Matthew Woodring Stover is an author I’d never heard of (so I just spent about half an hour researching him to try and work out if I should be ashamed of this- I still don’t really know. He wrote something Star Wars related…), but I picked up his book Heroes Die on a whim a while back. I’m very much into fantasy/sci-fi novels and unfortunately I always run out of books I enjoy. Recommendations will be greatly appreciated!
I was slightly nauseated by the hilariously 60’s moustache macho on the front cover but still dug in when I saw the font was smaller than size 10, and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m onto my second run through of it now and still in love. I’m not sure what it is that makes this book so prominent to me. I think part of it is because the main character- Hari/Caine, is such an arsehole. Heroes Die is set way off in the vast future, and the basic principle is ‘Actors’ are sent over to a parallel universe of sorts where they wreak havoc for the entertainment of those back home. If they die on Overworld, it’s game over. Caine is the hard-ass identity Hari Michaelson the Actor assumes on Overworld. He’s pretty awesome when you try not to think of the cover artist’s representation of him.
Stover plays about with regards to how you interpret the various characters. Caine commits some nasty crimes throughout the book and fucks over a lot of people, but at the same time he is, of course, the main protagonist of the book and you follow all his thoughts and actions. Likewise some of the opposing forces are very likeable, and it becomes very difficult sometimes to agree with Caine’s actions against them at times. Who wouldn’t like an antagonist who periodically shouts ‘Fuck me like a virgin goat!’ throughout the course of the book?
The storyline shifts intermittently between Overworld and Earth, with Overworld being Hari’s escape to freedom and Earth being a caste-driven, shitty prison. In the past with many books that alternate between either multiple storylines or worlds, I’ve found that I become bored with one or the other and just tend to scan through to get to the good bits, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Obviously, the book has it moments, however they were few and thinly spread.
Heroes Die is one of those rare fiction books that is actually intelligently written (something I wouldn’t personally know about) while being gritty and really quite horrific at times, and I hugely recommend it. There’s much more depth to it than I can really appreciate sometimes, because I’m a bit dim, but where I can understand what’s happening the book takes you to a whole new, and most importantly, believable world.
I am of the opinion that it’s all too possible that future entertainment could take a turn in the direction of Heroes Die. A similar concept is also in the movie Gamer starring Gerard Butler, where real human lives are toyed with in the name of entertainment (it’s a film I also really love and recommend). Both Heroes Die and Gamer make you stop to consider where the entertainment industry is going in it’s current state. I don’t feel like there’s realistically much more to go at once we’ve nailed 3D gaming, sense (smell, taste etc.) immersive gaming, and controlling things using our bodies. I almost feel as if the concept of the Oculus Rift, once combined with more believable body-based controlling, could be the the extent of (at least) the affordable consumer-based game industry. From then on I imagine gaming to become much more high-end and expensive- the end of consumer gaming as we know it.
Went off at a slightly grim tangent there, something that I intend on revisiting in more depth in the future as it’s a possibility I enjoy considering. That is, the future of entertainment and gaming. Either way my point still stands that Heroes Die is a book that I think would be a great read for anyone into the more gritty side of fantasy/sci-fi. I’ll write a post about art now…