Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Heroes Die, Part 2

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 Zelazny story.

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 of Ma'elKoth.

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.

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