Imagine the look on everyone's faces when I tell them that I'm not the intended chosen one -- that the gods would never have picked a loser or an outsider like me -- I just happened to apply the right cheat code at the right time. And now I have to save the world.
When the biggest game developers on a dying Earth create their latest VRMMORPG, it takes on a life of its own. Impossible to control, and even harder to predict, the game world in Spectres & Skin is officially classed as a parallel universe, and people clamor to escape the horrors of overpopulation and pollution by moving over.
Recent graduate Matthew Blake is down on his luck. A climbing accident has robbed him of the use of his legs, his best friend is better than him in every way, and he just cannot find a job. VR is his only escape from a life he can't stand. When he is invited to peek into the exclusive new game world, he can't resist. Is his luck about to change?
No. No it isn't.
My Opinion: 416 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The world is dying, so Matthew Blake and his better looking best friend try out the best full immersion fantasy game, Spectres & Skin. Even though Matthew struggles to see himself as anything other than a sidekick he somehow ends up the chosen one for one of the factions in the game. Will Matthew be able to find a way out of the situation or will he rise to the occasion?
The story reads much like portal fantasy because the game mechanics of the world aren’t explained all at once. Instead, they’re dribbled out as the main character discovers what they are and how they work for himself.
The story takes a little while to get going. You don’t learn about most of the game’s mechanics or get to the ‘chosen one’ part till you’re about 30% into the story. Even by the 50% mark the main character has only gone on a few quests and gained a few skills. After that, the stories pace picks up and things get more interesting. You finally get to see how magic works, other factions enter the story and the story generally feels more focused.
I had a hard time connecting with the main character and getting a feel for the world in general. There’s not a lot of description of the environments. The main character, at least early in the story, seems to mostly stumble through the events around him and complain about how he well he thinks his friend is likely doing.
A bit more explanation early on in the story about the game mechanics of the world would have been nice. I get that part of the story is that nothing is handed to the MC, he has to do everything the hard way in the world. But it shouldn’t take 30% of the story to explain why the game is called Specters and Skins. I respect the author's choice in how he reveals the game's mechanics but it was hard for me to maintain an interest in the story when I didn’t understand how the world worked and nothing particularly cool was happening.
If the pacing in the first half had been a bit better or I got the information about what made the game world so interesting earlier, the novel would have gotten a better score. As it is, I feel like the story doesn’t really start to get interesting until after the halfway point.
Score: 6 out of 10, a bit better than ‘meh’.