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Heroes Die (The Acts of Caine #1)

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  8,207 Ratings  ·  464 Reviews
Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does.

At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society,
Paperback, 545 pages
Published May 29th 1999 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 1998)
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Meru I only read the first book and it felt like a complete story, with the option to continue

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Okay, let me get the following BOLD STATEMENT out of the way. If I absolutely HAD to choose my single favorite BADASS “action” protagonist of all time HARI MICHELSON (AKA CAINE) would get the nod.
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Now I have read many books with main characters who “went to 11” on the 10 level kick-ass meter
so picking a favorite or comparing one to the other is very hard to do. However, overall, taking all aspects of nut stomping, bone-breaking, dialogue-delivering (very important), head-splitting, “you d
Apr 17, 2012 Felicia rated it it was amazing
WHOAH. Blast of testosterone to the face in the midst of my romance novel obsession. THIS WAS FANTASTIC!

So this book is really hard to describe, it takes place in a futuristic dystopian society that uses crazy technology to send "actors" to an alternate reality called Overworld, a traditional Fantasy-ish world. They are watched back home via virtual reality tech as the actors live in the Fantasy world, the fantasy people have no idea they're from an alternate dimension. The hero, Hari, is basica
Jul 09, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2013
In the author's own words, from the interview at the end of the book:

Q: How would you describe Heroes Die?
A: It’s a piece of violent entertainment that is a meditation on violent entertainment — as a concept in itself, and as a cultural obsession. It’s a love story: romantic love, paternal love, repressed homoerotic love, love of money, of power, of country, love betrayed and love employed as both carrot and stick. It’s a book about all different kinds of heroes, and all the different ways the
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 18, 2010 Mike (the Paladin) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This is an excellent book.

Please allow me to open with a caveat or two. First, I'm a Christian...I mean an actual practicing one. If you're a Christian (and possibly this will apply to those of you in other belief systems as well) you need to go into this knowing that it is not what I'd call "Christian friendly". On the other hand if you can read a book realizing "it's fiction" and can take what it has to say that's worthwhile and not be offended that it doesn't agree with you...I think you'll s
Sep 21, 2015 Brad rated it it was amazing
This was recommended to me because of my devotion to The Fortunate Fall, and not without good reason. It's a fantastic tale that requires patience at the beginning, but with each domino piece it sets up, it delivers one of the most exacting and brilliant payoffs I've read in any SF or F work.

That's saying something.

The novel is long and the crappy cover is off-putting, but the length does the tale very excellent justice, so I recommend that ya'll just ignore the eyesore and pick up this classic
David Sven
If there’s one word to describe Heroes Die – it’s Testosterone. This book has some of the most graphically violent action scenes you’ll find in anything written by Abercrombie or George RR Martin or any of the host of grimdark authors that have been populating the fantasy genre recently. And just in case you didn’t get enough Testosterone from the actual writing, the audio narration will have the short and curlies growing out of control from crotch to neck. Stefan Rudnicki is the man and his dee ...more
Jul 19, 2013 Rob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Dark Fantasy
Executive Summary: Dark Fantasy/Sci-Fi that is more gruesome in places than anything I've read from Joe Abercrombie or George R.R. Martin.

Full Review
It's hard to believe this book was published in the late 90's. It would be right at home with all the Dark Fantasy that seems to be abundant these days. This book is way more gruesome in places than most of the so-called "grimdark" fantasy I've read recently. This seems to be a book that has gone under the radar of most fantasy fans.

This is defini
Jan 05, 2008 J. rated it it was amazing
I forget, for long periods of time, how tremendously awesome epic fantasy books can be. When they are well-written, with high stakes, well-drawn and fascinating characters, scenes and set-pieces which fit together perfectly, constantly ratcheting up the tension and suspense... reading experiences don't come much better for me.

To be clear, this isn't pure epic fantasy: it's a combination of fantasy and science fiction, where Actors from a future Earth go adventuring in Overworld (which is a "grit
Nov 08, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2012
5 Stars

After nearly 15 years of being in my reading queue, Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover more than lived up to my high expectations. This brutally dark and twisted, and often funny science fiction fantasy blend is just so much damn fun!!!! I admit that I am sure that there are flaws in this book, in the plot, and even in our wonderful heroes, but to me it is as if Matthew Woodring Stover wrote this book just for me and my sick and twisted sense of humor. Hot damn Stover even combines my
Apr 21, 2009 Jon rated it liked it
3.5 stars

The pros: Great combat scenes, lots of fast-paced action, dystopian future Earth reminiscent of ancient history repeating itself, and plots within plots ... all for your entertainment.

The cons: Prolific profanity (although I suppose it could be argued that it's all relevant and 'in character'), graphic violence (again relevant and 'in character'), lust/love seen through testosterone-tinged viewpoint and only one decent character afloat in the grey morass of moral ambiguity.

Alex Ristea
Jul 14, 2011 Alex Ristea rated it it was amazing
My new favourite book that probably no one has read.

Matthew Stover is the king of action. You thought Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie were gritty? Heroes Die is outright nasty, then. Glotka doesn't even hold a hot iron to this guy.

The premise is interesting--a mashup of sci-fi and fantasy, where "actors" in a future earth strap into these chairs which send them to an alternate universe (a fantasy medieval setting) where their adventures are watched by millions of people back home. Lots of oppo
Apr 10, 2017 spikeINflorida rated it really liked it
Middle Earth meets Las Vegas...where lesbian elves pimp hookers and manage casinos, pixy ferries groove as sexy lap warmers, and ogres and trolls are employed as bouncers. HEROES DIE was such a kick in the rumpus! The author has created rich, colorful worlds with strong characters that I loved, loathed, and followed with rapt attention. The protagonist was deadlier than Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee. The female leads were tough, intelligent, and yeah, sexy. I hated to love the evil villain and loved ...more
Sep 02, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first novel by this author & it was quite a pleasant surprise. He handled two distinct worlds very well. One is a high tech, rather dystopian world, the other one full of swords & sorcery. Not a new idea, but it was a rather new way of putting it together with plenty of excitement throughout.

The characters were well drawn with logical, sometimes complex motivations. There were multiple heroic figures, plenty of bad guys, & they didn't always stay where they started out. They grew
Paul O'Neill
May 13, 2015 Paul O'Neill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Don't let the crappy cover fool you, this is a great book! I'm surprised this hasn't made its way to the big, or small, screen. It has everything, kick ass main character (who develops throughout the story), fast paced action, magic and fantasy elements, gods, war, a really touching love story and reality tv.
Aug 12, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it
Wonderful... brutal... and full of intrigue and action. Why Stover is not a standard bearer for fantasy I will never know. Highly recommended.
Kitvaria Sarene
I loved this one! It combines a bit of SciFi with a fantasy world, as it is about human actors who get transferred to another plane were they fight or assassinate people. Those adventures get broadcasted at home for a lot of money.

It was quite corey and bloody, and kept me well entertained all the time through.

I clicked with the main character very fast, and loved to see his development over the course of the story. Once I started it, it was really hard to put it down - I will make sure to come
Twerking To Beethoven
So there's this very popular actor, - Hari Michaelson - alright? He plays Caine, a fully-fledged badass who kicks all sorts of arse in a fantasy world. Only Ankhana isn't actually a fictitious world, it really exists in a parallel dimension. So, whenever people watch one of Caine's movies, they're watching stuff that's happening for real.

Now Caine... picture a cross between Harry Callahan, Dutch off Predator, John McClane and Conan. That's the sort of badass Caine is. Actually, everybody's a me
Dec 15, 2011 Artemas rated it really liked it
To quote Matt Stover: "Fuck me like a virgin goat."

I'm pretty torn on this one. 4 stars, but that's probably the biggest round-up from a 3 that I'll ever grant on Goodreads. I found the first half of this book to be a little bizarre. As things started to click I got dragged into the story and the end made up for the confusion caused by the beginning.

I still have a bunch of questions about the "setting" that I hope will be answered in the next volume of the series.
Jo Anne B
Aug 17, 2012 Jo Anne B rated it it was amazing
Heroes Die

My husband loved this book so much that he made me read it. I am glad I did.  

I like badass heroes and Caine filled that role quite well.  I really enjoyed Stover's writing style which incorporated humor and heart amidst all the vulgarity and violence. It made me like the characters more when they would say a line such as "Well, what's up her goddamn ass then? There's probably five billion women that'd sell both their tits and an ovary to spend one night with you! Jesus Christ!" I don'
So... This book. I'm gonna go with 2.5 stars here.

I started this book a month and a half ago, give or take a couple days. It felt like I was reading it forever and ever... and there were times when I thought it would never end. To be fair, there was a lot going on in my life that made reading take a back-burner, but even when I did pick this book up, it just... didn't grab me.

And in general, I think that's the problem I had overall - I just kept waiting for this book, this story, to grab me...
Jun 08, 2015 Sumant rated it liked it
Yesterday while searching the internet for under rated fantasy books I came across this book Heroes die. I am really amazed as to why this series did not become much popular, may be people still liked reading tolkienesque fantasy at that time or the genre of grimdark was in its infancy stage at that time.This book has all the elements of grimdark to the brink, but the story is also one of the strong points of this book, the other being the world in which it is set.

Some of the strong points of th
Dec 10, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover is one of those often overlooked novels important to both science fiction and fantasy. Hari Michaelson is better known as Caine, the Blade of Tyshelle, a brutal assassin on the world called Overworld. His adventures are experienced by millions of people back home where his many assassinations and staggering body count have made him a superstar. When Hari/Caine’s wife goes missing in Overworld he is sent against the world’s newest dictator in a mission with l ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia
I couldn't finish this one. I renewed it 3 times because I wanted to be able to finish it, but I'm giving up.

This is a fascinating story. The world is interesting, complex and full of potential, as are the male characters. It's well-written and mostly believable. But I'm stuck on two major, major issues.

1) What is with all the shit? And I mean that literally. I'm no wilting lily who can't stand to read about graphic violence, grit and gore. There just seems to be a never-ending river of it in t
Sep 03, 2014 Nelson rated it really liked it
I had read so many amazing things about this book that maybe, just maybe, that's why I really liked it but I didn't love it. The final product could not reach my expectations.

Nevertheless, this is a really good book! 100% adventure with a little bit of social commentary to spice things up.

The highlight is without a doubt Stover's ability to pull of some really good actions sequences. They are written with so much clarity that I could see every movement, punch, kick, and roll in my head. They ar
Христо Блажев
Износ на хаос:

Антиутопично кастово общество от близкото бъдеще, вманиачено по реалити шоу, в което хора се пренасят в друга реалност и участват в шеметни – и доста кървави – приключения. На пръв поглед – нищо оригинално. Но на втори – “Героите умират” на Матю Стоувър е брутално фентъзи с примес на фантастика, излязло през далечната 1997 г., което дава начало на поредица от четири книги, последната от които излиза през 2012 г. Зачетох го, без да проверя да
Oct 30, 2014 MT rated it it was ok
The protagonist, CAINE, is one BADASS MOTHERFUCKER. He doesn't take MESS from ANYBODY, not STUDIO HEADS, not GOD-EMPERORS, not his BITCH-DEITY-WIIIIIIFE. Watch him take out OVERWHEMLING numbers of cannon fodder with GRUESOME violence.


You want distopian future SCIFI? Here ya go! You want more FANTASY than you can handle? FUCK YOU YOU GOT IT


Laura Lulu
Aug 07, 2010 Laura Lulu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magic, sci-fi
Fast paced, gritty writing style and great fight scenes. But that was all it was. The characters were two dimensional and completely unsympathetic. I need character development and motivations as much--if not more--than gritty & action packed. I need to like the main character--he doesn't have to be perfect, in fact, I prefer it if he's not. But I didn't give a rat's patootey about Hari/Caine--he was a self-absorbed dickhead.
Aug 07, 2016 A. rated it really liked it
It took me a while to get into this, and I'll admit that my interest waxed and waned, but it was all brought together really nicely with a great ending. I'd recommend it to anyone that enjoys some scifi with their fantasy!
Sep 09, 2015 Jakyro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Heroes Die is the first part in the Acts of Caine fantasy series. Although being fantasy, the story also incorporates some intriguing sci-fi elements. We follow the tale of Hari Michaelson whose life is set on earth where a cast system has been put in place. As an actor Hari belongs to the 'professional' cast and is known across the globe for his performances as the assassin Caine. For his performances as Caine, Hari is transported to another universe to impersonate his character there on a worl ...more
Richard Guion
Jan 05, 2016 Richard Guion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have seen rave reviews of this novel for years, finally decided to try it - BOOM! This is action adventure par excel-lance, with influences felt from Heinlein, Zelazny and Leiber. Other reviewers like Mike the Paladin can describe the plot / flavor of the story. What I liked the most was the concept of Overworld and how it related to the Earth. Overworld is a "real" world (not simulated by a computer) where magic exists, where sword-fighters still exist in a pre-industrialized city-state. Eart ...more
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Matthew Woodring Stover is an American fantasy and science fiction author. He is perhaps best known for his Star Wars novels -- Traitor, Shatterpoint, Revenge of the Sith and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. He has also published several pieces of original work, such as Heroes Die, which Stover described as 'a piece of violent entertainment that is a meditation on violent entertainment'. ...more
More about Matthew Woodring Stover...

Other Books in the Series

The Acts of Caine (4 books)
  • Blade of Tyshalle (The Acts of Caine, #2)
  • Caine Black Knife (The Acts of Caine, #3)
  • Caine's Law (The Acts of Caine, #4)

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“A lie is like a pet- you have to take care of it, or it'll turn on you and bite you in the ass.” 21 likes
“I believe in justice, as long as I'm holding a knife at the throat of the judge.” 8 likes
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