Friday, June 16, 2017
Review of Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm
Author: J. A Hunter
Publisher: Shadow Alley Press
Release Date: Dec 23, 2016 (ebook)/ April 20, 2017 (audio)
Length: 306 Pages/ 8 hrs, 44 mins (audio)
Narrated by Armen Taylor
LitRPG has been a hit or miss genre to me since I discovered it a couple years ago. While there are some really good books in it, there are also some that just seem to be trying to cash in by writing a generic story which just adds stats/leveling up and dungeon crawls and loot drops to be called LitRPG and grab onto the popularity the genre is currently having. That being said, Viridian Gate Online: Cateclysm, is not one of those. It is, in fact, my favorite title in the Genre, surpassing the Way of the Shaman series. Thats a pretty good recommendation in my opinion.
Viridian Gate Online (VGO) has a fairly unique premise. The story starts off with Jack, an EMT, conflicted over whether he should get into the immersion pod for VGO provided to him by an old college friend that works for the company that developed VGO. The reason he is conflicted is that if he gets in and stays 72 hours, one of 2 things will happen. He could stay in, and his mind would be mapped and digitized and he would remain in the game as his character, Grim Jack, forever. However, his body would shut down and he would only survive ingame. however, there is a one in 6 chance he would die before that in the tank, his mind rejecting the transition, and he would just be dead instead.
However, this is all kind of a moot point, since in 9 days, almost everyone will be dead. Yes, you heard that right. There is a 9 mile wide asteroid, 213 Astraea, headed for Earth, projected to land just off the coast of Greenland. Well, that's an extinction level event, so, game over, so to speak. Except for the ridiculously wealthy and survival lottery winners, planning to live in deep earth bunkers, the only way to "survive" is to immerse in VGO, where your digitized mind will survive in the 7 great over mind servers buried deep underground. Well, since Jack is the main character of the story, you can guess which path he chose.
After immersing himself in the game, Jack goes into the character development screen. He goes through the character race types, and picks Murk Elf for himself (think dark elf) type, liking some of the character's natural bonuses. Being an experienced MMO gamer, Jack knows he has lots of choices in class for himself down the line, and the game doesn't force a class choice immediately. After he sets up the character, she starts the game play. He awakens in a cage in a dungeon lab, where someone has been vivisecting people. Not the most promising start to a game! There is another prisoner named Cutter, a thief, who offers to help him escape what apparently is some evil dark priest's torture dungeon. No place they want to hang out in.
They make their escape, although along the way they discover an old Murk Elf woman on the edge of death. She charges Jack to return her medallion to her tribe, to let them know how she dies. She also unlocks the shadow spark in Jack, allowing him some access to special abilities. This is now a quest for Jack, with the attendant quest requirements and rewards attached to it. After their escape, Cutter takes Jack to his city, where he introduces Jack to the local thieves union hall, since thieves don't have a guild.
What starts here is the adventures Jack expected, since after some training, he goes on a series of adventures, collecting loot, leveling up, basically doing what everyone does in an RPG. After being contacted by his old college friend Abbie, he takes a teleport scroll and goes to meet her with Cutter. This start some adventures and quests Jack must undertake to advance.
Later on Jack meets up with Abbie. She explains she discovered irregularities in the code of VGO, that rich people have paid to have restricted areas and quests set aside, so that they could easily level up and gain legendary level weapons and gear, basically cheating to create a paradise with themselves at the top of the food chain. Abbie wants to end around that and see if they can circumvent it. They then start the set of adventures and quests that will determine the fate of VGO. Will it just be a rich persons paradise with everyone else a serf, or will it be a chance to excel for all? What follows is a set of epic adventures and quests, which test the mettle, heart and skills of Grim Jack and Cutter, meeting a wide assortment of characters and completing more and more challenging quests, all while finding out even deeper truths about VGO, and about what the world truly faces in game. He will have to make some life and death choices that will affect many more people than himself.
This book is a must read for any fan of LitRPG, or fan of good writing, actually. The characters are phenomenal, with Jack and Cutter being the standouts, but even the secondary characters and even the monsters are well drawn out. The dialogue is tight, and there is real emotional punch to the story. The world building is epic in scale, but so well described you feel as though you are right there in the thick of things, which is all you can ask from a writer. You can tell there is a much larger world and story out there, and that we are just being introduced to something grand.
Narration wise, Armen Taylor does a great job bringing each character to life. They all have their own personalities, quirks and voices. He uses tone, inflection and accent to differentiate each character. Overall, a top notch performance.
I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I truly believe it is the best LitRPG on the market today, and I hope the author has huge success with it and keeps writing more! I for one, will be in line to get the next installment.