Book’em Nerdo – Ascend Online
The most recent book I’ve listened to is yet another LitRPG novel, this one is more obviously one, just just as much of one as Sufficiently Advanced Magic. I’m actually onto the second book of the series (there are three out now), but I wanted to do a review of this first one.
Ascend Online, a book by Luke Chmilenko, is a story of a new, fully immersive video game that is coming out. It’s basically a surprise to everyone in the world that it’s happening, because, other places have tried immersive games, and they’ve failed. But this one looks much more impressive from the trailer and it certainly is. In fairly typical LitRPG style, the main characters end up in the video game and the whole of the story is spent there. Marcus and his friends go into the game together, but because Marcus takes longer than everyone else picking his character, he gets sent to a small village and separated from everyone else, instead of the main city. So it follows him as he has adventures and gets different quests while waiting for his friends to join him, beating the rush of adventurers who will be pouring out there for sure.
Now, that bit of synopsis screams edgelord, an edgelord, in this setting, is that character who would set themselves as an actual ruler of an area and do things that they think are dark and edgy that makes them cool. And there have been a few LitRPG stories that I’ve listened to where characters seem to be headed in that direction. Also a few authors who seem like they are trying to be that themselves. This book could have easily gone down that path, and you do run across some characters who get that sort of treatment in the book, but Marcus and his friends are actually good people. It’s really refreshing to see handled that way, and I think that is one of the things I appreciated about the book.
The other big thing I like about the book is that while it’s in a game, the author does take some steps to just write a fairly epic feeling fantasy story. Yes, we do get one of my least favorite bits, because it is a LitRPG, but the world is well conceived as compared to some other LitRPG’s that I’ve read where it just felt very generic. It felt much more like a video game than this one does. Now, like I was saying, we do get one of my least favorite things which is stat blocks and heads up displays that you get in actual video games. I think that in book form, that wouldn’t be as bad, but for an audio book, it makes for some boring listening. Since I’ve just listened to it, I’m going to assume that the book has it laid out in a table you can skim over faster than it takes someone to read it, especially when not a ton has changed always.
Let’s quickly talk about the actual writing in the book. This is another spot where I don’t want to say it’s bad, but it certainly isn’t good. I think that Chmilenko writes compelling characters and a fairly interesting story, tying different things together well, while stringing together different quests, but the actual writing is a bit clunky. This book could be made a lot better by just having a better editor, or having taken the advice of a good editor. It isn’t a case where there are just dumb sections of the book that could be cut, I think that they’ve done a good job of keeping what is needed, but there is a lot of need to clean up sentences. A word will be used in a sentence and then used again, or something will be described at the start and end of a sentence. Just a little more time on editing would have been able to clean up the sentences, that in some sections were pretty commonly bad and other sections were better, and made it an easier listen to. Does this take too much away from the book to make it listenable/readable? I think for a lot of people it might, which, is a shame, because I like the story. But it really pulls you from immersion when you feel like the author is repeating himself. I think I said this with Sufficiently Advanced Magic, if you are going to write and possibly self publish LitRPG work, find a good editor and listen to them. I know it might be beating a dead horse, but it’ll make a huge difference.
So, what do I think of the book and would I recommend it? Clearly I’m enjoying the book as I’m listening to what is technically book #1.5 in the series. Different cast of characters, but I think better writing than the first book. If you can make it through the rough sections of writing and want to check out a LitRPG book, I think it could be an interesting read. I think I might prefer Sufficiently Advanced Magic, though that one drags in spots more so than this one does. Ascend Online is a good book in the LitRPG genre, however, most books in the LitRPG genre seem to be less good than your standard fantasy. So yes, I can recommend it, but don’t spend much money on it, in fact, try and find it at your library if you can.
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