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Heroes Die Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 1999

164 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After two fantasy novels (Iron Dawn; Jericho Moon), Stover combines fantasy and SF in this vigorous adventure story. Our world has developed a hyper-rigid, occupation-based caste system in which the reading of freedom-based philosophy, from John Locke to Robert A. Heinlein, is punished. For entertainment, people participate vicariously in recorded Adventures from the Overworld, an other-dimensional realm of sword and sorcery with its own repressive government. On Earth, Hari Michaelson is the most popular Actor in Adventures; in Ankhana, with its rich palaces and criminal slums, he is known as Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle, famous assassin and warrior. Tired of killing, Hari agrees to return to the Overworld, driven to save his estranged wife, Pallas Ril?Actor and sorceress, unable to return to Earth due to a powerful spell?and ordered by the Studio to kill the tyrant Ma'elKoth. Stover's writing throughout is unoriginal but vivid, and his story is well plotted (though relentlessly violent), with numerous noteworthy secondary characters, from Hari's father to Kierendal, the non-human manager of a vice-den in the Overworld's Alien Town. Hari begins as a stereotyped cold-blooded killer but develops credibly, gaining a sense of moral responsibility and realizing that his true enemies are not on the Overworld but within the Studio that directs his life for its profits. Stover's fans and those who like their fantasy/SF tinged red should enjoy this energetic tale. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Dubious sf/fantasy hybrid from the author of the paperback Iron Dawn. Stover's future Earth is run by and for the entertainment networks, with society locked into a rigid and unforgiving caste system. Coexisting with Earth but in another dimension is planet Overworld, with its stereotypical medieval sword-and-sorcery fantasy scenario. Entertainers from Earth can be projected into Overworld, their adventures then relayed back for vicarious VR enjoyment. So on Earth, Actor Hari Michaelson does what his boss, Arturo Kollberg, chairman of San Francisco Studio, tells him; on Overworld, Hari becomes Caine, a dreaded and highly successful assassin. But now also on Overworld, the Emperor Ma'elKoth, together with his henchman, the supernally skillful swordsman Count Berne, has achieved supreme power by mounting a successful pogrom against ``Aktirs,'' thus threatening Earthly profits and the engineering of new dramas. Kollberg therefore orders Hari back to Overworld, where his mission will be to kill Ma'elKoth and rescue his ex-wife, the Actor Shanna Leighton, trapped on Overworld in one of her two identities, as the revolutionary Pallas Ril or the resistance fighter Simon Jester. Unfortunately for Hari, Ma'elKoth is already aware of Caine and Pallas/Simon and has devised his own plans accordingly. So, can Caine kill his enemies, survive a voyage of painful self-discovery, and win back his lovely wife? Shallow and unsurprising, a furious, gory hack-'em-up witheven for this subgenrea high expletive count. Stover does, however, work hard to develop his characters. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (May 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345421456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345421456
  • ASIN: 0345421450
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.4 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Diana Nier on November 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought "Heroes Die" on a trip after I ran out of other reading material; I was bored and found the title intriguing. I didn't expect more than a standard, entertaining slash-em-up, and am delighted at how wrong I was.
"Heroes Die" follows anti-hero Hari Michelson, an Actor (the capital is warranted; this is not the acting we know) in an unpleasant, caste-bound future whose job is, basically, to kill people in another reality for the entertainment of the rich Leisure caste on Earth. On Overworld -- a gritty medieval fantasy setting -- Hari is Caine, a legendary assassin and warrior; his excessively bloody adventures have made him immensely popular back on Earth. As the book opens, he is estranged from his wife Shanna, an Actor who plays magician Pallas Ril. On Overworld, she poses as Simon Jester (a nod to Heinlein), champion of the lower classes. However, she has vanished from the studio's tracking systems and will soon fall back to Earth, fatally and uncontrollably.
Hari is sent to Overworld to rescue his wife, depose the suspiciously godlike emperor of Ankhana, and revive the studio's fortunes. The story includes betrayals, mysteries, megalomaniacs, daring escapes and rescues, gods, magic, gobs of violence, and a climactic final confrontation. "Heroes Die" works beautifully as a straight adventure, but also contains much more. The characters are well-developed (though the villains are occasionally a bit two-dimensional) which gives weight and meaning to their ordeals and changes. And the entire adventure is colored by the ethics of the studio system and the political situations in both worlds.
But the story is not flawless. Stover dangles some portentious hints and ideas that unfortunately never amount to much.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael Scott on January 13, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd like to briefly add my praise to the numerous reviews already posted here. 'Heroes Die' is an endlessly exhilarating read. I was enthralled from page 1 to the back cover. Stover's future universe is fascinating in its complexity and depth. While giving us an exciting hack-and-slash adventure, Stover subtly weaves together a social commentary on our culture's decadence.
I don't want to give the wrong impression. This isn't a mindless killing book. The main character, Caine, is motivated in his quest to save his estranged wife. Through the course of the novel we see Caine grow into a mature and rational man. I recommend this novel to all fantasy readers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on August 14, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel is set in a future were earth's resources are limited and world society has split into a rigid cast system based on the work you do, or what your parents do. Hari Michaelson is an actor and a world-wide superstar. In an alternative earth, known as the overworld, where magic works, he is also known as the assassin Caine where his "adventures" are eagerly watched by billions. When Hari's ex-wife, another actor, vanishes in the overworld Hari is drawn into saving her for what the studio on earth sees solely as another action-packed adventure, but for Hari it is much more importance than that.

This is both a brutal and brilliant novel. You really shouldn't like Hari/Caine. He's not a nice man by most accounts. He swears all the time (lots of the "f" word in this book), he'll kill you as soon as look at you and is outstandingly ruthless. Despite all this, he is a compelling and complex character and this novel easily pulls you from chapter to chapter.

Both the overworld and earth society have been given a great deal of thought in this novel, and both are equally richly detailed to provide a combination of Sci-Fi and fantasy in the one book. I hadn't expected this book to be so well written, based on the blurb on the back, and while I'm disgusted by some of the things Caine does, its also fascinating, a bit like watching a natural disaster on TV - and in effect that is what Caine is to the overworld as he keeps earth mesmerised as he navigates both the politics of home and the brutality of everyday life in the overworld.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elyon on May 10, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
But then again, maybe not. Matthew Stover is using the mercenary anti-hero to explore social and existential issues that Glen Cook so far has proven for the most part reluctant to pursue. And Stover's assassin-protagonist---his symbolic role loudly announced by the stage name Caine---is a conflicted character that grows in ways that Cook's cast never achieves, the players and worlds here a vehicle that blurs and pushes the boundaries of the genre, despite the similarities of fast-paced action and gritty milieu, taking this novel to a creative and darkly realized realm that by comparison is metaphorically dizzying. Few unexamined moments here, and despite the almost non-stop, grim and graphic pull of conflict and action, there's a lot more going on here than simple combat and hack and slash adventure.
As has been noted elsewhere, Caine is an Actor who actually lives his role, a resident of some human future in which, creatively recontextualizing and extending earlier ideas contained in works such as "The Running Man" or the film "Rollerball," and topically reflected in the current popularity of so-called "reality" television such as "Survivor," residents live out fantasy adventures on the parallel and magically endowed world of Ankhana vicariously through virtual reality adventures of a star-system transported to a largely medieval realm.
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