I’ve seen a few Christmas related tags around recently. That’s all well and good, but I’m about as full of festive cheer as a hospital ward on a May bank holiday, so they don’t appeal to me. Therefore I decided to do a book tag based around one of the few Christmas related things I like –
Now, I know in some corners this is contentious. The world is split into two groups of people; those who have interesting points of view which I respect but are nevertheless wrong, and those who know Die Hard is a Christmas movie. This is firmly of the position of the latter, but hopefully you’ll all enjoy my answers anyway. My highly spoilertastic answers just so we’re clear. And with that out of the way –
John McClain – A book in which someone has a really bad time
John’s pretty much a living embodiment of bad days, both having them and giving them. As Holly says, only John can piss someone off that much. A good analogue here is General Ouyang in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became The Sun, a secretly bitter and unhappy man whose only success is in making people even more miserable than he is. Poor Ouyang. He doesn’t even have anyone waiting for him like…
Holly Gennaro – A book with a superb leader
When everything is going sideways, it’s Holly who steps up for other people. Others may perform bigger heroics, but Holly is your woman in a crisis. Someone with a very similar can-do energy is Cordelia Naismith in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honour, who combines a tough line on what to do with a shrewd insight on who can do it.
Sergeant Al Powell – A book with a sidekick with a great backstory
Good characters are those with an air of distinctness. Great characters are those where we know why. That goes well for sidekicks too, and Al’s and John’s gradual understanding is one of the big emotional throughlines of Die Hard. CJ Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle features an outstanding example of how this sort of thing works with Vanye i Chya, whose tragic past not only makes him the only companion for the outcast Morgaine, but also rather good at wrinkling out her secrets.
Johnson & Johnson – A book with a pair of real dicks
Even these two think each other are dickheads. Agent Johnson says it out loud, and Special Agent Johnson’s every action says he thinks everyone is a dick. They are well named and little mourned, but they do serve a vital role. In Sir Terry Pratchett’s The Truth, Mr Tulip and Mr Pin serve a similar (but bigger and even more entertaining role). Sometimes things need to happen. Sometimes you need some professionals. People willing to be real —ing —-s.
Karl – A book with a revenge plot that needn’t have happened
Look, we get it Karl. I’d be pretty damn vexed too if someone killed my brother. But you know what? Nobody would have killed your brother if you hadn’t decided to rob the Nakatomi Plaza with a bunch of guns. That brings to mind Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, a beautiful adventure filled with intrigue, rebellion, and the threat of dying memory that needn’t have happened if Brandin of Ygrath hadn’t thrown all his toys out of the pram when the good people of Tigana had the temerity to kill his son just because he was invading and conquering their land. Some people, no manners, eh?
Mr Takagi – A book with an interesting side character killed too early
Hans’ little monologue let on that Mr Takagi led quite the life before the robbery – nevermind the line “Pearl Harbour didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks”. Alas there was no four and so who knows what else he had to say. In Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, we meet the whoremaster of spies – Anafiel Delauney. A romantic cynic who’s not quite romantic enough and not quite cynical enough, it would have been fascinating to see the book if he’d lived.
Ellis – A book with a character really out of their depth
How much cocaine does it take to convince you that swindling a dangerous armed criminal in a bad mood is a good idea? Only Ellis knows the answer and he ain’t telling on account of having a brand new hole in his head. In David Gemmell’s Legend, the fortress general Orrin is even more hopelessly out of his depth, being completely unfit as a soldier and a general – physically, mentally, technically. Fortunately he has a fairy axefather in Druss and even more importantly, he doesn’t have a giant pile of gak.
Richard Thornburg – A book with an infinitely punchable character
Nobody becomes a journalist to be everyone’s best friend, but Richard Thornburg’s existence seemed based around being nobody’s friend. Holly’s response to his existence might just be the single greatest moment of the film. In Miles Cameron’s Traitor Son Cycle, the Captal de Vrailly seems to fulfil a similar function as a loathsome waste of skin, except sadly he’s a PoV character so it’s harder to escape his existence. Honestly, he’s a big reason of why I didn’t finish this series.
Hans Gruber – A book with a fantastic villain
Die Hard is Hans Gruber’s movie. Without his suave, urbane predatoriness it would be just one guy running around a giant tower rather than facing up to his marital problems. It’s good without him, but it’s great when he’s there, and electric when him and McClain are going directly against each other. How many villains are as great as him? Not many, but Hope Mirrlees’ Lud in the Mist features a damn fine attempt from the enigmatic and charismatic Doctor Endymion Leer (although it is a bit of a spoiler to reveal he is one).
I hope you enjoyed this, consider yourself tagged, and in one final attempt to get you in the Yuletide spirit –