Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Assassins in fiction

I just finished listening to Kill Shot, by Vince Flynn.  I wasn't very impressed with the book for many reasons, but ultimately, it came down to the main character being an assassin.  I'm getting very sick of assassins in fiction.  One reason is that I think the archetype has been done to death.  This fact isn't my main concern, however.  The real problem stems from an ideological stance of mine: getting paid to kill people is wrong.

I'm not anti military, nor am I anti war.  I believe both are necessary evils that mankind will always have to live with.  I support American troops as much as anyone.  I have a brother-in-law who just became a marine.  I'm very proud of him for the choice he has made.  And yes, I know that soldiers may have to kill people during their time of service.  Assassinating someone is a totally different deal.  Soldiers are fighting other soldiers.  Assassins are plugging whomever their contractor has paid them to kill.  It's a line no decent human being should ever cross.

Assassins in fiction seem to like their job too much.  For example, Mitch Rapp in Vince Flynn's novels.  Mitch is a killer.  He knows it.  He takes pride in it.  And he contemplates killing his bosses if they screw him over.  He mostly targets terrorists.  And while I can appreciate the sense of justice in executing a person who murders innocents, Rapp doesn't limit his kills to terrorists.  (Minor spoilers ahead for A Song of Ice and Fire.)  Another example is Arya from George R. R. Martin's fantasy series.  Late in the series this little girl (about 10) decides she wants to learn how to kill people.  It it very disturbing to see how far down the path of murder she goes.  There are some popular fantasy series that I'm not sure I want to get in to, because the main characters are assassins.  

What do you think?  Are assassins easy to sympathize with in fiction, or are they archetypes that readers should shy away from liking?  Is it silly to even worry about what a fictional character is doing?  Can a reader disassociate his morals from that of the protagonist's, and still enjoy the story?  Or am I just going crazy?  



  1. I'm with you. Murder is murder and hard to justify. That said, there is something satisfying about a dirt bag get his eternal reward in the here-and-now. I'm thinking Laben and Osoma Bin Laden.

    But when a character makes that moral choice to cross the line and kill, well, they're in danger of falling to the dark side. And when a government does it... you know it's just asking for trouble.

  2. And I agree with your assessment of Arya. That gave me the crawlies. If you want something even worse, the Skyrim assassin storyline.

    Its a commonly held belief that if you complete the 'dark sacrament' (ritualistically sacrificing someone) you can summon someone from the dark brotherhood to hopefully hire. So... you have to kill someone to hire an assassin to kill someone else. Why not just cut out (pun intended) the middle man?

    And I just have to say, I've never done that storyline because it just gives me bad vibes.