Death March by Phil Tucker

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A day late, a buck short, I’m writing on the Report.

This was released yesterday and I’m a little late in doing my review, my apologies, Phil! I love LitRPG and I’m also a fan of the author’s other series, Black Gate Chronicles so I was very eager to see what this book had to offer.

Chris is down on his luck at the start of the book, he’s recently broken up with his insane and manipulative ex-girlfriend, he doesn’t have much money, he’s lost his optimism for teaching, and his brother is facing serious criminal charges that could result in the death penalty. This is a world where an AI has taken over parts of the government, the entity known as Albertus has it’s ‘hands’ in basically everything. Some of the laws are rather draconic and since his brother was caught looting an abandoned area on the coast, he’s now facing capital punishment, it’s an extreme response even in their society and Chris is determined to help his brother, Justin.

There’s a game known as Euphoria and it’s been designed by Albertus, it’s supposed to be one of the greatest shows of his capabilities and it offers a hyper-realistic version of gaming. Instead of using a VR headset this game links to your neural system and creates a very intense experience. There’s a unique option with this game as well, there’s a mode called Death March and if you survive in the game for six months on this difficulty setting you’re able to ask Albertus for a favor. It could be a visa, it could be lots of money, a house, basically you can ask for whatever you want. Chris wants to play on Death March mode so he can ask for a pardon for his brother, it’s one of his only options left. The catch here is that on Death March you die for real, no respawns. However, since the game costs 3,000 dollars Chris doesn’t know how he’s going to get the money to afford the game in the first place. He gets a text from his ex-girlfriend offering to pay for his game entry which immediately sent up red flags. His ex, Brianna, is manipulative, somewhat sociopathic, and just plain toxic, he’s sworn her off for good with sound reasoning. She swears the offer is genuine, she’s not trying to get back together with him – she insists it’s because she knows he’s good at gaming and that her clan needs some help clearing dungeons and what not. Reluctantly, he agrees to take her up on her offer and finally gets a chance to play on Death March.

Brianna seems to have had alternative motives when she asked Chris to start playing again because Chris is forced into gameplay without being able to access tutorials to teach him how the game works, and he also spawns and in the middle of nowhere at level 1 surrounded by significantly higher-level mobs. Where she said to spawn and the clan she sent him to was clearly a ruse, because the clan was abandoned and unused. He runs into someone named Lutharia and together they start to clear out the monsters and help Chris level up. Along the way, they team up with several goblins and Barfo was just a superb side character. I’ve listened to the audio already and Vikas Adams makes this character sound so sweet and innocent, I loved him to pieces.

Chris was an easy character to like, he has an honorable goal and overall he’s a good person – if a little jaded. Often times in Litrpg the world building takes center stage, and the characters are a bit flat – this is definitely not like that and I was invested in Chris’s well being and success. I also liked Lutharia quite a bit, she had an interesting background and the two of them together had a nice lighter romance subplot.

The world building here was well thought out, there were many intricacies and nuances that made things more believable. I liked the fact that there are mountains of paperwork you have to go through to sign up for Death March mode, it’s not something you can just click “okay” and start playing. One of the more amusing parts of the game is that your “charisma” points really matter, and if you have a low level of charisma you’re bound to say something incredibly rude or embarrassing without being able to help yourself. There are two sets of world-building in this since the real world is as important as the in-game world. I felt like that really tied things together and made my interest in the characters well being and the outcome of the game more tangible.

The pace was very quick, this isn’t a long book and most of it was filled with some kind of tension, whether it was packs of rats, the undead, goblins, ogres, wyverns etc there was always something posing a threat. There were stats in this book, but I wouldn’t call it stat heavy. If you’ve read the Dungeon Born series that’s what I would consider heavy stats, comparatively there’s significantly less page time devoted to stats in this one.

This was a really fun book, it reads really quickly and is paired with an amazing audiobook – if you like Litrpg you should absolutely pick this one up!

Audience:

  • Litrpg
  • fast paced stories
  • lots of action
  • undead, goblins, wraiths, ogres
  • light romance
  • future urban fantasy

Ratings:

  • Plot: 12.5/15
  • Characters: 12.5/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 13/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 9/10

Final Rating: 84.5/100

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