Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Top Five Greatest Video Game Villains - In My Opinion

Well, it’s been a whilst since I last did a Top Five, so thought I’d catch up and do one for old times sake.

 

Even thought I myself am not really a gamer (I’m more a casual player if anything), I am interested, and inspired by a lot of the video games out there. I think it’s amazing how far video games have come since the days of the Atari ST (or even the Odyssey before it). Video games are now more than just the standard “go from point A to point B and defeat the final boss and save the princess” sorta games and are now heavily story driven, with astounding graphics, sounds and larger than life characters. Many video game stories are, in my opinion, on par with the greatest films ever made – some even better than most Hollywood films! Even though I don’t play that many of them, I can appreciate them (and respect them) as art in their own right.

 

Not only that, but video games also have a host of finely crafted characters that are icons in their own right. Obviously we have Mario, Sonic and Zelda as arguably the most recognisable of video game characters – then we have our Sam Sheppards, Master Chief’s, Gordon Freeman’s, Kratos’s, Solid Snakes – to name but a few! The point is that video game characters are now equally as respected and loved as any other fictional character – and their personalities and idiosyncrasies have captured the imagination of gamers and non-gamers alike worldwide.

 

So being that I am generally a fan of villains anyway (see my previous Top Fives) I decided to take a look at the Top Five Video Game Villains of all time – in my opinion of course.

 

Ok, so once again, a few disclaimers. Firstly, this list is based PURELY on video games that I have played myself, and I haven’t played EVERY major game out there. So there is a sure fire chance that I will miss out some villain that is considered iconic. Remember this is just my list and I am sure yours will differ. I am choosing only games I have played to make this as fair a list as possible.

 

I am also gonna leave out some of the more recognisable villains in video game history (such as Ganon, Bowser, Doctor Robotnik/Eggman) to focus on games from other franchises.

 

Some of these entries will contain SPOILERS, so read at your own risk.

 

Finally, this list is in no particular order.

 

 

1. Andrew Ryan from Bioshock

 

Andrew Ryan may not be the main antagonist in Bioshock, but he is definitely an important character in learning the truth about your character. Not only that, but I think Andrew Ryan is capable of insights and thoughts that no other video game villain is capable of.

 

A wealthy industrialist, and a hater of religion and left wing politics and altruism, Andrew Ryan believed that a everyone should be capable of keeping what he/she earned and not be restricted by any government or “parasite”. To this end, he created (against all odds) the city of Rapture, an underwater utopia whereby everyone could live in peace and be free to go about their life as they wanted – at least that was the idea. With the discovery of Adam (a special chemical that grants the user superhuman powers), Rapture’s scientific knowledge advanced – but it soon broke down into civil war in Rapture as the citizens became corrupted by this Adam, becoming twisted Splicers.

 

As the protagonist of Bioshock, you are requested by an unknown stranger called Atlas to kill Ryan – who you are told is the cause for all this chaos. As you progress deeper into Rapture, you are constantly harassed over the radio by Ryan, who constantly barrages you with his own propaganda in much the same way Hitler used to preach his beliefs. We learn that Ryan is a man that is strong in his belief’s and will go anyway to preserve them – even if it means murder. In some twisted way though, his arguments are actually sort of sound. He believes that all humans are born to do what they want and should not be told otherwise. A noble belief in some ways, but the ways he goes to preserve that, at the cost of the lives of others, is what makes him a villain.

 

But the thing that clinches his spot as a great video game villain is when you finally meet Ryan and prepare to kill him. It’s here that one of the biggest twists in video game history takes place.

 

Ryan stops you with the phrase “would you kindly”, a phrase you have heard Atlas say countless times when he wants you to do something. You learn that this entire time, you have been mentally conditioned to act every time you hear this phrase, making you a pawn in Atlas’s plan to take power. Ryan proves this before make you do other things – before finally ordering you to kill him, all the time quoting his mantra “a man chooses, a slave obeys”.

 

This is an excellent twist and one that questions the idea of free-will. Not just in the game, but in real life. Are we doing things because we want to, or are we just trying to please others? It’s these sort of questions and beliefs, brought up in Bioshock, that make Ryan a truly remarkable villain and one of the best in videogame history.

 

 

2. Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2

 

WARNING: Contains adult content and heavily spoilers!

 

Silent Hill is one of my favourite video game franchises and, in my opinion, the best horror franchise in any medium. It’s rare that I’ve ever found a horror series that is so layered in psychological terror, symbolism and interpretation as this – and this is brilliantly demonstrated in Silent Hill 2.

 

Pyramid Head is a hulking beast of a monster, with human flesh for an apron and a giant metal head. He drags with him a giant knife that looks impossible to carry and makes a sickening screech as it’s dragged along the ground. Throughout the game, Pyramid Head relentlessly pursues the protagonist, James Sunderland, appearing at regular sections to either attack him, murder Maria (a ghostly version of James’s wife) or sometimes even to just torment him mentally. Hell, in one of his first appearances (and in a scene that terrified many gamers), Pyramid Head rapes and kills one of the other monsters.

 

But these are not the reasons why Pyramid Head is such an iconic monster in the horror world – but rather the symbolism behind him.

 

All the monsters in Silent Hill 2 are all representations of the main characters psychology and feelings for his dead wife (ie, sexual frustration, anguish, helplessness, and so on). In Pyramid Head’s case, he represents James guilt for killing his wife and his subconscious desire to be punished. And this is perfectly demonstrated by Pyramid Head as everything about his appearance says pain and misery. His giant head looks uncomfortable, his giant knife is huge and hard to lift – even after raping and killing the first monster, Pyramid Head acts remorseful and horrified, unable to believe what it has done. Not only that, but this is the only monster in the game that James CAN’T kill – at best he can drive him off. The only time he is able to actually defeat the monster is when he comes to accept his own sins and the beast kills itself.

 

In my opinion, Pyramid Head’s job in the game isn’t to actually punish James, but to make him come to terms with his own guilt. James is so wrapped up in his own self pity and hatred at his actions that it could be argued that Pyramid Head is trying to help him through his guilt – albeit in a very sick and twisted way. But that’s the great thing about Pyramid Head – as a monster his is open to interpretation depending on how you believe the town of Silent Hill is affecting James.

 

Pyramid Head is such a popular monster in Silent Hill 2 that he has appeared in other Silent Hill games – although many argue that’s just for fanservice rather than helping the story. Either way, Pyramid Head is a character that has more symbolic context than any villain I’ve seen in a game – even in a horror movie! Whatever you believe Pyramid Head’s intentions are (and if there are any other Silent Hill fans reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the monster) he is certainly deserving a spot on this list for the impact he has on the main character.

 

 

3. Alexander of Brennenburg from Amnesia: The Dark Descent

 

Another villain from a Survival Horror game – but one that I think deserves a mention and is, in my eyes, highly underrated as a villain.

 

In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you play a man called Daniel (which makes him automatically cool in my eyes!) that has lost his memory and stuck in a castle, hunted by monsters and The Shadow, a seemingly unstoppable force that you have ticked off and wants your blood! As you progress throughout the game, you learn (through notes and diary pieces) about the truth of why you are here – and why you must killed Alexander of Brennenburg.

 

Alexander appears as a Prussian Baron when he is first described through Daniel’s notes. He came to Daniel offering assistance when Daniel came into contact with a special Orb during an expedition in Africa. By taking this Orb, he unwittingly unleashed its guardian (known as The Shadow) and it is relentlessly hunting Daniel – killing all in its path. Alexander offered help to Daniel – but at a price.

 

Even though his intentions seem good at first, we soon learn that Alexander isn’t all he appears to be. To stop The Shadow, Daniel is told to torture and murder prisoners that Alexander is keeping (even though some of them could be innocent) and extracting their blood to appease The Shadow. In actual fact, Alexander is just using Daniel, and his Orb, to collect enough vitae so that he can open a portal to return home. Yep, Alexander is actually NOT a human – but a sort of extraterrestrial creature that was stuck on Earth and wants to find his way home, so that he can be reunited with his wife.

 

A noble quest you may think, but Alexander is complete sociopath that has no problem torturing or killing victims to achieve his goal. The fact that he manipulated Daniel to do such horrible things (to the point where Daniel had to drink an amnesia tonic to forget this, hence the loss of memory) and then discard him when he was no longer useful makes him a truly reprehensible villain.

 

Like any good villain, Alexander believes that he is doing what is best for him in the long run, but he doesn’t seem to care who he has to step on to do so. There are some times when he does show some slight remorse for his actions – but at the end of the day, his methods are questionable and he is focused on his goal and nothing else. And it’s because of the pain he put the main character through that I think he deserves to be recognised as a great villain.

 

 

4. Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft

 

I would say Starcraft is my favourite game on PC in the 90’s. It had great gameplay, an amazing storyline and great characters. It’s actually the first time I remember becoming genuinely involved with the characters and their goals. And Sarah Kerrigan is one of them.

 

A former Ghost Agent working for the Sons of Korhal, Sarah became close friends with former Marshal James Raynor (one of my favourite heroes in video game history), even forming a possible love interest. When Sarah was betrayed by Arcturus Mengsk and left for dead, she was instead captured by the Zerg and (sensing her psychic potential) turned her into a Human/Zerg hybrid, renaming her “Queen of Blades”. After the Zerg Overmind was destroyed, Kerrigan became the ruler of the Zerg, using them to take revenge on those who had betrayed her.

 

As a villainess, Kerrigan is brilliantly crafted. She’s not your typical Femme Fatale – more like a Machiavellian type villain that will crush all her enemies and anyone else that stands in her path. Even though she forms a brief alliance with Mengsk and Raynor, she quickly turns on them when they are no longer useful, promising vengeance against them all. In many ways, I can’t blame her. After all, she was abandoned by those she trusted, why shouldn’t she want revenge?

 

But on the upside, Kerrigan STILL has some elements of humanity to her. Especially with Raynor. There are times in Starcraft when she could easily kill Raynor, but she doesn’t – hinting that she may still have feelings for him. Even though Raynor promises to kill her and end her reign of terror, you can also see the hesitation in his voice. This is why I loved the story to Starcraft 2, as you follow Raynor through his mission to stop both Kerrigan and Mengsk, but you can see how tortured and conflicted a soul he is and we actually hope it has a happy ending for him.

 

As it turns out, Raynor does find a way to turn Kerrigan back using an alien stone. But first they have to fight back Kerrigans Zerg hordes. The final battle in Starcraft 2 is intense to say the least, with Kerrigan attacking herself. As the battle reaches the end, we get a brief image of Kerrigan appearing in her human form saying “don’t give up,” a line directed towards Raynor. This shows us that she IS still human and there is a chance to save her. I won’t spoil the ending to Starcraft 2 if you haven’t played it, but it is, in my eyes, one of the most beautiful endings to a video game ever – almost spoiled by the fact that this isn’t the end of the series. And I am waiting for the next Starcraft instalment with baited breath!

 

Kerrigan is a villain that, in many ways, you want to see redeemed, due to the history of her and Raynor. But even when she is a bad guy, she is a fantastic villainess that will mess you up if you stand in her way. To quote from her, she’s “pretty much the queen bitch of the universe...” And I love her for that.

 

 

5. GLaDOS from Portal

 

GLaDOS is a villain that is somewhat different to a lot of the other villains on this list. Aside from the fact that she’s a computer, the major difference between her and the other villains on this list was that, despite me liking them as characters, I did want to see them defeated. With GLaDOS, I actually DIDN’T want to defeat her and felt bad for doing so.

 

Reason being? She’s just so damn amusing as a villain! Even though she is a sociopathic, maniacal murdering machine, I just can’t hate her because of the little quirks she has.

 

In Portal, you play as Chell, who wakes up in an Aperture Science lab. Guided by GLaDOS through a series of test chambers, the computer tells you that there will be cake if you complete the tests. Seems like a good incentive! You then take your gravity gun and set off. During your mission, you come across little cubby holes in the facility with scribbled words like “help” and “the cake is a lie”. You suddenly get the impression that something isn’t right here. Further adding to this is when the tests become more and more dangerous and GLaDOS’s advice becomes more threatening and rude. As you reach the end of the tests, GLaDOS tries to burn you alive. It’s then you have to face down the machine and destroy her!

 

GLaDOS is kinda a mixture of HAL from 2001 and the Joker from Batman. Utterly demented, yet highly laughable. She’s one of the few villains I know that could bring a smile to your face even as she’s threatening to kill you. Part of this I think is down to her speech patterns. They are so monotone and nonchalant that even the most evil of comments sound funny. GLaDOS’s comments range from serious threats to simple name calling, but all are delivered with great timing and excellence that you can’t help but chuckle. This is perfectly demonstrated in the final battle with GLaDOS – where the insults come thick and fast.

 

But the main reason why GLaDOS is such an iconic villain in video game history? How many villains do you know get their own song in the credits? The song “Still Alive”, sung by GLaDOS has become a major hit for gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s sung at Anime Conventions during Karaoke evenings and had even been featured in games outside of the Portal series – such as Left 4 Dead and Rock Band – and let’s not forget the amount of remixes that are on Youtube! Words can’t describe how awesome this song us, download it from Itunes and listen for yourself if you haven’t heard it already!

 

Not much more to say – GLaDOS is a fantastic villain with a great sense of humour and dry wit. She’s one of the few villains that you don’t want to see destroyed and, were it not for the fact that I actually had to beat her to end the game, I wouldn’t have done so. And there aren’t many villains that I can say that about!

 

 

That’s my list. Agree, disagree? Please leave your comments below to tell me your fav video game villains.

 

Until next time.

 

 

Pandragon

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The Pack: Retribition Guest Post - Following your Gut

Some of you may remember I reviewed this book during my Pandragon Reviews section (see HERE for the review). Well, if you enjoyed the review - and indeed if you have already got yourself a copy of it - you'll be pleased to know that I am today joined by the author, L.M Preston, as part of her The Pack: Retribution Blog Tour! She has written a very inspirational guest post for this blog and I am grateful for her taking the time to write one for this post.

 

I think you'll find the below very inspiring and motivational. But there's more - you've also a chance to win a ebook version of The Pack: Retribution as well - not to mention a chance to win the grand prize pack! Details at the end of the blog.

 

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Following Your Gut

 

 

TRUSTING IN YOURSELF

 

While writing The Pack-Retribution (Book 2 in The Pack Series) I pulled a bit of my own experiences growing up into creating a myriad of characters who fought through impossible odds to become - heroes.

 

One of the main gifts, Shamira, the main character of The Pack series uses to her advantage is her - gut or intuition. Trusting your own gut feelings is one of the best gifts we have to protect or warn us of danger.  We all get that little ‘twinge’ when something just isn’t right.  When that happens…LISTEN TO IT!  Trust yourself or your ‘gut’ some call it.  Trust it at all times, it will never steer you wrong.

 

When I was young I lived in the inner-city of Washington, DC.  The neighborhood I called home, had gangs, drugs, muggers, killers, and lots of kids and family nearby.  However, with all of these things present, I didn’t realize that my gut instincts were strengthening with each day I played outside, walked to school, to the bus, or travelled the city alone.

 

Teens have power when they use their intuition to lead them.

 

 

LISTEN TO THAT ‘TWINGE’ IN YOUR TUMMY

 

When you are in a situation with a friend or an adult, and you get that feeling that something isn’t quite right, then you are most likely correct.  Learn yourself, and test this ability.

 

If your friend tells you that you should sneak out to go to that great party that so-and-so is going to, then you feel this tickle in your tummy, and you hesitate. This is your gut talking to you. It’s telling you … hold on … don’t jump into this.

 

 

TAKE A STEP BACK, AND ASK QUESTIONS

 

Never, ever, feel like you don’t have the right to ask a question. Asking a question only gets you in trouble when it hasn’t been asked, or the person of whom you are asking the question doesn’t want to give you an answer.

 

 

IF IT DOESN’T ADD UP THEN IT DOESN’T ADD UP

 

When something doesn’t make sense, or the story just sounds down right disjointed, and you have a feeling in your chest telling you that something is off.  Then trust yourself, something is off.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

 

If you get that feeling something isn’t right take action.

 

Remember, just because you are young you do have power to speak out. And in doing so, you are a hero too!

 

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Wow! I can honestly say that this is one of the most inspiring and powerful guest posts I've had on this blog. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, L.M!

 

Be sure to also check out the rest of the blog tour (including ones already passed) on the following sites.

 

BLOG TOUR LIST:

 

TWITTER PARTY: Friday, 9/28 at 7pm-9pm EST, use the hashtag #ThePackRetributionParty and @LM_Preston prizes include $10 Amazon Gift cards for 3 winners & books, swag prizes

 

FACEBOOK PARTY: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/337549946331607/
Starring eight other authors and blog hosts, tons of prizes and fun.

 

LM Preston

YA SciFi Author

 

WEBSITE: www.lmpreston.com
BLOG: http://lmpreston.blogspot.com/
PARTY BLOG: http://bookpartylmpreston.blogspot.com
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/LM_Preston
FACEBOOK: http://tinyurl.com/2fev6qc

 

BOOKS available at amazon & all bookstores

 

EXPLORER X - Alpha
THE PACK
BANDITS


Writing stories for and about kids that overcome the impossible...

 

 

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for - details of the prizes available!

 

For a chance to win an ebook copy of The Pack:Retribution, all you have to do is leave a comment below. At the end of the tour (30th September) one lucky winner will be selected and LM Preston herself will send you a copy of the ebook.

 

For a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE, which includes the following: Tshirt, $20 Amazon Gift Card, 1 Ink Pen, The Pack Series (Book 1 & 2 in print), Flutter Of Luv ebook copy, click on the rafflecopter link below.

 

GRAND PRIZE RAFFLECOPTER

 

Well, that's it for this week! Please leave your comments below and show some love for this amazing author!

 

Peace out!

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - L'Aria Onyx by Sahm Ataine King

 

Ok, today we’re going to do something a little different today. Instead of reviewing a novel, I’m reviewing a selection of poems. I actually don’t get my submissions for poems, so it’s good that I have a chance to read and review them this time around.

 

This selection of poems I was able to read in a couple of days – but I made sure that I paid attention to each one of them in turn, giving them an equal share and dedication. What I found were a collection of stories that were insightful, moving and sometimes even apocalyptic! But all were a joy to read.

 

So now, I present to you, dear reader, my review of L’Aria Onyx by Sahm Ataine King.

 

 

About The Author (provided by the author)

 

Sahm Ataine King is a poet, aspiring novelist, and graphic designer and has been in-love with the written word since his exposure to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre at a young age.  He has self-published two poetry collections, "The Grey Muse" and "l'aria onyx", and is currently working on a third, as well as three other titles from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Erotica (or Romance) genres.  He lives in the United States and hopes to one day expand his horizons by travelling the world and learning of cultures beyond the confines of the internet.

 

Links:

http://sahmataineking.com/  (WordPress Blog) - The Arkside of Thought

https://twitter.com/SahmAtaineKing

 

 

 

Cover

 

A somewhat bleak looking cover, displaying a girl (at least I think it’s a girl), in a back alley, hidden in shadow somewhat and looking beaten, or high (maybe both). It’s a dark cover to say the least, and may put off some readers, but given the dark context of the stories, it works well in my view.

 

 

Overview

 

This may be one of my shorter reviews today – simply because if I were to analyse EVERY single poem in this book, then this would be an incredibly long review. Therefore, I am going to sum up the general themes of the book and pick out two of my favourite poems that I felt stood out.

 

When most people think of poetry, they generally think of rhyming words that flow in a song like rhythm - that's the general impression most people have anyway. But King takes this idea and applies his own feel to them, writing them in a prose that feels raw and more honest. He rarely resorts to rhyming in his poems, and many of his lines have a rather abrupt cut off at the end – suddenly stopping dead and ending the rhythm. They feel more like a collection of thoughts than a poem, almost like we are delving into his deepest thoughts and feelings. Some of his poems are quite short and end abruptly, which can be a little jarring at times – but this leaves the reader wanting more, which is a good thing.

 

The themes covered by these poems cover are varied and richly complex – covering loss of faith, love, self-loathing, corruption, self-harm, drug abuse and the dark side of the American political system to name a few. Interwoven with these are strong religious contexts and imagery, from Christian to Greek Mythology. Each poem is vividly described and conjures beautiful and sometimes horrific images that David Lynch would probably enjoy. The prose is unapologetically visceral and biting, full of barely contained aggression and insightful wonder – but also woeful catharsis and a desire for betterment.

 

For me, the two standout poems were Pig’s like ‘em black and From a father to his daughter. Pig’s like ‘em black is a furious commentary on racism within the police force and holds nothing back in terms of anger for this prejudice. It’s a story that is laced with rage, but also helplessness at the years of oppression that a race has suffered from. For me, it was a middle finger to all the racists out there, saying “f*** you! I am what I am”. Powerful stuff. From a father to his daughter is a heart-warming story (one of the few) that details a father talking about his unborn daughter, looking ahead in the years of all the hardship that they will go through as parent and child. It is a very tear-jerking piece and I’m sure that anyone who has had doubts about whether they would be a good parent will appreciate the sentiment this story brings.

 

One of the most powerful sections of the piece is the collection of stories under the subtitle The Apocalypse of Sahm Ataine King. This was written in a completely different style to the rest of the poems, penned more as passages in the Bible, with each story being a “verse”. These verses felt like a journey of self-discovery, whereby the author looks over his life and looks at both his own sins, and the sin of man in general. Again, the words used bring up such incredible imagery that they deserved to be portrayed as pieces of art. If any artist out there is looking for an artistic challenge, read these poems as I think they will give you food for thought.

 

Like any good story, each poem is open for interpretation and the explanations I gave were just MY way of interpretting it – but this entire collection for me has an overriding concept behind it as a whole. Each tale is part of a much bigger story and one that I think you'll have to find your own truth within. Needless to say, I predict good things for this writer and hope that someday his work will be recognised amongst the best poets out there.

 

 

PROS: (poetry in motion)

  • A great selection of poems with many layers to them.
  • All form part of a much larger story.
  • Unique way of being presented.
  • Open to interpretation and with powerful imagery.

 

CONS: (perfectly pretentious)

  • None that I can think of!

 

 

Summary

 

Speculative writer Harlan Ellison once said that you have to suffer to create great art – and, judging by the strength of these poems, King clearly has done his share of suffering. Each of these poems has so many layers of emotion that it would be hard not to be moved in any way by them. Whether you’re a hardcore poetry fan or just a casual reader, there is something within these poems that will definitely stir and feed your mind.

 

FINAL SCORE: 5/5

 

 

Pandragon

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Deux Ex Machina - Hackneyed plot device or underrated story saviour?

Chances are, many of you would have heard the expression Deux Ex Machina (pronounced Day-oo Ex Mack-in-na) at some point, however, some of you maybe never knew what it meant before. Indeed, I only learned the meaning of Deus Ex Machina myself less than a couple of years ago, reading a Spider-Man comic of all things!

 

To explain what it means, here is a quick example:

 

Our hero (or heroine) has been tied up in an abandoned building with a bomb set to explode. They are tied up pretty tight and have no way of escape, their only fate is to wait until the bomb explodes. Then suddenly, a rat comes along, chews through their rope and helps them get away in time.

 

To basically sum up, it’s when the protagonist is stuck in a seemingly inescapable situation, and then something comes along (whether it be a person, creature, object or whatever) and helps the protagonist win the day. No doubt you’ve seen this many times before – whether in films, books, comics, TV, etc. It’s a pretty common trope, but one that has mixed reaction from writers and watchers alike.

 

The term Deux Ex Machina was first coined during the old days of Greek Theatre – the phrase being Latin for “God From the Machine”. In the old days, an actor, playing a god, was lowered down by a primitive crane (a machine) onto the stage to save the hero from death or a similar problem. This was used by the writers/poets of the time to resolve a plot that they could otherwise not resolve – using “cheap” writing to help get the hero out of a situation.

 

 

As a plot device, writers tend to have mixed feelings about the Deux Ex Machina. Some consider it “hackneyed” and even “lazy writing”. There is a school of thought that believes that Deux Ex Machinas ruin the tension and drama of a piece if a hero is stuck in a hopeless situation, and then is saved by a convoluted and utterly implausible solution. Some consider it a lack of creativity on the part of the author and a cheap way to end the story. Believe it or not, J.K Rowling has often been criticised for her overuse of Deux Ex Machinas in Harry Potter. Mainly in Harry conveniently learning to use a new spell when he was previously unable to before, but when the situation calls for it, it saved his ass!

 

Myself, I actually don’t have a problem with Deux Ex Machinas. Whilst I can understand why people don’t like them, I’m of the school of thought that believes that if it helps resolve the plot satisfactorily, then do it. After all, the general rule of thumb in writing is that the protagonist must overcome all obstacles and end up saving the day – so if a Deux Ex Machina helps save the day, why not use it. We can’t all be GRRM and kill off our main characters all the time.

 

Hell, I myself have been guilty in using a Deux Ex Machina in my books, because I genuinely could not think of any other way to end it. To be fair, Fantasy and Sci-Fi by it’s very nature has tons of Deux Ex Machinas, usually involving a new spell or something like that. So really it would make me a hypocrite to say that I don’t like this plot device.

 

Having said that, if you are going to use a Deux Ex Machina, it MUST be plausible and still fit in within the context of the story. It can’t just be shoehorned in for the sake of it. The worst kind of Deux Ex Machinas are ones that appear from out of nowhere and just feel rushed. Remember, a story must still work within the concept of Suspension of Disbelief and if you throw something in that is too implausible and outside the context of what you have set up in your world, then that could be considered lazy and stupid.

 

 

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say we have a story set during a zombie apocalypse. The main characters are trapped all sides by zombies and about to be eaten – then Deux Ex Machina enters. A good way to do this would to have the military come in suddenly and blast them to pieces. That would still be considered realistic within the context of the story as it stands to reason that the military would be mobilised during this kind of event. However if, say, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc) came down to save the heroes, this would be utterly ridiculous and beyond the Suspension of Disbelief (unless it was a story set in that Universe, but for the sake of my example, let’s say it isn’t).

 

Ok, maybe a better example would be to give a good and bad version of a Deux Ex Machina. Let’s start with a good one. (Minor Spoilers follow).

 

In the film It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character is about to kill himself at Christmas due to the financial problems he is in – until an angel shows him what life would have been like if he never existed. Realising that he actually does have something worth living for, he returns to his family, only for all the townspeople to arrive at his house and donate him money to pay off his loans. This actually works because, if you think about it, the people are paying him back for all the good he’s done over the years. Also, this type of Deux Ex Machina helps bring the film to a happy ending – and considering the last hour or so has been really depressing, this is one of those feel good endings. So this works in my opinion.

 

However, a bad version of the Deux Ex Machina is the film American Psycho. For the most part, this is a pretty good film – and the killings are brutal and uncompromising. It ends in a brutal display where the main character goes on a killing spree and then decides to turn himself in. Only to discover that all the killings were in his head and they never actually happened. This, for me, was a cop out and I felt it made the film sorta redundant in a way as most of it didn’t actually happen. It’s still worth watching as a film and has some interesting insights into the human mind – but this ending spoils it for me and ruins an otherwise great movie. I think it would have been a lot better if he actually DID do all the killings and ended up being arrested. They way it ends just leaves me scratching my head and wondering what is going to happen next.

 

In conclusion, I say the Deux Ex Machina isn’t so bad really. So long as it fits in with your story, and isn’t just put in for the sake of it, why not use it? After all, there’s an old saying here – “when all else fails, send in a guy with guns blazing!”

 

Agree, disagree? Please leave your comments below.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews: Mathion by Jeff Shanley

 

Today’s review is kinda up my street – as I’m reviewing an Epic Fantasy novel. I do feel that Epic Fantasy has kinda been pushed to the back a little bit in recent years, with Urban Fantasy and Steampunk novels being more popular reads. It’s not that I have anything against that, it’s just that I do like a good Epic Fantasy now and then. Thankfully, with A Song of Ice and Fire it seems that the genre is once again being revitalised, albeit in a completely new and original way.

 

So today, we are going old school as I review the debut novel from Jeff Shanley, Mathion, which is book one in the Mavonduri Trilogy. A tale of the battle between the Wolven people and Werewolves, expect a lot of high class action, magic and battles along the way!

 

 

About The Author (Info provided by the author)

 

Born and raised in South Florida, I've always had more northern US/British sensibilities, especially in my choices of literature and film. Upon reading JRR Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the summer before my freshman year of high school, I'd finally found the genre with which to embark on my writing career: epic fantasy.

 

I've always been fascinated by storytelling, and by mythology and folklore. Two myths that stood out to me in particular were werewolf myths and the Atlantis/Deluge myth, and it was these ideas that inspired the first germs of my debut epic fantasy trilogy, THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY.

 

Twitter: @Mavonduri

Website: http://www.mavonduri-trilogy.blogspot.com

 

 

Cover

 

 

 

I must say this cover does stand out quite nicely. A good mix of colour and I do like the wolf symbol in the middle. It’s also nice that you get to see the world that its set in as well behind it. Not much more to say – but as a cover I think this is nicely done and does make it stand out to a degree.

 

 

Overview

 

As is usually the case with Epic Fantasy stories, Mathion is about a conflict between two warring nations. The Wolven (a race of powerful men) and the Werewolves. Mathion, our protagonist is a Prince of the Wolven and he, along with his companion Elekan (a white wolf) fights against the Werewolf in a seemingly endless war. At the head of the Werewolves is a dark overlord that seeks revenge – but Mathion has a secret that could change the course of the war and so he must lead his people to battle.

 

A simple set up and one that we’ve probably seen before in many other Fantasy stories, but sometimes simple is the best way forward. In actual fact, this back story kinda reminds me a little of Norse Mythology (in particular, Thor versus Fenris). It’s also a nice change having Werewolves as the main villain rather than the usual Orcs, Undead or Demon type armies that are common in this type of genre.

 

One thing I did notice was how much attention had been put into the world that Mathion is set in. In fact, we get a whole appendix at the end detailing the history of the world – including the various cultures, calendar and even the languages. The language in particular is something that I was impressed with, it is sorta like Germanic/Celtic, which is right up my street. There is even a pronunciation guide at the beginning to let you know how to say certain words (similar to what J.R.R. Tolkien did with his world) and this helped make it feel like a real language. It was nicely detailed and I did felt this was one of the best parts of the book.

 

Now this is a fairly long book. Those who are used to reading books of 200-300 pages long may be a little put off by the amount of pages (and indeed the book is a little wordy), but I actually didn’t think this book was that long – especially since the plot does move at a good pace and there is a good balance of story and action. The fight scenes are exciting to read and the final battle was especially thrilling.

 

One problem I did have was with the characters – I did get lost with their names occasionally and sometimes forgot who they were. I wasn’t entirely sure they stood out enough and felt more like generic archetypes. I’m not saying they were badly written, I just wanted a little more characterisation with them so that I could truly connect to them emotionally. And I did feel like the book was written fairly humourless and took itself a bit too seriously. I would have preferred it if the book had a bit more comedy in it to balance the story.

 

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story, I did. However, I do feel that this is a book that is more suited for those who like traditional Fantasy (and there are plenty out there who do) and those who like their stories with a modern edge may be put off by it. Still, if you’re a sucker for “old school” type Fantasy then you should check this out.

 

 

PROS (hungry like the wolf):

  • Excellent, well thought out world.
  • Fantasy language works well.
  • Good mix of story and action.

 

CONS (bark at the moon):

  • Maybe a bit long for some.
  • Lacks humour.
  • Characters could do with being fleshed out a little more.

 

 

Summary

 

If you’re a fan of contemporary Fantasy, Mathion may not necessarily be for you. However, if like me, you’re a sucker for Epic Fantasy and don’t mind a chunky story to sink your teeth into, then read this. The created world has had a lot of attention put into it and, despite a few issues with characterisation, it actually is a good read for those that like a classic good versus evil story.

 

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/5

 

 

Pandragon

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