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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed, intelligent, well-characterised, genre-bending
Caine: the most infamous man in the Ankhanan Empire. A hero who has saved the Empire from invasion and destruction, and a villain who killed the Prince-Regent on the orders of a monastic order. Wherever there is danger, intrigue or violence, there is Caine.

In reality, Caine is a fictional character, played by Henri Michaelson. 23rd Century Earth is linked to...
Published 23 months ago by A. Whitehead

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Assassin's Creed meets The Hunger Games
A thoroughly good read even if the majority of concepts seem borrowed. Not a match on Hannu Rajaniemi or Iain M Banks in the scifi department and really not a rival to Tolkein or GRRM in fantasy medieval worlds but I really enjoyed this book and might well pick up the others (hard to resist at 3 pounds!)
Published 16 months ago by NorthallaJim


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed, intelligent, well-characterised, genre-bending, 6 Jun. 2013
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
Caine: the most infamous man in the Ankhanan Empire. A hero who has saved the Empire from invasion and destruction, and a villain who killed the Prince-Regent on the orders of a monastic order. Wherever there is danger, intrigue or violence, there is Caine.

In reality, Caine is a fictional character, played by Henri Michaelson. 23rd Century Earth is linked to Overworld - a post-medieval alternate reality where magic and gods are real - by advanced technology. The rigidly caste-bound population of the overcrowded planet is entertained by the exploits of the Actors, and Caine is one of the most famous Actors on the planet. When Caine's wife, Actor Shanna (who plays Caine's lover, Pallas Rill), disappears on an Adventure, Caine is summoned back into battle. This time the mission is to find his wife before her link to Earth expires, killing her, and to overthrow the monstrous new Emperor. But Michaelson faces hidden enemies on Earth even as Caine faces overwhelming odds on Overworld.

Matt Stover has carved out a reputation as the best writer ever to put pen to paper in the Star Wars franchise, writing a string of intelligent, thought-provoking books that overcome and challenge the limitations of the setting. The Acts of Caine is his most famous own creation, a four-book sequence (more are planned) that mixes SF and fantasy. It is an action-packed series, but also one that is heavily character-driven, and those characters (heroes, villains and the ambiguous alike) are three-dimensional, well-motivated individuals, even the most loathsome of whom is at some level understandable.

Heroes Die is the first book in the sequence, originally published in 1997, but is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers or incomplete story arcs. Its publication date precedes the bulk of the modern 'gritty' wave of fantasy novels, but it can be seen as an early example of the subgenre. The book has a black sense of humour that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, a rich urban atmosphere and cast of thieves that serves as a precursor to Scott Lynch (Lynch has said that Stover's books are one of the primary influences and inspirations behind The Lies of Locke Lamora) and features a dystopian future world that emphasises death and murder as a form of entertainment in a similar manner (but a much more sophisticated one) to The Hunger Games. It's a rich, genre-bending brew that satisfies on all fronts.

The characters are where the book shines. Scenes on Overworld are told from Caine's POV in first-person, but scenes on Earth are related in third-person. Other scenes on Overworld involving other characters are also told in the third-person.This device is quite successful, and is intriguing as Caine's POV scenes also feature his running commentary on what's happening back to the millions of people watching on Earth. Some tension is caused by Caine occasionally thinking things impolitic about life on Earth, causing friction with both the Studio and the future Earth's caste-bound government. Michaelson/Caine is a fascinating character, a man of intelligence who is ready to resort to violence at a moment's notice, but has a reason for doing so. His lover, Senna/Rill is likewise well-depicted, with her idealism contrasted against her lover's pragmatism. Stover even has well-developed villains, making even the monstrous Emperor and the psychopathic swordsman Berne (very briefly) sympathetic with reasons (if only convincing to them) for doing the monstrous things they do.

Heroes Die is unusual for the opening volume of a fantasy series by arriving complete, fully-formed and brimming with confidence and presence. It's an explosive and action-packed novel which explores its premise and characters intelligently, develops the plot and themes with skill and then finishes on a high. Complaints are few: one character gains access to a reservoir of incredible power near the end of the book, which has the whiff of deus ex machina until Stover subverts it.

Heroes Die (*****) is available now in the USA, and in the UK has just been released for the first time as an e-book only edition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroes Die, 9 Oct. 2013
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
I tried to read this book last year but gave up on it after a couple of hundred pages, partly because I wasn't enjoying it so much, but mainly because the sequel was damn near impossible to get (unless I was to pay silly prices for a used copy). Now the entire series has been released for Kindle it is no longer an issue, so it seemed a good time to try again.

Heroes Die doesn't sound particularly original if you read the blurb. It is a hybrid of SF and fantasy, a tale of two Earths that are out of phase with each other. Our world, in the future, has become so technologically advanced that we are able to transport people to the other Earth, called Overworld, which has a pseudo-Medieval culture. Our future world and Medieval Overworld are painted in broad, fairly standard brushstrokes. Neither world really comes alive. So far, so ho-hum.

But it is then that the original slant comes in. The only people sent from our Earth to Overworld are Actors. Hari Michaelson is one such Actor, the most famous Actor around because of the exploits of his Overworld persona, Caine - and Caine has been responsible for some the biggest upheavals in Overworld society. He has, quite literally, changed the world, whether it be through assassinations, or leading uprisings. No Prime Directive here. The studio sends Hari/Caine into the midst of the events that they think will make them the biggest bucks, either through so-called First-Handers - who get to experience Caine's latest adventure as it happens, through his own eyes - or by selling cubes (DVDs, if you like) of the adventure after it has happened.

Caine is a mass of muscle and barely concealed fury, and his adventures on Overworld are violent in the extreme. He is a tool, a weapon that the studio uses to manipulate events for ultimate effect. In effect, Stover is presenting an allegory. Take a step back from the narrative and you can see him punching and kicking at present day forms of entertainment - movies, tv, video games - and the way in which modern society has become inured to its content. Caine's adventures are the futuristic equivalent of a blockbuster movie where people die in vast, gory numbers and nobody bats an eyelid.

I'm fairly used to violence in books, and I like a little darkness in my SF and fantasy novels, but I think the reason I didn't get along with this book first time around is because the violence seems all-encompassing. The book starts with a decapitation and snowballs from there. It is, at times, very unpleasant, downright nasty. The characters and their motivations are well conveyed, but it's really tough to like any of them. They are bitter, twisted, self-serving people and even though Caine's motivations in this story are somewhat noble, it doesn't prevent him from leaving a trail of blood and guts in his wake.

So you need a strong stomach for this book. It is not for the faint-hearted - it is fierce and uncompromising, well thought through, perhaps too long for its own good, has some of the best (but visceral) action scenes I've read, and possesses a central character who drives the story forward through sheer force of will. You could read this book and walk away not needing to read the rest. I found a lot to like, but it also made me feel very uncomfortable at times. I'm guessing that's what Stover was aiming for.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating storyline brilliantly told!, 5 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
I was a little sceptical as another reviewer somewhere else had rather enthusiastically insisted this would be the best book I had ever read. Now that is something hard to live up to. The outline of the plot seems simple enough, One world, shall we say an earth of the future, sends actors to another world, which is in the same location as earth but in a dimension out of shift, so the actors can be on one or the other instantaneously. While acting they have a live feed so their every move and comment can be witnessed by millions on earth who pay to tune in. It is their cultural source of entertainment and large amounts of money are paid to access the best stories. Meanwhile on this alternative planet, they are starting to wake up to the idea that 'Aktors' are interfering with their lives and politics. Enter Caine, the best paid and most exciting actor, who is on a mission to save his wife, another actor who has been involved in an uninspiring mini adventure, a little like the Scarlet pimpernel saving the French aristocracy from the guillotine. The studios think they are running Caine, but he has his own agenda. Now if all that seemed dry I can only apologise because I simply will never be as gifted a writer as Matthew Stover the brilliant author of this massively entertaining book. It was so well written that jumping from different peoples prospective to see the story unfold was made simple and easily understandable. The adventure and action is relentless, the story is complicated yet overarchingly simple. The mix of corporate aspirations on earth and fantasy elements of magic and swordplay on the planet called Overworld was breath taking. It was a deep thinking book with a political agenda and yet still a blood and gore sword and sorcery novel when it needed to be and all seamlessly done. I have not read any other book remotely like it. It is indeed one of the best books I have ever read, if the measure of that is how easily it could be a film, and how hard it was to put it down. Loved it, recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly memorable: raw, striking, bleak yet redeeming, 4 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
There have been a number of new fantasy heroes in recent year that are entertaining and faithful to the best authors in the genre(s). Heroes Die took me out of this pleasant comfort zone, grabbed me by the throat, and kept me going until I had finished the novel. Interesting, different, brave, bleak. The novel may not be for everyone, but you will remember it and will appreciate giving Caine a run. Haven't enjoyed a first novel so much since Gardens of the Moon, Empire of Black and Gold or The Lies of Locke Lamora. Distinctive to all these books, darker, less redemption, but just for a few hours took me on a journey that I just did not expect to enjoy so much. Memorable. Kept expecting a book happy to walk the middle ground instead got a path rarely followed. Adult entertainment highly recommended - give it a go, you will at least remember the attempt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars snowman, 8 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
An unusual mix of classical Orwell/Dicks/Heinlein esk scifi and modern fantasy. Might not be a hardcore fantasy fan's cup of tea, but as someone who grew up on Heinlein et al, it is a creative enjoyable read. Yes, building the back story for two realities and how they interact, does impart some initial drag on the plot but it's handled well and worth the small effort.
This book is not the run of the mill fantasy 'good versus evil', nor scifi prediction of the future. It is more a complex story of social roles, rights and responsibilities of individuals in two completely different realities.
But don't let that put you off, even if you completely ignore the deeper social commentary, it's still a clever, well written, highly enjoyable and engaging read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sci fi/fantasy blend, 3 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
Well written, great characters, interesting premise. I've immediately purchased the second book, and plan to happily read my way through the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 29 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
I found it initially difficulty to get into but please do persevere as this is a great read. Onto book 2!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroes Die, 31 May 2013
This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
I can say, without a trace of doubt, that Matthew Woodring Stover is the best writer I've ever had the pleasure to read, being Heroes Die (and the whole Acts of Caine series) his absolute masterpiece.
Since the very first line, until the last word, this book will take your breath away. Its characters are so charismatic and complex, so full of flaws, you'll sometimes laugh at the fact that in a way this fantasy novel is way more realistic than any other book. As for Caine, the main character, one can't help "loving all of him, even when he has to hate some of him", as Faulkner would say.
Besides, its full of humor as well as philosophy. The author knows how to deal with both tragedy and comedy, at the same time he raises questions that make you think.
To those who love reading adventure books, and to those who simply like reading good books, this is the one. You won't be dissappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced good read, 19 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
Very enjoyable reading, the main character Caine reminds me a lot of Logan nine fingers from joe Abercrombie's the blade itself series. Not a typical fantasy book with the flashes between a futuristic earth and a magic filled overworld, but the pacing is fast and there is a real sense of urgency as the book progresses, with plenty of action throughout. Well worth a read, and I know I will be picking up the next book in the series just to see what kind of badassery Caine will get up to next
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% grade A whoop-ass, 27 May 2013
This review is from: Heroes Die: Book 1 of The Acts of Caine (Kindle Edition)
I actually read that from an interview, but I agree with it completely. Story = amazing. Characters = alive. Pacing, plotting, voice = rock solid and utterly engrossing. Read this when I began martial arts training and it legitimately changed the way I think about many subjects: love, survival, identity, popular culture. An incredible and satisfying book from start to finish.
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