Monday, May 19, 2008

Top Ten Rebels

Whether they are storming the capitol on Coruscant, leading the Fremen against the Sardaukar, or just plain running for your life to escape a mandatory death sentence, there is something about a rebel that makes us all sit up and take notice. It doesn't matter who, how, or why, we love our rebels and we admire their guts in standing up against the forces of oppression to fight for what they believe in. This month the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey salutes the rebels in all of their glory, and so I give you the top ten Rebels of all time!

10 - Madmartigan - Scoundrel, thief, and heroic swordsman, Madmartigan burst onto screens in the 1988 Ron Howard fantasy epic Willow and made an indelible impression on all of us. In the battle against the wicked Queen Bavmorda, nothing could be done without this grinning paragon of self-interest, and in the novels that followed the film (Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn, and Shadow Star by Chris Claremont) Madmartigan continues to flourish and rise to ever greater prominence.

9 - Lady Sula - The Praxis is truth, and this pauper turned high Lady through identity theft knows it only too well. It is through the Dread Empire of the Shaa's dogmatic devotion to the Praxis that 'Lady Sula' maintain the charade of her nobility, but when the last Shaa dies and the Dread Empire fractures into warring sects, Lady Sula fights for the very system that kept her down as a child. Her role as the leader of the loyalist guerillas on rebel occupied Zanshaa marked her as a brilliant mind, an able leader, and one of the few examples of conformist rebellion available.

8 - Cassandra Kresnov - Domo arigato Miss Roboto! The League General Issue (GI) artificial human, Cassandra Kresnov is clever, beautiful, and very deadly. Designed for war, built to lead other, lower designation GI's, and sent on mission after mission with death and destruction all around her, Cassandra rebelled against her creators and fled to the anti-GI Federation. Although most Federation citizens view her as nothing more than a machine, Cassandra has found some acceptance on the world of Callay, where the debate over her rights and life have taken a far different tone. Joel Shepherd weaves an intriguing series of well-thought out espionage stories featuring a brilliant cast of diverse characters.

7 - David Valentine - What do you do when aliens who suck blood and life energy conquer your planet? David Valentine (E.E. Knight's Vampire Earth series) joins the ranks of Free Humanity and fights the good fight against the conquerors. The problem is that it is not just the aliens that he must deal with. The Quislings (humans who assist the Kurian Overlords and their Reapers) are the biggest threat that Valentine must face, and killing humans is a far different prospect from shooting Bug-eyed Monsters. Brilliantly written, this story highlights people, places, and story in a way that is hard to forget.

6 - Sten - Alan Cole and the late Chris Bunch brought us the convict turned spy turned soldier turned pilot, turned politician turned rebel named Sten. Set in a far future ruled by the Eternal Emperor whose monopoly on AM2 (a newer, more powerful version of Anti-Matter) guarantees him rulership of the universe. Sten starts off as the Emperor's loyal servant, confidant, and friend, but eventually the Emperor changes (after he returns from the dead following a successful assassination attempt), and Sten is forced to overthrow the man who once ruled with wisdom and intelligence. Sten is a great character whose life and times are as amazing as you are likely to find.

5 - Merlin Athrawes/Nimue Alban - Why is it that aliens are always wiping out the human race? In this new story from David Weber we still have no answer to that question, but we do know that Humans, much like cockroaches, are hard to stamp out. After the Terran Confederation falls to the Gbaba (and the races is presumed to be extinct) one lonely, backwards colony is left to carry on the fight. The problem is that the colonials abandoned all technology in an effort to hide from the bloodthirsty aliens. Nimue Alban takes on the identity of Merlin Athrawes and begins to establish new technology on the Luddite world, rebelling against the Church and the governments of this planet.

4 - Roy Batty - "Why come to Earth? That's unusual..." says Rick Deckard of the Replicants that have attempted to wrest the secrets of their incept dates from their inventors in the film version of Philip K. Dick's classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner). Batty is a rebel with a cause: he wants to live more than the four years allotted to him, and will stop at nothing to break out of the role that has been forced on him by construction and programming.

3 - The Rebel Alliance - Star Wars' key players in the fight to overthrow the tyranny of Emperor Palpatine and the Galactic Empire is probably the most well-known organization of insurgents ever. From the fight to destroy the first Death Star to the battle of Endor, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, C-3PO, and R2-D2 lead the battle and strike a blow for freedom.

2 - Owen Deathstalker - Who is the most dangerous man in the galaxy? A paunchy historian with a family history of political plotting and betrayals, that's who. At the start of the series, Owen Deathstalker is a middle aged historian who wants nothing more than to be left alone. Unfortunately, his family has information that the Empress wants, and so she has him outlawed, hoping that he will lead her to the secrets that he does not even know that he knows. Big mistake. This action leads to the largest uprising in the Empire of Humanity's history, and the overthrow of Lionstone XIV. Simon R. Green weaves a fantastic tale where space opera meets H.P. Lovecraft.

1 - Paul 'Muad'dib' Atreides - Another reluctant rebel, the visionary prophet Paul Atreides, the Kwiszatch Haderach, is the epitome of the desert revolutionary. Leading his Fremen against the Harkonnen invaders and their allies, the Imperial Sardaukar, Paul must use his visions of the future to shape a new, better Empire. Frank Herbert's exciting novel, Dune, tells the tale in a larger than life way that makes one think about the truth of the prophecies and the power of one important substance. The spice must flow!

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