by Nicolette Stewart and Erika Jelinek
I love outlaws, but when it comes to truly dastardly, shit-your-pants, tyrannical evil, I fold. Give me a truly evil villain, and I will give you a book that I probably won’t read twice. When a villain makes me physically uncomfortable, I can’t sit back and enjoy the ride. And these folks make my stomach hurt.
Doro. People keep telling me that Wild Seed is their favorite Octavia Butler book. Yeah, the writing is awesome, everything she writes is awesome, duh. But Doro. *Pales.* Not only is he evil, he is fucking invincible. There is no escape but death. Reading about him and what he inflicted on others was an utterly oppressive, suffocating experience. I wasn’t exaggerating when I mentioned stomach aches. When some semblance of hope remains, a light at the end of the tunnel, a dream, a wish, however small, I can handle villanous evil. But with Doro—an immortal who can change skins (killing the skin’s owner) and who collects humans to use as breeding stock—there is no hope. He cannot be stopped. By anything. Ever. (At least not in this chapter of the Patternmaster series.) As a mirror for the experience of African slaves, this book was a visceral success. But Butler made the pain so real that I could not enjoy the story. Perhaps that’s what she intended.
Mockingbird. Note to self: Never, ever read two Miriam Black books in a row before getting on a plane. You will have become so obsessed with death that you will be texting your partner dark, tragic goodbye messages before boarding. Sub-note to self: Do not even consider writing a “worst villains ever” list without involving Chuck Wendig. Many of his books are full of death—thanks to lead Miriam Black’s talent at seeing it—and murder, but the Mockingbird in the title of the same name? HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Just kill me now. I never, ever, ever EVER EVER EVER want to meet the Mockingbird. Telling you more is a walk down spoiler street, but I’ll say this: Mockingbird is a villain so scary that I felt compelled to update this post because it could not continue to exist and take itself seriously without his inclusion. So there. Go read it: IF YOU DARE. *dramatic music* *screams* *corpses*
Ursula. Not the octopus witch from the Little Mermaid. I like her (even though she’s supposed to be a badie). Ursula as in that evil woman who comes to babysit in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. She really got to me. As with Doro, it was the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to win against an invincible foe. Though Ursula may not actually be invincible (that was almost not a spoiler), the book’s perspective magnifies her scare-the-shit-out-of-you. From a child’s point of view, she is as horrible as Doro, and in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, we are looking at the world through a child’s eyes. While I could still say I enjoyed the book, it is another one that I doubt I’ll be reading again. Not any time soon. *Shudders.*
General Ticktack. This dude. He’s made of metal, he’s the head of the Kupferne Kerle (a regiment of mechanical soldiers whose English translation name is so lame that I forgot it immediately after looking it up), and he’s a real ruthless bastard and a sadist. We have to spend half the damn book—Rumo by Walter Moers—watching him torture the kind and sympathetic Rala, who he puts in a horrifically modified iron maiden. He’s the only of my vilest villains whose book I still love. Because the rest of the book is just so fucking fantastic for one and because I know what happens at the end for the other.
Leck. UGH FUCK THIS GUY WITH A BLOW TORCH. Leck is the villain of Kristin Cashore’s wondrous Graceling. Leck has the magical ability (or grace) to make people believe anything and everything he says. Not in a persuasive, really good on debate team kind of way, but more in a he says something, your brain gets kind of foggy, and then poof! Believes it to be true. It’s magical brainwashing in the worst way. This power would be kind of cool if he was a decent dude – imagine the possibilities! “Hey world! Racism is terrible. Stop being bigots.” Unfortunately, Leck is a sadist and a psychopath. He tortures animals and tells people that he found them injured and is rehabilitating them. He abuses and murders people then tells concerned parties egregious lies about their whereabouts, usually depicting himself as a beneficent and kind-heated hero. What’s even more frightening is that when he poisons someone’s mind, if they repeat his words to anyone else then that person, also, will believe his lies, so that his psychotic brainwashing spreads like a god damn disease. He is an evil villain that can do whatever the hell he wants and get away with it, forever. Reading about his antics in Graceling made me physically uncomfortable, because how do you stop that kind of viral evil?
Dolores Umbridge. You may be surprised that I find her more wretched than Voldemort, but ugh. This woman is such a fucking fascist and a sadist and I hate her guts. I think what made me most uncomfortable reading about her rise to power in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was how utterly helpless Harry et al. were to stop her through much of the book. Plus, there is something genius in the juxtaposition of all that pink and those kittens with shit like that pen that carves writing into the students’ hand. Worst invisible ink ever.
Who are your worst-of villains? What kind of evil makes your stomach hurt?