Heroes and Villains – Angela Carter
Although it isn’t the most fluent of texts (Carter has a tendency to forget to use punctuation so as to allow the reader to pause), the descrptions are often vivid and gripping. The real beauty of this novel is it’s ability to make the reader question what we percieve as being right and wrong – hence the title of ‘Heroes and Villains. If you can ignore the sometimes ridiculous plot and overlook the fact that it can’t decide what genre it belongs to, a most enjoyable read is in store.
‘Heroes and Villains’ is essentially a book about a dystopia world where the people are divided into Professors, Soldiers, Workers, Barbarians, and ‘out people’, described by protagonist Marianne’s father as “the outcasts of the outcasts”. Marianne is bored of the white tower she is imprisoned in. She knows of the Barbarians who live in the dense forests beyond (one of them killed her brother on a raid), and starts to dream of what it would like to leave her civilized world. Once outside, she embarks on a bizarre journey that takes her to the limits of humanity: odd, violent, passionate, and at times quite hideous, the post-apocalyptic world tests Marianne – and by extension, the reader – as to what makes someone a hero. Both gothic and fantastical, Carter manages to twist romance into a force of philosophy and debate, and although this isn’t her finest work grammatically, it does indeed succeed in its mission.
‘Suicide was not uncommon among Workers and Professors when they reached a certain age and felt the approach of senility and loss of wits, though it was unknown among the Soldiers, who learned discipline. But homocide was very rare and usually happened shortly before a Barbarian raid.’
‘She touched his beads and wondered whether to strangle him with them.’
‘He had donned a mask of cerved wood painted with blue, green, purple and black blotches, dark red spots and scarlet streaks which covered all of his face but for the bristling parti-coloured beard.’
“I’m too drunk to screw you”, he said.
“One must be thankful for small mercies”, she snapped. He laughed with apparently genuine delight.