Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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. Because it is a classic. It shamelessly picks up the best features of both a great worldbuilding SF 1984 land and a rather awesomely detailed and rich fantasy world full of people I like.
What is it? Think quantum teleportation to an alternate world where magic works. Give that technology to a nearly omnipresent and restrictive government that's controlled by an all-powerful Hollywood that doesn't care what it does to this alternate reality as long as it gets ratings. Send actors over, or as they're called in the alternate world, "Aktirs", and we've got a political hotbed of revolution brewing on both sides of the veil. Our SF world is quite the hell, and the world of magic is pretty damn nice if it wasn't for all these Aktirs murdering and fomenting tons of conflict for, get this: "Their amusement." I think they're right to distrust and hate the aliens.
Of course, Hari, also known as Caine in his Aktir persona, is one of the most beloved top-performers, and oh so deadly. He also happens to be rather bright when he isn't falling into his well-cultivated bloodthirsty persona.
When he finally begins to take off the shackles of his mind, then that's the point where this novel seriously takes off and spins in my mind. Before that point it was pretty much a standard action fantasy with a pretty damn cool assassin with a pretty cool SF twist. Afterwards, well, I was flabbergasted to discover that he could think as well as he fought, and with his estranged wife, they caused so much damn havoc on both sides of the veil.
The best part of this novel was watching all the pieces line up and then watch them all fall.
It was glorious. Absolutely glorious.
The length shouldn't daunt anyone. It really lends itself to us getting to know everyone in depth. The characterization is fully of the show, don't tell, variety, with an absolutely wonderful grip on internal monologue. I really enjoyed exploring all the moral ambiguities in everyone, and I'm pretty damn certain I'm going to love re-reading this.
But first, I've got to find the time to read the 3 sequels, eh? :) It's going to be a very fine pleasure.
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