This is my second half of my review of Heroes Die by Matthew Stover. The first part can be found here.
There will be some SPOILERS after
this point, so proceed at your own peril.
There were so many passages I liked.
Here's a selection of my favorites and where I found them in the audiobook,
if you want to play along at home.
Quotes are in italics, my ccommentary follows.
58 minutes: He needed
to be Caine. He needed, finally, inescapably, to hurt somebody. And, as
always, when lacking a better target, he turned on himself. The first
part reminds me of Yama's line in Lord of Light ("I am no longer certain.
I think so. But I will find who did it, whatever his station, and kill
him." "Why?" "I have need of something to do, someone
to ... " "Kill?") and the last part reminded me of Set in
Creatures of Light and Darkness.
1:28: "He's invented
a variant of a Faraday cage...He should only be able to think of thinking
of blocking a spell with another spell, instead of taking advantage of
a principle underlying a whole branch of magic." This struck me
as a concept and an exchange that would absolutely be at home in a Roger
5:32 Studio sponsored
focus groups had determined that 1.6 lethal combats per day was optimum
for a Caine adventure...Beating up a whore had a certain old fashioned charm
but hardly qualified as actual combat. - Kollberg is a dick.
7:41 There was something
of the dinosaur, of the dragon, in the slow majestic grace of his movements,
the way he would flow from pose to pose with evident satisfaction, as though
the play of muscle in his massive arms and shoulders, chest and back, gave
him some deeply spiritual joy to be savored. - A description I like
8:56 "I remember a
Caine who would rather kill a man than lie to him." "Killing
is simple. You do it, it's done, it's over. A lie is like a pet. You have
to take care of it or it will bite you in the ass." "Are you still
that Caine?" " I'm as honest as circumstances allow." -
An exchange I like between Caine and Ma'elKoth.
11:09 "They see
us instead of his illusion, once even firing on us, before Lamorak's head
jerks up like a narcoleptic marionette's..." Another Zelaznian
turn of phrase.
12:30 The image that's
sullen and cynical That casually homicidal villain who's caused her so
much pain, We both carry those images, those built up mental constructs,
I think we've spent so long talking to ourselves, inside our own heads.,
arguing with an imaginary Caine, a fictitious Pallas, that we've virtually
forgotten the reality that lies behind them." -This is on encountering
Pallas on Overworld, and I think the idea behind this, that we often make
caricatures out of our enemies and we forget who they really are.
13:13 I'm not going to type
this out, but it's another great exchange, but Caine has just been recalled
to Earth by Koldberg, in a fit of pique, and he's possibly missed his only
chance to save her. He's angrier than he's ever been, and when he demands
an answer from Koldberg, the higher caste man, says "I don't like
your tone. Do you understand?" and when Hari chokes out a yes, Koldberg
replies with "Yes, what?", which is such an epically dick move,
but Hari has to choke out "Yes, Administrator," rather than punch
him in the face, because that's the only way to save Shanna.
16:34 "Maybe I don't
have to solve every problem with my fists, but every once in a while, a
situation arises that is substantially improved by the judicious application
of force." Stover's style reminds me of Zelazny's more than any
living author and lines like this could have come from Corwin's mouth.
17:29 "If distant
thunder could be made into precise words, broken into clipped and overarticulated
speech, it would have the impersonal, dispassionately threatening sound
of Ma'elKoth's voice." I love the way this sentence is put together.
17:51 Ma'elKoth reached
for Caine with such smooth inevitability that he couldn't even think of
dodging the Emperor's grasp. The way Stover describes Ma'elKoth is
wonderful, and really builds a memorable impression. There is no mistaking
him for anyone else.
18:26 "The tale
he brought me is a convincing one. It fits every fact and he had an answer
for every question. This alone would make me suspicious. Only fictions
tally so neatly. Life is less orderly." The end of the book is
a near constant series of betrayals, double-crosses, plans and counterplans.
The musing is Ma'elKoth's, and if I had to pick out a single reason why
I love him as a character, that would be it. Like everyone in the
story, except maybe Berne, Ma'elKoth is neither entirely good nor entirely
evil. Ma'elKoth is a bad guy, but a good Emperor. (As Stover said in this interview: I had people ask me about Heroes Die: "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Ma'elKoth. Is he a bad
guy, or a good guy, or what? Am I supposed to like him or hate him?" My general answer: "You're not
supposed to feel anything but whatever it is you feel. Make up your own damn mind.") and I do like that kind of complexity in characters."
21:04 As long as I draw
this moment out, Pallas and I, we're Shrodinger's cat, equiposed between
life and death, and my first move will collapse our wave function into
history. Another, beautiful, Zelaznian turn of phrase.
This is a book that surpassed my expectations in every way.