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Heroes Die

(The Acts of Caine #1)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  10,812 ratings  ·  600 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,
Mass Market 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

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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-sp
Apr 17, 2012 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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 09, 2013 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 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 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
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing

First off, cheers to Thomas Stacey for the recommendation.. This book is definitely going in as one of my absolute faves for 2017.

"I have lived every day of my life only to bring myself here to this moment and it has been worth every moment"

This author has written an epic love story that you're not even totally aware of until you're sucked in. This isn't hearts and roses strewn on the floor. This is like blood, guts, broken bones, severed limbs, bring down the gaddamn world kind of love stor
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
Nov 08, 2011 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
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fantasy
This book would have been a five star read if it had just been trimmed by about 100-150 pages.
The main plot doesn't even kick in until 100 pages in, for example. When the book does get to the point, though, it is great. The worlds that the book takes place in are dark and captivating, the action is brutal, and the characters are all pretty interesting. It also has a lot to say about the ways in which people are entertained (even at the expense of others).

I am glad I read it, but I don't know i
Jan 05, 2008 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
Jul 19, 2013 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 defi
Paul O'Neill
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
An exciting modern day Conan the Barbarian sword & sorcery fantasy, with a dash of V for Vendetta, and an amazingly clever story-within-a-story setup. Stover's construct for wrapping his fantasy world within a dystopian world of science fiction is brilliant, and makes this story memorable as a true hybrid that spans both genres in a holistic way. Beyond that, there's a lot to like here - tons of amusing, vulgarity ridden dialogue and bloody action, and some truly detestable villains that you lov ...more
Apr 21, 2009 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.

Sep 02, 2014 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, diminished
Oct 30, 2014 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


Apr 10, 2017 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
Quintin Zimmermann
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I did not have high expectations going into this one. A novel written two decades ago by an author that I never heard of.

Oh my word, was I blown away! Simply put, Heroes Die is Joe Abercombie and Richard K. Morgan coming together and ripping Ready Player One a new one.

Caine, take up a chair and join the hardcore company of Logan Ninefingers and Takeshi Kovacs.

In the Matthew Woodring Stover's own words: "It's a pop-top can of Grade-A one-hundred percent pure whip-ass."
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
An interesting meld of sf/cyberpunk and fantasy. Exciting and well-plotted.

In a near-future Earth, government control has produced a strict caste society. Hari Michaelson has struggled up from a Labor position, with the help of a rich patron, to become one of the most famous men on Earth - but he is still only an Actor, subservient to those above him. But when he is performing as Caine, sent through a breakthrough in physics to the Otherworld of Ankhana, where elves, ogres, wizards and thieves a
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...
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
Aug 12, 2015 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.
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a wild ride! How do you save your girl when you've been told you have to kill a god first? This was a story that really did keep me guessing until the very end... and what a great end!
Jeremy Jackson
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best offerings of old school Grimdark you’ll encounter.
The titular character of the Acts of Caine is a construct; Hari Michaelson is an Actor who is sent to an alternate earth to play a role, enacting adventures to be enjoyed from his own perspective by an eager audience. The lines between Hari and Caine are blurred, but they’re still separate entities, and the way Stover handles it is masterful. The book switches povs, voices, first to third person, fluidly, and the reader h
Jun 19, 2012 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
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book simply to fulfill a reading challenge requirement for one of the Goodreads groups to which I belong. Needless to say, I had zero expectations going in and found myself pretty quickly engrossed in the plot. I'm not even sure quite how to classify this book as it is, in my estimation, equal parts fantasy and science fiction. It's set on Earth albeit many, many, many years in the future when society has evolved (or devolved, depending on the POV) into a caste system and the ideas o ...more
Thomas Stacey
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
5 testosterone filled blood soaked stars.

This is an incredible book. A seamless blend of sci-fi and fantasy with a genius premise. Set on an overpopulated Earth shackled by a rigid caste society, and set in the land of Ankhana, a distant medieval world where ‘actors’ from Earth are sent to assassinate monarchs, start wars and cause chaos all for the entertainment of billions back home on Earth.

Enter Caine, AKA Hari Michaelson, a superstar actor who’s wife has gone missing in Ankhana. To save her
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 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.
The Nerd Book Review
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At some point I will be doing a podcast review on this one. I really enjoy the Grimdark sci-did/fantasy element of this book. Caine is a true anti-hero and the world is sure as hell Grimdark. I’ll continue pushing this book to Grimdarkians everywhere.
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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

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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