Books

Goth

This guy.

Here we have evil in the form of a dark-furred prince. When people say bats are scary, they’re talking about Goth. Goth of the Vampyrum Spectrum.

Goth is the primary antagonist of Kenneth Oppel’s award-winning Silverwing trilogy. It follows the saga of Shade, a runty bat who defies his deficient stature on a journey to return his kind to the light of day. Oppel is a tremendously fine writer, having put careful craft into each installment of the series. His protagonist is never too powerful or too helpless, and goes through a believable cycle of conflicts, obstacles, and emotions. Shade is a great hero, and so he needed a great villain. Duty called in the form of Goth, the massive cannibal bat from the southern jungle.

Picture his name hanging in capitals on the middle of the page. That was your introduction to this character (unless, of course, you read the summary on the back cover). The tonal shift in the next few sentences begins to impose upon you a darker force coming forward, dampening the temperature of your mind and parting the fronds of deep green jungle foliage toward a much bigger story that’s about to unfold. The time is up for a book filled with Shade. Now the lurking feeling of insidiousness creeps into your bones as you read the opening lines of Goth; quiet, patient, angered, and hiding his contempt as he watches the Man inside a false jungle cage.

Goth starts off a captive of Human scientists. He is not sure what they need him for or why his god Cama Zotz allowed them in his path, but Goth does not have the fear of the scientists that would leave other subjects cowering behind the stiff fronds in the back of the cage’s false trees. Goth holds hatred for the Humans and only a little bit of hesitance at the mystery of why they need him. For Goth is no mere insect-eating bat, worming away at small prey and burrowing into fearful clusters for the day. Goth is not even your average Vampyrum Spectrum, the greatest kind of bat around. He is a prince, and the chosen servant of Zotz himself, loyally doing his bidding.

Goth is a calculating individual. He sees others as means to an end, biding his time while he acts upon how his current companions are of the best aid to him. He uses them and then disposes of them, ignores them, or eats them. Shade and his northern friend Marina were originally going to make a snack for Goth after he learned how to navigate home by himself. But when he finds out an entire hibernating colony awaits at the end of Shade’s journey, he sees the little bat as a literal meal ticket to benefit his royal family. And so Goth becomes the dark salesman, telling Shade about all the benefits of journeying to the jungle instead.

His plan was flawed, something he at first didn’t appreciate. Goth is horribly arrogant, a flaw even his god points out when they finally meet (burn). He also has a capacity for grudge. Getting his overzealous pride wounded by Shade and Marina strikes a deep vengeance in Goth that passes through the entire trilogy. It’s mostly Shade he hates, and it’s some really deep hatred. “I will eat your beating heart,” Goth whispers to a pinned Shade in a Sunwing dream, and then he plunges down his beastly snout and does exactly so.

To northern bats, Goth looks like a nightmare. His appearance is often conjured with eye-widening descriptions that draw you in toward the monster: a pointy flared nose, “a long, houndlike set of jaws” with sharp teeth, “huge, black, unblinking eyes; the high pointed ears, the crest of bristly black fur between them (Sunwing)”. Add a sky-blocking wingspan of three feet and you get GOTH, terror of Shade’s dreams. He doesn’t just plot, he follows. Some of the series’ many book covers have Shade up front, flapping through the sky, and hanging above him like a dark vulture, Goth. The two always crossing paths, as though it were fate.

I really like his character.

Not Goth himself, mind you. It’d be hard working with or befriending this guy. But as a character he so deliciously draws you into teeming darkness. Goth brims with evil, inside and out, and his very presence in the novels brings you to a hush as you read about his selfishness, his assuredness, his plans. He has an air of slight mystery, and does much of his work away from prying eyes, knowing his glorious, dark path. Perhaps his one redeeming quality is that he is truly devoted to his god. But then anyone would be, when they would be gifted with special status for serving their god so well.

Goth is also the antagonist of the Silverwing TV show, although he’s not as sinister as his OG counterpart. He’s still pretty fiendish though, having a body count and occasionally reveling with an accented chuckle as he begins to perform a dark deed. I can’t help but recall a comical scene in one episode, a surreal Work Together scenario in “Strange Batfellows” where Goth and Shade are trapped in a cave and rely on each other to get out. At one point Goth starts talking about how reverent one should be toward Zotz.

“How dare you blaspheme the almighty King of Darkness! […] Zotz lives in the molten core of the earth. His head is a giant bat skull with blood-red eyes and razor teeth to slice the flesh of those who mock him.”

Shade can barely steady his voice after finding out the extent of Goth’s involvement. “You’ve seen him?”

Goth sighs. “No,” he admits. “But you hear things.”

That’s Goth. Arrogant, intelligent, manipulative, observant; pious, but loyal to one, this bat is something to be feared. Check out the Silverwing series today to see what this vicious vampire bat does on his quest to honor his god and forever end Shade.

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