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Heroes and Villains

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  1,299 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
A modern fable, a post-apocalyptic romance, a gothic horror story; Angela Carter's genre-defying fantasia Heroes and Villains includes an introduction by Robert Coover in Penguin Modern Classics.

Sharp-eyed Marianne lives in a white tower made of steel and concrete with her father and the other Professors. Outside, where the land is thickly wooded and wild beasts roam, live
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 164 pages
Published February 3rd 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 1969)
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Mar 12, 2011 Ryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thissucked, reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I can't properly review Angela Carter - her books just seem to reach into my subconscious, grasp hold of me, and refuse to let go. It's always a strange experience to read others' reviews of her work, which debate symbolism and characterization and political message. All those things are very clear to me when reading, but I feel so little need to comment on them, because the book itself feels so true. This is how the world is; or, more properly, this is how the world is for me. Every other
Seonaidh Ceannéidigh
At times great, at times muddled, Carter's post-apocalyptic fairytale [that is, minus any fairies] manages to both dazzle and sometimes bore, if only because its initially-strong-heroine [Marianne] becomes strangely passive-aggressive as the novel and the adversity wears on. The climax is replaced by a wind-down, the best part of which is a nightly stroll by a seaside resort, unfortunately capped with the disappointing off-page exit of its lead male character; a young man named Jewel who is stra ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Rafaela rated it it was ok
Shelves: read2012
[There was a review here. It's gone now.]
This is the story of a professor girl who chooses to exempt herself from her clan by faking her own suicide and running off with a red hot barbarian with raven plaits and a six pack. You probably won't believe me, but this hunk's name is Jewel (?!?).

It is a familiar story: headstrong girl meets headstrong boy. They come from opposite sides of the track. They butt heads until sparks fly and ignite the brittle hay that lines their foolish hearts. Then their parts are on fire! Angela Carter does he
Jun 30, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can Angela Carter do anything wrong? No. That is my definitive answer.

I haven't read even half of what she has published but the very idea of Carter's death preventing her from writing anything new makes me profoundly sad. I wish I could make literally everyone read something of hers.
Sep 20, 2013 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: angela-carter
The Times described Heroes and Villains as 'an unashamed fantasist, a fabulist of daemonic energy' – and it really is. This is an incredibly loaded book, and every time I’ve tried to review this I’ve ended up word-vomiting a bad fragment of one or one hundred failed essays that could be written about it. This time will be no different (but I’ve hit the ‘well, let’s just get it done’ try). I think the difficulty is down to the fact that rereading the novella I was more aware of what was trying to ...more
May 14, 2012 Zee rated it liked it
I am now pretty certain that no one ever really gets used to Angela Carter's brand of vitriolic love or her genre-defying characters. I mean, when I try to figure out 'Heroes and Villains', I really struggle to put a label on what I have just read. Instead I come up with crazy statements like: it's a futuristic fairytale with elements of creation mythology that registers roughly on the ultraviolet section of the story-telling rainbow. Yeah. It's like THAT.

The main ingredients of a typical Carte
Dec 29, 2008 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
I'd say 3.5 on this one, but would willingly bump my rating up to 4 for Angela Carter--who, even when not in tip-top shape, is simply incomparable in so many ways.

The long and short of it: Heroes & Villains is basically a novel of ideas, as is frequently the case with Carter. Here, as in something like 'The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman,' the ideas are more at the forefront than, say, character development or flowery prose. It's ostensibly a post-apocalyptic novel, though not in th
Nate D
Oh, this one really pushes some buttons. People expecting a proper post-apocalyptic adventure are disappointed. People are distressed with the problematic central "romance". Anyone expecting anything like the clear categories of the title are certainly going to be somewhat put out. But amid cynical reflections on the collapse of civilization -- the grim struggles of those who have cast it off, and the erosion of purpose in the hold-outs behind their walls -- what Angela Carter seems to be attemp ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Craig rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Everything signifies something here, as evidenced by references to Levi-Strauss, tattoos of biblical proportion, charcoal slogans scrawled on walls which only one character can read and folkloric myth mixed with pagan and commercial, Western marriage ritual. Carter is playing with all of these concepts and connecting them to her usual deft explorations of gender interaction/ conflict.

Carter tropes at work: the mutual hate between men & women; raped into marriage; characters who are complace
Nov 21, 2014 Lotte rated it it was ok
Heroes and Villains is like the literary equivalent of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Strange, oddly fascinating, unnerving and probably quite exhausting if you look at it for too long. I can't say that I liked it, yet at the same time I couldn't stop reading.

This is one of those books where either everything means something, or nothing means anything at all. I suspect Angela Carter was trying to achieve the former. I'm not sure she succeeded at it. She kept me wondering throughout the novel thou
Oct 17, 2015 Oliver rated it it was ok
what is this even?
Feb 02, 2016 Ron rated it it was amazing
The 'heroine' of this novel is more anti-hero, though not in the popular modern sense of an iconoclast determined to fight the establishment. She is deeply inured to the fascist, class-based apocalyptic society in which her father calls outsiders the 'arbitrary children of calamity...who must take the leavings.' Feeling little attachment to her friends, she rescues one of the barbarians and allows herself to be rescued by him by taking part in a brutal scenario that is not as it seems. Enrapture ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Benjamin rated it really liked it
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
Heroes and Villians is a post-apocalyptic story that is built upon the foundational atmosphere of traditional fairytale narratives, blending together narrative aspects of fantasy stories and the aesthetic of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Set years after nature has mysteriously reclaimed the British isles, and where many aspects of western civilization have crumbled, Marianne, a young teenage girl who grew up in a sterile, dull, regimented enclave of intellectuals, flees her tower and descends into th
Jennifer Ochoa
I hate rating these kinds of books. Extremely well-written, but a little too strange and disturbing for me to "enjoy" reading. It's the kind of novel I'd probably enjoy dissecting for a literature class, but for day-to-day reading, not so much. In other words, intellectually, I'd give it a higher rating, but on a personal level, nothing stuck.

Set in a dystopian future, where humans now either live among the Professors (men of reason), Barbarians (primitives), or the Out People (mutant aggressive
Jul 20, 2015 Polaris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a splendid fairy tale. Dreamlike, but not so much in the sense of surreal. It's more like, during the course of the novel, rationality slowly ceases to make sense. A study in otherness. Forms of life, from thoughts to emotions fail to match familiar categories: the relationship between the two main characters is not a love story nor it is a simple "love / hate relationship", but rather, one of opposite mirrors. Class and authority are presented as being based on superstition, cultures as in ...more
Phil Sun
A post-apocalyptic fantasy, set in a bizarre and brutal world. Its narrative structure borrows from fairy tale and fantasy, so there's a distancing effect that occurs, with the characters coming across as archetypal. The protagonist Marianne is kidnapped, or runs away (this kind of uncertainty about her intentions runs throughout the book) from the ivory tower of the Professors, to become a Barbarian's wife under terrible circumstances. These deeply traumatised young people fall in love or a hat ...more
Aliya Whiteley
Oct 21, 2014 Aliya Whiteley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think it's the way Angela Carter allows her characters to have flawed intellectual standpoints and conversations about their highly charged emotions in Heroes and Villains that makes it so good. It's that understanding of the chasm between what you feel and what you think that feeling means. The strangest things happen, and everyone puts a layer of their own thought over these events, but what is ritual to one person might well be trauma to another. Words, however carefully chosen, can't bridg ...more
Dan Griliopoulos
Mar 03, 2015 Dan Griliopoulos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I mourn Angela Carter's untimely death more than any writer of our generation. She writes an elegant post-apocalypse, without unnecessary explanation or context-building. Her protagonists give us a real sense of what it's like to live in such a world just by living in it, without narrative tricks to reveal back-history. By making them error-prone and unclear in their thinking, she makes them even more believable. As good as Oryx and Crake, but more organically-real.
A strange dystopia, this book requires careful reading. Carter's writing is very powerful, very dense and compelling. She is a master of language, and her novel have such an extraordinary quality of sucking you in them - in the story, the language, the very words of the novel.
Feb 03, 2014 Adrian rated it it was ok
Grim, unlikeable characters, and it doesn't really go anywhere. Seriously considered giving this one up.
Steph Smith
Oct 04, 2015 Steph Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed her let rip. Great wordsmith. Intoxicating
May 17, 2012 Samantha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I really can't bring myself to care about what happens in this book. The writing is distant and unemotional and I feel no attachment to the main character whatsoever.
Mar 14, 2012 Jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange one to say the least (though not as strange as Ice!), and this review is going to be difficult to write, as I’m still mulling over Angela Carter’s beguiling 1969 novel, Heroes and Villains – half in fascination, half in bafflement.

Carter presents us with a future earth which, in the wake of a terrible conflict, has reverted back to the verdant tropical luxury of prehistoric times. Humanity itself has been vastly reduced, and the survivors are divided into several factions. The
Mar 10, 2017 Hannah rated it really liked it
This was a perverse yet intriguing story. This book grabbed me from the very beginning and dragged me to unexpected and surprising places. As the book progressed, I became more and more confused as to what Carter wanted me believe or feel as a reader. Perhaps that was the most interesting part. It portrayed a mishmash of genres and ideas and I could see a twisted version of fantasy books I have read before held within it. However it was mainly different from what I have previously read and was a ...more
Although this is the sixth book I've read by Angela Carter, I remain as perplexed as ever by her work. She is the most difficult novelist I've read, because all but her most obvious allusions fly straight over my head. I haven't read, seen, watched, or heard of the majority of the books, essays, paintings, films, or ideas she continually alludes to, deconstructs, and interweaves throughout her work. So, this means that I, and most casual readers, can't read her books at anything but at the surfa ...more
Rebeca F. San Román
This book broke my heart. I could actually hear the cracking all through the last pages and at some point I must have even cursed Carter between my teeth for she's so wonderful yet terribly relentless.
"Heroes & Villains" is pretty similar to "The passion of the new Eve". I always thought that book was really a lot like "The infernal desire machines...", but this one is even more alike. The whole post-apocalyptic setting and the dark, savage atmosphere is the same, same with some lines and t
Roddy Williams
Carter's post apocalyptic fantasy is one of the novels listed in Pringle's '100 Greatest SF Novels' and has been well-received by critics, academics and readers since its first publication.
Carter's own desire for this novel was to create a gothic novel, albeit set in the future.
Structurally it is pretty standard fare. the Campbell model holds up well here. Marianne is a young girl, living in a post-nuclear disaster America in an enclave of academics. Outside the fence, tribes of feral humans lea
Oct 14, 2016 Lucia rated it really liked it
My first Angela Carter novel; it was, in a word, spectacular. So different to anything I've ever read, so strange and wonderful. I found this book so compelling; once I actually got around to reading it, I couldn't put it down. I thought about it when I wasn't reading it; I was absorbed, immersed, entranced.

Carter's prose is so precise and raw and rhythmic and surreal. The emotions were so rich, colourful, visceral, energetic, magnetic, fantastical, demonic and repulsive. Reading this was like w
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Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.

She married twice, first in 1960 to Paul Carter. Th
More about Angela Carter...

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“Losing their names, these things underwent a process of uncreation.” 13 likes
“What do you see when you see me?' She asked him, burying her own face in his bosom.
'Do you want the truth?'
She nodded.
'The firing squad.'
'That's not the whole truth. Try again.'
'Insatiability,' he said with some bitterness.
'That's oblique but altogether too simple. Once more,' she insisted. 'One more time.'
He was silent for several minutes.
'The map of a country in which I only exist by virtue of the extravagance of my metaphors.'
'Now you're being too sophisticated. And, besides, what metaphors do we have in common?”
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