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Literature / Carrion Comfort

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Carrion Comfort is a fantasy/horror novel written by Dan Simmons about psychic vampires that secretly control the world (or at least, as much of it as they want to).


This book provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Some of the mind vampires, particularly C. Arnold Barent.
    • Faux Affably Evil: With few exceptions, there is not a shred of actual pleasantness or goodwill behind this behavior.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Averted. Though the mind vampires are able to mind control virtually anyone, they don't use governments or try to change the world. The Öberst wants that to change.
  • Break the Cutie: Shayla was a good Christian girl with high hopes and strong values before Harod psychically manipulated her performing sex acts on him and spreading the footage around Hollywood. She becomes a laughingstock and a scandal, and finally takes her revenge with five shots to Harod's chest.
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  • The Brute: Vincent is a silent, murderous hulk of a teenage boy who serves as Melanie's hatchet man. This is because Melanie's conditioning left him with essentially no consciousness other than a set of violent instincts.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Occurs whenever a normal human crosses someone with the ability, such as the young gang disrespecting Melanie or Willi's ex picking a fight with Harod- though in the latter case he doesn't even use his ability.
  • The Chessmaster: Barent and the Oberst, both literally and figuratively.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Shayla Barrington, a teenage actress raped by Tony Harod near the beginning of the book, is barely ever mentioned again until she reappears at the very end and shoots Harod dead in revenge.
    • The nuclear submarine captain Melanie makes chance contact with at the very beginning of the book comes back in the epilogue as someone she's been quietly grooming all this time for a feeding of unrivaled scale.
  • Death of a Child: Melanie and Nina's psychic battle ends with a ten-year-old girl among the numerous people they killed.
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  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: People with the ability tend to view the rest of humanity as cattle, resulting in plenty of murder and rape, not to mention destroying the human brain through their contact and control. More mundanely, William was a Nazi officer, and while his fervor for the party was more based around his general love of war and control than ideology, he does prescribe to notions of racial superiority and inferiority. Melanie in particular has some distressingly backwards views in a number of topics, not least of all race, due to her upbringing in an old money southern family that held fast to antebellum tradition.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In Philadelphia, Melanie runs into a group of local gang members, who cuss her out and make fun of her but never actually try to harm her. She responds to this by having Vincent systematically hunt them down and massacre them, killing them two to four at a time and gruesomely mutilating the bodies afterward. These murders alert her enemies to her location and lead the protagonists to ally with the gang.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Melanie may not be as aggressive or predatory as the other vampires but you know that Vincent the hitchhiker and the street gang threatening and cursing her will get a terrible comeuppance.
  • Empty Shell: Prolonged control by an Ability user can reduce someone to this. The resulting "cat's paw" is essentially an automaton under the control of the mind vampire, with only basic instincts left. In the worst-case scenario, only the brainstem operates independently, and the rest of the brain only runs when the mind vampire is actively Using it. People in this state are basically appendages of the mind vampire and are otherwise dead.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Whenever the vampires fight each other.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Pawns, people under the permanent control of an Ability user. They have hardly any personality left except for what is needed to serve their master.
  • Freudian Excuse: When Harod is controlling Natalie, her glimpse into his mind shows that the loss of his abusive father and a toxic relationship with his mother are what caused him to become a homophobic, misogynistic serial rapist. Averted, as it does nothing to make the heroes or readers sympathize with him
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Tony Harod.
  • Human Chess: To the death. Eliminated pieces are either shot by a sniper in the rafters or strangled by the piece that eliminated them.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Tony Harod with Maria Chen.
  • Karma Houdini: Melanie Fuller.
  • Kill 'Em All: Well, not everyone, but close.
  • Kick the Dog: Harod could have been the Trope Namer. The first chapter he is introduced in has him raping a 17 year old model and actress and not too long after does the same with an air stewardess. He does have a Pet the Dog moment with Maria Chen when he helped her go cold turkey.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Harod saving Saul, escaping the Island alive and refusing to use his power again do nothing to save him from his just desserts.
  • Love Redeems: Subverted. Harod gradually becomes a slightly better person (by psychic monster standards, anyway) after he and Maria fall in love. When the chips are down, however, he has mo trouble throwing her under the bus and she, heart-wrenchingly, accepts the sacrifice even when presented with the option to decline.
  • Mind Rape: Plenty of those. And in Tony Harod's case, literally. In fact, Saul actually uses the word "mindrape" to describe what the Oberst did to him.
  • Not So Different: The Oberst tries this on Saul. It doesn't work.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: And how. William was a literal Nazi in his younger days, Melanie laments the suffrage and desegregation of African Americans as the collapse of American values, Harod is a misogynist and chauvinist of the highest order, raping women when he feels they don't pay him proper attention and circulating career-ending explicit footage of a minor to punish her rejection, and most members of the Island Club make various negative comments about homosexuals, Jews and women.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: All. The. Time.
  • Serial Rapist: Tony Harod uses his Ability pretty much solely to rape women.
  • Sinister Scythe: Vincent often wields a scythe as a weapon, although he sometimes uses a knife or a gun.
  • The Sociopath: A seemingly universal trait of the mind vampires. While only the Oberst seems to be a true Sadist, the rest all have zero regard for the well-being of others and do whatever they want to whoever they want based solely on their own needs and wants.
  • Tongue Trauma: Melanie's first step in "training" Vincent is to force him to cut out most of his own tongue.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Island Club spends the book treating Melanie as an unstable outsider of little consequence beyond her liability. They have no inkling of the extent of her power or cunning.


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