Fiction in which torture doesn't work (open spoilers likely)

I am re-reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman, for various dishonest reasons, and I’ve just gotten to a point in which the witch Serafina, invisibly penetrating the enemy stronghold, sees that one of her sister witches (captured earlier in the tale) is being tortured and is about to give up crucial information that will lead to the Evils of Religion conquering the Virtues of Iconoclasm. Serafina kills the captive witch, both as a mercy and to keep her from giving up the secret.

As I read this scene, something occurred to me. Among the arguments against using torture in the real world is its unreliabilty; since torture victims will say virtually anything to stop the pain, it’s not uncommon for them to lie; thus whatever they say must be verified by other means, making the entire exercise of little utility (except for recreational sadists). In adventure fiction, though, it’s generally taken as a given that pain-based interrogation will in fact work. At least, in the fiction that I’ve read.

Which leads me to the thread question: in what fiction has torture been depicted as NOT working the way Jack Bauer, Bruce Wayne, and Sauron expect?

Star Wars

Tarkin: “She lied! She lied to us!”

There is tons of adventure fiction where the hero is tortured and manages to deceive the bad guys about some key point. James Bond was regularly tortured, for instance.

In the most recent episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Frank (Danny DeVito’s character) water-boarded two people (one on-screen using a urinal,) and both gave false information.

Dennis: Does it work?
Frank: I got her admitting to shit she didn’t even do!
Dennis: Oh, then it totally works.

James Bond: Casino Royale.

(By the way, my only gripe with that movie is how James’ rescue is so deus ex machinaed.)

Marathon Man too, but in that case it’s because the torturee really knew nothing.

In a Season 1 episode of Battlestar Galactica, Flesh and Bone, Starbuck interrogates a captured Cylon for the location of a bomb he supposedly planted.

She doesn’t get the location, but he gets under her skin and confuses her about the nature of the enemy. He later reveals there was no bomb. He just wanted to mess with her. Its a great episode, he gets beaten up and waterboarded (I think?), but owns her the entire time…

Star Trek:

There are four lights!

Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle – the Good Guy manages to lie convincingly to Der Nadle despite torture and death, which is how he ended up in the mess he was in.

I don’t know about that one. True, the torturer didn’t get the answer he wanted, but Picard confesses at the end to Troi that he did see five lights.

Well, it DID work in that case; Picard DID break. He told Troi that he could see five lights (or was it three? However many lights Mengele!Cardassian said there were) and was about to say so when he was released.

Yojimbo. Sanjuro is captured and badly beaten to get him to reveal where Ushitora’s mistress is hiding, but says nothing.

Raiders of Gor. A captured prisoner, nameless, has been put to the question, and he is now readily implicating all the participating cities in a conspiracy to attack Port Kar. The conspirators include, when he is asked, Port Kar itself. :smack:

“I Claudius”, when Sejanus is having Gallus beaten to sign a confession. Nice contrast with Patrick Stewart as the emotionless, but pleasant torturer. “Wake him up and we’ll begin again.”

In Rich Burlew’s awesome webcomic The Order of the Stick, the paladin O-Chul is being tortured by the bad guys for information about the defenses of the two remaining Gates, but he never breaks. Of course, he also doesn’t know anything, but the bad guys are convinced that he’s just really, really tough (which he is, of course) and is somehow hiding the truth from them.

Come to think of it, torture rarely, if ever, seems to work out right when it’s the main character being tortured. At least not that I can think of offhand.

I know. I was more thinking of cases of a non-protagonist being tortured and givng false or misleading info. I mean, we all know that BATMAN isn’t going to break. That’s what “Batman” means.

In Tom Clancy’s The Sum of all Fears, a terrorist involved in nuking Denver lies, implicating Iran and the President tries to have it nuked. Only the refusal of his subordinates to obey keeps that from happening until the truth is discovered.

I don’t recall the title, but there’s a Ben Bova story where a man is tortured by a worldwide Soviet state. They use multiple deaths with cloned bodies and transferred memories; pretty nasty. When he doesn’t break, they send him to a exile planet Siberia style, and he’s been turned from a harmless fellow into a fanatic dedicated to return and lay waste to Earth even if it takes generations.

For a humorous example, there’s a Keith Laumer Retief novel where the villainous Groaci “torture” Retief using methods that are completely ineffective on humans.

For another humorous example, there’s the completely ineffective attempt to torture Morticia in the Addams Family movie. "You’ve done this before, haven’t you ?’

It’s a Gor novel. Torture is an end-in-itself. :wink:

There’s the scene in Dune where the Bene Gesserit put Paul’s hand in a neural-induction torture device – he doesn’t break, but, then, you can’t say the procedure doesn’t “work,” as its only purpose is to test his resolve.

In The Diamond Age, Judge Fang has a journalist tortured in court, via nerve-stimulating nanobots, for information – it doesn’t work, but only because the journalist is prepared with his own nanobots that neutralize the effect, and he’s willing to give up the information anyway.

Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination is tortured by Saul Dagenham as to the whereabouts of his ship Nomad. Foyle is able to resist their techniques because of he is so singlemindedly obsessed with locating and exacting revenge on the Vorga.

In Mercedes Lackey’s Velgarth novels, Heralds are taught–according to a Herald who gets pretty thoroughly tortured–to lie as often and as inventively as they can manage, because sooner or later, they will tell the truth, and will hopefully have muddied the waters enough that their interrogators won’t be able to tell.

In fact, when that Herald does tell her tormentors a bit of true information, they dismiss it as a ridiculous lie.

Talia, of course, in Arrow’s Fall. When they ask her how she got a message to her people to prepare for an attack on the border, she tells them that her horse escaped and warned them.

Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED- The Collectivists want John Galt to surrender to them by leading them out of the impending collapse … on their terms. When he refuses, they hook him up to an electrical torture device which burns out after he won’t break.

And he tells them how to fix it.

The technician flees.

And it gets better.