“I’d Burn The World To Save Her”: Matt Stover’s Heroes Die

Copyright © 1998 by Matthew Woodring Stover. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew Woodring Stover is awesome.

He writes with passion and expertise.  His stories blend together hardcore action and philosophical questions.  His characters struggle with both, facing crises that threaten not only their lives, but their integrity–or whatever principles they live by.

Stover is famous for his contributions to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, particularly his novelization of Revenge of the Sith.  But the best way to start with his works is through the first of his Acts of Caine novels, Heroes Die.

In this novel, we get a glimpse into the life of Hari Michaelson, better known by his alter ego, the ruthless fighter Caine.  Hari has developed his celebrity status by fighting in a parallel world called Overworld for the entertainment of the masses back home.  But complications arise when Hari is contracted to kill the Emperor of this fantasy world, and his ex-wife Shanna–a fellow Actor–is threatened with a gruesome death unless Caine can intervene.

With Stover’s writing, you get a story that moves well, yet covers a lot of exposition, even as arrows fly through the air and the adrenaline is coursing through your veins.  You get the raw experience of Caine and his plight as a reader in the same way that Caine’s fictional audience on dystopian Earth enjoy his adventures.

I’m reminded of what Livy said about the gladiators of his era:

A man who knows how to conquer in war is a man who knows how to arrange a banquet and put on a show.

The same can be said of Caine, both in this novel and in its sequels.  He isn’t just a tactical genius and a ruthless killer.  He gives you a show, born of his expertise in the art of war and his own dark humor.

Bibliography: Stover, Matthew Woodring.  Heroes Die.  New York: Del Rey, 1998.

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7 thoughts on ““I’d Burn The World To Save Her”: Matt Stover’s Heroes Die

  1. Pingback: Tell Your Gods She Doesn’t Work For Free: Matt Stover’s Jericho Moon « The Rhapsodist

  2. I’m surprised (but glad) to see someone actually reviewing one of Stover’s Caine books. He normally gets completely overlooked due to giants like George R.R. Martin. (Who, to be fair, deserves his fame as a great writer.) I was left a bit cold by ‘Caine Black Knife’, but ‘Heroes Die’ is a lovely read — simple plot, powerful execution.

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    1. Funny you should mention that, as I’m going to be reviewing George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” very soon.

      And I agree that “Caine Black Knife” wasn’t my favorite Caine story, but I’m hoping that we’ll get something real powerful when “His Father’s Fist” comes out.

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  3. Pingback: The Sum Of Our Scars: “Blade of Tyshalle” by Matthew Woodring Stover « The Rhapsodist

  4. Pingback: Double Review: “Caine Black Knife” and “Caine’s Law” by Matthew Woodring Stover « The Rhapsodist

  5. I really loved this book, thank you for recommending it. You almost never see a book that combines fantasy and science fiction, much less one that does it well. I want to read the sequels at some point. Also, could see as a movie, maybe with Timothy Olyphant in the starring role.

    But something I’ve never liked, and I still don’t really, is the dystopian sports genre. I never get how a single blood sport can somehow support the entire world’s economy and keep the corrupt government in charge. I didn’t mind it so much here, since the class system and home world was very detailed. I just notice the economic aspects of these stories are never discussed, because I don’t think they would hold up logically.

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    1. Glad you liked it. As for a movie role, my money’s on Robert Downey, Jr. He’s got that badass appeal, plus he can swear and talk up a storm like Caine.

      I, too, am not a fan of the blood sport genre, with these series being the sole exception. It helps that there’s a lot of thought put into the system and its implications (i.e., the natives see the Actors as demons who come from out of nowhere and slaughter them for fun). But both the Studio system and the dystopian future get better explained and justified in the second book, Blade of Tyshalle. You learn more about why Hari’s world is in such a sad state and has such a strong caste society.

      Thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading!

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