How far would you go to change humanity's fate?
Jared Cartwright has spent the last two years delving into the twisted, scarred wastelands of an earth ravaged by nuclear war. The rich and powerful have taken to the oceans and skies on floating utopias, escaping destruction and leaving the rest of humanity to fend off the mutated creatures that roam the earth.
To face his new reality, Jared must become an apex predator if he hopes to survive. He must evolve beyond human limitations to confront those that left mankind to die.
Jared’s quest takes a new turn when he discovers dragons are real.
My Opinion: 390 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy for review. I purchased a copy when it became available.
The story tries to be a lot of things: post apocalypse, fantasy dragon riding, and LitRPG. But expectations for each of those are different and the story doesn't fulfill any completely.
First, let me say that this is LitRPG. There's a progression system that appears regularly that uses nanites to upgrade the MC and his dragon. There are options to improve physical or psionic/mental attributes. Nanites are gained from killing mutated monsters and the main character (MC) can also absorb some monster powers. It's not a deep progression system and unfortunately has no hard numbers. Instead it uses percentages to apply nanites to traits but those percentages have no relatable connection. For example, early in the story the MC gets 90% nanites after killing a bunch of mutated rats, and then later gets 95% nanites from killing a giant worm the size of a freight train. I would have much rather have seen actual nanite numbers be gained depending on size and power of the monster defeated as well as a gradually increasing cost to the powers or upgrades. It would have made progression choices more meaningful and it really doesn't seem that hard to implement.
The story is set in a post apocalypse world with the rich and powerful living in floating cities. The MC is a survivor on the world below who has to constantly search for new nanite sources to keep the radiation from killing him. However the survivalist aspects that I expected to see in that setting never appear. There is some scavenging but little survivalist attitude or conflict from anyone that's living in the world. The MCs is determined to never hurt or kill innocents and let's people who try to murder him go multiple times.
The fantasy dragon stuff is the oddest part. Apparently in alternative earth world dragons existed since before the dinosaurs, though there no evidence in history. But they went into hibernation/hiding rather than fight with the humans that had started to hunt them down. Now though the MC accidentally binds with a new dragon and can upgrade himself to superhuman levels by absorbing nanites from defeated monsters. Now his dragon companion’s goal is to prepare a place for all the dragons to come back. The banter and character development between the MC and his dragon is well done and the most charming part of the story.
Though the novel starts out with clear and defined plot arcs, it surprisingly becomes a slice life story that wanders around a lot and kind of focuses on fights with monsters that lead to those upgrades. There are multiple storylines that appear, and while mostly entertaining, they often just get abandoned. I’m sure the author has plans for all the loose story threads, but most of them are left dangling in the first book. The best story telling takes place at about the 45% when the MC finds a journal detailing how a citizen of a now empty town was creepily turned because of this insidious influence from a local monster. It's not a big section but it's a complete little story with a definite conclusion. Which is more than happens with most of the storylines. In a number of ways the novel feels like a series of short stories connected by killing monsters.
Overall, though the author asked me repeatedly not to give his story a bad review score because his story wasn't LitRP, it is. The progression mechanics hit the minimum requirements for me. They could have been better RPG mechanics and I'd consider them pretty light, but it's still LitRPG. However, the story, while well written, just lacked focus and just tried to be too many kinds of stories all at once. It just hits shy of good for me.
Score: 6 out of 10