Good morning, my beautiful little bookaholics! I am please to announce that today we are joined by Dan Wells, author of The Devil’s Only Friend, the fourth installment in the John Cleaver series. Today Mr. Wells is here to talk a little bit about heroism and the concept of character forgiveness when they cross the fuzzy line dividing the white hats and the black hats.
Please take a moment to comment and welcome him to the blog!
Without further ado….
How many people did Luke Skywalker kill when he blew up the Death Star?
We don’t think about that very often. The Death Star was EVIL, right? Or at least it was used for evil purposes. Or at least it was full of evil people. But…was every person on that station evil? Did every last one of them deserve to die? Or is it enough to say that their deaths, however tragic, were worth it in order to prevent the loss of even more life when the Death Star blew up more planets?
Action movies are easy, and triumphant heroism always looks awesome on the surface. Morality, on the other hand, is hard. Personally, I’m capable of justifying the thousands (or maybe even tens of thousands) of deaths on the Death Star, compared to the billions of lives saved by its destruction. They were all there when they blew up Alderaan; some of them helped directly, and the rest were at least complicit in it. It was “good” to destroy the Death Star and take that kind of power away from the kind of people who had already demonstrated a willingness, if not to use it, at least to look the other way when it gets used. But. It has long bothered me that we never see any emotional repercussions, from Luke or anyone else, about the guilt of having ended so many lives. Luke fires the torpedoes, the Death Star blows up, and sure we get our moment of cheering–we just saved a ton of lives–but then where’s the sadness? Where’s the psychological fallout of realizing that you just blew up not only a space station but the tens of thousands of people living on it?
My new book, The Devil’s Only Friend, is the first of a new trilogy about my character John Cleaver, a teenage sociopath who fights monsters. It is the fourth book he stars in, and brings his total “kill count” up to, well, four. Three of those four are supernatural predators dedicated to the destruction of the human race. And yet mass-murdering Luke is an unequivocal hero, and John is a dangerous criminal. I’m not complaining about this–far from it. I did it on purpose. I’m fascinated by the math of morality, by the weird corner cases, by the fuzzy line that makes one death justifiable and another reprehensible. And I’m fascinated by the emotional aftermath that often makes it both at the same time.
As I write this essay it is June 18, early in the morning, and the news about the Charleston church shooting is filling the airwaves and the Internet. My mind is filled with alternate scenarios–what if someone had seen the shooter running from the scene, and shot him? Would that be “good?” What if someone in the church had had a gun, and shot him halfway through? What if someone had known what he was going to do, and there was no time to call the police, and the only way to stop him was to shoot him before he’d even done it…would that be “good?” Sometimes taking a life is heinous and unforgivable, and sometimes it is the only moral choice you can make.
All of my books, to some degree or another, are about that fuzzy line. About the cases where a character’s–or a society’s–circumstances become so extreme that morality warps around it. They’re about the cases where making that corner case decision can save your life and psychologically ruin it, all at the same time.
Luke Skywalker kills tens of thousands of people, and he’s fine. John Cleaver kills one, and spends an entire book trying to justify it, and an entire series paying for it.
ABOUT THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND
John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they’ve killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he’s always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .
. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.
John doesn’t want the life he’s stuck with. He doesn’t want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn’t want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn’t want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn’t want to kill people. But as the song says, you can’t always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he’ll know what he has to do.
The Devil’s Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.
John Cleaver #4
June 16, 2015
Click here to read Jena’s review of The Devil’s Only Friend!
ABOUT DAN WELLS
Dan Wells is a thriller and science fiction writer. Born in Utah, he spent his early years reading and writing. He is he author of the Partials series (Partials, Isolation, Fragments, and Ruins), the John Cleaver series (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want To Kill You), and a few others (The Hollow City, A Night of Blacker Darkness, etc). He was a Campbell nomine for best new writer, and has won a Hugo award for his work on the podcast Writing Excuses; the podcast is also a multiple winner of the Parsec Award.