Lately I decided that it was time for an other top list so I prepared one of the antagonists, we really “like” in books, or hate their guts so deeply, it can almost be called love.
And again, it wasn’t an easy choice to decide who will be on this list, and who wouldn’t get a chance to show their worst. Thus the antagonists can be sorted in different categories, first I had to decide which category to pick the top 5 from. I read a lot of articles about this, and you can find the link of the most useful article here. But I don’t aim for a high level analysis, therefore to make the selection as easy as possible, I decided to choose antagonists who can fit the psychotic bastard group created by me. And when selecting them I sticked to one easy point: this being the motive.
All the antagonists I chose had to possess some kind of motive justifying their evil deeds. I don’t like the brainless so-good-to-be-bad-for-the-hell-of-it type. So yeah, I need a reason from them to be the bastards they had become.
So let’s check out the Top 5 of the best/most badass antagonists ever. Beware of minor and not so minor spoilers. You’ve been warned, proceed with caution. 😀
5. Lieutenant Noble (Under the Radar)
This book figures among my favorite ww2 novels. We follow the adventures of a British submarine crew.
Lieutenant Noble is not necessarily crazy or corrupt to his core. He just firmly believes that the nazis will win the war, so he might as well join the winning side as soon as possible. He possesses a rare aspect of the evil geniusness. He is not extraordinarily smart but he is invisible. No one suspects of him anything, no one sees anything else in him than a love-sick idiot who longs for his fiancee. Noble is perfect in this play, lulling everyone on the submarine into a false sense of security.
He is reserved, usually silent in the presence of other crew members, not joining in the games and fun of the others, using his fiancee as an excuse. He always keeps his dairy with him, and grabs every chance to write poems to his Rita. Or at least this is what he makes the others to believe. Not even Zackary, his bunkmate suspects anything unusual. Gethin is the only one, who becomes obsessed with Noble and tries to prove that the Lieutenant keeps dangerous secrets (like being a traitor and helping the nazis to win the war). He starts to stalk the lieutenant not caring the consequences or disciplinary actions if caught red handed.
After Gethin and Zackary had found Ryan (one of the mechanics) sending massages using morse-code to the nazi sub following them, Zackary is transferred from their submarine. Gethin restless and left alone, finds very disturbing Noble’s questions about Zackary exposing Ryan, long after the interrogations had stopped regarding the traitor. Plus the always calm and composed Noble is losing his cool after forgetting his note-book on the bunk table and yelling out of control didn’t help to put Gethin’s weariness at ease. Leading him to a drastic decision to unmask Noble.
“Your tea, sir.”
“Thanks Llewelyn.” Noble smiled. Innocent and guileless. “I’ll take it.”
Gethin took a deep breath. He stepped forward. Waited until Noble’s fingers brushed his. And, against every ingrained response, fumbled it. The mug upended. Tea – not as hot, as it should be, but hot enough – landed in Noble’s lap.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Llewelyn!” Noble leaped from the seat. “You clumsy oaf!”
“I’m so sorry, sir.” Gethin made a show of being flustered, even as nerves turned his stomach sour. “Here let me.”
He reached out to help – well, he didn’t quite know what he’d planned – but Noble knocked his hands away.
“You should get some cold water on that before it scalds you. Especially there.” Gethin gestured towards Noble’s groin. “If you give me your trousers I can take care of them for you.”
“I can take care of my own bloody trousers.” Noble fumbled about in his locker, pulled out a second pair of trousers and underwear.
“I’ll take care of the mess here, then,” Gethin said to Noble’s retreating back.
He followed him to the door, made sure it was firmly shut, then returned to the bench seat. He scooped up Noble’s note-book and flipped it open. Almost scared of what he might find, he scanned the first page.
A god-awful poem. Damn, had he been wrong? And the next. The only crime here was against poetry. And maybe love.
He flicked on further. The words of adoration disappeared. Numbers and initials – GL, AM, ZM – interspersed words that made sense on their own, but had no business in the same sentence.
A little help, if you haven’t already read the book: GL = Gethin Llewelyn, ZM = Zackary MacKenzie (but I don’t remember who AM was, sorry…)
4. Dr. Hartley (Marshals)
Harty is a recurrent bad character in the Marshals series by Mary Calmes, but he becomes a real antagonist in the forth volume only. If you don’t know this four book series, you can find my review of the first three books here.
Hartley is perfectly off the rails, he’s completely insane and obsessed with Miro. He wants to kill him and thus turn him into a piece of art for eternity. But fortunately he wants to possess him more than killing him, so he’s not in a hurry to take his life. He doesn’t want to ruin the fun with a hasty kill. In Hartley’s opinion it is much more entertaining to keep Miro afraid and in complete uncertainty, always lurking in the shadows never far enough. Regardless of Hartley being on the run as a fugitive who managed to escape one of the most secure prisons of the USA, he always finds the way of showing up in Miro’s place out of the blue, only to talk and to make Miro listen about his plans of killing him. It would drive anyone crazy sooner or later..
And yet despite of all the madness going on in Hartley’s head, he can be perfectly reasonable, logical, he even loves dogs and willing to save Miro and Ian’s dog when he comes to Miro’s house to kidnap him.
The muzzle of his gun was pointed directly at my heart. “Why are you crying?”
I almost threw up right there. My stomach twisted, lurched, but I inhaled through my nose sharply (…).
I dared a glance at Chickie (the dog).
“Oh dear” he tsked, walking over quickly, kneeling down, and touching Chickie’s neck. His eyebrows lifted, and then he touched Chickie’s head. (…) “All right, so he’s unconscious, the poor lamb, but not dead.”
I gasped and he gave me a smile. “Grab a few dishtowels and tie a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. (…)”
“You’re sure he’s not dead?”
“I’m sorry, when did you become a doctor?” he inquired gently (…).
“But for sure he’ll live?”
“It’s going to be expensive. Are you prepared to do all that for a dog?”
“Oh yes. (…)”
“Why do you give a crap about the dog” Barrett (he wanted to kill Miro in vengeance) chocked out, furious. “You kill me, but not the fucking pet?”
He glared at Barrett. “I don’t kill children or pets. My God, what do you think I am?” Hartely asked, horrified.
“Well, you’re clearly insane.”
3. Von Grimmstein (Nightingale)
Von Grimnstein is the prime specimen of the brainless followers of the Nazi regime . He is fanatical, believing every word of his Führer, and willing to follow all his orders, die for them even if necessary. He is a true believer of the German supremacy and every word in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. His belief in a world where the Frenchmen are inferior to the ruling nation and the Jews are abominable is unshakeable.
He is aggressive and cruel, everything he does is in the name of his Fatherland and the Greater Good which being racial purity. He tries to eliminate the French resistance with such recklessness, using so much unnecessary violence, not even for a minute taking into consideration the lives he destroys. Why would he? He’s just making clear for everyone where they stand in the order of the new world.
With all his authority and the firepower the soldiers subordinated to him represent, he has every right to believe he’s the uppermost level of the food-chain, but he’s just a bully drunk on the fear permeating the occupied France. He’s completely blind and deaf to the world, to the rumors of Germany loosing the war. He’s deceived by his own false sense of superiority, underestimates the threat of the growing French resistance, all the above resulting in his well-deserved death by someone he despised with all of his being.
“Please.” He had no doubt that von Grimmstein had the strength to simply crush his throat – and there was nobody around who could or would help him.
“Let me go.”
Von Grimmstein scoffed and squeezed harder until Yves felt his pulse pound up into his head. “So you can do what? Join your terrorist friends?”
“I had nothing to do with that.” Yves swallowed hard against the pressure. (…)
“That’s not what Améry Lemaire told me.”(…)
“A man might say anything under torture.” I would.(…)
But shoot von Grimnmstein?
He deserved it. He had blood on his hands, was dripping with it, and his arrogance and superiority and gloating only made it worse. If he begged his for his life, shown remorse or even a shred of humanity, Yves knew, he couldn’t shoot him.
But even like this, with everything that had happened, even though he was scared of what von Grimmstein would do to him if he didn’t use the advantage he had now. Or what von Grimmstein would do to any Frenchmen he suspected of being involved in the uprising.
Von Grimmstein took another step back, and his grin turned into a snarl. “And this, Yves Lacroix, is the reason you and your kind will never be free.”
He turned around. And maybe it was that last threat – or maybe the fact that he wasn’t facing Yves anymore, and all Yves now saw was a uniformed shoulder and neck and not that hatred in his eyes. Yves felt himself grow cold. The creeping humiliation and fear froze and shattered.
“You’re wrong.” His voice was little more than a croak.
Von Grimmstein turned around, eyebrow lifted in mockery, but his hand was already on the way to his own pistol holster.
Yves squeezed the trigger. Von Grimmstein jerked to the side, clutching his torso. Yves pulled the trigger again and hit him again before he could even grasp a clear thought.
2. Arlette (Echoes Rising trilogy, Comes a Horseman)
Arlette is not the evil genius like the others presented above, but she is nonetheless crazy. She has an enormous sense of justice, she’s an overzealous French resistance fighter doing her best to turn occupied France a living hell for the nazis. She is even on the same side as the two protagonists Kristopher and Michel. So how can she be an antagonist?
The correct answer is that she’s not the real antagonist of the trilogy (this being Standartenführer Holm and his men from the very beginning). Arlette is an enemy on a much personal level. She personally hates Kristopher and wants to save Michel from him, because she is madly in love with Michel. And this obsession drives her to the Germans betraying everyone in the resistance – even Michel – just to ensure Kristopher will be captured and killed. She wants Michel in return for the information, not suspecting to be played against her people.
This isn’t even her first betrayal. When Michel’s older brother and lover was killed, it was Arlette who sold them out to the nazis, in order to save Michel from the evil (homosexual) threat/influence represented by the lover.
The only reason Arlette got the 2nd place on this list is that I hate her more than von Grimmstein. Yeah, this time, I let my feelings win.
Matt read the note quickly, but thankfully not aloud.
“Holm’s obviously finished with Arlette,” he said. “He”s named her as his informant, and probably thinks we’ll deal with her so he doesn’t need to. That figures.” (…)
“I was only trying to keep Michel safe.” Arlette glared at Kristopher. “This is your fault. Call yourself his friend? I love him. I—”
“You’re a fool, ” Liang told Arlette. “Michel does not love you. His heart belongs to another.” Had she truly believed her feelings for Michel were reciprocated? “You’ve betrayed his friendship, and there is no way back from that after everything you’ve done.”
“I know he doesn’t love me.” Arlette replied to Liang but she kept looking at Kristopher. “I heard you talking. You were planning to stay in France. With him.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “I knew about François. I thought Michel had learned to do the right thing, but then I saw that he was about to make another mistake, and I had to save him. Don’t you see? He’d be in terrible danger if anyone found out.”
“He’s in danger now,” Matt said quietly.
“This is no one’s fault but your own, Arlette.” Sébastien glanced at Matt and his team as though still giving them the opportunity to voice their disagreement. If he’d worked out what Arlette was referring to, he didn’t comment on it.
Kristopher studied the ground but didn’t say anything.
Liang shrugged He had no sympathy for Arlette. Although she’d acted in some misguided effort to save Michel, all she’d achieved was her own death sentence – and most likely his.
1. General Porter (Madman) Madigan
And the last one on this list, the most amazing evil genius ever is General Madigan from the Executive Office trilogy by Tal Bauer (English review here). He was capable to exert fear and terror on the whole world. He managed to stretch the world, the biggest countries of the global order and even the nature to their limit, and humanity just a breath away from extinction.
He played all of his allies, helpers against each other, always being one step (or five) before his enemies. This whole post wouldn’t suffice to describe the greatness of his plan, the scheme of his conspiracy. He is entirely consumed by the need to restore America’s former glory trough blood and necessary death of millions promising each and every followers of him the reward they deserve. That’s an entirely other matter that being in his good graces is volatile, and the circle of his trusted ones is limited to a handful of fanatical believers worshipping him like a god.
I cannot deny that I’m somewhat in awe with him. His achievements are everything but usual. I’m sure everybody can list some bastards from books, movies or video games who’d almost destroyed the world, but I think that only a few of them can claim to be this ruthless, well-coordinated and singleminded on creating a new world order.
His relationship with the protagonists is also interesting. There are only a few encounters between him and Jack – who’s also the item of Madigan’s obsession, Jack is a symbol of the rotten world for him, who must be destroyed completely -, because Madigan is always one step ahead, and has eyes and ears everywhere, spies in the most unexpected places. I picked one of those scenes from book two.
“You sick son of a bitch, ” he hissed. “Your new world involves slaughtering millions.”
“Sheep are often lead to slaughter. It’s the wolves that own the world’s nature. And just like them, humanity has hierarchy, Jack. Has sheep and has wolves. Hunters and prey.”
“You’re mad. Absolutely mad.”
“Take a good look at you lover, Jack. Take a good look at Ethan Reichenbach.”
Jack stared into Ethan’s eyes.
“What do you see? Someone you love? Someone who loves you? Or do you see a killer? A hardened predator? A wolf, trying so hard to be a good little sheep for you.”
Ethan blood run cold. He held Jack’s stare as silence stretched over the line.
“He’s not that different from me when you get down to it.”
“Fuck you. You don’t know anything about him.”
“On the contrary Jack.” Madigan laughed again, slowly. “He’s the exact same as us. It must be you who’s keeping him sane. I wonder what will happen to him when you’re gone?”
I liked Jack’s insight of Madigan, his theory about the birth of a madman unleashed. He also admits that it could be the fault of the previous governments and in some way his presidency also can be blamed. He elaborates his opinion to Captain Anderson while he’s on board of the nuclear submarine Honolulu.
“Captain, you and I are about the same age. We grew up watching old men become the worst kind of politicians. Breaking promises, sending our friends out to fight wars in distant countries. Screaming at the other side when things didn’t go right. Refusing to take responsibility for anything. Always pointing the finger. Always, always someone else’s fault. And America suffered. Our country lost itself, and we watched it it happen, growing up in the shadow of so many failures.” He sighed. “I think that”s where Madigan was born. Somewhere along the line to many promises were broken. He went through four wars. Watched his people suffer and die, and came home to the same old garbage.”
This became quite a long article, but I hope you managed to get to the bottom of it without getting bored out of your mind. I also hope you could get a glimpse of my favorite (= most hated or respected) antagonists. If you haven’t read these books, I can assure you that every single one of them is worth your time.
- Source of book covers: Goodreads
- Grids made with Photogrid app
- Source of cover image: unsplash.com (@steve3p_0)