Solace Online, a game world where the rich excel and the poor are tasked with proving themselves. On the outside it may seem like an escape from life in the Stations, giant skyscrapers that loom above the landfills suffocating Earth. Unfortunately, a system defined by class exists in both realities. Deaun, a girl from the bottom rung, must prove herself not only in Solace Online but also in the Stations. Mydon, a boy from the top tier, will do all he can to stay under the radar; especially a particular person's. The emergence of a Quest Chain will affect both sides; Solace Online and the Stations will have their hopes resting on a small group of Players. Will the Players be able to prove themselves?
Welcome to Solace Online, where realities collide and quests are king!
My Opinion: 212 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is multi narrative story that switches between characters every few pages. It’s hard to invest in some of the character when you spend so little time with them at any one section.
The stand out character is of course the one on the cover, Deaun. She’s really the only one, besides the squirrel, that I even mildly liked. She’s from the slums and is unjustly imprisoned inside a VR game but thanks to a weird quirk doesn’t become a monster that rich players kill repeatedly. Instead, she’d dropped off somewhere else and has a chance to level, craft, and be drawn into a big plot.
That’s sort of the only good thing about the novel. Everything else is pretty bland. Not bad or anything but not particularly interesting either.
The real world is described in the first 10% of the novel as this dystopian colony where everything has been stratified. Tech, wealth, resources, and power. The only way to move up in society is to do well playing the VR game Solace Online. Only the folks at the bottom, who literally live in trash, never get a shot at getting the expensive VR gear needed to play. Except when they break the law or even just annoy a guard. Then they’re thrown into a VR world as monsters for players to kill, feeling every wound and death.
Honestly, that description I just wrote is much clearer and more understandable than the entire first 10% of the novel. It’s honestly a bit of a mess. On the technical side, the writing is awkward and there’s a constant mix of present and past tenses.
Some early examples,
“The people that went against the Enforcers and are succumbed to this are called the Helmed…”
“Not even one of them is without their gas-mask on.”
“Their stomachs grumble as they sprint down the spiral staircase, a wrapping of DNA.”
The writing improves as the novel gets to the game world and the descriptions become simpler and more fantasy based. However, there were still awkward moments where I was left scratching my head wondering what the author meant.
Something that doesn’t improve much as the novel goes on is the logic of the story and game system. The explanation for divided social and economic systems aren’t well described nor is much of the plot to get three of the characters in game as criminals. A lot of the plot generally devolves into wand waving as a way to move the plot forward. For example, three characters are dropped into VR as prisoners. How did they get there? Guards found them. Why were they imprisoned? No reason. How did the guards find them? No explanation. It just happened because the plot needed them trapped in the game.
The game system itself doesn’t follow a logical path. Yes, it’s an RPG system that uses stats, character sheets, skills, items, etc. Yes, it’s LitRPG. The characters level and increase in power. However, the fundamental logic of some of the things the characters do just doesn’t make sense. For example, at level 1, Deaun is dropped in an area described as ‘a high level monster area’. Yet, she’s able to kill multiple wildlife including a baby cub, rabbits, squirrels, and cats with little trouble. Not a particular problem except her stats for most of this are set at 1 or 2 each and these creatures are supposed to be high level. Another easy math example of this lack of logic is that during this same kill fest, she gets a variety of XP rewards, yet no matter what she kills or the XP, she always levels. 200XP = level, 75 XP=level, 75 XP=level, 150 XP = level, 150 XP = level.
It’s very clear from the skill descriptions, item descriptions, crafting system, and character sheets that the author took a lot of time to make a RPG system for the story. It's equally clear that it’s thrown to the side when the author wants the plot to go a certain way. And there are multiple more examples of this kind of wand waving with the story itself. Whether it’s a character magically discovering a needed clue or a unique ability, there’s no logical justification for many events. Except that’s what the story needs to move forward.
Overall, between the early problems with the writing, the lack of logic throughout the story, and lack of connection to most of the characters, I was never invested in the story. Some places were fun and interesting. I’m always a sucker for crafting. But most of the story was not entertaining for me and the lack of logical explanations in some places was genuinely frustrating.
Score: 5 out of 10.