Mike Hagen, an American nicknamed "Crybaby," became one of those chosen to be given an augmented reality interface. However, his favorite game was an MMA fighter--possibly, for the reason that he'd never fought in real life, and the interface adapted itself to him.
Will Hagen be able to use it right? And will it help him to crawl out of the dreary pit of his existence?
My Opinion: 403 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy for review. I purchased a copy when it became available.
A side story written in the Level Up universe with a different main character (MC), Mike Hagen. The novel is based on the short story written by one of the authors, Dan Sugrallinov, and published in Magic Dome Book’s “You’re In Game: Book 2”. The beginning two chapters of this novel are actually just a slightly modified version of that short story. That’s not actually a bad thing, since that was a pretty good short story and got to all the RPG stuff of the universe much faster than the main series.
This novel differentiates itself from the main series mostly by being much more combat focused. The novel starts off with the normal ‘woe is me’ setup, detailing explicitly just how big a loser the MC is. Then when he gets his RPG interface, he gets the chance to fulfill his fondest dream of learning how to fight. If you’ve read the main series, you’ll recognize that this is an interface that is very different from the one that MC gets but ties into the universe lore. From there it’s a slice of life story following just how the MC trains in various fighting styles and figure out how to level up by winning fights. Of course, he also gets into a lot of trouble from this practice and some of the twists the story takes are very unexpected.
A small note, neither of the authors had ever been to the USA before writing the novel and they never expected it to get translated or for Americans to read it. So, they readily admit in the end of the novel that some things in the story are going to feel off for American readers. They’re right. The story is written with a lot of stereotypes about Americans, various ethnicities, the American prison system, and culture here. You can tell some of it is just picked up from movies, but it also kind of gives the story a certain charm.
Overall, some people are going to like all the action in this novel. There’s lots of boxing and MMA style fighting with training and leveling up. However, I have to say that I like the main series more. The main series has a mostly non-combat oriented story that forced the author to come up with some very interesting applications for that RPG system. In this story, its fighting and while the story takes some odd turns, its focus on combat feels more familiar and less novel. Still, it’s an entertaining story if you like the Level UP universe.
Score: 7.3 out of 10