Jason's Reviews > Heroes Die

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
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May 18, 12

bookshelves: read-2012, e-books
Read from May 07 to 18, 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 favorite two genres making this book one that will satisfy my deepest carnal and intellectual needs. The pacing is fast and frenetic with just enough pauses for commercial breaks to make this a tough book to put down. There is a sufficient amount of world building and backstory that create this rich and dynamic world, and launch this series as all great epic fantasies do.

Like others have said the book takes place in the near future here on Earth, but in that time we have discovered and alternate universe version of our planet called Overworld by us and Ankhana by them.

““But I can explain it to you—and your viewers—the same way it was explained to me. You see, Earth and Overworld are the same planet in different universes. Each universe, the whole thing, sort of vibrates in its own way—what they call the Universal Constant of Resonance. Now, it doesn’t really vibrate, that’s just the easiest way to think about it. We go from one to the other by changing our Constant of Resonance to match the other universe. Is everybody confused yet?””

The real kicker is that in this time period, reality television has taken on an even darker, greed filled life of its own. “Hollywood” of that time period takes things to the extreme, you see, Hari Michelson, our main protagonist is an actor playing a part in Overworld as Caine. For over 20 years Michelson has played roles and adventures in Overworld for people in his time to watch as entertainment. He is by far the biggest and most popular actor in the world, and therefore also the most profitable. This novel unfolds with many pauses in the action on Overworld to commercial like updates on Hari’s Earth. Corporate greed of that time is nearly as scary as armies of soldiers and hitmen.

The plot is fairly linear but Stover does a nice job at throwing in a few really cool unforeseen twists. The side characters add great flavors to this book, but it is Caine that makes it stand out.

It is also important to point out that Matthew Woodring Stover is not afraid to write profanity, nor does he shy away from penning out gruesome and graphic violence. If this bothers you please do not read the rest of this review, and be warned, that if you decide to read this book, it is filled with colorful language. Not since Joe Abercrombie and his First Law series have I felt so in touch with the author and connected to his choice of words:

“I jam the knife into his eye. I use the knife to twist his face away from me: a bloodstain on this livery could be fatal, on my way out. He flops like a salmon that’s found unexpected land beneath an upstream leap. This is only his body’s last unconscious attempt to live; it goes hand-in-hand with the release of his bowels and bladder. He shits and pisses all over himself and his satin-weave sheets—another one of those primordial reflexes, a futile dodge to make his meat unappetizing to the predator.”

“You say. Nobody puts magick on me, Caine. Nobody. Don’t they know I’ll kill them? Do these fumbledicks have any clue who they’re fucking, here? I’ve got Abbal Paslava the freakingSpellbinder —he’ll do these bastards till their dicks stick up their own assholes and they fuck themselves with every step!”

Not all of Stover’s writing is so gratuitous. He is equally adept at writing well written and descriptive scenes that create a painting type of view.
“Caine stepped casually within, his half smile blurred by the raging Flow that whirled around him. He closed the door behind himself and leaned against it. Those shadow forms were back again, those ghostly Caine doubles that his every motion seemed to spawn. He was so utterly prepared for any possible action that the ghost doubles took on a solidity in the Flow around him. She could see them now, vague shifting patternings of force, where before she had only imagined them.”
Most importantly I need to tell everyone that Hari Michelson, aka Caine, aka the Blade of Tyshalle, is simply one of the coolest, kick ass, in your face, mother f#er, ever to be written. I thought that Logen “Ninefingers” was my favorite, but after just this one book, Caine may have taken the front seat. This book is all about Caine the assassin, Caine the actor and Hari the man who fails to see just how much more he really is. Unlike comic book super heroes, Caine and Hari do not play out as a hero and an alter ego. They are very much the same person set in completely different worlds. Hari would get along great with Tony Stark. In an action packed novel that had me hooting and hollering on more than one occasion, it was a scene with Hari and his father Duncan that I loved the most. They had several great conversations that ended up being the pivot point and the heart of how this book comes to a head. In this scene Duncan gives his son some advice”

“First, quit whining. Then quit kidding yourself. Let the Chairman, let the Emperor, let everybody think that Caine is who you are—just don’t let yourself think that. That’s your edge. People have been watching you almost twenty years, and nobody knows yet how smart you really are. Take those baby steps, Hari—inch toward daylight. Trust that if you just don’t quit, eventually you’ll find yourself on the pivot, you’ll be in a spot where one bold stroke will lock everything down. You know your enemy, but he doesn’t know you. Kollberg thinks that as long as you can’t get your hands on him, he’s safe.”

The actions of Caine in this book and the violence both portrayed and insinuated at make him one scary son of a bitch. He is an anti hero not to be missed. I loved every bit of this book and because of my “man-crush” on Caine, I will overlook any flaws that their might have been. This book will be loved by all fans of the First Law series and the Gentleman Bastards.


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Jo Anne B Excellent review! I have to read this.


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