Misfortune comes in fours for sixteen-year-old Andre Taylor. Each one worse than the next. He had to quit school, quit gaming, and his father died. Life sucked. It couldn’t get worse. Until a car accident left his pregnant mother in a coma and his little sister a hostage.
To save them, Dre must excel at Ataxia Online 2: Void Legion, a Simulated Reality Multiplayer Online Game. Now, powerful factions want him dead, Player Killers hunt him, a lethal plague sweeps across the land, and nightmare creatures from a voidstorm stand in his path.
Can Dre survive against overwhelming odds and unearth the secrets of the Void Legion? Can he convince a girl who wants to duel him to the death to fight on his side? He must. Or a fate worse than death awaits.
Note: Includes some profanity, adult themes, and graphic situations.
My Opinion: 377 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is a LitRPG novel that tries to do a lot of stuff. The novel does a good job on the RPG sections. There are detailed game mechanics, the main character (MC) feels like a true gamer, the MC has an interesting class, the fights feel like the RPG powers matter, and there is good RPG progression. Additionally, the fights are well described and feel very actiony. Good stuff.
Where the novel loses me, is in much of the rest of the story. There’s a cyberpunk/cyber thriller real world storyline that I just never liked or bought into. It just didn’t make sense to me. But I could almost ignore that if I connected with either the real world or game world. But that never happened for me either because of the way that the world building was done.
Both the real life and game world lore and world building felt kind of flat to me. The information about both was always presented as an info dump. The MC would just rattle off statements that could have been really interesting, but instead they were just kind of thrown out there with a bunch of names but no context or depth about why events happen. I mean, in this novel, the USA doesn’t exist. There was a civil war and some foreign powers were involved and there’s now two countries and for some reason there’s an organization that controls how many kids get born. All that seems like it would make for some great stories, but the author never goes into depth about it. There are just statements that these things exist and then the story moves on.
The same is true for the game world building, only it’s even harder to connect to that world. Instead of the MC gradually learning the history of the world, races, or factions by talking to NPCs or through his own research, he just automatically knows everything about the world because the game implants the knowledge. It’s conveyed by MC as recollections, but again, it’s all spit out as statements with no context given or depth. It came across to me as a very awkward way to convey details. You lose a sense of discovery because the MC describes it like he remembers it but there is this dissonance because you know he can't have. Details about battles he, even as as his character, wouldn't have been in and bits of history or lore he wouldn't have been privy to as a child or adolescent in that world. He would talk to other people as his character, referencing implanted fantasy/background history, but it never felt genuine.
Overall, I liked the action, how much of a gamer the MC came across as, and the RPG stuff. However, I never connected with the motivation for the MC, the real world, or game world.
Score: 6 out of 10