A new LitRPG novel from the author of the Dream trilogy, The Scared But Willing tells the tale of gamers drafted into a deadly electronic war.
As he slogged through the boredom of a career as a cubical drone Thomas Paine Cooper believed his life sucked, but it was not until the E11 Corporation entered his life that he discovered what life-scale suckage really meant.
The E11 Corporation’s meteoric rise to become a multi-billion-dollar technology giant was secretly based upon an alien AI reverse-engineering advanced technology.
Until the Human computer and data networks reached a point where the AI could hope to escape its bonds, and E11 found itself in desperate straits: Human-produced software could not contain the AI’s efforts to break free without real-time Human controls, but the Human psyche can not handle a purely electronic environment. In desperation, E11 built an interface that allowed Humans (their bodies ensconced in nutrient tanks) to experience a virtual reality environment similar to a fantasy world MMO.Except that the ‘players’ only have a two per cent chance of physically surviving the shock of dying ‘in game’.
Under the guise of employment opportunities E11 is press-ganging gamers into a virtual war designed to contain the homicidal AI. The interface feels real to the players, and death is certainly a fact, and the players’ only hope to return to their bodies and the real world is to play to win.The Scared But Willing are gamers who band together to hunt their ticket home: a thoughtful ranger, a Monty Python-loving wizard, a brooding barbarian, a lovely healer, a vulgar monk, and a rogue who lives for food and women. Bound together by the challenge of fighting their way back to the real world, they embark on the journey of their lives, learning a great deal about themselves as they struggle to escape.
My Opinion: 259 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
From the author of the Dream Trilogy, one of the best received LitRPG group military transported to a game world series. I really enjoyed that series and couldn’t help but compare this new one to that. In some ways the author is going more blatantly LitRPG with The Scared But Willing, which I thought was good. Unfortunately, the story mixes several conflicting themes early on that may put off some readers. Honestly, I had to push past the first 15% of the novel because of this.
First the good. The Dream trilogy is filled with great military action and banter between the friends and squadmates of that series. Some of that exists here. Good action and once past the 15% mark, some really good group fights with nifty strategies to get through some tough fights. But the banter comes off as more superficial and forced since the group in the story is essentially a pick up group and not friends that have had years to get comfortable together. Also, there are open RPG mechanics in the story with references to stats, XP, levels, HP, and class skills.
The meh: Early in the story there are a couple themes that feel like they’re forced together and it just didn’t work for me. The premise of the novel is that the main character (MC) is basically kidnapped by a tech company and his mind is uploaded to a MMO style game to help fight against the companies A.I., which is slowly becoming sentient. The MC isn’t alone and a lot of others are in the same situation. The ‘game’ is supposed to be this cyberpunk interface that only interprets the real cyberwar happening and just happens to present it to the players or Bravos as a fantasy game in which they fight monsters, and accomplish other objectives that in reality protect vital cyber systems. I’m really not a fan of this cyberpunk premise and never thought it added anything to the story, but it is consistently presented and provides some goals for the group. However, this cyberpunk thing conflicts directly with the fantasy game setting and in the early part of the story the reader is constantly reminded of that everything is really just representing computer systems and attacks. It sort of ruins the immersion in the fantasy stuff. Thankfully those constant reminders become much less frequent after the 15% mark and the group goes on a larger adventure.
Game mechanic-wise things are a mixed bag. Compared to the Dream Trilogy, there are a lot more RPG mechanics. But things are intentionally light. Even though this is supposed to be a game, things like health and XP are not presented with a UI HUD. Instead, Bravos have a stone they look at to see that info. It’s a small thing but it conflicts with ‘game’ aspect and makes the story lean more towards transported to a game world than trapped in a game. Beyond that there are classes and RPG powers increase as characters level, but there’s a distinct choice not to delve into the gamer mentality of choosing powers and weighing options. There are no notifications or details on what each level brings or powers available. Instead, there are just summaries of what the MC chose and no reasonings of why he chose specific powers.
Overall, I like this story. I did have to push through the first 15% but once I did the story was good. It has really good fights, good combat strategies, and ok group banter. I don’t like it quiet as much as the Dream Trilogy though. The military stuff isn’t here and the group relationships just aren’t as fun. Still, if you like your LitRPG with lighter game mechanics and good combat, you’ll like this.
Score: 7.2 out of 10