I have, on several occasions in the past 12 months, waxed eloquent in gushing praise over a couple authors/books that entertained the heck out of me. I don't mind the risk of making myself look foolish -- Nine times out of ten, given enough time to cool off, I go back and review my bursts of praise and I find that I still hold that position. Very few be the times when I regret effusive bursts of fanboyish glee pounded out in the immediate post-read afterglow of a great book.
So I shall proceed with this review, without fear.
This book Heroes Die, by Matthew Stover, is a solid, unquestionable 5-Star read. I was thoroughly unprepared to read such a well-crafted, well-thought-out, expertly-written adventure. The premise alone, once it sunk in what Stover was up to, was enough to give me pause and get my mind singing with the possibilities that lay ahead in the story. Such a terrific blend of sci-fi and fantasy I have yet to see in any other title I've read.
Picture a future, where technology has advanced to the point that we can access other worlds in parallel universes, and can send highly-trained actors over to these worlds to take part in "adventures" that people here can tag along on, looking through the eyes of the actor, recorded and broadcast from first person, the audience seeing and hearing it all. The world itself is real, and the people, kingdoms and politics unfold like they would normally, only back here, "we" introduce people with specific missions to cause chaos, uproar, instability, topple governments, assassinate key players, and are able to recall them back here to Earth at the end -- or the actors die trying.
This other world (in this case, called Ankhana) has humans, elves, orcs, trolls and other races, as well as magicians/magicks, enchanted weaponry, gods, etc... all of which are used, without their knowledge, as the setting for our entertainment -- Reality TV on steroids.
It is a true sci-fi/fantasy hybrid tale, so dripping with possibilities, it staggered my brain.
My fear was that the story wouldn't live up to the premise. My fear turned out to be unfounded. The depths to which Stover has delved in contemplating the possibilities in his premise are so enjoyable to discover, just when you get the hang of where he's at, he pushes things deeper, and then deeper still, over and over until the amazing climax.
The characters, the villains, the story, the lore, the intrigue, the betrayals, the set-ups and pay-offs... I enjoyed every page, every twist, every shocking revelation, every inescapable situation, every escalation of tension, every point where Stover dared me to guess what would happen next, only to delve a yard deeper and blast me into the sky.
In short: Highly Recommended. A very solid 5 stars. One of the best adventures I've ever read, any genre. The best part? Though this title is wonderfully complete in itself, there remain three more glorious titles (as I write these words) by Stover waiting for me to devour.