Monday, July 30, 2007

Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover [5]

*****/***** (5/5)

A lot of readers nowadays will eat up Harry Potter but won't touch the fantasy genre otherwise, harboring a healthy aversion to "elves, dwarves, dragons." It's an unfortunate stigma because there's a lot of books in science fiction and fantasy (SFF) written for adults and contains content and themes suitable for adults. That is, SFF books adults can enjoy and don't have to be ashamed of reading. Matthew Woodring Stover authors SFF a lot of us can enjoy. Deliciously arrogant about his views and books, author Matt Stover espouses mature content and themes. Not to mention damn fun reading.

Thankfully, Matt's Caine books are standalone novels, and you don't have to read a host of books just for the sake of continuing the overall story arc. Chronologically, HEROES DIE comes first, BLADE OF TYSHALLE second, but they're independent stories and only familiar characters connects the two. The Star Wars franchise took notice of Matt's writing and contracted him for several Star Wars novels after BLADE OF TYSHALLE (REVENGE OF THE SITH novelization, for example). He's finally returning to his Caine novels and I'm eagerly awaiting his next Caine novel slated for a mid-2008 release now.

Here's a brief review of HEROES DIE:

There's something really powerful and poignant about an old-fashioned struggle for love. At this book's core, we find the quintessential and ageless strife for love. Needless to say, HEROES DIE was a vastly immersing, engaging and enjoyable reading experience for me.

The science fiction/fantasy worlds of HEROES DIE manage to completely blur our idea of right and wrong & good and evil. At times, I find myself pitted against our protagonists, just beginning to understand the death and destruction they cause. At other times, I find myself behind his or her actions. No matter the reader's position or the storyline backdrop, you will always find yourself feeling something. As one of the mad characters mentions in the story, "Anything that is done out love takes place beyond good and evil..."

And trust me, there is never a dull moment. Stover packs every page with action and fervor. With a finale that had me shaking and unable to stop reading until I finished the book, I found myself riveted throughout.

Anti-hero Caine is an assassin in the gritty fantasy world of Overworld; Caine is notorious for killing many key figures in Overworld, kings and innocent commoners alike. Back on a futuristic Earth plagued by rigid social hierarchies dependent on affluence, Caine is Hari Michaelson. Actors such as Hari portal into the fantasy world of Overworld and incite death, destruction and chaos, all for the entertainment of the masses back on futuristic Earth. Overworld is real though, and not some virtual concoction so the people killed back on Overworld represent brutal finality. When the story begins, we're introduced to a bitter Hari estranged from his wife and wanting nothing more than to have her back. His wife Shanna plays the powerful sorceress Pallas Ril in Overworld.

I think the best way to describe Stover's writing: a fantasy romp. Gritty, realistic, and thoroughly entertaining. HEROES DIE contains graphic language and violence so use some discretion.


morgetron said...

Actually there's some fantastic SFF in the Young Adult section also. I teach high school English and authors like Cornelia Funke, D. J. MacHale, Jenny Nimmo, and Angie Sage -- to name a few -- write good solid plots with edgy themes. I know that there are many adults who are probably intimidated by big time sci-fi because they perceive it as hard to understand. Great Topic!

Caine said...

Thanks for the recommendations, can't say I've heard of those so I'll have to look into those at some point.