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Caine's Law (Acts of Caine. Act of Atonement) Paperback – 3 Apr 2012

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 51 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Schrödinger's Caine 9 April 2012
By Nathan - Published on
Format: Paperback
To say I'm a big fan of Matthew Stover's Acts of Caine series may be to understate the case. When I read Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle (the first two books in the series and the Acts of Violence and War, respectively) a dozen years or so ago, they had a profound influence both on my life and on the course my reading would take over the following decade or so. And so it was that I was extremely excited when Caine Black Knife, the first half of the Act of Atonement, was finally released in 2008. And, like a number of fans, I was entertained by that volume but also a bit disappointed. While action-packed, it often lacked the intensity, the scale, and the escalation of stakes that had helped make the first two books so gripping. Further, it featured few of the recurring characters that fans have come to love, and more, being only the first part of an Act, its cliffhanger conclusion was a bit unsatisfying -- all the more so considering the insanely epic finales of both previous books. So when Caine's Law, the conclusion to the Act of Atonement and possibly the final novel in the series, was released, I was both excited and a bit anxious.

I should have trusted Stover. This novel is more than a return to form after Caine Black Knife: it's a magnificent novel, on par with the first two books in the series. Picking up where Caine Black Knife left off, it not only continues that story but, with its nonlinear narrative (and some divine intervention), utterly encompasses it, consumes it, subsumes it, and makes it more than it had been. Which is to say: not only is Caine's Law a better novel than Caine Black Knife but, having read them both, Caine Black Knife is a better novel than it had been on its own. All those characters whose absence was noted in Caine Black Knife return here, in greater or less capacities, and several wonderful new characters are introduced. A number of Stover's recurring tropes and motifs -- the nature of identity, the struggle of people against gods, the intimate versus the abstract, and more -- and favorite lines return, but he continues to grow as a writer and their incorporation into the story is always fresh and exciting. While the action (and by action I mean violence) is not as nonstop as in Caine Black Knife, it is more compelling -- things got pretty nasty in that book -- and the pacing here is actually better than in the previous book, sustained by plenty of Stover's clever dialogue and thoughtful twists, all building toward a fabulously satisfying conclusion. In the end, while the third book in this series is not as good as the first two novels, the third Act, taken as a whole, happily takes its place alongside them.

While I heartily recommend this novel, I must point out that it does not stand alone; it is not, as they say, a good jumping on point for new readers. To get the most out of this novel -- and, possibly, simply to avoid being totally lost -- you definitely need to have read at least Caine Black Knife and preferably all three of the earlier novels before this one. So do yourself a favor and get to reading.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Stover just keeps surpassing himself 16 April 2012
By Terrell T. Gibbs - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Seriously, I don't understand why Matthew Stover isn't famous. This is the guy who has taken sword & sorcery to the next level, combining the atmosphere and action of RE Howard, the plotting of ER Burroughs, and the subtlety and modern sensibility of Moorcock. Why is he putting food on the table writing Star Wars novelizations instead of working on the screenplay for the latest big-screen Caine epic starring somebody like Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, or Daniel Craig?

Be that as it may, Stover is still doing original work, and "Caine's Law" is yet another triumph for Stover. The "Acts of Caine" series started out strong with "Heroes Die" and has just built with every installment (although to be fair, while the first two books in the series stood very well alone, "Caine Black Knife" and "Caine's Law" feel like two halves to a single novel). Caine Black Knife dispensed with linear time, cutting back and forth between "mature" Caine and Caine at the beginning of his career. Stover is like a juggler, who keeps adding one more spinning plate, right up until the moment when he seems to lose it and they are all coming crashing to the floor--only to somehow pull of a conclusion conclusion that seems both elegant and inevitable. I think, with this novel, that he has managed to bring the story of Caine to such a conclusion--although it wouldn't surprise me if he some day comes up with a way to up the ante yet again.

Readers new to Stover's work should begin with "Heroes Die" to get the full impact of the series. Fortunately, second and long out-of-print book in the series, "Blade of Tyshalle," is now available for Kindle, (although a physical copy will cost you a pretty penny even used, unless you are lucky enough to find it new on the shelf of a bookstore as I did a few years back).

If you haven't read the series at all, "Acts of Caine" is a fantasy pretending to be science fiction pretending to be fantasy. Set in a corporate-dominated dystopian near future with a rigid caste system, a "gate" is discovered to an alternate world with medieval technology where magic actually works. So, naturally, we turn it into a reality show, sending "Actors" with surgically implanted recording devices over to the alternate world to foment trouble and have violent adventures for the entertainment of the masses on our world. Becoming an"Actor" is one of the few ways for the lower castes to make it big, and "Caine" (real name in our world, Hari Michaelson) begins as one such aspiring Actor.

Those"delicate" sensibilities should be warned that this is very much postmodern sword & sorcery. It is often graphically violent (Stover has clearly done enough martial arts to write some very believable fight scenes). Stover's protagonist Caine is more anti- than hero, and his language is realistically larded with profanity, as befits a character who grew up in a violent slum.

Anybody with a serious appreciation of the genre absolutely must give Stover a try.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Unique and gripping 4 April 2012
By Azrof - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Caine's Law, follow up to Caine Black Knife, was a much different book than I anticipated. Whereas Caine Black Knife was an action-packed thriller, Law is something deeper, more methodical. Stover continues to use sci-fi and fantasy tropes brilliantly, and with his normal savage prose; however, Law presents the reader with a scenario that reminded me more of Dune mixed with Altered Carbon. Due to the non-liner nature of Law, the book can be difficult to follow. In addition, the action sequences in Law seem fewer and further spaced out than Black Knife. That said, Law has an exceptionally satisfying after-taste. I find myself rolling the various chapters around, digesting each scene in relation to those around it and in other books in the Caine series with an almost reverent glee.

The masterpiece of Stover's narrative in Law is not to be taken lightly, but is much more rewarding than the common fare we get these days.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Matthew Stover weaves another incredibly mind-blowing adventure story 25 Jun 2012
By Lrn2Think - Published on
Format: Paperback
Matthew Stover's "Caine's Law" is another great action adventure story from start to finish. His complex multiple plot weaving and spider webbing story lines never fail to delightfully dovetail into incredible payoffs. He keeps the action moving lightning fast and the only disappointment I had was after the period on the last page. I certainly hope there is MORE ass kicking Caine coming to a bookstore near me soon.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Except for the Final Pages 23 Sep 2012
By allong1118 - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Caine's Law" gets off to a particulary wonderful start, but as the story moves forward, the weaker it became. In fact, the climatic pages were just a letdown. There was so much build-up to the finale, but there was no payoff.

One of Stover's undeniable strengths throughout the Acts of Caine is his ability to set each novel apart from the other. "Heroes Die" was a good, old-fashioned rescue story, where Caine goes through hell to save his ex-wife, Pallas Ril. "Blade of Tyshalle", by far the most depressing novel I have ever read in my life, was a tragedy in almost every definition of the word. "Caine Black Knife" shuffled between the present and past Caines, showing how he has changed throughout the years. And in the finale, "Caine's Law" makes things severely complicated as it is a novel that deals with time travel.

It's never too clear how Caine finds a way to travel back in time, but that's not really the point. The point is, as Caine says often, "What if you could take back the worst thing you've ever done?". I was really excited at the hook and was immersed right from the start. One scene in particular in the beginning pages was heartbreaking to read. Many of the sections dealing with a new character, the horse witch, were very tender and emotional as Caine learned how to love again. And once again, Caine doesn't get into quite so many fights, the actions scenes that occur are the best Stover has ever written. Everything led to this great buildup of a finale, and that's when things fell apart.

I won't try and pretend that I understood perfectly everything that happened. The novel is very complicated and, while I have a vague idea of how all the timelines work in relation to each other, most everything else is above my head. That wasn't my issue. Nor was my issue with the lack of some epic battle scene to finish the series. The problem with "Caine's Law" was the lack of emotional resolution for all the characters. Duncan Michaelson has a big part to play in this novel, but the relationship between him and Caine didn't amount to too much. Pallas also makes an appearance, as well as Tan'elKoth, but they don't really do too much. There just wasn't enough pages devoted to these character interactions at the end. In "Heroes Die", the big scene was when Caine allowed himself to be stabbed through the stomach in order to save Pallas. In "Blade of Tyshalle", Stover's big scene was when Pallas finally said goodbye to Caine. "Caine Black Knife" didn't really have one, but it was always the first part of the overall story. "Caine's Law" is still missing this scene.

This is still a novel worth reading, espeically if you enjoyed the other Caine novels. I would recommend re-reading the entire series before starting on this one, because characters show up from past novels, and is closely intertwined with "Caine Black Knife". It's a solid novel, better than "Caine Black Knife" but not at the level of the first two Caine novels. In the end, I just wasn't impressed with the ending. There wasn't any emotional reaction to reading the final story of Caine.

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