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The Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that Mr. Sellars puts together to invade Otherland. Some of them never actually meet.
Mr. SellarsEx-military test pilot and participant in a secret government project to outfit subjects for near-light speed interstellar travel, which was later turned into a Super Soldier project and destroyed by a Psycho Prototype.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: His real body dies from overstress, but he triggers the Brain Uploading program before everything shuts down, so he gets to join Orlando as a digital person and watch the funeral proceedings.
- The Chessmaster: He has lots of free time to plot and plan, making his schemes nearly as complex as Jongleur's.
- Creating Life: Sellars was given the most advanced antiviral software available at the time in preparation for a long solo journey. He incubates and sets these programs against one another in a confined environment in order to provoke evolution. When the Other discovers these creations, it steals them, prompting his investigation into and discovery of Otherland.
- Cyborg: Adapted to connect with his starship. Too bad the project got blown up, making him a cripple with burn scars all over his body.
- I Did What I Had to Do: His justification for all his actions, except the Creating Life bit - that was from boredom.
- The Mentor: Getting cut off from Sellars' guidance is an important plot point for the Otherland party at the end of the first novel, forcing them to decipher its mysteries on their own. Sellars goes on to subvert part of the trope later, since although his physical body dies, he survives thanks to Brain Uploading.
- Mission Control: For the entire Otherland expedition. He's one of the few people capable of breaking through the network's security to communicate with the people trapped inside.
- Mysterious Informant: His recruitment scheme for his "volunteers" is designed to preserve his anonymity as much as possible; justified given the people he's working against. He's the thread that ends up connecting all the other protagonists, many of whom don't even know it.
- Trickster Mentor: A mild example, he tantalizes hundreds, if not thousands, of people with hints and riddles and clues to lead them to the Otherland, and only a small fraction make it, with people dying in the process. This is justified in that he's an imprisoned cripple capable of accessing the outside world only after he turned his body into a living antenna and he's fighting an organization that owns, at a guess, roughly two-thirds of everything. Everyone he tried to talk to legitimately was quietly murdered.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Sellars manages the feat of being more anonymous and secretive than is typical for even the 'Net's most reclusive denizens.
- What the Hell, Hero?: His recruitment of the six-year old Christabel to aid his schemes gets him royally chewed out by her parents.
Irene "Renie" SulaweyoThe primary viewpoint character. A college professor of network programming at Durban University in South Africa, Renie enters Otherland to search for her younger brother, Stephen, whom she believes to be trapped there. Her force of will drives the party to continue even when all hope appears lost.
- Gender Bender: Given her temperament, Martine chooses for Renie to take on the character of a male hero when the group enters the Trojan war. If she were a woman, she'd have considerably less mobility. Renie finds the sensation of having a penis very disturbing.
- The Hero: It is her quest to rescue Stephen that focuses the motivations of the Otherland group and drives them to make most of their progress.
- Hot-Blooded: Her anger and tendency to rush to judgement make her life considerably more difficult.
- Mama Bear: Her motivation is mainly to protect her younger brother, for whom she is a stand-in parent.
- Promotion to Parent: For Stephen, thanks to her mother's death and her father's descent into ennui.
- Team Mom: She tries to act as leader and protector of the Otherland group, which causes a great deal of friction since they all have their own agendas and resent being "parented".
!XabbuAn African Bushman and Renie's student who justifies much of her exposition through his ignorance (at first) of the 'Net. His unique perspective on life gives him unusual capabilities in Otherland.
- Magical Native American: Specifically, an African Bushman, or San. His different world perception is a major plot point.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: In the eyes of Otherland's puppets, since he spends about half of the story in a baboon sim.
- Last of His Kind: He believes himself to be the last African Bushman, as his tribe had disappeared by the time he went to search for it.
- Love Interest: He becomes Renie's deepest and closest friend throughout their experiences in Otherland and finally becomes her lover at the end.
- The Unpronounceable: His name begins with a clicking noise that's unpronounceable to most people. Long Joseph mispronounces it "Kobbu" or "Gobbu".
- The Watson: His ignorance of the 'Net allows Renie to provide a Justified Tutorial about how it works.
Martine DesroubinsA blind French researcher who lives in an underground facility. She is recruited by Renie to aid in the search for Otherland and becomes trapped along with the rest of the party. Frequently the viewpoint character when focus shifts from Renie.
- Adults Are Useless: Her backstory details an upbringing at the hands of drugged-out, social-phobic parents whose ennui enables the events leading up to her blinding.
- Apocalyptic Log: Her viewpoint segments are all narrated retrospectively in the form of her subvocalized journals, which she later recovers from Otherland with Sellars' help.
- Blind Seer: She notes the irony herself that her blindness gives her dramatically improved sensory perceptions in Otherland.
- Chekhov's Gun: The odd circumstances of her childhood blindness are key to the revelations about the Other's nature.
- The Faceless: Until entering Otherland, all her sims are featureless blocks. This is because she is blind, so she doesn't feel the need to provide visual feedback to others.
- Genre Savvy: She is one of the first members of the group to realize that events in Otherland seem to be getting forced into a narrative framework; she also notes the resemblance of the various members to narrative roles — most especially her own.
- Ineffectual Loner: She lives in a bunker under a mountain, talking to machines.
Florimel KurnemannA reclusive German doctor who was born inside a cult, she goes to Otherland to rescue her daughter from a coma.
- Hot-Blooded: This frequently drives her into conflict with the equally Hot-Blooded Renie.
- The Lancer: As a parental figure herself, she competes with Renie for the leadership role and acts as a secondary leader when the group splits up.
- Mama Bear: For her daughter, who fell into a coma and is later revealed to be with her in her VR immersion getup.
- Red Herring Mole: She is one of the group suspected of being Dread in disguise, as she is never given narrative POV.
Javier "T4b" RogersA born-again street kid who was recruited by the Circle to enter Otherland and be an agent among Sellars' recruits.
- Jerkass Façade: He acts very "macho" and standoffish to disguise that he's really an insecure teenager. The armor he wears becomes symbolic of this facade, as he becomes more personable when he loses it.
- The Mole: For the Circle, but a benevolent one, since they're technically on the same side.
- Spikes of Villainy: In his Powered Armor sim. Inverted, since he's a protagonist, and lampshaded several times.
- Street Urchin: He used to be a member of a street gang that dealt in charge.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: His nickname is a street name for a variant of "charge", a common street drug that he used to deal in.
Sweet WilliamAn American man who, in his waning years, started an online relationship with a girl whom he later discovered to be underage. He enters Otherland out of guilt when she enters a coma, feeling responsible for her.
- The Atoner: For his perceived sin of associating with an underage girl.
- Jerkass Façade: He is almost violently standoffish when asked to share his history with the group; it's later revealed that this is out of shame.
- Pimped-Out Dress: His sim in Otherland is described as somehow resembling a goth clown.
- Red Herring Mole: As another character who never gets narrative POV, he's among the suspects for being Dread's hijackee. He pays for it by getting killed by Dread.
Quan LiA Chinese woman who's in Otherland because of her granddaughter's coma.
- Grand Theft Me: She turns out to be the person whose sim Dread hijacks.
- The Mole: The "real" Quan Li is killed in the beginning of the journey and her sim is used by Dulcinea Anwin and Dread.
Orlando GardinerA teenage boy who suffers from progeria, a rapid aging disease, and spends most of his time online as a result to compensate for his physical disability. He enters Otherland in the search for Sellars' "golden city", unaware of the risks involved. He is frequently accompanied by an AI companion named Beezle that acts as an Exposition Fairy.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: He join"s Sellars in viewing his own funeral, thanks to Brain Uploading.
- Back from the Dead: The Other seemingly idolizes him as a hero, and rewards him by bringing him back to life to defeat the clones of Finney and Mudd at the Well.
- The Big Guy: In his gameplaying sim of brawny barbarian Thargor.
- Deadpan Snarker: He's impatient with "stupidity" — fair enough given that he knows his days are numbered, and inflicts it on those around him, mostly Sam, in the form of sarcasm.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Due to incurable progeria, he is doomed to die young. Atypically for the trope, he doesn't sit down and take it, instead compensating by being a brawny warrior in his online persona.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Because he knows he's going to die, he has a macabre attraction to death simulations.
- You Can Barely Stand: He spends much of his time in Otherland barely functional due to his progressing illness in real life. During his moments of lucidity, he engages in badassery to make up for it.
- Your Days Are Numbered: As a progeria victim, he is doomed to die as a teenager and knows it.
Salome "Sam" FredericksA teenage girl, Orlando's best friend and his constant companion throughout the story.
- Captain Obvious: A part of the relationship dynamic between Sam and Orlando is that she'll deliberately point out the obvious in a situation because she knows it drives him crazy.
- The Chick: Defied. She very much does not want to be considered "just a girl" and fights the stereotype vigorously, but is nevertheless not cut out to be a true action hero, so she settles for being Orlando's sidekick.
- G.I.R.L.: Inverted. Her online persona is male, to avoid being picked on, and she "forgets" to tell Orlando when they become friends. He is quite shocked when he finds out. But, considering he didn't tell her about his illness...
- The Lancer: In the Trojan War simulation, when Orlando is ill, Sam dons Achilles' armor to fight in his stead, accidentally imitating the genuine story when she runs into Hector.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: In VR, you can be whoever you want to be, and Sam wants to be "one of the boys", so she wears a male sim. Orlando doesn't find out the truth until he looks her up in real life.
- Sidekick: To Orlando, promoted to potential Love Interest by the end of the story once the shock of her gender reveal has worn off and Orlando is no longer afraid of dying.
- Tomboyish Name: She intentionally chose "Sam" as her nickname for the gender ambiguity.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: She was pretending to be a boy, and then got too deep into friendship with Orlando for any sort of natural segué into revealing her gender, so found herself trapped in an unwinnable situation vis-a-vis her crush on him. Then he up and dies.
Decatur "Catur" RamseyA lawyer who is hired by Orlando's parents to solve the mystery of his coma. He ends up being recruited by Sellars to help rescue the latter from captivity.
- Mission Control: He's Olga Pirovsky's link to the outside world when she infiltrates J Corp.
Olga PirofskyA grandmotherly lady who works as an actor for Uncle Jingle's Jungle, a popular online kids' program. Her mysterious headaches lead her on a path of discovery that takes her all the way to J Corp's headquarters.
- Chekhov's Gunman: After a long, long time of having no obvious connection to the main plot, it is abruptly revealed that her child did not die, but was taken away from her at birth, becoming the Other.
- Cool Old Lady: She successfully infiltrates a highly fortified building and manages to do what she came for, all while keeping her cool even when the plan seems to go sour.
Christabel SorensenA kindergarten-age girl who lives on the same military base as Mr. Sellars, and whom he recruits to help him escape. Her parents end up finding out about the relationship and, coming to the logical (but incorrect) conclusion, force Sellars to take them into his confidence.
- Children Are Innocent: Her point-of-view segments play up her innocence and also the anguish that Sellars suffers by using her. She's utterly shocked when she runs into the far more worldly Cho-Cho.
- Irony: Christabel's father is the man charged with ensuring Sellars remains imprisoned, incommunicado with the rest of the world. Naturally, it's his daughter Sellars recruits to aid him, which ultimately results in his defection to Sellars' side.
Carlos "Cho-Cho" IzabalA street urchin who accidentally stumbles across Christabel's secret meetings with Sellars and joins his party under duress.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Well, clearly not the "kiss" part, but his relationship with Christabel fits the trope remarkably well in other ways.
- Street Urchin: He grew up on the streets as part of a gang of homeless kids, and encounters Christabel while scavenging for food.
Susan van BleeckA white South African woman and Renie's college mentor; she helps Renie and !Xabbu in the search for Otherland but is beaten to death by Jongleur's goons.
- Almost Dead Guy: Her last message to Renie while dying in the hospital leads her to contact Martine Desroubins.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: She is beaten to death for daring to investigate Otherland on Renie's behalf.
Jeremiah DakoSusan's butler, he joins Long Joseph in watching over Renie and !Xabbu while they're immersed in VR within the decommissioned military base.
- Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: He openly laments not having any time for romantic pursuits.
- Straight Gay: While Long Joseph somehow picks up on his orientation immediately, it is not immediately obvious to any of the other characters.
Long Joseph SulaweyoRenie and Stephen's father. Emotionally crippled by the death of his wife in a fire, he copes by drinking, and his absenteeism forces Renie to become the de facto head of the Sulaweyo household.
- The Alcoholic: He copes with a world that he no longer wishes to emotionally connect to by drinking.
- Drowning My Sorrows: To retreat from the pain of losing his wife.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's forced to come to terms with his problems when he's isolated from the world without alcohol.
- Leeroy Jenkins: He tends to wildly impulsive and irrational behavior — leaving the military base in pursuit of a drink and attempting to visit his son in the hospital results in the badguys discovering their hideout.
- Nailed To The Wagon: There is nothing to drink at the decommissioned military base. When he runs out of the booze he brought with him, he has no choice but to dry out.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: "I just wanted to see my son." Yeah, well, you just blew your daughter's cover.
The Grail Brotherhood and affiliates
Felix JongleurThe head of the Brotherhood, and the oldest living man on Earth, even more so than most people realize. He lives inside a custom-built life support tank atop J Corp's tower, but spends his time as a fearsome online executive. Goes by "Osiris" in Otherland.
- Bad Boss: He tortures two of his employees into gibbering insanity in front of the Brotherhood.
- Big Bad: He starts out as the main antagonist before Dread takes over that role and it is his desire for immortality that drives the plot.
- Boarding School of Horrors: He grew up in one, causing psychological scars that drive him all his life.
- Body Horror: His ancient body floats in a dark tank and would be unable to live without machines supporting it.
- The Bully: Bullied as a child, his response is to become, in effect, the biggest bully in the entire world.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Based on what Olga Pirovsky finds when she visits J Corp, Jongleur appears to pretty much own the state of Louisiana and brazenly flaunts any law or moral that doesn't suit him.
- Immortality Seeker: His motivation since surviving World War I is to live forever. He regards death as a foe to be defeated at any cost.
- Really Two Hundred Years Old: His visible persona, when he chooses to present a face to the world through the 'Net, is that of a middle-aged executive, and only a few people know the truth that he's a shriveled thing in a life support tank.
- Torture Technician: He tortures two of his employees by invoking their deepest fears in a VR environment.
John "Dread" WulgaruAka Johnny Dark, aka John "More Dread", aka Dread. A sociopathic killer hired by Jongleur for his unique psychic power. His ambition goes beyond even what his boss is capable of predicting, resulting in near-total disaster. In Jongleur's Egypt simulation, he goes by "Anubis".
- A God Am I: Once he takes over Otherland.
- Bastard Understudy: Trained to be a perfect assassin by Jongleur's people, he proves to be even less loyal than Jongleur anticipated.
- Catch Phrase: "Confident, cocky, lazy, dead." and "Hello, sweetness."
- Dragon with an Agenda
- Even Evil Has Standards: After he goes on his orgy of destruction in Otherland, he regrets taking such sadistic pleasure in demolishing Toy Land, since he despises pedophiles and worries that he might be crossing that particular line.
- Eviler Than Thou
- For the Evulz
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He keeps recordings of all the women he has killed on his system. In his final moments, just when he needs all his attention to escape the Other, Dulcinea floods him with those images. Dread is put into a cataconic state from sensory overload, and proceeds to dream about those women now hunting him. Forever.
- Meaningful Name: "Dread", but it's a double pun. "More Dread" = Mordred, which ties in with Jongleur's "Grail" project via the legend of King Arthur, and is Dread's way of poking fun at his boss. Further, "Wulgaru" is a shortened name of a monster found in Australian aboriginal mythology, and was given to him by his mother to reflect her desire to turn him into a monster.
- Misanthrope Supreme
- Mood-Swinger: Extremely so.
- Mommy Issues: His mother deliberately turned him into what he now is.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Once he gains control of Otherland, he begins warping it and torturing its inhabitants because he can, and actively ponders just how far he could make it go.
- Omnicidal Maniac
- Psycho for Hire: Working for Jongleur.
- Send in the Clones: Of himself, in Otherland, once he gains control of the system.
- Serial Killer: Of young to middle-aged women, particularly ones who remind him of his mother.
- Technopath: His psychic power, which allows him to take over computer systems.
- Torture Technician
David WellsAmerican corporate executive and Yacoubian's companion outside the Brotherhood. He's second in command to Jongleur thanks to supplying of the majority of the technology behind Otherland. Creator of the Nemesis program. Goes by "Ptah" in Otherland.
- Dirty Coward: He willingly sells out the Brotherhood to Dread after the latter's takeover.
- Karmic Death: Finds out the hard way that Dread is even more of a Bad Boss than Jongleur.
- Mr. Exposition: Initially serves this purpose for the Grail Brotherhood.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: His portrayal rather unsubtly evokes a Bill Gates who's turned to evil.
- The Starscream: With Yacoubian, he plots against Jongleur to usurp leadership of the Brotherhood.
Daniel YacoubianAmerican four-star general who provides military resources "under the table" to the Brotherhood. He acts as a foil to Jongleur and is a constant irritant because of his bickering. Goes by "Horus" in Otherland.
- Commander Contrarian: An evil version.
- General Ripper: His "brash American" mannerisms and gung-ho military mentality are exaggerated almost to the point of satire.
- The Watson: To Wells' Mr. Exposition.
Ymona DedoblancoAfrican dictator. Goes by "Sekhmet" in Otherland.
- The Watson: Her ignorance prompts Jongleur to re-explain the Grail Project for the readers, despite having participated it it for years.
Ricardo KlementSouth American drug lord; the Nemesis program winds up inhabiting his virtual clone. Goes by "Kephera" in Otherland.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The rest of the Brotherhood seem to despise Klement for dealing in drugs, but they need his money.
- Meaningful Name: "Kephera", Klement's sim in Otherland, is a dung beetle. Jongleur picked it deliberately due to his disdain for Klement's occupation.
- Yes-Man: To Jongleur.
Jiun BhaoChinese industrialist and major financial backer of the Brotherhood.
- Enigmatic Minion: He plays a deeper game with Jongleur than Wells and Yacoubian, taking advantage of Jongleur's apparent weakness to negotiate for a privileged position in the Brotherhood. It doesn't do him any good, though, as he dies shortly after Dread takes over the system.
Finney and MuddJongleur's chief minions; they supervised the Avialle project but messed it up so badly that he had them imprisoned in Otherland.
- Fat and Skinny: In all their forms.
- Send in the Clones: The Other makes virtual copies of them that show up in every simulation, as the personification of its nightmares.
- Those Two Bad Guys: They act like this when chasing Paul Jonas.
Dulcinea AnwinA black-hat hacker who is recruited by Dread and falls into his charismatic web, until she discovers his dark secret.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: It backfires horribly.
- Anti-Villain: Complete with Heel–Face Turn at the end.
- The Cracker: Her job.
- Pet The Cat
- Playful Hacker
KunoharaA wealthy entomologist who supports the Brotherhood but is not a part of their inner circle; he runs a simulation in Otherland where researchers can pay to study insects in a very up-close and personal way. He ends up playing a minor supporting role to the protagonists and is one of the few Grail-related characters to survive to the end.
- Neutral No Longer: Kunohara remains resolutely neutral in the conflict between the heroes and the Brotherhood, reasoning that he sees no value in helping them considering how easily it could jeopardize his position. At least until Dread takes over, when the escalating confrontation forces his hand.
The CircleA multireligious group whose goal is to stop The Grail Brotherhood from interfering with God's will.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Many of the Circle wouldn't tolerate each other for more than a second if it weren't for their higher cause.
Bonnie Mae SimpkinsAmerican Baptist who befriends Orlando and Sam.
- Apron Matron: She incessantly "mothers" everyone she meets, even the adults.
Nandi ParadivashIndian mystic who acts as a temporary mentor to Paul Jonas.
- The Fundamentalist: He's a true believer in one of the most extreme Hindu sects and barely tolerates the rest of the Circle.
The OtherMysterious and dangerous sentient operating system of Otherland.
- A.I. is a Crapshoot: Subverted.
- And Call Him "George"!: The Other's attempts to "play with" children online send them into comas. Ouch.
- Brain in a Jar: In a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.
- Driven to Suicide
- Fetus Terrible: Quite literally. Its initial telepathic burst at its birth kills several attending doctors and nurses.
- Friend to All Children: Subverted very sadly. It likes children, but ends up "breaking" them when it plays.
- Long-Lost Relative: The lost son of Olga Pirofsky.
- Psychic Powers: It has such strong telepathic power that it has to be isolated on a satellite in orbit and deep-frozen to keep it from killing anyone it touches.
- Psychopathic Manchild: The Other is at least thirty years old, but has never "grown up" mentally. It's never had the chance.
- Reality Warper: Within Otherland, that is.
- Story-Breaker Power: Literally has this, as it partially shapes the heroes' journey through Otherland according to its will.
- Taking You with Me
- Tortured Monster
- Tragic Monster
- Turned Against Their Masters
- Wetware CPU
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form
Paul JonasAmnesiac resident of Otherland, who discovers his connection to the plot through his gradually recovered memories. He was hired by Jongleur as a tutor to Avialle but fell in love with her and tried to "rescue" her, resulting indirectly in her accidental death. Jongleur imprisoned him in Otherland as punishment.
- Brain Uploading: It turns out to have happened to him retroactively.
- Cloning Blues: As he finally realizes in the end, he is just a digital copy of himself.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Inflicted as part of his imprisonment.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- The Punishment: Reliving WWI in the trenches of France, again and again and again...
- Walking Otherland
AvialleThere are two Avialles. One is Jongleur's "daughter", designed to be a part of one of his immortality schemes (before the Other started to show promise), but tragically killed due to the bungling of his assistants. The other is the avatars of Avialle created by the Other and captured within the system, living out a shadow life but all strangely attracted to Paul Jonas, whom the real Avialle fell in love with.
- Hot for Teacher: Actually invoked by Jongleur as part of his scheme to replicate his own upbringing.
- The Lost Lenore
- Opposite-Sex Clone: Of Jongleur.
BeezleOrlando's AI companion, originally a kids' toy but upgraded many times until it's almost as sentient as a real person. It ends up locating Catur Ramsey and acting as a vital surrogate Mission Control when Sellars goes incommunicado.
- Exposition Fairy: In-story, Beezle's voice in Orlando's ear reminds him of many things he'd rather avoid or forget.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Except there's just the voice; there's no actual "person".
GallyA virtual orphan whom Paul Jonas befriends.
- Sidekick: To Jonas, through a great many virtual worlds.
AzadorA "gypsy" adventurer that the protagonists encounter throughout Otherland; he seems to be a devil-may-care opportunist strolling at will through the network thanks to an access device he stole from Yacoubian.
- Cloning Blues: He's an "imperfect" virtual copy of Jongleur, but doesn't realize it.
- Cunning Rogue: He's drawn from Jongleur's fantasies as a child that he was really a care-free gypsy adventurer.
- Jerk Ass
- The Mole: It's eventually revealed that Kunohara manipulated him into spying on the protagonists.
NemesisAn advanced AI search program deployed into Otherland by David Wells to search for Paul Jonas; it works at the code level rather than the surface level of the simulation, but in the course of its travels becomes something much more than was originally intended.
Australian PoliceDetectives who investigate one of Dread's murders and play an important role in his defeat.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Lampshaded - they take turns.