Continuing the blended fantasy/science fiction adventures of Stover's homicidal antihero (Caine Black Knife, 2008, etc.).
If you're unfamiliar with the Caine saga, the first 100 pages offer a rapid-shuffle blur of riotous confusion, but patient readers eventually will grasp that the near-future Earth is a disastrously overpopulated, caste-ridden dictatorship whose instrument of control is the dreaded Social Police. The downtrodden masses dream of escaping to Overworld, a planet accessible via advanced technology where magic works and fantasy tropes like dragons and elves are real. However, only Actors trained in violence and magic, equipped with “thoughtmitters” that beam back virtual-reality live access to their experiences, get to go there. Actor Caine, under multiple identities, has been making mayhem at his sponsors' bidding for more than 50 years, battling gods, demons, enemies and friends alike. Perpetually bruised and battered, he survives only through healing magic and his indomitable will. When we first meet him, he's a prisoner and crippled, about to receive an infusion of black-oil god-ichor. Eventually, however, he will meet the horse-witch, a mysteriously gifted immortal who remembers everything, even events that have "unhappened," and whom various factions want to kill. The horse-witch, in passages of remarkable tenderness, helps Caine begin to understand the turmoil of conflicting impulses and rage that form his soul—and that, contrary to popular belief, what matters is not gods deserving of better people, but that people deserve better gods. And when he discovers that reality itself has been altered, he decides it's time to make some changes of his own. Expect multiple plot threads that loop wildly and unpredictably between past and present, expletive-laden dialogue, havoc, torture and mass destruction. For starters.
Brutal, witty, insightful, addictive, frequently baffling and altogether astonishing.