Headshot: One in the Gut (Book 1 of a Zombie litRPG Trilogy)

Headshot has just gone live, and the whole world's playing the new Artificial Reality blockbuster. Unfortunately, unless you can buy your way onto the Survivor's side, you can only participate as a Zombie. Every week the Apocalypse starts over, and every week the forces gather once more to tear each other down to the bone.

Ryan's played the Beta for months, but now that his favorite game has launched, he finds it consuming his life, even as he struggles to decipher whether or not there's actually a way to succeed if you're not willing to Pay to Win.

But he’s got bigger problems to deal with. There’s something sinister going on beneath the surface of Headshot, and it looks like he’s wrapped up in it whether he likes it or not.


My Opinion: 356 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

Headshot uses some undescribed advanced system that plays the game directly in your mind, using your memories to recreate the details of the game world. The game creates a simulated environment of the world and drops you into it either as a zombie (free to play) or as a human survivor (pay to play $20,000/year + in game store). Each session of the game lasts for 7 days ending Saturday at midnight. If you die in the game, you're kicked out for the rest of the week.

Ryan, not being rich, plays as a zombie with the goal of surviving till the end of the week, when the servers are reset and a new round in the game world begins.


Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy for review, I picked it up on Kindle Unlimited when it came out.

Good story, just skip to chapter 3 when you start reading. The first two chapters are the main character (MC), Ryan, building up just how much the game Headshot had taken over people’s lives even in Beta. There’s a bunch of tell and no show. In Chapter 3, the same thing is shown to the reader making the first two chapters unnecessary and honestly a little annoying as an oversell.  

This is a zombie apocalypse game story told from the point of view of the zombies, not the survivors. It reminds me of playing Left For Dead if you could play the zombie side.

Each zombie starts out slow moving and with low hit points. Zombies get XP from killing survivors (hard at early levels) or from surviving the hunting parties of survivors. As a zombie levels it gets new abilities that make it a better killer and eventually options to upgrade into specialized types of zombie similar to the ones seen in games like Left for Dead. Zombies have a slight advantage in the dark of night since electricity in the cities is off but are vulnerable during the day. Survivors are a real threat since they can use real world money to pay for guns, armor, ammo, and even vehicles.

The MC uses his experience in the Beta version of the game and his intelligence to think of new ways to survive as a zombie. As he levels, he gets more powerful and a bigger threat to the rich survivors.

There’s also a minor theme of gamer addiction described in the story whenever the MC returned to real life. Either from others in the world doing things like calling in sick to play the game or from the MC spending forgetting to eat and sleep just to play the game more. People even going so far as to screw up real world relationships just to get a leg up in game. Additionally, there’s the theme of the rich having all the advantages in life and seeing the rest of us as tools and fodder for their amusement and advancement.

While there is action, especially in the last quarter of the novel. Most of the novel is taken up by the MCs introspective monologuing. This is sort of justified by the nature of the zombie characters that can’t speak or communicate with each other. Nor can the zombies understand what the human survivors are saying or things like writing. So, the main character constantly talks to himself, wondering what he should do, rage complaining alot about how the rich survivors have an unfair advantage, wondering what the survivors are doing, etc. If you’ve ever seen the movie Warm Bodies, a movie told from the perspective of the zombie, you’ll know what I mean.

The really like the first half of the story. In game, it focuses on the MC figuring out new ways to survive in game as a zombie, leveling, and using new abilities. It’s broken up by the MC having to log out for things like work, food, sleep and descriptions of the world at large becoming addicted to this game. I really enjoyed learning about all new abilities that were unlocked as the MC leveled and the intelligent ways he used them.

Then at about the halfway mark, after the main character finally chooses an upgrade path, and after a too long server shutdown. The story shifts to the main character not only having the goal to survive but to return some unique item he picked up to a human survivor in Silicon Valley. Why he suddenly trusts this woman is never explained, nor what purpose the item has. It just justifies the MC figuring out how to gather a zombie army and the larger scale battles that occur as he makes his way to Silicon Valley.

Overall, a good story and a wonderful example of the variety of story types able to be told in the LitRPG genre.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Headshot: One in the Gut (Book 1 of a Zombie litRPG Trilogy)