Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unlikely Heroes - The Short(er) Hero

To ask the question - Why aren't there more short heroes? - seems kind of redundant. The answer seems obvious, there aren't more short heroes because there's a perception that readers don't want to read them. But is that just a 'trap' that publishers and authors have fallen into? If there are no books which feature short heroes how can we read about them anyway? Hopefully I'll convince you to take the plunge with at least one short hero.

Okay, if we're talking short heroes there's one that you can't get away without mentioning - Miles Vorkosigan. Actually, if you've never read the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold it's one that I recommend highly, (whether or not you like short heroes or science fiction) I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the 188 books chosen for the island are from the series.

As Ekaterine Vorsoisson says of Miles:-

“He’s not so short,” said Ekaterin defensively. “He’s just… concentrated.”
Which is an excellent way to describe him. Before Sam Adama (Caprica) lectured William on the virtues of sticking with a decision once made, Miles had already learnt the method of forward momentum - once you start in a direction you keep going. Everything may be going to hell around you but you keep going. Of course this method is far from foolproof as disastrous consequences were to show in Memory.

Before I get too carried away I better first explain why Miles is short - for those who don't know. Whilst Miles's mother was pregnant she was the victim of a poison gas attack, Miles is born with brittle bones and his growth is stunted. However, what he lacks in stature he makes up for with a personality so huge and a charisma so magnetic that he is (usually) able to get himself out of whatever catastrophe he's landed himself in.

One of the things I love about him is that his mouth is often five minutes ahead of his brain, and perhaps gets him into as much trouble as it gets him out of. I think if he hadn't had his personal obstacles to overcome he would have been a different character - either content to rest on his laurels because he wouldn't have felt the need to push himself so hard, or hated by everyone because he was so good at everything.

The series follows his whole life from birth to marriage. And my favourite sequence in the series is - Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaign - which I think of as Miles's life going to hell and coming out again the other side. What's interesting about Brothers in Arms is that we meet Mark - another short hero who I always envisage as being played by Oliver Platt in any screen version. I'm sure there are other Vorkosigan fans out there.

Is Miles the only short hero I can come up with? No, though he is the most memorable. I'd also recommend Valentin Jaus the Darkyn hero of Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl - though he is introduced in an earlier book - Private Demon. In Private Demon he didn't get the girl and we had to wait another four books before he'd have a story of his own.
And I'll just mention that unlike the film version the Wolverine in the X-Men comic books is 5 foot 3, three inches shorter than Jean Grey.

I feel like I'm missing someone, so are there any other short(er) heroes out there that are worth reading? Or do you prefer your heroes to be over six foot. Does it matter? I think it's easy to say - no it doesn't but when faced with the choice in the bookshop which story do you buy?


Anonymous said...

Eugenides (Gen), the Thief and later the King of Attolia, in Megan Whelan Turner's wonderful The Queen's Thief series is short. He is a terrific and charismatic just like Miles.

Val Con yos'Phelium, Delm of Clan Korval, from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe is also small. He, too, is larger than life, and very romantic.

Chris said...

Stanley, from Victor J. Banis' Deadly mysteries!

Renee said...

Oh, I love Miles! ANOTHER series I have to get back to. I have Mountains of Mourning on my tbr just waiting to be read.

Mark Jenkins from Suzanne Brockmanns's Troubleshooters comes to mind.

LesleyW said...

Patty - The Thief is on my wishlist. I actually tried to get it in Waterstones at the weekend but they didn't have a copy. I'm moving it up the list.

Chris - the best thing about doing these posts has been all the recommendations I've got. :)

LesleyW said...

Renee - Lol - this has been a reminder of all the series you need to get back to.

Sullivan McPig said...

The only short hero I can think of is Jig from Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines, but he's a goblin and there's no romance in the book. He's a great unlikely hero though.

Anonymous said...

LesleyW, The Thief is wonderful. I finished the Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia in just the week after reading it, and I could turn right around and read both of them again. I've just started A Conspiracy of Kings. The series is listed as YA and maybe The Thief is; however, I have found the rest of the books to be much more complicated and satisfying than most YA.

lbgregg said...

Not to toot my own horn, but Caesar is 5'9 in his best shoes.

RachelT said...

Isn't Jules Cassidy from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter series short? I always think of him as a very compact, neat man - and gorgeus with it!

LesleyW said...

Sullivan - Goblins can definitely be heroes. I'm not so sure about goblin romance though.

Patty - I'm convinved. :) Next shopping trip I'm getting it.

LB - Toot Away. :)

LesleyW said...

Rachel - I think you just described Jules to a T. And I think from memory you're right he's not overly tall, compact and neat seems a good description.

D. B. Reynolds said...

Great blog series, Lesley! I absolutely adore Daemon Sadi and think Anne Bishop did a brilliant job of creating a character who was so twisted and yet so charistmatic and vulnerable.

And Miles Vorkosigan ... when you're reading the books, you sometimes FORGET he's a mutie (LOL)because his personality and drive overwhelm any physical description.

And others already mentioned Val Con from the Liadan series and the unstoppable Jules from Suzanne Brockman's terrific SEAL series.

For that matter, Clayton from Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld is only 6 foot. Not short, but not terribly tall either.

LesleyW said...

DB - Thank you. Yes! That was one of the things with the Vorkosigan series. his personality is just so huge that you forget he's barely five foot tall. I have a yearning to re-read that series now, after writing about it.

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