Heroes Die

Earlier this year, I was having dinner with Stargate: Universe Consultant (and, oh, by the way, bestselling author) John Scalzi when the topic of conversation turned to my online book club. I asked John if he could recommend an underappreciated gem for an upcoming discussion. “Heroes Die,”said John before I’d even finished my request. Then, off my look: “Matthew Woodring Stover.” I filed away the recommendation and we moved on to the crispy duck main course. Months later, I was considering selections for September’s Book of the Month Club when I recalled that memorable title: “Heroes Die”. I did a little research on Matthew Woodring Stover and discovered that, in addition to his original works in the SF and Fantasy field, he’s also written four novels set in the Star Wars universe which have won him a fair amount of praise from both fans and critics alike. I was intrigued.

I’ll admit to being surprised when I picked up the book. The cover depicts a warrior armed with twin blades standing before some medieval ruins. Given that the recommendation had come from John Scalzi, I’d assumed I’d be reading a scifi novel, yet the cover art suggested something in the Fantasy realm. Which was fine – simply unexpected. But as I sat down to read Heroes Die, I quickly realized that while, yes, it was Fantasy, it was also Science Fiction. And provocative. And darkly humorous. Incredibly violent. Action-packed. Surprisingly topical. And enormously entertaining.

In a future (alternate?) Earth under the yoke of a rigid caste system, the populace finds escapist entertainment in the form of broadcast/recorded adventures. Beyond mere television, beyond even Virtual Reality, it’s a high-tech diversion in which audience members join actors in their travels to and exploits through Otherworld, a medieval realm of magic and mayhem located in an alternate reality. The fact that what the actors experience is real and potentially deadly makes for a highly popular form of recreation. And the most popular of actors in this most popular of pastimes is Hari Michaelson, better known by his screen name of Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle, storied warrior, mercenary, and assassin.

But following years of success in the field, Hari has wearied of the role of Caine, grown tired of the killing. He believes he has left it behind – until his estranged wife, a fellow actor, goes missing in Otherland. Driven by his desire to rescue her, under orders from the studio to kill the tyrant Ma’elKoth, Caine returns to his former (quite literal) stomping grounds. The home audience rejoices, the Studio cashes in, and Hari begins to uncover deadly dissimulations and machinations in both realities.

This is a book that explores the notion of duality. We have two worlds – one firmly rooted in science fiction with its high-tech gadgetry and AU concepts, the other rooted in fantasy with its medieval mettle and mythical mysticism. And yet, while they may seem fundamentally contradictory, Stover manages to marry them quite effectively, drawing out parallels yet playing up their contrasting facets to great effect. On the surface, the appear to be very different but scratch that surface and similarities are revealed, similarities that the ruling caste on Hari’s homeworld would just as soon no one noticed. Like, say, the authoritarian rule that holds sway in both.

Stover does a wonderful job of world building, creating detailed and well thought-out histories and social structures for both realms. Again, despite the apparent contradictions in their very nature, Hari’s SF homeworld and Caine’s Fantasy kingdom are equally believable – which makes the twin track mysteries/adventures doubly rewarding.

Then there are the characters, some of who play double roles, that of their true selves and that of their Otherland counterparts. Again, we can compare and contrast, most notably Hari and Caine, very different on the surface and yet, at heart and perhaps not at all surprisingly, very similar.  He is a man fraught with contradictions – averse to battle and a return to Otherland yet an accomplished warrior prepared to use force with little prompting, motivated by love yet ruled by anger and brutality. It’s these contradictions that make him a memorable character. And it’s his encounters and relationships with the various supporting players, all nicely fleshed-out and colorful in their own right, that help build him into the sort of memorable character you’d happily follow into another adventure (or, say, the sequels Blade of Tyshalle, Caine Black Knife, His Father’s Fist).

Fans of swashbuckling swordplay and furious combat will love Heroes Die, with its breakneck pace and neck-breaking panache, its visceral violence conveyed in a narrative so richly detailed one suspects the author has majored in some big league beatdowns of his own. And yet, for all its battle and bloodshed, the novel has something interesting to say about our society as well – specifically the role of the media, entertainment, and, most importantly, own contradictory roles as consumers, quick to judge the likes of reality television and the diminishing quality of big screen products and yet just as quick to tune in or contribute to the box office take.

Heroes Die combines the best of both worlds in a novel that challenges our preset notions of not only the fantasy and scifi genres, but contemporary entertainment and our contribution in its continued evolution/devolution. It’s a novel with remarkable depth, multi-layered and thought-provoking. I could go on – and fully intend to. But, for now, I’ll leave it at that and turn the floor over to those of you who read the book. Thoughts? Praise? Critiques? Let’s hear ’em and start the discussion.

Well how annoying. I use Internet Explorer (don’t ask me why) to surf the net and have been sailing along no problem UNTIL this afternoon when I tried to access my blog. An “operation aborted” message flashed up and then the dreaded “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage” page. I tried rebooting my computer, clearing out my temporary files folder – no go – then switched over to Firefox which is all well and good but gives me all sorts of problems when I attempt to upload photos. After spending about an hour searching online forums for answers, I finally found the solution to my problem: I switched over to Safari.  Anyone else experiencing IE-related problems?  Seriously.  Does Microsoft want me to buy a Mac that badly?

Allow me to dedicate the remainder of this blog entry to testing out Safari’s pic-posting potential…

Check out the Destiny crew checking out something truly amazing (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)
Check out the Destiny crew checking out something truly amazing (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)

Desert Planet Gate (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)
Desert Planet Gate (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)

Destiny Gate (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)
Destiny Gate (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)

Dr. Carson Beckett - Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5, The Seed (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)
Dr. Carson Beckett - Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5, The Seed (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)

Teyla Emaggan - Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5, The Seed (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)
Teyla Emmagan - Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5, The Seed (photo courtesy and copyright MGM Television)

Oh, hey, spoke too soon.  I just discovered something Safari won’t let me do.  Publish my blog entry.  After numerous attempts to click the Publish button, I’m going to save the entry and try to publish it using Firefox.  I foresee a very long and complicated future for this blog.

84 thoughts on “September 7, 2009: Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover

  1. Actually, IE has been “unexpectedly quitting” all week for my family. On our BRAND NEW computer. They called me and said “Fix it.” I told them to use Firefox. And I also threatened not to help my mother with the next computer if it’s not a Mac. Seriously, it’s had three severe viruses (that I had to go in and fix, because Norton didn’t catch them) since we got it in July!

    I’ve never had a problem with Safari, except for bugs when they upgraded it. But Firefox is my favorite.

  2. Safari is a great browser on Mac OS X, but not so much on Windows. Perhaps you should give Opera a try, or better yet, buy a Mac! I made the switch a couple of months ago and haven’t looked back since. I hate to sound like an Apple fanboy here, but OS X makes Windows look terrible.

    May I ask what’s holding you back? I admit Macs are horribly overpriced, but surely a TV producer can afford one? 😉

  3. Try Chrome, it’s supposed to be the fastest anyway out of any of the browsers.

    What exactly is wrong with firefox? It’s what I use, mainly for the adblock and bookmarks synchronizer add-ons.

  4. Awww man, That Destiny Gate picture would’ve made a great wallpaper if that bald dude wasn’t in the picture.

    Got any more pictures of the gate lit up like that? (Only without people in the way?)

  5. I have both, XP and Ubuntu, and both run just fine. Though now and then IE does act up a bit. Never had any problem with Firefox on the Ubuntu.. and the software is (almost) all free.

  6. Wow, I am so far behind! I think I missed reading the blog since last Friday? The weird food purchase made my day. I have been dealing with a husband with acute bronchitis, but thankful it ain’t the dreaded flu, a feather plucking bird – and $304.00 – vet bill. Joe, there was a dog in the vet’s office that looked just like Jelly(smiled like her too), thought of you guys, hope she’s doing well. Y’know what it’s like keeping after a feather plucker? OY!! The bird don’t get it.

    Oh did I mention we bought a 05 Mini Cooper that doesn’t hold a charge? But we haven’t been able to drive it until Sat. afternoon, with the husband being sick and all. Now that’s it labor day…we called our dealer… hopefully he’ll call tomorrow. Oh and a computer that has stumped every tech at CompUSA. The ones that haven’t quit and changed professions are now in therapy. 3 mother boards and 3 processors and the dang thing wouldn’t boot. We practically started from scratch all to find out it was one of the harddrives. I could have bought ma MAC by now.

    Anyway the Atlantis pics…ahhh… the good ol’ days and the weird food purchase..yeah!!!!!, can’t wait for you to go to Tokyo, Joe! Would it be ok to show my hairdresser Teyla’s hair from today’s blog??? I’m getting ready to cut it to donate it. Thanks for posting a groovy blog and going thru all that trouble to post it : )

  7. My Internet Explorer quit about 9 months ago. I even had a tech person come in to work on my computer, but IE just won’t work on this machine any more. I have been using Firefox ever since. And I am actively shopping for a laptop, most likely a MacBookPro since I need my own computer now – my daughter has taken over the desktop for school, etc. I’m seriously considering a Mac for my next desktop, too. I just don’t want to have to deal with the viruses and crashes any more. And I don’t want Vista.

    I did read Heroes Die and I’ll do my commentary tomorrow. But for now, I’ll say that I did enjoy it but the visceral violence got to be a bit much for me at times.

  8. Nope. I hope you didn’t pick up a virus or malware along the way…

    Perhaps run something like Malwarebytes, or Spybot…just to make sure. Otherwise, I have no idea.

    Hope all is well. I’m not too happy that I just learned cortisone shots elevate your blood sugar…which might explain why I haven’t felt 100% today…kind of had this gnawing hunger. Why don’t doctors mention this when they know you have metabolic issues? I probably would have opted out of the shot in favor of something else. Since my sugar levels are usually low, I don’t test…but now I’m wondering if I should. I’ve been reading horror stories about people whose blood sugar shot up to 300-600 after a cortisone shot, and they were unable to get it back to controllable levels for quite a while. Ugh. If I don’t feel better in a day or two, I’m going to have to find some way to test my sugar, to see if that’s the problem.

    Or, maybe I should just stop reading medical sites on the net. It’s almost as bad as watching an episode of House. But, hey – at least it’s NOT Lupus! 😀

    das

  9. I pretty much use Firefox exclusively. Our computer is ANCIENT (and not in a good way), and Firefox loads faster than IE. The only time I use IE is when I run into a site that doesn’t work correctly with Firefox (a rare occurrence).

  10. Something that gets me kind of curious about SGU is what you see in pictures like the one above…that the Destiny seems to be populated by a great many ordinary people.

  11. @ Airelle – I really enjoyed Wallander, too…though I only saw one episode. And of course Agatha – I LOVED the two recent Poirots! Ms. Marple was good, too…but I have a soft spot in my heart for that little Belgian detective.

    Still…Lewis is winning out right now because I really do love the interaction between Lewis and Hathaway, and am enjoying how each episode is ending with the two of them unwinding together, having a chat or a beer, or a little of both. Good stuff.

    @ Joe – Though Lewis is probably a bit too lowkey for you (as Mr. Das finds it to be), I’d love for you to see just one episode, just to understand what I mean…to see how the professional relationship between these two becomes something a bit more personal every now and then, in a most satisfying way. For me, the stories are secondary to the character development and interaction.

    Another thing I like here is the atmosphere of the show. I am all for down-played emotion/reaction, because when you need it to be something more it really hits home. That’s why I disliked BSG, because it was all intensity, all the time, and just a few episodes in I was totally worn out. Everyone always seemed aggitated. Lost is basically the same way. It’s too draining to watch (just as it’s too draining to be around people like that in real life).

    But here – as in many British detective series – you have this even pace, subtlely played show, with just occasional flashes (and not drawn-out moments) of intensity, like when Hathaway put on his evil face and ‘intimidated’ the jumper to hold on. For me that was such a powerful moment because it was a side of the character never seen up to that point, suggesting that behind that proper, reserved exterior lurks something much darker.

    It’s the sort of thing I hope for in SGU, though I am expecting something more along the lines of of BSG, intensity-wise. It seems to be the thing Americans want…as if we don’t have enough drama in our lives already. 😛

    das

  12. Still catching up on things…

    @ for the love of Beckett – Sorry to hear what your dad is going through. *hugs* It takes its toll on everyone…I know, having dealt with my own father’s illness (infection around his heart after bypass surgery) back in ’00-’01. What a rough time. Hang in there…and wishing you and yours the best.

    das

  13. I’m heistant to state my view of Heroes Die after your eloquent review, but what the heck. No point in being in the book club if I don’t participate…
    There’s nothing like full immersion to pull the reader into the story. The opening scenes definitely establish violence of Caine, as well as laying the first brushstrokes of the world we’re drawn into. the shift back to “our” world is all the more jolting for the opening. And it takes almost no time at all to realize that the world of Hari is not a utopian one. As you point out, it’s a caste based world where those in the higher castes make the most of their power, authority, and privileges. Even though Hari comes from one of the lowest castes, I was a bit suprised we didn’t see a bit more of that part of this world. But this deficiency was more than made up for by the Hari’s eye view of the machinations and manouverings of his “betters”. Kollberg in particular is a villian we love to hate. His creep factor is actually intensified by his sheer pettiness. One of the bigger payoffs of the book was the frisson generated each time Hari found himself in close proximity to Killberg.
    One of the things about the “real world” side of the novel that most fascinated me was Hari’s relationship with his father. I find it interesting that such a society would allow a dissident as Hari’s father to live, even in a maximum level security prison. I also found it a stretch that a person subjected to that level of confinement would manage to hold on to any sanity at all. yet Duncan manages at times to come across as the sanest person in either world. He not only manages to hang onto his ideals, but he is canny enough to recognise the weaknesses of his enemies, not to mention his son’s untapped strengths. Of all the characters, including Hari himself, it’s Duncan I found myself wanting to have some happy resolution for his current state.
    Otherworld was painted in appropriately broad stroakes of the brush, giving us the outlines of a “typical” fantasy world and allowing us to imagine the fine details, without bogging the reader down. Berne was a nice counterpoint to Kollberg as the nemesis to Caine. The action was as graphic as anything not rated X, though it took awhile to build up to the wholesale gorefest. Ma’elKoth is an enigma for much of the book, though I have to admit to being slightly disappointed to his origins/identity. In the parts involving demonstrations of his and Pallas’ powers, I got the feeling I had picked up the fifth or sixth book of the lensman series after glancing at the chapters of the first one. The sheer jump in magnitude of powers by Pallas smelled somewhat of a deux ex machina.
    Still, a minor point. The final action sequences were very satisfying. Hari’s steadfast dedication to his true love was touching, though Pallas/Shanna’s constant misinterpretations of his motives grated at times. And Lamorak’s devolution from his picture postcard Hero ideal more than made up for that.
    The biggest letdown of the whole book is in how many loose threads were still hanging. On the other hand, those loose threads open the way to the sequels you mentioned, so the author followed the classical advice of always leave your audience wanting more. And I am definitely looking forward to reading those sequels. The “real” world is not going to be the same after the way things turned out. So, a solid 8.5 out of ten. ( and I don’t go over 9.5 on the principle that nothing is perfect). thanks for choosing this book, Mr. M. And thanks to Mr. Stover for agreeing to participate here.

  14. Hi Joe,

    I haven’t read your review of Heroes Die as I’m still reading it.

    For some reason, because I’m a software programmer, those near and dear assume I can fix any electrical device.
    Example:
    Ring, Ring.
    “Hello.”
    “Hey Sweet.”
    “Hey Dad.”
    “The TV’s doing something funny.”
    “Funny in what way?”
    “It’s just doing strange things.”
    “Strange and funny huh?”
    “Do you know what it is?”
    “Details would be helpful and also if I was a TV repairman that would probably be helpful too.”
    “Oh. So you don’t know what it is?”
    “No Dad.”
    “Ah. OK. Can you have a look at it when you’re over next?”
    “Sure Dad”.
    The extent of what I can do to fix a TV would be turn it off and turn it back on. It works for computers! And smacking the side of it to see if that fixes the problem.

    And why is it that when it comes to calling someone for technology advice the only criteria is as long as they’re younger than you?

    The only problem about people jumping on the MAC bandwagon is then those that have fun targeting Microsoft will then turn to targeting MAC. They do it to effect the greatest number of users. It’s not always a personal vendetta against Microsoft.

    Sometimes I’ll get a call that their (and “their” can be relative, friend, friend of friend, friend of relative, someone who knows someone who knows me) computer has cracked it, they don’t know what’s wrong and could I pretty please come and see them to at least work out what it is (even after I explain that hardware is definitely not my speciality). Always the first place I go is Internet History. Why? Where people surf on the web is the most common cause of problems. Internet History is an interesting insight into a user’s mind. Then, depending on what I find, I may have to broach the awkward subject with the wife of why their Husband’s PC is full of viruses or broach the subject with the person themselves. Also a note, when I come over for the second time to fix a PC and I find an empty Internet History and Temp folder, you’re not fooling anyone. I now have a policy (as I help friends/relatives at no charge), if I have to come out and fix your computer because of porn, I’m sending you a bill.

    So Joe, yeah, um, not that I’m suggesting anything here, but watch where the dogs go on the Internet. You know I’m jesting here right? 😉

  15. I made the horrific mistake up upgrading to IE8 a month or so back. I’ve been using Internet Explorer since it was invented and never saw the need for Firefox or any of the others.

    So, I got IE8, and found it to be the most buggy, slow and intrusive program ever. Just shutting it down is a nightmare as it stays in your RAM and doesn’t actually shut down. Force quitting it just makes the program thinks it crashed and it starts up again.

    After fighting with it for a week I gave up and downloaded Google Chrome. Smooth, fast and perfect are the ways I can describe Chrome. I’m ashamed I didn’t try it sooner.

  16. Im not sure why firefox gives you issues when trying to upload photos it but I try to use firefox all the time, The browser by itself is ok but when you start getting addons it becomes a much better browser!! You may have already found this but some people have issues uploading photos on firefox when google gears is installed.

  17. Heroes Die

    This was fascinating for the remarkable weave of future, past and present both in Hari’s world and in the “reality world” of Caine’s assignments in Ankhana.

    I loved the science fiction aspects of the future world he lived in. It was very interesting in how the caste system was structured. And, the way magick, spells of sorts, invoking protective cloaks to prevent discovery – were introduced was very interesting and one just wants to know what happens next.

    The discovery of truth with regard to some was nicely woven; Lamorak turned out to be a real jerk however, he was doing what was directed by those in power. The bottomline of some people’s true agendas – those who were in essence “writer/producer” was annoying in that the story was not unfolding naturally. The plotlines were directed by powerful people.

    Funny in that there was almost a “Prime Directive” not to interfere with the politics and yet that was what they did.

    I liked the character Talann, who ended up being killed, but who seemed to be acting of true heart and yearning to be close to Caine.

    The actors were almost like gladiators being sent to battle with the emperor (Chairman of the Studio – Administrator) having the key to their life or death. Yet, there was also the “Saturday matinee” feel of the adventures complete with cliff hangers. When the first emergency transfer occurred – right at a good part where Caine was learning of the truth of Lamorak – I was annoyed because they stopped the action. The story telling was superb in that even with countless mentions of the emergency button, I totally forgot about it until it was pressed. And, this was the basis for the cliff hanger for when Hari/Caine would be returning to the Overworld.

    One thing that was a little off balance was what appeared to be Hari/Caine’s sudden “change” where prior to the first emergency transfer back he was much like a soldier of fortune who did not plot, plan, strategize in minute detail. He was someone who appeared to be an accomplished fighter, but very basic otherwise. In fact, one statement was that “…he’d always been a better tactician than he was a strategist.” When he was returned to the Overworld, he was a brilliant strategist – a very accomplished chess player in positioning people and situations to achieve a desired outcome. And, given the politics, etc., a brilliant chess match was needed to result in Hari/Caine achieving the goal. I have to admit I did not see that transfer of Ma’elKoth back with Caine coming.

    The end was fitting in how Hari became Administrator and the prior one got his just reward.

    Question for Michael Woodring Stover:
    Thanks for joining us for the Questions and Answers. By the way, the interview at the end of the book was rather entertaining as well.

    1. I hope I did not miss a crucial detail in the book, but I wondered about the change in Hari/Caine to become such a brilliant strategist when he was returned to the Overworld to complete his mission to rescue Shanna and kill Ma’elKoth. He played, very well and nicely, a risky and wicked chess game with the bad guys. What happened to make the change – besides meeting his father?

    I very much enjoyed the book and will get more of the Caine books.

  18. Oops would help if I had the author’s name right.
    Matthew Woodring Stover…
    sorry bout that.

    Question for Matthew Woodring Stover:
    Thanks for joining us for the Questions and Answers. By the way, the interview at the end of the book was rather entertaining as well.

    1. I hope I did not miss a crucial detail in the book, but I wondered about the change in Hari/Caine to become such a brilliant strategist when he was returned to the Overworld to complete his mission to rescue Shanna and kill Ma’elKoth. He played, very well and nicely, a risky and wicked chess game with the bad guys. What happened to make the change – besides meeting his father?

    I very much enjoyed the book and will get more of the Caine books.

  19. I may be old fashioned but I use IE all the time and have no problem. Have tried Firefox and Google Chrome but i just prefer IE. I just love it. (Fangirl moment) Sometimes i have the dreaded ‘Page will not load’ page and then I remember to turn the modem on.

  20. Been looking through some pictures, and came across some from a Ren Faire a couple years back. I don’t want to post them, seeing as how it was a hot day and I’m a bit sweaty :P, but I found a semi-decent video of the reason I was at the Faire (not from the same event, but you’ll get the idea…)

    Though it’s hard to appreciate the drums in this video (live they’re AWESOME!), can I tempt any of you ladies to watch this (in HQ for best results)…??:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3vcEPj65_Q

    Albannach. It is why I’m proud to be part Scottish. Plus, I’ve had the long-locked Jamesie sweat on me. 😀 (He’s always good for a hug!)

    http://www.albannachmusic.com/about/index.html

    das

  21. Ha! That vid was from last year – and I SWEAR I can hear my sister screaming in it! I’ll have to ask her if she was up for that weekend…if so, then it’s definitely her whooping it up. She’s one of their groupies… as is ladyhgiggles, my niece…who hasn’t been around here lately, so I can talk about her. 😈

    das

  22. Have you ever read Pandora’s Star and its sequel, Judas Unchained, by Peter F. Hamilton? I think you’d enjoy them.

  23. Useful IE8 info

    Know that if you select the automatic update option with XP, Microsoft will helpfully upgraded you to IE8 automatically on the next update.

    Friends claim IE8 is much improve over IE7. However that only applies if you have recent multi-core processor along with enough RAM memory to support IE8. Am still using ancient single core AMD Sempron machine until the fancy new “Kuma” duo processor machine is ready. Maybe switching over to IE8 with the new machine along with installing Chrome & Safari. Current machine got only a 200W power supply!

    However if you don’ want to volunteer to test out IE8 with the next update. There is a blocker program available from Microsoft. Just google search IE8 blocker and that will show the link to download the program. You can still convert to IE8 manually later.

  24. Heroes die reminds me of a book called mothership, it wasnt good though but i guess it was interesting. im not gonna lie, from what you said, i dont think ill ever be interested in a story like that. i rather watch Gamer, lol.

    i never encountered your problem before, not sure what to do. have you tried uninstalling then reinstalling firefox? my guess is that if the problem isnt caused by the site itself then a third party application might be doing something to it. this blog doesnt use Adobe flash right? or java? –these things can create a mess sometimes.

    there are people who have the same problem: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/308429
    http://wordpress.org/support/topic/308668

    since i dont use wordpress, i got no idea what they are talking about. from what i understand it could have something to do with plugins, which you have to disable and then enable.

    oh i see there are Mac fans here, very nice. my sister got a Mac recently for the first time and you know why? because shes dumb lol. okay maybe that was too harsh, but she had a crapload of viruses on her previous notebook and it just baffles me, where do people find these viruses?! coz i certainly cant find them. Windows is better in every way in my opinion.

    and it seems you were right after all, my professor said music is a distraction and that i have to learn how to write scripts without listening to music. thats a shame. if it werent for nirvana i would have never written that epic scene! lol

  25. check out this war zone: http://www.mediapundit.net/2009/09/stargate-universe-is-a-promising-show-worth-seeing.html

    and guys i think its not the browser’s fault, especially when IE, firefox and Safari are all affected albeit in different ways. last resort would be to check IP address net stuff. but thats going too far. i think its the plugins or a recently installed application maybe. whatever changed between yesterday and now is the answer.

  26. I started Heroes Die expecting not to like the book very much, but I wanted to participate in the BOTM this time. Sword and sorcery lit is not really my thing (with the exception of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and only then because it’s more sword than sorcery). However, this book offers a plausible universe (and who says a parallel universe would operate according to our laws of physics, anyway?), where supposedly supernatural beings like elves and gods can exist, drawing on the energy of the universe.

    In fact, the story was intriguing because I found myself wondering if real-life actors would view it as an allegory for their own careers in the entertainment industry. Certainly actors feel exploited sometimes, not only by the people above them in the hierarchy of entertainment (the money men, the Big Wigs and Cheeses, and their minions), but possibly by the voracious appetites of the audience (fandom). Shanks/Lamorak’s conclusion that his second-rate status is due to lack of marketing in particular, could be the lament of any struggling real-life actor. It was also intriguing to think what any Big Wigs and Cheeses, or minions would think of this book.

    The premise of the book, therefore, made me curious to know if Mr. Stover had an acting background, and in the Q&A at the end of the book, I discovered that he does, not only in acting but in other aspects of entertainment as well. That made some of the psychological points in the book resonate. Any thoughts, Mr. M?

    Except for the graphic torture, which made me squirm, I didn’t have a problem with the violence as such. It was described realistically (no surprise, given Mr. Stover’s familiarity with martial arts of all kinds), as it might happen between fighting men and women. It advanced the story very well, keeping me turning pages to see what happened next. It was a sharp jab to acknowledge that we, as an audience, do indeed enjoy violence and conflict as entertainment, at least to a point. I honestly believe most of us would draw the line at the manipulation of people, and the “real” torture and killing depicted in this book. Given the popularity of “Saw” type movies, though, I can’t be sure of that.

    The one nitpick I have regarding that, is how could daily business have been carried out, given the ubiquitous violence? There didn’t seem to be a lot of trade in the streets because of the fear the ordinary citizenship (alien and human) would have had to have.

    As for the swear words, I don’t have a problem with swearing when it adds emotional punch to the scene. Nonstop, it loses its force and just becomes, well, juvenile. Visit any schoolyard and see what I mean. In the Q&A, Mr. Stover explains his intent to present the story in realistic terms, but in a fictional story, there’s only so much reality I, myself, want. Not rainbows and unicorns and sweet sunshine to be sure, but also not the mundane crapola I can experience in any mall.

    The Night of Miracles really nagged at me until the Q&A revealed Mr. Stover had stolen it from Victor Hugo. I KNEW I’d seen it somewhere. Well done.

    The undying, apparently unrequited, love of Hari/Caine for Shanna/Pallas seemed excessive to the point of unhealthy obsession, but maybe I’ve just become cynical in my old age. Was that also Victor Hugo, reflecting the love of Quasimodo for Esmeralda? Hm. Also, I thought the ending a bit too pat, but I realize it was the set up to a sequel, so it can be forgiven. I may even eventually check out the sequel, (Blade of Tyshalle), just because I’m curious to see how the changes in the regimes are handled.

    All in all, not one of my favorites, but not a bad choice of book.

  27. Ooooh, I love the pic of people looking at something truly amazing from the Destiny! It has an interesting flavour, if you know what I mean.

  28. So I’m reading the comments over at the media pundit site and I’m intrigued. Why do people who flatly refuse to watch a show continue to read reviews on it? Surely if you’re not interested to the level these people are, ie: stating that there is not one aspect of the show they’re interested in, then isn’t it a little masochistic to continue to read and then write scathing comments over something you apparently don’t even care about? **scratches head**

  29. Is anyone keeping a list of all the different analogies used when describing how they feel about SGU? Some of them are priceless and I have no idea how some come up with the correlation.

  30. The main problem I have with Internet Explorer is that it exists in this timeline.

    That statement will remain true even if Windows 7 turns out to be a decent OS. The reviews at this point sound decent, even though Microstiffed turned down my request for a Help feature that displays the hologram of Princess Leia pleading, “Help me, Obi Wan. You’re my only hope.” (My current hunk o’ junk needs to be replaced, and while I’m very seriously considering a Mac, I’ll probably go with another pc — from a company with a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy, and a rep for excellent tech support. Oh, and a kickass sound system.)

    I just bear a great deal of ill-will toward a fabulously rich company whose retail — alternatively, “Download this or else” — software products have been for the most part, in my estimation, no better than a beta version. (In fact, kappa- or ypsilon-version might be a more accurate term. Three words: Service Pack 3. Uninstalled one day after installation.) And I’ve read comments by pc pros that made the exact same complaints. Now, *finally,* we get an OS that’s been made available for general beta-testing. But — as with your advice to David Blue about characters being killed off — I’m taking a “wait and see” attitude until sufficient numbers of non-techies like myself have hit the forums with their reviews of W7’s pros and cons.

    – And yeah, I’ve had a few glitches of the type you’ve described, but they weren’t persistent. Good luck.

    PS: Thanks for the great pics!

  31. Das wrote:

    Ooo…and another one from the same day…

    Looks and sounds a lot like a reunion for the Scottish side our family, although a few less visible tattoos. Bagpipes kill me though.

  32. Let’s be honest, Joe. We don’t really have to ask why you use IE, because those of us who do already knows: you use it because you’ve always used it and are just too lazy to change. It’s the same for all of us. Oh yes. 😛

    Yeah, I’m gonna use smilies again. Sorry. 😉

    Speaking of which, I’ve been using IE8 for a while now and I’ve had very few problems, none of which I can remember off the top of me noggin’. I’ve been using IE forever and never really had anything major happen. On the other hand, I tried Firefox a while back, and quickly switched back to IE. I hated it.

    Yep, I think I’m gonna use IE (and PCs) forever.

    Sweet pictures! The observation deck photo is very interesting; it looks like the crew is very diverse; I like that a lot! 😀

  33. das – Forwarded your links to Dad. Thought it might take his mind off the pain he has at the moment. Got this back…
    “Gthrrrate eh?? How about the Gael by Dougie MacLean??”
    Looks like your links did the trick 🙂 Thanks.
    Oh, if you’re wondering what that first word is, it’s the noise that would have been emitted when he said the word “Great” while watching it.

  34. I use Firefox all the time…find it has less problems…tried Opera or as I call it for some reason Oprah…errr…and although it is good I found it rather complicated as you have to tell it how to do everything instead of just one command for everything…which if you want that sort of control is great but me no…I know lazy little shit…LOL….

    I haven’t tried Safari in a while might have another go…have you tried Google Chrome?…tried that when it first came out not for me but you may find it a good one…

    Still getting used to not having a cat around…can’t get a new one as on benefits so can’t afford the 1st yrs bills…

    Kriss 🙂

  35. Hey Joe,

    Rule #1 Do not go to another page while posting a comment. It will go away…forever. 🙁

    The dog ate my homework, no the cat ate my homework (Heroes Die). FOX (2) wondered into my bedroom and found my book on the nightstand. Rather than just turning pages he ripped them out. No pictures..maybe he didn’t like that…I don’t know. My floor looked like confetti.

    When I came home from work I saw the mess. Picked up the shreds of paper and wondered if Fox had fun.

    So I enjoyed your review. Didn’t get as far as I would have liked in the book. But I will take pleasure in reading everyone else’s comments.

    The press article on SGU I have decided to let alone. A tweet buddy said we should wait and that is what I have decided. I guess I re-decided that I will see those first three hours and then…maybe have a couple of questions. Would you do a Q&A after the first 3? Anyway…thanks for your endless patience and endless fun.

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl

  36. is the Destiny’s gate the only gate that is different in the series, or will all the gates in universe be like the gate on the Destiny? Or are you just not at liberty to answer the question?

  37. for the love of Beckett

    Lise, I’m very, very sorry to read about the critical health problems your father has been through, directly or indirectly related to shingles. Thank goodness the blood clots were found in time. . . . It’s pretty incredible (as you already know) that, this soon afterward, your dad is going about life as usual just as much as he can. As serious as things got, I’d suppose that his docs have made sure he has all the info he needs relative to keeping from falling back into a similar situation. I hope your family is coping all right with his desire/need to be dominant over his health problems on the one hand, and loved ones’ concerns about making sure he doesn’t push himself too hard and too fast. And, I hope you have close-knit family members who support each other through it all. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.

    – I don’t know how much time you’ve had to go through whatever information the healthcare people have passed on to your dad/your family, but these are two websites with reliable info for laymen: MayoClinic.com, and WebMD.com. (If you want to dig a little deeper, Medline / PubMed tends to offer more technical information.) MayoClinic.com has some dietary info (re. vitamin K, also alcohol) that’s more recent than what Sheryl and I learned in school. Also, explanations of the all-important labwork (PT’s and PTT’s, or INR’s depending on where you are) – these are easily found on the ‘net, but are probably in the literature the docs provided. If your dad is like mine, he may need to be reminded that these particular tests are critical while he’s taking a blood-clotting suppressant. – To you and yours, take care. *hugs*

    Amelia

  38. otros ojos
    Your Help idea for MS would be brilliant! In true HoloLeia form she would probably just keep on repeating over and over the same thing causing you to eventually yell at it like we do to the automated voice recognition systems our telcos use here. We don’t all have Jedi patience.

    Joe, can you tell I’m having one of those days where I’m waiting for my computer to process things, A LOT?! Means I get commenting diarrhoea. Sorry about that, and also possibly for whatever mental image may have been brought about by the phrase commenting diarrhoea.

  39. Definitely try chrome, apart from the odd facebook hiccup, its lightning fast – reliable too. I’m looking at the shot of the gate in the desert, are my fatigued eyes cheating me, or are there a series of joins across it? I’m guessing thats how the thing gets loaded onto a van…

  40. I have the technical prowess of Elmer Fudd. Or Mrs. Fudd. Thankfully, malwarebytes.org just cleaned the 57 infected files it found, so bye bye porn, not that I didn’t look.

    It’s gonna be a Mac the next time. Although I have to say that I got pretty good at Whack ‘a Pop. I should have kept score.

    Thanks for all the SGA photos. And I hope that MGM will soon decide one way or the other about the movie. I hate cliffhangers.

  41. Bonjour Joseph Mallozzi. Comment allez-vous ? Personellement, je vais plutôt mal car mes parents se séparent. Mais je me console en me disant que c’est la vie qui a voulu ça (et pas la puissance divine des oris).

    J’ai une question !
    Dans l’extrait de 5 minutes du pilote de SGU on voit que le point d’origine de la Terre est enclanché en dernier. Sachant que ce point d”origine n’est pas le vrai (le vrai est celui de la porte d’antarctique) pourquoi ce symbole ? Est-ce la porte de la Terre qui a été installée à Icarus ? Est-ce un incohérence ?

    Et une deuxième question:
    Le symbole de la Terre est-il universel ? Car je me souviens d’un épisode de la saison 3 où sur une autre planète, au moment de la découverte de la porte la caméra fait un gros plan dessus.

    J’en profite également pour vous dire que des français ont construient une porte des étoiles ! C’est pour une fan-série. La porte a les chevrons vert et, même s’il y a des défaults, elle est magnifique. Vous voulez l’adresse du site ?

    Au revoir Joseph.

  42. Heroes die

    I wasn’t sure whether I’d like to read it or not. I gave it a try because I have no problems with other worlds and fantasy after all (Lord of the Rings is my all time favorite book).

    I stopped reading around page 100, never really got a sense for the story. I couldn’t figure out what this other world really was, how it worked. IMO, the author’s explanation came too late in order to get me interested in the story.

    For me, the pace of the storytelling was too slow. 100 pages and we still weren’t in the main story, just at the beginning. I don’t know whether the long forerun was really necessary. Maybe it would have made sense after reading the whole book?

    I never cared for the main character(s) Hari/Caine. Somehow, I couldn’t believe that he is really able to have true feelings. I couldn’t picture him as someone who starts that adventure because he loves his wife. Not as the main reason anyway.

    I didn’t like the detailed storytelling in certain scenes. For example, it’s enough for me to read that person A cuts off the head from person B. I don’t need further details apart from that.

    So, yes, I like the author’s idea, the story itself just didn’t manage to catch my interest. I’m curious what others will say about the book.

    I did a little research on Matthew Woodring Stover and discovered that, in addition to his original works in the SF and Fantasy field, he’s also written four novels set in the Star Wars universe which have won him a fair amount of praise from both fans and critics alike.

    He did? I have to look at my book shelf, maybe I have some of them. If not, I’ll look for them. Haven’t read Star Wars novels for some years. However, I’ve really liked them – the ‘old’ ones. Not a fan of the new stuff/movies.

    Your browser problems: that’s really a nightmare. Although I have Safari on my computer (not sure about Firefox), I’ve never worked with it. So far, I haven’t had many/huge problems with IE (still use Windows XP – have never been a fan of Vista), and I hope it stays this way.

    I wish you a fast, good and permanent solution to your computer/blog problems. And I’m just a little bit selfish with that wish. 😉

    @for the love of Beckett

    I’m sorry to hear you had such hard times and I’m glad that your father feels better.

    And did either of you lucky girls who saw Pauly at Creation Con in Chicago collect that big hug and kiss for me? After the past few weeks, I sure could use that kind of medicine.

    I thought about you. However, sorry, there wasn’t an opportunity. At the time I got my autograph, there was already too little time left (he had to catch a plane). He gave the autographs while walking along the line! Really no time for talking. 🙁 However, if all goes well, I’ll meet him again in November and could try it once more. 😉

  43. If you are having problem with windows/IE then I will tell you what I tell everyone, install Ubuntu. Then you have a different more reliable OS, you can use firefox(I have no problem uploading images) or you can use Opera or you can use Google chrome.

    Go on download a copy of Ubuntu from Ubuntu.com you know you want to 🙂

    Oh and its all free, can’t remember last time I bought some software and everything I have is legal, bet there arn’t many people that can say that.

    Anyway great entry, love the pics.

  44. Hi Mr M!

    Heroes Die looks intriguing. I am still finishing Paul Jessup’s book, but may give that a spin later this month. (am also committed to reading Brooklyn by Colm Tobin – fellow Irishman, and short-listed for the Booker (him…not me))

    @Das : Wow! That Air Craft history looks great. Wonderful photo of your Dad. Really iconic.
    Also, agree re: Albannach…. If you like them, try “The Bothy Band”. Irish uilleann pipes group (with other instruments). Very Irish trad. who were HUGE in the 70’s during the Celtic music revival, leading to Clannad (Harry’s Game) and ultimately to Riverdance and (dare I say it) Enya.
    On a side note, your namesake (our daughter Deirdre) started Montesorri School last week. All well, no tears (except from the other Deirdre – her mum)

    Am on a go-slow this week. My nurse is on holiday and my stand-in let me down. So, am catching up on paperwork and generally surfing the web (hence the long entry!!!).

    Best to all!!

    S’n’T

  45. I stopped using IE when the new tab update made it start randomly closing everything if I clicked on anything at all. I use Firefox all the time now, and I don’t think I have browser problems.

  46. I have a lot of trouble with IE. My computer tells me it’s still connected, but IE only gives “page cannot be displayed warnings”, and so forth. It’s been gradually getting worse as the computer ages.

    I find disconnecting from the internet and reconnecting again works really well, followed by a page refresh. It’s particularly good for wireless, but less effective for ethernet cable connections – that’s usually caused by a bend in the cable.

    Any help?

  47. I didn’t get a chance to read Heroes Die but based on these reviews and my liking of the Star Wars books he wrote, I will definitely be adding it to my list. SF & sword fighting, doesn’t get much better than that for me.
    DD

  48. @SYLVIA , Are you the same person bidding on Stargate stuff for the Nov. con? If so it looks like were gonna meet, hopefully! @JOE, again i ask, do ya want chestnuts this year? The trees are full!! ….. Sheryl

  49. Ok I think I got some.

    Questions for Brian.

    First off I just want to say thank you Brian for doing this Q&A. 🙂

    1. What is the hardest part of playing you character(especially considering he is in the military)?

    2. What episode would you say is going to be a fan favorite(besides air)? Also, what is your favorite SGU episode so far?

    3. Whats your favorite episode of SG-1 and Atlantis(or some your favorites)?

    4. Once SGU is over(hopefully 5-7 years down the road), do you think you will go back to theater, or continue in television and movies?

    Thanks again Brian and Joe for doing this Q&A!!!!!

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  50. My question for the SGU boys. I know both have their own Q&A, but that’s the question I could think of. 😛

    Have you ever heard of thunkers…. or worse… whumpers?! *evil grin*

    Thanks, Joe, for the SGU and SGA pics. Still hoping to hear news about the movies (especially SG-1)… y’know, it’s kind of fall already.

  51. Re: Gen’s comment above about regular-lookin’ folk winding up aboard Destiny.

    It’s certainly an interesting-looking mix of military and civvy sorts, though it does beg the question just what were all these civvies doing on the apparently top-secret Icarus Base to begin with. 😉

    You’d expect SGC base personnel to at least be Air Force, or civvy contractors / science boffins — and maybe that’s what we’re looking at here; a lot depends on just what exactly the SGC unearthed / were studying at Icarus.

    I do like the comparison/contrast aspects of the whole scenario — comparing the Atlantis Expedition (AE) to the motley crew herded through the Icarus gate.

    Both “crews,” for lack of a better term, have very little current info on the place they’re going to — the AE folks only knew t’was Atlantis, the fabled Lost City of the Ancients, which could’ve been a crumbling ruin on the far side of a one-way trip. (As for how much Rush & Co know about the Destiny before scrambling through the gate, I guess we’ll see in a few weeks).

    I guess the biggest difference is that the AE was composed of volunteers selected from a pre-screened group of Air Force and Arts & Sciences civvies who had some idea of the one-way trip pioneering aspects of the project — people who’d had a chance to put affairs in order, make their goodbyes, pack their weight allowance of cherished possessions and mementos. The folks herded pell-mell onto Destiny? Not so much.

    Probably wouldn’t hurt to mention the dray-loads of supplies and equipment schlepped through the gate by the AE, either — grub, beverages, medical supplies, computers, naquadah generators, clothes, linens, research on the Ancients… all the comforts of home.

    If the folks scrambling onto the Destiny go literally with just the clothes on their backs and whatever was close at hand, then it’s easy to see how they’d quickly be in a world o’ hurtin’ on just about every level imaginable.

    Even if — and it seems a big if — the Icarus – Destiny wormhole remained open for the full 38-minute maximum we’re come to expect, there’d only be so much in the way of supplies and consumables at Icarus that could be crated up and trundled through the gate; nothing short of a full expeditionary force would have the range of supplies necessary.

  52. @das hey thanks for the Albannach link. I’m ALWAYS looking for new world eclectic excellent music. Drums n pipes n Gaelic = great!!

  53. Hello Joseph 🙂

    ça va ? moi oui comme une journée de cour!

    Pas mal ce livre, au vu de la description que vous en faites il doit être bien 🙂

    Outch, moi aussi j’ai eu des problémes avec internet exploreur mais ça c’est toujour résolu.

    J’espere que tout ça va aller mieux et que vous pourrez mettre à jour votre blog dans les meilleurs conditions.

    Bisou
    A plus tard

  54. @ Shirt’n’Tie – Thanks! It’s my husband’s grandfather, actually…I never met him, but the family always sings his praises. He was of that special, WWII-era breed. It’s not to say that his war experience didn’t take its toll – it did – but he did come out the other side a bit better than some, and went on to test some of the first fighter jets, and later – as an iron worker – helped build the first casinos in Atlantic City. Never much talked about his experiences, though, as I understand it.

    As far as Irish music goes, I used to listen a lot to a band called Kila. This is about the best vid I can find: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAOmx2fRyck

    Another band – albeit Scottish again – that I love is Old Blind Dogs, and my favorite song is this one, Edward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCkcYYQv3so

    *sigh*

    And my best to both of your Deirdres!

    @ Narelle – Will you adopt me, just so I can get in on those family gatherings? The pipes always bring a tear to my eye…love ’em, but outside…not inside. We made THAT mistake once… “NOT in the living room – on the porch, NOW!” Besides, it’s much better to share ’em with the neighbors!

    Glad your dad liked the videos – I certainly do, but I suspect in a MUCH different way than your dad does! 😉

    das

  55. @ Elyse

    I second the recommendation(s) for Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. Great, intricate, unusual reads that kept me glued to the pages of both tomes.

    Libby

  56. @ drldeboer – You’re welcome! Albannach is a GREAT band to see live – so much energy, an’ the droooms just gae rrrrright thrrroooogh ya!

    Oops. Been listening to ’em just a wee bit too much… 😳

    Check out my last post – I mention a couple ithers there, too.

    das

  57. Hey Joe, sorry to hear about the computer.

    I have a question for ya. If it’s been answered then I guess I’ll have to dig up the answer somewhere. If it’s a stay tuned answer then I most certainly will.

    What do the symbols on the destiny gate mean or have to do with? In both SG1 and Atlantis they were constellations used as reference points for determining locations. These look more like a language or numbering system.

  58. @ Sheryl – sorry, that is not me. Auctions and me are not a good combo and I have a lot of stuff to prove it…lol.
    I hope our paths do cross. Are you thinking/planning for the July Gatecon 2010 in Vancouver?

    It would be fun to have a JM Blog regulars meet-up one day. And, would be cool if the scheduling worked out to permit Joe to attend as well. Start the JM fan club!
    sylvia

  59. @ Shirt’n’Tie – Been listening to The Bothy Band – yes, very traditional. I’m a bit of a fan of The Chieftains, too. I have a lot of music like this, but most from the Appalachian region in the US. I love the hammered dulcimer and much of my American, Irish-influenced music features that instrument:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRwaVanPTDE

    das

  60. Hello Mr Mallozzi !!
    I have a “little question” :
    In the five minutes of Air on Youtube, we see that the last symbol to be encoded (the ninth) is the typical Stargate A. If I’m right the only gate with this symbol is the gate from Earth. Does that mean that the gate in the Icarus base is the gate of the SGC ? Or maybe the gate of Icarus has been new reprogrammed ?

    I must say that it is one of my source of concern about SGU….

    However, the actors are incredible (especially Louis Ferreira and Robert Carlyle), the new look of Stargate very good and the story seems to be very (very very) good. I’m very excited !!!

  61. Hey Joe,

    Sorry to hear you’re having issues with the computer. I always find tech problems so frustrating…
    I was having trouble with IE, which I still use occasionally, but I’m using Google Chrome, and I haven’t had any trouble. Also, it’s really, really fast.

    I found this website where they do a DNA profile of websites, and just for kicks plugged in this site, and the profile looks pretty cool (also, you can change the colours):

    http://www.baekdal.com/web2dna/?url=http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com&color=blue

    Our guests went home this weekend – mom and I drove them down to SeaTac Airport. It was my 3rd week in a row driving down to Seattle. But we stopped at Campagnolo again on the way home, so there is that.
    I must say, each time I go I am more and more impressed with the service. We had called to ask when they stopped serving (11 pm) because we were supposed to get in at 10:45, and they said it was ok to come, and we were the only people in the restaurant, but the staff was very friendly and welcoming. And the food is awesome.

    Hope the pups are all doing well,
    Nadine

  62. I agree with Joe that Heroes Die is an interesting mix of modern high tech and medieval magic. The premise is the next step in reality shows – if science had developed the technology to move between alternate realities and society had lapsed into a caste system that seems to be based on ancient Rome with bread and circuses keeping the mindless masses docile. I’m not a fan of reality TV or pro-wrestling or its more violent off-shoots; don’t like ‘em, don’t watch ‘em. But it does worry me that so many people are addicted to that sort of thing.

    The thing I enjoyed most was the setting: the detail of both of the worlds and how they function was beautifully developed without having too much prose devoted to it. I can see why Shanna preferred to stay in Ankhana – it was a world that seemed to have potential for improvement, unlike her home world which seemed hopelessly mired in decadence for the wealthy and depression for the poor. The author set up a nice contrast between the authoritarian governments in both worlds. For a while I was hoping the Ma’elkoth would succeed in his quest to re-make his world into a place of peace and prosperity, but I think that it would have been a mistake. The people were becoming too dependent on his divine intervention so solve their problems and in the end, a benevolent dictator is still a dictator and that type of society generally does not prosper long term.

    And I never really liked any of the main characters: Hari/Caine was too much of a thug and Shanna just never seemed “real” enough for me to care about. Hari’s character grows or at least changes from a guy whom everyone in Ankhana trusts because his alter ego Caine is ruthless and violent but honest, to a guy who manipulates friend and enemy alike without even a twinge of conscience to achieve his ends: how is this an improvement? Maybe this makes him better able to cope in the society he lives in, but to me it was a disappointing outcome. Yeah, I know he’s sort of following his father’s advice and “inching” toward success, but it just feels wrong.

    The second tier characters: Toa-Sytell, Kierendal, Ta-lann and even the King of Cant, were more sympathetic. But for the most part, I just felt sorry for most of the characters and that is not something that makes me want to read more about them.

    I understand that violence was intrinsic to the story, but for me, the graphic aspects were overdone: I don’t need to know the details of tearing flesh and cracking bones and the intimate details of how Berne gets sexual pleasure from inflicting pain.

  63. For Joe: I really liked Heroes Die. Thanks for recommending it. Below are my questions for the Q&A.

    For Matthew Woodring Stover:

    I thought Heroes Die was a great read. It is a pretty remarkable piece of work because it intertwines so many different elements and pulls it off in an entertaining way. It is also incredibly morally ambiguous which makes it very thought provoking.

    1. For me, this story was a great vehicle for describing slavery and manipulation (personal and social) on so many different levels. Hari/Caine’s obvious slavery as a “gladiator” to the Studio System with the rest of his world’s population essentially slaves inside a very structured caste system imposed by corporate interests. While at the same time these very corporate entities provide the main means of escapism – “ultra-violent” entertainment which seems like an opiate for members at every caste level. Fairly obvious social commentary on our own world, I think. Since you wrote this book over ten years ago, do you think our society has come closer to that of Hari’s in certain ways?

    2. I kept feeling hints and references in both worlds to Greek and Roman mythology – with Eastern philosophies thrown in as well. The concept of social castes and the Flow (Eastern); the use of aktirs who were more or less “gladiators” (Roman) and the Leisure families, who reminded me more of the Olympian Gods than anything else. (Hari’s visit to Leisure family Dole’s home seemed like Hercules making a trip to Olympus.) Were these references something you were intentionally tapping into or was it just your own personal knowledge base just unconsciously kicking in?

    3. I liked the fact that most of the characters were always working within a “grey” moral area which seems more human and realistic than traditional heroes within a Good vs Evil context. Is this a trend in SF Fantasy these days?

    4. Bad guys – there were some nasty players in this story. Berne and Kollberg seemed like two sides of the same coin. Kollberg was sort of a clean, non-violent, metaphorically stab-you-in-the-back kind of sociopath and Berne – he was an all out blood-thirsty sociopath. Because of the moral ambiguities in Hari’s/Caine’s character, did you feel you had to make the bad guys that much more heinous to draw distinctions?

    It was harder for me to place Ma’elKoth within a spectrum of good/bad. But a guy that uses a “human juicer” to gain power, well, that sort of sends up red flags for me. What was your intent with his character? Lamorak was easily a “rat” for me – with or without Studio directives.

    5. Pallas’ ability to tap into the power of old gods did seem a little like a deus ex-machina or a get-out-of-jail-free-card, why was it that Ma’elKoth couldn’t tap into this power nor other magical types in Overworld while she could?

    6. Given the title, Heroes Die, I was always trying to guess who would survive in the end. There were so few classic heroes in this story. I knew that Talann, most like a hero, was probably not gonna make it. But I also thought Pallas was a hero – Caine even describes her that way. Yet she survived – why?

    7. Hari evolves into a superb duplicitous puppeteer towards the end of this book. He starts thinking differently from Caine which seems to be the goal on his personal journey. He learns to do all these things in order to save Shanna’s life. Are we supposed to feel good about this accomplishment or is your point to make us squirm a little with his success?

    And at the very end, the puppet becomes the puppetteer. I’m hoping he does a better job than Kollberg. Can’t imagine how- but I suppose Ma’elKoth would make a great Aktir in another alternate reality.

  64. Heroes Die.

    One thing Matthew Stover knows how to do is grab your attention from the start. The very first sentence made me think that there was something very special in what I was reading. I wasn’t disappointed.

    The way this book is structured is absolutely amazing. From the start, we see exactly the kind of man Caine is, we get just the barest hint of that someone special in his life. We get back story in a way that I have rarely, if ever, seen before. In movies, for example, you get this sort of prologue where we see what kind of badass the hero is/used to be, and then it goes to black with “10 years later” or something, and it just doesn’t really seem to fit. Here, not only is there a reason to show a back story, but the back story itself plays a part in the overall story. It even sets a seed for a major disruption that happens later.

    It plays out like throughout the entire book. Events are interwoven, characters play against these events–and each other–and it all comes together to show exactly how much these Actors are involved in shaping events on Overworld.

    We get to be shown a lot of things that might otherwise just be explained later, after it’s affected our favorite anti-hero. There’s this rule somewhere, it goes show don’t tell. Well, that’s a load of crap; show it if it would be interesting to see, tell it if it isn’t. This is something Matthew Stover seems to understand very well. Sometimes we’re privy to the actions of others, sometimes we’re told when our favorite antihero comes to understand them after the fact. It works well. Contrast that with Joel Sheperd’s Cassandra Kresnov series, which is almost all tell.

    The characters themselves are fantastic, and there are enough POVs told that we get to understand some of them very well. The dialogue is wonderful; usually if I want great dialogue I grab Elmore Leonard, and I hardly expect great things in fantasy where too many authors distract me with wooden dialogue meant to show that these people belong with a sword on their hip. It was great fun reading the conversations in Heroes Die, and they felt very natural.

    The novel is set over a period of several days once Caine is in Overworld. At the begging of each new day, in a little blurb over the actual story, we get snippets of conversation between Hari and Shanna Michaelson that let us know what kind of relationship they have together, but also gives us new insight into each of these two characters. We learn something new each time. Every one of these were a treat to enjoy.

    This book is a solid 10/10 for me. In it I see echoes of themes touched on by everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Robert Heinlein, and handled just as well.

    I have questions for Matt Stover:

    Character creation is fascinating for me. Focusing on Kierendal, where did she come from? Where did her environment come from? Was she meant to fill a particular theme you wanted to explore?

  65. Hey Joe!

    I’m finally back from Dragon*Con. Which is made of WIN! 😀

    I’m very happy to tell you that the Stargate track reached it’s goal of $15,000 for the charity this year. I cannot remember the name but it is for Alzheimers. For the second time in a row we Stargate fans raised more money than all of Dragon*Con! *cheer!*

    Also, I think we kicked comic cons’s butt in the blood donation department as well. I DID give blood, too. As did many of the squirrels. Go Squirrels! And Stargate fans. Go Stargate fans!

    Now I need to pack again. *Someone* thought it would be great to book a vacation two days after I got back from Dragon.

    I won’t say who. But his initials are J. M. Oooooh! Not Joe Mallozzi… someone else I know has those initials. LOL!

    Trish

  66. Das – Sure, you can come along 🙂 You might have to get over your fear of flying though!
    Most of my family immigrated to Australia during the late 1930’s. But I remember when my Nanna and her Sister got together I couldn’t understand them. Apart, they had a normal Aussie accent. Together, it was English, but with such a thick Scottish accent all I understood was their cackling laughter.

  67. Pleased to report that mom-in-law’s recovery is on schedule so far. Should transfer out of ICU tomorrow.

    Glad to hear from many, here and other fandom sites, who enjoyed Dragon*Con. I attended last year, for the first time, and hope to return.

    Q for Brian J Smith: same as for David B–favorite means for memorizing lines?

  68. @ Sparrow – Aye! Spendin’ a wee bit too much time on the wrrroong siade o’ the trrrracks!

    (But those metatemporal boys are a fun bunch, that’s for sure!)

    @ Narelle – My sister once asked a Glaswegian directions. All she understood was, “You go doone d’rrrooad an’ turrrrn…”…and after that, she was lost. Some accents are impossible to understand, but the kilts make up for it! Especially on windy days! 😀

    das

  69. My only advice is: don’t read the sequels to Heroes Die without allowing at least a couple of months, maybe more, in between each book. Stover keeps undermining your expectations, and your emotions could take a beating if you go straight from one book to the next.

    An author has to be pretty brave to write books like these. Besides playing fantasy and science fiction off against each other and the future audiences for the Studio’s programming off against the current audiences for “reality” shows, Stover pushes the reader’s assumptions about the genres involved right up front where they are difficult to ignore, but never in an archly “meta” way that keeps the story from being emotionally intense.

    Back when Heroes Die first came out, my comment on it (which I mostly stand by) was: “Normally I avoid using that bloody word ‘deconstruct’, but Heroes Die does in fact very cleverly deconstruct the whole genre–‘heroic barbarian’ fantasy–that it emulates quite smashingly at the same time. In fact, it almost gets too clever for its own good by the end, but manages to pull it off anyway. Stover both satirizes the mass marketing of vicarious violence under the guise of ‘heroics’ and offers a sober critique of the social underpinnings for its popularity. And he tells a damn good fantasy story as well!”

  70. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have read Heroes Die because it’s a little farther into the fantasy genre than I have been reading lately. That having been said, I’m very glad that you picked it as a BOTM because I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m going to track down the sequels. The mix of fantasy and science fiction was just about perfect, though the geek in me would like to know a little bit more about the history and mechanics of the Winston Transfer, but that could be in another book. 🙂

    I thought the characters were very well-developed and not just the predictable two-dimensional constructs that plague many stories these days. Spending the time to explore relationships on the edge of the story, but which are nonetheless important to it, was worth the author’s time. And it’s nice read fight scenes which are technically valid and clearly well thought out. 🙂

    Someone mentioned overtones of Heinlein, who is another favourite author of mine, which I also noticed.

    Oh, and if you’re using a Windows box rather than a Mac you should check out Windows Live Writer as a blog authoring tool (http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/) and switch to Firefox, too.

  71. Someone help me here, either I missed it or it was never explained. What happened with Caine during this blood ritual thing. The statue, professing Maelkoths as his God. I’m 90% in to the book and the question was never answered. That’s a big question?

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