the romance. The book goes back in time a few weeks (or days) before the apocalypse to introduce the main character Evangeline (who was in a mental asylum for the voices in her head) and the “weird” things happening around her as well as her relationship to the new student Jackson (a Cajun boy who’s basically from the “wrong side of the tracks”).
The plot soon thickens when (within the span of a day) a majority of the population are either killed or turned into zombie-like monsters. And you realize that the voices in Evie’s head are from living people.
Seeing Evie navigate this new world with Jackson helping her out was pretty interesting to say the least. If you like the anime Fushigi Yuugi, you might like this book as well. It’s basically select teens developing powers during an apocalypse. And them having to survive it and possibly each other. Because there’s some force that says (to borrow from “The Highlander”) “there can be only one.”
So is it wrong to feel joy when those we know to be wicked are dead? I don’t really have the answer to that.
But I think that it isn’t wrong to be happy that your loved ones are safe from harm that said wicked person could have brought to them.
While I did feel happy that evil characters in the above-mentioned books are dead, I do have to note that these characters are written with no redeeming qualities. Unfortunately, real life is a bit more muddier. We have people who do a lot of evil things but also do things that are beneficial and good for a lot of other peoples.
It’s easy to hate a character in a book especially when you particularly love the main character and you see nothing to love about the villain.
I guess that’s the same reason why people in real life feel happy for the death of other people. They are only given or only see an (most likely) incomplete picture that portray others as evil without acknowledging that they mean something to other people or that they may have done good in the world.
It’s easy for us sometimes to forget that people are not two-dimensional caricatures. Especially when we have our own lives and the lives of our loved ones to worry about
Just something to think about