Miles Boone is running out of time. He had one year to solve every beginner’s quest the Game offers or he faces a lifetime of slavery. Now, time is flying by and he can’t even find a safe place to play the Game. His apartment has burned down while he was in it. His secretive father won’t let him enter the Game from his home. Miles’s only choice is to enter the underbelly of society and try to win his bet from anonymous VR pods controlled by an old associate --or is that enemy?--of his father’s.
Meanwhile, the Party’s hunt for him in-Game continues. Surrounded by enemies from without and within, Miles has to keep upping his Game. His lack of a Luck stat makes it impossible for him to play like anyone else. With no luck, Miles will have to gather the strength to survive.
Gathering Strength is the second volume in the Character Development series.
My Opinion: 332 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The second novel in the character development series is here. A lot of people really seemed to like the 1st book Beginners Luck because it brought these nice real world sci-fi elements to the story that gave consequence to what happened in the RPG game world. That all continues to a degree, though the political rhetoric is toned down and is instead replaced by commentary about how entertainment and especially full immersion VR systems could be the ultimate drug of the far future. Still, it’s one of the things that I really love about the series, that it has a point of view and uses speculative fiction as a way to create conversations and make people think.
Story wise, I’d say this one is a little less engaging that book 1. It starts off with a well done recap of the events in the previous novel and then gets into the action in-game and out fairly quickly. However, things just slow down a bit too much for me mid story, and nothing really advances the big plotline while the MC flounders around trying to figure out how he’s going to solve his problems. The fights in the story range from ok to good. Some of the fights feel flat and little more than XP grinds. There is one fight with some prairie dog creatures that’s a real highlight of the story. I just wish there were more fights like that, where the MC used his intelligence and gamer experience to overcome some steep odds.
Game mechanic wise, things are still good. The author does a really good job of keeping the RPG mechanics consistent, interesting, and detailed. The story could stand to recap a few of the magical elements since they have to be learned the hard way since the MC doesn’t have any luck and plays on hardcore mode, thus eliminating the auto-features. Which readers either like or they don’t. But the training stuff is fun to me and I only wish they’d been started sooner in the story.
Overall, a good second book in the series. There are some minor pacing issues, but the novel has good action, adventure, and sets up some interesting stuff for the next book.
Score: 7.4 out of 10