Book Recommendation of the Month

May 2003 Book

--Posted by Riposte101 @ 5/15/03 15:36 PST.

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover

As it is prominently noted on the cover, this is a fantasy novel, as if the person double fisting a pair of knives with the castle backdrop on the cover wasnít telling enough. That aside, this novel is a great read. Iíve gone through two copies of the book already (worn out from repeated reading) and I still find myself being swept up in the story each time I pick it up.

The novel begins with a bleak vision of a future driven by a strict caste society* where the main form of entertainment is to follow actors who travel to the alternate dimension, Ankhana, which incidentally is very similar to the settings of most fantasy novels. There they take part in adventures. These adventures are recorded and then sold to the masses.

The story follows an actor named Hari Michaelson, whose alternate persona is Caine. When his estranged wife, Pallas Rill, is lost in Ankhana, he cuts a deal with the studio for the opportunity to save her. The studio contracts him on a suicide mission to assassinate Maelkoth; an enlightened despot turned Renaissance man through the use of his godlike powers. With the rulers of two worlds pitted against him, Caine comes to the realization that he has set rules that govern his actions and that he must break free from this modus operandi in order to have a chance.

The characters are the main draw, as they are fully realized and believable. The protagonist, Caine, is a complete and utter bad ass. Maelkoth is worthy of at least a mention in the cool-character-design category as well. With plenty of gritty action sequences liberally placed throughout, the book is a fast read.

The author, Matthew Woodring Stover, has studied martial arts, in particular the Degerberg Blend. This is a Jeet Kune Do concept that combines a number of martial art fighting styles to bring together the most effective elements of each. This shines through in all of his action sequences. As a Jeet Kune Do practitioner, I was drawn to this book as I read the profile on the author.

Although there are a few plot holes, Stover does tell an intelligent story. In addition to that, itís also chockfull of line after line of some of the best dialogue Iíve ever read.

*Due to a viral strain named HRVP that has wiped out half the worldís population, measures are taken to ensure that the elite of the society is not infected. The result is a world where contact with an upper caste can be punishable by death. Even decades after a vaccine had been discovered; the caste society still remains.