The Acts of Caine

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The Acts of Caine is a series of fantasy-science fiction (trending toward fantasy) books by Matthew Woodring Stover, who is probably more well known as the author of some pretty damn good Star Wars novels: Traitor, Shatterpoint, and the novelization of Revenge of the Sith. Think about that for just one second--with the restrictions of writing in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, he produced those three books. And this is what he does when the gloves come off.

There are currently four books: Heroes Die, Blade of Tyshalle, Caine Black Knife, and Caine's Law. If That Other Wiki is to be believed, there are going to be at least four more books in the series. In addition, Stover has created the Overworld.tv project, which will initially involve a graphic novel in the Acts of Caine continuity.

The series' setting is an interesting combination of a futuristic earth run by corporate governments with a strict caste system and loads of repression, and a parallel high fantasy world called Overworld that earth humans have learned to travel to and exploit. This exploitation initially takes the form of The Studio, a company that produces a sort of reality entertainment by sending "actors" to Overworld. These actors are trained in either magic or combat, implanted with a kind of video recorder and sent to Overworld to "risk their lives in an interesting way". On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism the series tends towards cynicism, although it is not without bouts of idealism. Oh, all of the books contain loads of very well written violence.

The books, shockingly, are centered on the character of Caine and his actor Hari Michaelson. Heroes Die tells the story of Hari/Caine as he tries to rescue his love interest Shanna/Pallas Ril from Big Bad Ma'elKoth. As with all the books in the series, Heroes Die comments on the morality of violent entertainment and explores of a myriad of other moral questions. Has been described in positive reviews as "Lord of the Rings meets Day Of The Jackal".

Blade of Tyshalle takes place seven years later, reintroducing Hari and Shanna in their later married, unhappy and semi-retired lives (along with the no longer divine Tan'elKoth). This tedium is of course shattered by plots set into action by the corporate leaders of Earth which Hari's friend, Kris Hansen/Deliann Mithondionne tries to avert. This novel turns the moral philosophizing up to 11 or 12, adds questions of identity, resource usage, destiny (or lack thereof) and humanity's drive to exploit and use up everything. It also features the end of the world. Well, kinda. Blade of Tyshalle is definitely a "deeper" book than its predecessor or sequel.

Caine Black Knife follows Caine in both the present (roughly a year after the end of Blade of Tyshalle) and twenty-five years ago as he interacts with/slaughters the Black Knife clan of Ogrillos, a Proud Warrior Race. The present arc of the story includes a broader exploration of Orbek Black Knife, a side character introduced in Blade of Tyshalle. The philosophizing is turned back down to about 8, but questions concerning the legitimacy of guerilla warfare and online FPSs are still asked. Also has some rather overt references to either the Iraq War or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, complete with a suicide bombing.


Tropes used in The Acts of Caine include:


Caine: In the end, what was he going to kill me for? Because I called him names. I have my vanity, I just don't kill for it. I'm not pretending I'm a better man than him, I just hate that people say he's a better man than me.