Although I was asked to include more specific examples to support my points, I want this to remain a …
…so, I’ll strive to give some examples without spoilers.
Author: Cosimo Yap
Genre: LitRPG-Science Fiction
Ratings: (1 = Really needs improvement. 5 = Good stuff!)
- Plot Development: 3
- Character Development: 3.5
- Dialogue: 4
- Descriptions: 4
- Wordsmithing: 3
- Overall: 3.5 pushing toward a 4, but not quite getting there.
What Drew Me to THIS Book (Out of all the ones out there…)
Like last month’s Eden’s Gate, I picked up this one to learn about the LitRPG genre in preparation for writing one of my own. Although it’s set up to become a series, so far there’s only one book out, and I was looking for one-shot wonders. Further, when I was picking my first couple to read, I wanted one fantasy and one science fiction. Eden’s Gate was the fantasy. This one touts itself as science fiction, and in spite of a couple dungeon crawls, it really ended up being one.
Two Things I Like (There’s a bit of good in everything).
Mr. Yap does an good job of designing characters who have different mannerisms and voices. These are not the same one or two guys wearing different outfits. The characters have distinctive personalities and quirks. One character is very reserved. Another is arrogant. A third is a bit conniving. Even the AI has something of a personality.
The good guy character is not perfect. When he makes a mistake, there are consequences for that error, and he has to face the music. In this era of good guys doing reprehensible things and then getting kudos for it, that’s a refreshing change. When he ignores his AI’s advice by talking into a radio after killing someone, he makes a powerful enemy. This affects him and his team. They’re not impressed.
One Thing I Didn’t Like (Everyone has room to improve).
Unfortunately, this story suffered from plot development troubles. I realize this is meant to be Book 1 of many, but it opened huge cans of very wiggly worms (political shenanigans, major quests, minor quests, and so on) … and in the end only resolved one tiny plot point: a personal issue. I had no feeling of resolution with so many major issues still wide open.
Had it been a cliffhanger, I might have found that more agreeable. I get serials. I’ve written serials. I understand cliffhangers. There was no overriding tension or immediate danger at the end of the tale, so this doesn’t qualify for a cliffhanger. The ending was, in fact, very unsatisfying.
It really felt like a violation of Chekov’s Gun rule. Anton Chekov said once upon a time that if you show a pistol (or rifle in some versions of the quote) in the first act, you’d better make it fire by the third act. (paraphrased) Some allowances for that are made for serials since seeds planted early in the tale bear fruit much later, but in this case, there was no ending for the book. It simply stopped and out of all of Chekov’s Guns that were shown hanging on walls and sitting on tables, only a tiny derringer was fired, as it were.
Two Specific Ways the Author Could Improve (Hey, I’m a teacher. It’s what I do).
- Books ought to have a self-contained story. It should have a beginning, middle, and end. You can leave loose strings that can be tied off later and end with the main character in a real pickle, but tell a complete story each time. This will provide a more satisfying ending for your readers.
- Watch your character development. Your main character gains levels and skills at a unrealistically fast rate, even beyond the early levels where jumping multiple levels at once is expected. Yes, he has an AI to give him directions, but he has mad plot skills at significant points of the story. He tries things on his AI’s advice and gets it right on the first whack too often. For example, the main character takes out a skilled sniper at an early level. Later, in one of the dungeon crawls, the main character finds a group battling an extremely high-level monster. He tries something totally wild and enjoys a critical success. There is some balance with the consequences to some of his actions, but I would have liked to have seen him have to work for his victories a bit more often.
This was an engaging tale. The individual subplots that occur were interesting by themselves even if the main story needed more resolution. It’s worth picking up.