I read a lot of litrpg, so when I heard that Aleron Kong was “the father of litrpg”, I decided to give his books a try. I listened to the audiobook so my spelling may be wrong – Nick Podehl gave a fantastic performance, as usual.
This reads much like a typical “guy gets sucked into a video game” kind of story, except this video game is real, it’s a pocket dimension inhabited by demons of the Dark Court. The prince of this court wants to escape his prison, but he knows he can’t do it on his own. He’s lured humans into playing a video game, and if they accept a certain quest they get transported into his pocket dimension which is an exact replica of the video game.
The main character, Rictor, has chosen this side quest and found himself stuck in a video game that’s real, known as The Land.
Rictor is 24 and the last thing he remembers is playing VR with his friends, he wakes up to an imp that looks “too realistic” speaking to him about the rules and laws of The Land. He doesn’t know how he got there but pretty readily accepts he’s been transported to another dimension. Outside of the Prince wanting to harvest souls and break out of his prison, there wasn’t a ton of over-arching plot. I was waiting for something other than questing and for the Prince’s storyline to come into play at around 50% and was starting to get a little tired of one quest after another. Since I don’t typically reveal plotlines that far into the book in my reviews, I’ll leave it as – much of the book revolves around Rictor fighting his way through this world, trying to stay alive and complete his quests to level up.
If you die in this world you do respawn, but you live through your death. Rictors first death was via wolves, and he felt himself getting torn apart piece by piece and then woken up naked and shaking. Dying was an extremely traumatic experience both physically and emotionally since Rictor can feel pain. He also woke up with all of his progress wiped and without any clothes.
The Land is set up like a typical MMORPG, there are orcs, elves, dwarves, sprites, goblins etc. There is a lot of stat talk in this book, some litrpgs tone it down, but this one is pretty heavy into leveling up stats and what not. I usually prefer the abbreviated versions of the stats, “Esme received a full set of armor significantly increasing her hit points” vs “helmet level 5, 5 points to strength, 3 points stamina, 2 points intellect. Boots level 6, 7 points to strength….” The updates and prompt’s that ping Rector are rather snarky, especially if he fails. So, there is humor in this if you’re looking for a lighter tone with a lot of action. His following companions assigned to him are also pretty sarcastic, and his sprite companion assigned to him for his first quest let him die via wolves instead of helping.
Rictor accesses his different powers mentally, all he has to do is think about mana flowing through him and out his hands to cast spells, and likewise all he has to do is think about his menu and it pops up.
The writing is very straightforward, it’s not flowery at all so the pace is pretty quick. I think I started to lag around halfway through since I didn’t know where everything was going, it was just questing and leveling up for a good half of the book. There are a lot of references made to pop culture, some of which made sense, and others not so much. The novel is set around 2030, and there was a reference to “What Does the Fox Say” and as enjoyable as it was to listen to Nick Podehl try and voice that, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for people in that time era to remember an obscure music video a couple decades after its creation.
Overall this book was okay for me. If you’re looking for a fun romp without a lot of fight scenes, heavy magic system, and humor this book could very well be for you. Personally, I’m looking for a break the mold kind of litrpg, I want in-depth character development and a solid creative plot. Looking at you, Threadbare. I’ve read a lot of ‘stuck in a video game’ kind of books, and I guess I’ve burned myself out on them. I also had no attachment to the main character, mainly because he didn’t have much to his personality. I hit a part of the book where it said he had been in there for 18 days, and he hadn’t spent any time thinking about his previous life. It’s possible while listening to the audio I missed an errant thought about home, but it definitely didn’t take a large role in his character development.
For people who like:
- heavy fantasy elements
- stuck in a video game
- orcs, goblins, elves, dwarves
- heavy magic and hard magic system
- single pov
- fast reads
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 8/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 10/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Final Score: 68/100 – 3 stars
Great review! I’m going to have to check this out. I think litrpg may be one of my new favorite sub-genres.
i have had an awesome ride discovering litrpg, definitely one of my fav new sub genres
I asked about this guy on the litRPG reddit forum — I was curious what others thought of him calling himself the father of LitRPG. He also registered LitRPG.com, which is a little ballsy if you ask me…
I didn’t know it was a self given title until after i read it. I looked into his bio/other books on goodreads, and unless he wrote under another name, it looks like his earliest book was 2015. I think LitRPG is older than that, so I was surprised at the title, myself.
After looking into it, it looks like Vasily Mahanenko, Dmitry Malkin, and Alex Bobl are the fathers of litrpg since they coined the phrase back in 2013. They’re Russian, and that’s why it’s LitRPG and not RPGLit.
While I cannot find serious fault in this review, I do disagree. I have finished all seven books in the series. Some of the above criticisms are dealt with, such as why he wasn’t thinking of home, and the overarching backstory with the dark court is so seldomly mentioned. It seems the author has a plan for the long game, like the main character, evidenced by small occurrences and character traits that pay off big later on.
The heavy stat reporting is much more pleasurable on audio and added sound effects really bring it home.
As the series progresses, you really get to feel for Richter, but especially his deepening relationships with others in the land.
The humor and pop culture references are not always on point, but often made me laugh out loud and reread/ rewind them.
The world building and character leveling is done at a near perfect pace for, again, the long game, which no doubt will be executed, based on increasing readership and the author’s love for writing this story.
Anyway, easily in the top of LitRPG genre, overall, imo.
yeah, I can only speak for what I read, and from what I read I didn’t have much desire to continue. I tend to be a person who leans towards character development over plotlines, and LitRPG generally leans more into magic and heavy plot than in depth and realistic characters. One of the exceptions I’ve found is Forever FAntasy Online – I really liked that one and Threadbare was absolutely delightful.