How Powerful Do You Like Your Antagonist?

Often when I read fantasy and science fiction, the antagonist is some kind of demon or highly advanced alien species.  They seem impossible to defeat, but somehow, they are.

This had me thinking, which makes a better villain, one that’s all powerful and makes the situation seemingly hopeless, or one that’s an even match and could go either way?

The all powerful option can create a lot of tension, but not very much uncertainty.  You feel that there will be a lot of failure, and the only way the hero can win is through some kind of amazing feat of strength or mind.  This is pretty typical for things like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, or The Night’s Dawn Trilogy.  They seem to require a regular person who becomes the hero (powerful or not powerful).

The other kind of antagonist is the more realistic one, the one who matches the hero.  This creates a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability.  You just don’t know which way the story will go.  The antagonist may even be sympathetic, somewhere in the grey, rather than totally evil.  This kind of story can include A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones), Dragonriders of Pern, or Temeraire.  In these, the hero or heroes are often someone in a position of authority, as are the antagonists.  They’re on an equal level, and this creates a much more dynamic struggle to win the battle.

Which do you prefer?  I’m kind of torn.  I like both types of stories, but I find that the antagonists of the second type are much more interesting.  Please share your opinions.

Book Review – The Rise of Endymion

theriseofendymionThe Rise of Endymion

Author: Dan Simmons

Series: Hyperion Cantos #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1997

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The time of reckoning has arrived. As a final genocidal Crusade threatens to enslave humanity forever, a new messiah has come of age. She is Aenea and she has undergone a strange apprenticeship to those known as the Others. Now her protector, Raul Endymion, one-time shepherd and convicted murderer, must help her deliver her startling message to her growing army of disciples.

But first they must embark on a final spectacular mission to discover the underlying meaning of the universe itself. They have been followed on their journey by the mysterious Shrike–monster, angel, killing machine–who is about to reveal the long-held secret of its origin and purpose. And on the planet of Hyperion, where the story first began, the final revelation will be delivered–an apocalyptic message that unlocks the secrets of existence and the fate of humankind in the galaxy.

Review

The Rise of Endymion is the final book of the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.  It completes the journey of Raul Endymion and Aenea, and reveals an amazing future for mankind.  And I must say that this was quite the adventure.

Continuing four years after Endymion left off, Raul must leave for another mission and reunite with Aenea and her followers.  He travels from planet to planet, but this wasn’t the same as in Endymion.  It was different, and turned out to be rather short-lived, as there was a lot more happening afterwards.  We see who the true villains are, finally.  We find out what exactly Aenea is doing, what the cruciforms are, who these Others are, and what the future of human evolution is like.  And of course, what happened to Old Earth.  I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next.  It was exciting, dangerous, violent, and very intelligent.

The story continued to be written through Raul’s eyes, as he wrote about what happened while waiting to die.  We also get some third person point of view of other characters, and Raul actually explains why he knows what happened.  The cast of characters is varied and vast.  We meet Rachel once again, as well as Colonel Kassad, and even Father Dure.  We find out who Moneta was from Hyperion.  And we finally find out what happened to Het Masteen.  We meet the Dalai Lama, we see Father Captain de Soya and Corporal Gregorius once again.  We also get to follow Cardinals Lourdusamy and Mustafa once more, and another reincarnation of the Pope, formerly Lenart Hoyt.  Many of the characters return.  I particularly enjoyed de Soya.  He stood out for me.  To round out the cast, Martin Silenius returns and so does the android A. Bettik.  Overall, the cast was well developed.

The planets visited were superbly described, especially T’ien Shan.  It was very imaginative, and a world I’d love to actually see.  Each of the planets was very creative and interesting.  Simmons’ worldbuilding was done very well like in Endymion, so it was a joy to find out about them.  The cultures were very well-done, and the perversion of the Catholic Church was quite remarkable.

One thing that I often worry about in books, especially with the final book, is how the ending will be handled.  Will I be satisfied?  Well, this ended very well.  I was impressed.  I was moved, in fact.  The characters, especially Raul, Aenea, and de Soya, were incredibly engaging and felt real to me.  The emotions were real.  Outstanding.

Overall, I would have to give this a full 5 out of 5 stars.  It was arguably the best book of the series.  Great way to finish it.  Highly recommended.