Nenia Campbell's Reviews > Heroes Die
by Matthew Woodring Stover
this book was that good. no, really. it was that good.
i've been going into hunger games withdrawals because the trilogy was not enough. i wanted moar, dammit. and after searching endlessly through lists of 'books like the hunger games' i landed upon heroes die by matthew stover. i immediately embarked on a search for the book, with low expectations. surely, the used bookstore would not have the object of my quest at low, low prices? but it did. it did, bitches! and for fifty cents i walked away with it.
heroes die takes place in a futuristic earth. commercial companies basically rule the world through the iron hand of the entertainment industry. accordingly, a caste system has developed, with the business execs at the top, and entertainers - or actors - made to serve. of course, actors get money, fame, and tons of babes - they just have to survive.
because, you see, reality tv has been taken to new levels. through advanced technology, scientists discovered a parallel earth operating on the same frequency as our earth, allowing relatively easy back and forth travel. except this earth is your sword-and-sorcery-type affair, with technology that borders on medieval and steampunk. there are elves, knights, kings, and trolls - and we kill them and f*ck with their society and social mores because... say it with me now...
caine is the most famous actor. he's pretty much, like, the chuck norris of the entertainment industry. people pay big bucks to experience vicariously his adventures as an assassin in the overworld. he's so popular, in fact, that people buy tapes of his old adventures to pop into their virtual reality consoles so they can live as him over and over and over again.
"omg guess wut u guys i'm totally cained rite now!!!!!"
caine's real name is hari michaelson, and he's not very happy with his life. people don't know him as hari; they only know him as the horrible man who is responsible for destroying thousands of lives on the overworld. he's getting older and knows it - and he suspects his boss, the nefarious mr. kollberg - is going to keep him going until he dies; because his death will be worth billions in and of itself. after all, the only thing people like better than a hero is a fallen hero.
but quitting is out of the question when he realizes that his ex-wife shanna leighton, whom he still loves, is in grave danger in the overworld. because she's an actor, too. her game-name is pallas ril. but she's never been as popular as caine - and kollberg is going to let her "degrade" (i.e. get ravaged by plummeting through the other parallel dimensions back to earth) unless caine can save her in time. and that's not going to be easy, because she's in the middle of a conspiracy plot.
one thing to keep in mind, though, is that heroes die is insanely violent. this is not a young adult book. in fact, a pretty good way of describing this would be an m-rated version of the hunger games. people get decapitated, impaled, bludgeoned, burned, beaten, exploded, raped, tortured - in fact there's a lecture on torture with live vivisection (which was a little too much for me. i was kind of like, 'la la la time to skim').
the good news is that there isn't more gore than is necessary. stover tries admirably hard to use the show not tell device to show you who's evil, rather than tell you who's evil.
it works. my god. berne. that guy is one sick mofo.
but the romance between caine and shanna was incredibly well done. even though i didn't like caine at first (at all), i really liked him by the end. sure, he told us in his narratives that he loved pallas, but the way he showed it was so much more convincing and powerful. i also loved the world-building. the ending really made me wonder what the overworld would be like, and how it would recover. and now i understand that this book is part of a series so that might happen?
at various times i was torn between 3.5, 4, and ultimately 4.5 stars. but you know what? i think this book deserves the full five. it's earned its place as part of my permanent collection, and i can genuinely see myself reading this again (after the next books, though!!!! OMG WANTWANTWANT).
and if you need any more convincing that you should read this book right now, just look at this:
overworld: more awesome than dinosaurs with frickin' laserbeams attached to their frickin' heads
||7.0%||"i can already tell that this book and i are going to go together like lime and mint in a mojito. LOVEEEEE IT!!!"|
||38.0%||"i want this book to last longer. hence the slow-reading. NEED MOAR."|
||57.0%||"i wasn't sure whether i liked caine or not until now. he's an asshole, but he's an asshole with morals. i absolutely love him for saving lamorak from being tortured, despite the fact that the dude's been sleeping with his life. i'm also glad he didn't sleep with that skank-ho talann. YAY!!"|
"lol jk lamorak needs to die a.s.a.p.