Tad Lonnerman is having a crappy day stuck in crappy traffic late to a crappy meeting. On the bright side, his game development career is the only non-crappy thing he has going for him, so life isn't all bad.
At least until he dies.
Now Tad finds himself uploaded to a beta test of Haven, an unannounced hyper-immersive MMO where the dead have a second chance at life. It's not virtual reality, it's digital reality. A true afterlife online.
Except Haven isn't exactly blissful paradise. Tad bumbles into a pagan blood feud, crosses paths with fallen angels, and gets lied to by saints. His only allies? A frat boy with a penchant for dying and a pixie who won't give him the time of day.
Second chances be damned. All Tad wants is to return to his old life, and he'll do anything for the opportunity. Even make a deal with the devil.
My Opinion: 357 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The novel does a great job of getting right into the game world of the story. By the 2% mark, the main character is in Haven, his digital afterlife.
I should note that there are a few religious undertones in the story. But you're going to get that with just about any afterlife story. In this case, the game company is represented by an employee with an avatar named Saint Peter that is introducing the main character to the closed beta afterlife. The bad guys are goblins, cyclops, ogres, trolls and other monsters referred to as the Pagans. The big bad guy and tempter is Lucifer, a rogue player that just wants to see the game world burn. That’s pretty much the extent of it though.
The first half of the story, is mostly story setup and information about how the game world works. Heck, the first 10% is just character creation and the tutorial for the main character.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting in it’s own way. You’re introduced to all the important characters, you get a feel for the world, who the bad guys are, and you get an explanation of how the game world works.
One of the places the story shines is the in potential depth of the game mechanics and the authors background as a real life game designer show through here. There are four basic character classes: Artisan, Mystic, Warrior, and Explorer. Each with their own benefits. However, the game’s mechanics also have a skill system that allows for a staggering number of customization options for the players in this world. There’s also crafting, which I love. So, if you’re a nerd for game mechanics like me, you’ll like all this stuff.
The story gets to be a real page turner after the main character is told by Lucifer that the game company has been lying to him and they’re intentionally not letting him talk to his brother in the real world. The consequences of the main character deciding to hack into the game’s servers push the story into a much faster pace. From there it’s a series of big battles, plot twists, and story revelations.
I really enjoyed the nods to other games like God of War and Shadow of the Colossus and many more. The relationships that develop between the main character, his frat bro roommate and the ice queen are a little forced at times but still genuinely interesting. I especially liked the author’s inside jokes and commentary on the gaming industry. For example: the bug report button, is featured throughout the story, and hinted at as an alternative way to get the attention of the devs. Yet, when ultimately used was totally useless. It made me laugh out loud as someone that’s beta tested MMOs before. The author nailed those inside jokes.
Overall, I had a good time reading the story. The beginning was a little challenging at times to stay interested in but I’m really glad I stuck around and the last half of the story really just flew by.
Score: 7 out of 10.