Characters: Per Langstaff from Typhon’s Children

typhonsOh, Toni Anzetti, or Ann Tonsor Zeddies, whichever. She’s magnificent in her creation of alien worlds. Not so magnificent in her characters.

The Typhon series isn’t widely known, and I’ve never really met another who’s discussed it. However, it is an interesting trilogy involving the genetic manipulation of human DNA, and the wonders and monstrosities we could create.

Per Langstaff is one of these. He’s a biologist, and a shiptroll. The former is obvious, the latter is less so. Basically, Per, one of the main characters of Typhon’s Children and its sequel, Riders of Leviathan, is a genetic superhuman created to be a pilot. I think. I’m going to be perfectly honest. I read all three books in this series, and it wasn’t totally clear what Per was supposed to be. That’d be fine if the series didn’t totally revolve around him, but it does, so it’s glaring.

Here’s a quick background: Typhon is a planet discovered by humans far into the future. It’s settled by peaceful people, who don’t know how to commit violence except through hunting for food. The original colony is destroyed in a massive volcanic eruption, and the survivors go to a new island. That’s where the first book opens.

Now, here’s some background on Per (aside from his genetic creation background, which he is not fully aware of): he is fascinated with the plant and sea life of Typhon, he lost his lover on the original island, and he hates authority. Okay, not a bad background. Only, the problem is that Per doesn’t grow. He never gets past these three traits. Sure, he makes decisions and is pivotal to the novels, but as a character, you never feel like Per learned anything or developed. Also, he’s kind of a jerk.

There’s no Point B and Point C for him, he exists solely on Point A. As such, he’s not very likable.

You don’t have to like a character, you need to root for them. Even so, I never felt myself rooting for Per. I read on to see what happened, but I wasn’t compelled by his story and that of his companions. I felt no sympathy or empathy for him. I didn’t feel admiration and I certainly didn’t identify with anything he’d been through.

If you asked me on the street what I thought of Per Langstaff, I’d probably say, “Meh,” and shrug my shoulders.

Likability isn’t necessary, but it certainly helps. Empathy, admiration, recognition, these are things that help us to create a bond between our readers and our characters. If you don’t have those then you have your readers always far removed from the world you’ve created. You need to bridge that gap. Otherwise, you’ll just have another Per Langstaff that no one will really care about.

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