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SURVIVOR 41: Heroes Vs. Villains, Literary Edition

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Jenn Northington

Director, Editorial Operations

Jenn Northington has worked in the publishing industry wearing various hats since 2004, including bookseller and events director, and is currently Director of Editorial Operations at Riot New Media Group. You can hear her on the SFF Yeah! podcast nerding out about sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not working, she’s most likely gardening, running, or (obviously) reading. Find her on Tumblr at jennIRL and Instagram at iamjennIRL.

How do you top Survivor season 40: Winners at War? This burning question has occupied fans of the show since the finale aired in May 2020, and it will be no easy feat. But I believe I have the solution: heroes vs. villains, literary style!

The best seasons of Survivor give us contestants to root for and to boo from the safety of our couches. They give us dark horses and favorites who go out early, manipulators both obvious and subtle, players who swear by their families and mean it. Sometimes there are heroes who turn out to be villains all along, and sometimes the villains have hearts of gold. There are people we love to hate (looking at you, Russell Hantz!) and ones we love to love (Natalie Anderson, you have my heart!). And part of the glory of season 40 is that if you were a longtime fan, you already knew these players. You’ve seen their past game, you already have your favorites going in, and best of all, you know that they’re there to play.

Enter the below characters! We’ve seen them in the pages of our favorite novels, and we’ve watched them struggle against all kinds of different odds. But unlike the season 40 contestants, these characters don’t know each other. What reader or watcher doesn’t love knowing more than the ones playing the game? Truly, this will be a season for the books.

Let’s meet our contestants!


count of monte cristo by alexandre dumas

Edmund Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas)

OCCUPATION: man of leisure and great influence

STRENGTHS: spent 14 years unjustly imprisoned, highly educated and determined

WEAKNESSES: does not easily forgive and will hold a grudge for basically ever

cover of A Study in Scarlet Women, featuring a woman in a red dress walking into a doorway that is spilling light out into the night

Charlotte Holmes (A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas)

OCCUPATION: secret detective

STRENGTHS: is used to working behind the scenes and under the radar, unparalleled skills of deduction and mental prowess

WEAKNESSES: not so great at the whole “being friendly with people” thing

The Night Watchman cover

Thomas Wazhashk (The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich)

OCCUPATION: night watchman at a jewelry factory, Chippewa Council member

STRENGTHS: has been through worse things, is very good at wrangling people, faced down the U.S. Congress; has wisdom and experience

WEAKNESSES: is getting older, not sure how well he’ll play the physical game

cover of Talented Ribkins: a cartoonish illustration of a car driving across the page with red arrows pointing in different directions

Eloise Ribkins (The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard)


STRENGTHS: one of the youngest competitors, she’s got the most to prove; her secret talent for catching things might also come in handy, if she can keep it a secret

WEAKNESSES: her youth and inexperience; tends to be impulsive

Gideon the Ninth cover

Gideon Nav (Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir)

OCCUPATION: cavalier of the Ninth House

STRENGTHS: have you seen her biceps lately, also she’s faced down literal bone demons so this is nothing

WEAKNESSES: is still mad they didn’t let her bring her sword, wears her heart on her sleeve and her brain on her face

cover image of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Noemí Taboada (Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia)

OCCUPATION: graduate student

STRENGTHS: her beauty and social graces; people will dismiss her as just a pretty face

WEAKNESSES: she’s pretty sure she doesn’t have any, thanks very much

severance book cover

Candace Chen (Severance by Ling Ma)

OCCUPATION: former Bible production assistant, currently in between jobs

STRENGTHS: already survived an epidemic and dealt with all the jerks who also survived, so this is going to be nothing

WEAKNESSES: can be impatient with others, not super into massaging anyone else’s ego

Book Cover of Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Evan Whitesky (Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice)

OCCUPATION: jack of all trades, father

STRENGTHS: very easy-going and good at getting along with people; responsible; has survival and wilderness experience already

WEAKNESSES: tropical survival isn’t necessarily his forte

cover image of All Systems Red (Kindle Single)- The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Murderbot (The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells)

OCCUPATION: former Sec-Unit

STRENGTHS: is a robot and therefore does not need to eat to survive, will dominate at challenges

WEAKNESSES: genuinely hoping to be voted out first, doesn’t know why it let its humans talk it into this, THIS IS THE WORST


cover of Vanity Fair

Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray)

OCCUPATION: a lady doesn’t work, and she is now a lady, thank you very much

STRENGTHS: extremely good at manipulating people, knows what she wants and how to get it

WEAKNESSES: overconfidence

Crazy Rich Asians cover

Eleanor Young (Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan)

OCCUPATION: matriarch

STRENGTHS: has spent decades dealing with the social and financial elite as well as wrangling her family, forceful personality

WEAKNESSES: not very excited about the lack of food and comforts but will just have to ensure her team wins all the rewards

cover of The Living Is Easy

Cleo Judson (The Living is Easy by Dorothy West)

OCCUPATION: woman of means

STRENGTHS: very smart and good at getting people to do what she wants, is genuinely unsure why she’s on the Villains team and believes she has been miscast

WEAKNESSES: forgets (actually, just doesn’t care) that others might have plans of their own, not super into physical exertion

cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which is a very abstracted and stylized illustration of trees in a forest

Janina (Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

OCCUPATION: retired cabin caretaker

STRENGTHS: everyone dismisses her as a harmless, kooky old lady, which allows her to work behind the scenes; strong for her age

WEAKNESSES: sometimes gets carried away, especially when animals are involved

Jade City cover

Kaul Hilo (Jade City by Fonda Lee)

OCCUPATION: definitely not a gang member, why do you ask

STRENGTHS: physical strength, he is going to DOMINATE all the challenges and outlast everyone, even without using jade powers

WEAKNESSES: hot-tempered, extremely unsubtle

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina cover

Orquídea Montoya (The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova)

OCCUPATION: matriarch

STRENGTHS: she’s got nothing to lose since she knows she’ll die soon anyway; people will underestimate her since she’s just a harmless abuelita; strong willpower

WEAKNESSES: extremely unlucky

cover of Light From Uncommon Stars, featuring a colorful koi fish floating against the backdrop of space

Tremon Philippe (Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki)


STRENGTHS: he’s a demon (although he has managed to convince the producers that he’s a human); is motivated less by the money and more by the opportunity to corrupt some human souls on behalf of Hell

WEAKNESSES: the pesky innate goodness of certain humans

cover of Borne, featuring an extremely eye-catching but confusing illustration of a blobby feathery thing

Borne (Borne by Jeff VanderMeer)

OCCUPATION: discarded lab experiment

STRENGTHS: capacity to evolve to suit its environment

WEAKNESSES: genuinely unsure how it got past, or even into, the casting process (but was bored so figured why not); does not have human motivations or care about money

cover of Never Saw Me Coming, featuring a close-up of a young woman's face in sepia tones

Chloe Sevre (Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian)


STRENGTHS: as a psychopath she was made for this game; young and strong

WEAKNESSES: really hoping no one gives her any reasons to kill anyone because the producers said if she does, they’ll boot her from the show

And there you have it: a slate of players that will shock, surprise, and engage viewers from the arrival on the beach to the final vote. Pick your favorite, and tune in to see what happens next!