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.
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.