I recently finished Chuck Wendig‘s ‘Double Dead‘. I liked it pretty well (full review later), and especially liked the concept: vampire wakes up and finds himself in the middle of zombie apocalypse. It seems so simple and obvious, and yet I can’t think of another example of it.
I got to the end and wanted to read more about Coburn, the vampire protagonist. As a character he really grabbed me, despite their being a pretty fundamental shift in the dynamic of his character in the final pages (I’m trying to keep this spoiler free – I will kinda hint at a few broad thematic points though, so there may be a bit of spoiler slippage. Sorry). It got me to thinking on how he had changed and what it was that still made him interesting to me, and I found it was quite a different kind of interest to that which had initially drawn me to the character and kept me there at his side throughout. And it set a nagging little question in my mind.
As a reader I seem readily to accept that people can be changed by a corrupting influence. I don’t think I’m alone or controversial here. Power corrupts, etc… but it’s more character relations I’m thinking of here. It seems utterly plausible that a basically good person can be brought low, can be turned to the dark-side, can be corrupted by the influence of an evil person. Grima Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings (seriously – don’t trust guys named ‘Wormtongue’ – rookie error), Emperor Palpatine – firstly on young Anakin and unsuccessfully on Luke, the corruption of Jack Torrance during his time at the Overlook, all these things we (or I) accept because it seems we (or I) believe / fear that there is an evil in all people, perhaps even within ourselves, a malevolence that must be kept in check, and which can be brought from us by outside influences. This is perhaps a negative view of humanity, but there you have it.
What I had a harder time accepting was the reverse, that an evil character, a nasty misanthrope, un-empathetic, revelling in his ways, could be redeemed by a character of pure goodness. In some small way I felt unsettled by this, not quite cheated, not really unfulfilled, but just that it seemed a little far-fetched.
And so having finished a book about a vampire in the zombie apocalypse, I’m left feeling that the ‘unrealistic’ part of the narrative was that a good person could influence and evil one to be better.
Is this just some deep underlying pessimism of mine? Or is it that we are more ready to accept the ‘gritty’ truth of corruption, and less prepared for the more optimistic process of salvation?
February 18th, 2013 at 12:18 am
The first thing I thought of after reading this, was the Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons – particularly the penultimate book in the series, Rise of Endymion. I *think* I know why – what stands out in my memory is the ‘love triumphs over evil’ kind of theme, albeit in a particularly gruesome manner (trying to avoid spoilers here…)
At the time, it struck me as being… juvenile. Perhaps what we have here, is a similar feeling? I’ve also read Double Dead, and it did evoke a similar response. Is there something about salvation in this respect that makes us think of childhood fairytales? As adults, are we predisposed to anticipate/expect/demand the corrupt, the cynical, having put away childish dreams and fantasies?
Is this a failing? Perhaps. Is it the job of a writer to strive to recapture the lost childhood wonder? I think so. It’s up the reader to decide if the writer has succeeded in this…