Review of Nagrant Wars: By Jayden Hunter

Tl;dr: 2 stars

I really wished I could like this book because Jayden seems like a good guy and that he really wants to improve his craft.  Unfortunately, he’s not there yet.

Nagrant Wars is an ambitious work stymied by the author’s bizarre choices in numerous scenes.  To be frank, he doesn’t have the skill to pull off something this ambitious.  My advice, which is the same advice I give to all new writers, is to join writers forums and to get a professional editor.  Like the video game No Man’s Sky, it’s a project that’s more ambitious than the team’s technical skills can handle.

The beginning is dragged down by narration/exposition, heavy use of passive voice, and irrelevant details.  Narration/exposition means a heavy reliance on the auctorial voice to explain what’s going on in the scene coupled with characters running around telling each other what’s going on in the story.

When an author uses narration/exposition, I think it’s the same as using a voice over for a film.

In Adaptation, Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox) cries, “God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.” — The script lab

If you want to see how bad a voiceover can ruin a movie, read the 4th draft of  the Tombstone screenplay.  If the 4th draft was that bad, I shudder to think what the original looked like.  Here’s the opening scene:

V.O. NARRATION “The economic explosion following the Civil War created an unprecedented nation-wide market for beef. Previously worthless cattle running wild throughout Texas were gathered into herds And driven north to the railheads In Kansas. Fortunes were made as Cowtowns sprang up on the Prairies, wide-open centers of Commerce and vice, their streets Choked with heavily-armed young Men fresh from the cattle drives. In those days the correct term For a cowhand was ‘drover’. ‘Cowboy’, like ‘cowpoke’, was originally an insult implying deviant sexuality and was rarely used. But these invading drovers were a wild breed for soon shootings and wholesale drunken riots became so frequent that ordinary citizens literally could not walk down the street. In fact at their height the cowtowns had higher murder rates than modern New York or Los Angeles and there Was no law but that of the gun.”

If you remember the opening scene to Tombstone, Curly Bill and the Cowboys shoot up a wedding.  That opening scene tells us everything we need to know about the cowboys.  To whichever screen writer removed that garbage from the screenplay, you have my eternal thanks.  Here’s the original version if you really wanted to see what it would have been like.

Nagrant Wars doesn’t hit its stride until 25% of the way through the book, and the entire beginning is irrelevant to the story.

These are all minor compared to the thing that kills this book is the dialogue.  It wrecks the book.  Jayden uses tranche de vie or “slice of life”  writing that represents characters having conversations instead of dialogue.

This is a tragic choice for the novel.  There’s a reason why authors don’t do this.  It’s because there is a huge difference between conversations and dialogues.

Humans, in our everyday lives, have lots of conversations and very little dialogue.  Most of our conversation is pleasantries, useless banter, interruptions, etc.  Dialogue, from the time of Plato on down, is conversation stripped to the essential parts.

Some writers, like Plato, represent dialogue as an idealized conversation.  People represent ideals in his dialogue more than real historical figure.  He wanted to use people to embody abstract ideals and they argue for the positions he most closely associates with them.  Other writers like Mark Twain try to impart regionalisms, accents, colloquial speech patterns, and other naturalistic elements into their fiction.  His characters are realistic rather than idealistic.

This is the difference between an artistic photograph, which communicates an emotion, and a regular snapshot photograph, which captures a moment that has no relevance to anyone who wasn’t part of the photo.

161213143530-nicholas-bruno-5-exlarge-169Nicholas Bruno‘s Night Terrors

me-mom-q-a-2015
Jenny Fenig and her mom

Jayden doesn’t use Twain’s naturalistic version of dialogue or Plato’s idealistic version.  Instead, there are numerous conversations in Nagrant Wars that never get finished.  Every conversation gets interrupted multiple times, goes off on side tangents, and gets muddled very quickly.  A quick example:

 “Think positive, boys,” Earl said.   “My grandfather fought in Vietnam, and he claimed it had made him into the man he’d become, and—” “Earl!” Rhonda said.   “Your grandfather committed suicide.   I don’t think your pep talk skills…   This community service business is— I don’t want to think about it— it’s depressing.   And you watched that special with me the other night, honey—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 342-345). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is almost every dialogue scene, none of the characters get their words out before someone interrupts them.  I’ll look at a longer list of digressions in dialogue in the breakdown/spoiler sections, but many of these scenes don’t go anywhere.  They don’t reveal any new information that we didn’t have before.

Great conversation is built up through strong use of subtext that highlights a central theme and creates the necessary context that we need to understand the dialogue.

 

At a guess, I would assume that he attempts to do one of the main goals in dialogue, which is to present characters in conflict.  Except that this rule doesn’t apply to every situation. It applies to the most dramatically tense moments.  On the Waterfront’s “I could have been a contender” speech is perhaps the most well known cinematic version of this concept.

Thus the weakest part of this book is that there is no  dialogue.  There are numerous conversations, but no one manages to say anything.  It sounds like background noise.

Every conversation scene has one of two feelings:

  • We’re witnessing children at a playground, shouting over each other and engaging in juvenile discussions.
  • We walked in halfway through a movie and are trying to catch up to everything going on.

For the second example, let’s look at this scene.  First, the setup.

After the battle, the remaining lieutenants were excluded from the quest, which put Dale, who’d been given the rank of Corporal, in charge of directing forty-seven other soldiers.   He was nervous because the pain levels were set to normal, which basically meant that a strike from a virtual sword would feel identical to being hit with a real sword…   Which lead him to wonder how anyone figured that out.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2576-2579). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

That leads to this conversation.

“What war?” someone said. “You know, the Nagant War,” Dale answered. “You mean Nagant Wars?” the soldier asked. “Whatever,” Dale said.   “I mean…” “I’m Sanjay Patel,” the soldier said.   He put out his hand and Dale shook it.   “Nice to meet you.” “Same,” Dale said.   “So, do you understand what I’m talking about?” “Fucking Dale,” Smith said.   “Sanjay, just ignore him.   He’s always overthinking everything.” “He needs to get laid,” Tom said.   “But not by Russian.   First, Asian girl, I think.” “Hey, screw you,” an Asian girl said. “Exactly what I was hoping you’d say,” the Russian said.   “My name is Tom.” “Buta,” the Asian girl said. “Ignore him,” Galina said.

“Hey, the castle.” Dale looked through the trees, and sure enough, the tops of the castle towers could be seen in the distance.   They approached, and stayed inside the tree line, hidden from view.   The castle looked medieval, sort of standard, with gray stone, a moat, and a few banners hanging that appeared to have a corporate logo.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2587-2597). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

What is going on in that scene?  No one is saying anything useful and it’s all jumbled together, with other characters randomly appearing for no reason.  We also have absolutely no setup for what these characters are even doing.

The conversation sounds like something people would say at the beginning, since they haven’t even introduced themselves.  So how long have they been walking?  Did they walk two feet and then see the castles?  I have no idea.

The setup never told us that they were walking, or that they were supposed to be in a formation, or anything.  It simply tells us that Dale is in charge of 47 other people.  We can assume they are walking because they end up looking at the castle, but it should have shown us that they were walking towards the castles.

I don’t even have any context for the scene.  Are they in a virtual reality simulator or are they walking around on Earth?  That also hasn’t been set up, so I have no idea where these people are or what they’re doing wherever they are.  I also don’t know who any of them are since they’re being introduced ad hoc and at random.

 

In short, I can’t answer any of the five Ws:  Who, What, Where, When, Why.  Back to Kate Wilhelm’s advice on writing.

Another thing we came to realize was that the good basic five W’s of journalism apply equally to writing fiction. Who? Where? What? When? Why? They don’t have to be in that order, but they have to be given, or implied— and the sooner, the better.

Wilhelm, Kate (2005-08-01). Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop (p. 29). Small Beer Press. Kindle Edition.

Compare that with the dialogue from Ha Jin’s Waiting.  It’s so clear I don’t need to even set it up.

“Would you accept a divorce?”

She didn’t answer, her eyes fixed on the wide floorboards, which warped in places. Lin stared at her, thinking, Come on, say yes.

For a minute or so she made no sound. Meanwhile the judge was waiting patiently, waving a large fan, on which a tiger stretched its neck howling with a mouth like a bloody basin. He said to her, “Think hard. Don’t rush to a decision.”

Her brother raised his hand. The judge allowed him to speak.

Bensheng stood up and said, “Judge Sun, my sister is an illiterate housewife and doesn’t know how to express herself clearly, but I know how she feels.”

“Tell us then.”

“It’s unfair for Lin Kong to do this to her. She has lived with the Kongs for more than twenty years, serving them like a dumb beast of burden. She looked after his sick mother until the old woman died. Then his father fell ill, and for three years she took care of the old man so well that he never had a single bedsore. After his father was gone, she raised their daughter alone and worked inside and outside the house like a widow, although her husband was still alive. She has lived a hard life, all the villagers have seen it and say so. But during all these years Lin Kong kept another woman, a mistress, in Muji City. This is unfair. He can’t treat a human being, his wife, like an overcoat – once he has worn it out, he dumps it.” Bensheng sat down, his face red and puffing out a little. He looked a bit tearful.

His words filled Lin with shame. Lin didn’t argue, seeing his wife wipe her tears. He remained silent.

With a wave of his hand, the judge folded up the tiger fan and clapped it against the palm of his other hand. Then he brought his fist down on the desk; dust jumped up, a few yellowish skeins dangling in a ray of sunlight. He pointed at Lin’s face and said, “Comrade Lin Kong, you are a revolutionary officer and should be a model for us civilians. What kind of a model have you become? A man who doesn’t care for his family and loves the new and loathes the old – fickle in heart and unfaithful in words and deeds. Your wife served your family like a donkey at the millstone. After all these years, the grinding is done, and you want to get rid of her. This is immoral and dishonorable, absolutely intolerable. Tell me, do you have a conscience or not? Do you deserve your green uniform and the red star on your cap?”

Even though the judge is repeating what the brother Bensheng is saying, the level of diction and clarity goes up.  This is called style and I wish more authors used it.  Too many of the characters talk and sound exactly like each other.

From this simple scene in Waiting, we know what’s going on and what the conflict is. Lin is in an arranged marriage and wants to divorce his wife, but must wait 18 years if she doesn’t agree to the divorce.  He goes to the courthouse every year with his wife. Every year she declines the divorce, even though she says she will get the divorce when she talks to him before they do their yearly trip.  We have the entire plot of Waiting in one scene.

We also know the dramatic stakes:  Duty vs. personal feelings, the coldness of bureaucracy, the unfairness of arranged marriages, etc.

There aren’t any scenes in Nagant Wars that offer this sort of simple clarity.  People end up in locations with no transitions that explain how they got there.  They start talking and they don’t tell us what they’re saying and why they’re saying it.

Plotwise, and you have to kind of guess what the plot is, the story of Nagant Wars is that a corporation, Rhith Corporation, develops an online game that people play and is supposed to replace warfare in the future.  Maybe we’ve had contact with aliens who told us to do this, or we’re competing against aliens in a virtual reality world, who knows?

The premise is already hard to swallow.

Stripping out the Hegelian dialect of Karl Von Clausewitz’s On War, the idea that “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means” is one of the most poignant remarks on warfare since Heraclitus’ said that “War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free”.

When wars do not achieve their political end, as is the case of never-ending conflicts across the globe, the result is incessant warfare.  Treaties, cease-fires, and wars might be declared “over”, but they manifest as proxy wars in places like Syria as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the US and Russia.

Even wars which ‘end’ can be part of a long war campaign, the second invasion of Iraq the United States is a result of failing to achieve any real political gains in the first invasion of Iraq.  Russia is currently looking to retake Eastern Europe with an eye towards using propaganda and the internet as the means of fueling dissent rather than outright invasions.

Even the idea of politics that Clausewitz/Hegel/Fukuyama all toiled under, the idea of the Nation State put forth in the Treaty of Westphalia, is antiquated at this point.  The nation-state is being torn apart by Fourth Generation Warfare concepts, allegiance to tribes, ethnicity, religion, and identity politics is superseding allegiance to the nation state.

The US failure to understand this has lead to inevitable defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq, with war-savvy commentators noting that our strategy is akin to the King of Siam sending Abraham Lincoln war elephants, misunderstanding the nature of American warfare.

Ironically, the actors most able to navigate these contracting processes and with the incentive to build what was best suited for the Afghan security forces were those we trusted the least: Afghan military leaders. That we did not trust them with contracting dollars was not without reason. In a society that has gone decades without effective governance and functioning bureaucracies, the people of Afghanistan have relied on patronage networks to survive, and those networks still drive the allegiances of Afghan military officers. At first blush, the continued presence of these networks appears to reflect a moral failure, but this is a shallow conclusion. The people of Afghanistan only survived through seemingly endless years of warfare and the collapse of the Afghan state by relying on familial, tribal, and ethnic relationships. Of course they still rely on patronage networks.

By failing to understand the context of non nation-state actors, America failed to understand how Afghanistan works.

The novels assumption of Westphalian alignment is kind of quaint at this point, and we’re seeing the disruption of large organized groups via means like the Brexit, the increasingly isolationist policy of most nations, and the rise of Donald Trump’s nativism/isolationist approach and rejection of UN/NATO alliances.

Even assuming a Westphalian reintroduction of nation states in the future, the overall premise is still hard to imagine.  Country A fights country B in this simulator.  Country B loses.  When can Country B fight again against Country A?  Never?  Or immediately?  If Country B doesn’t like the outcome, what’s to stop them from simply invading country A and going back to the old warfare system?

This is at least one of the central theses to Phillip Bobbit’s Shield of Achilles:

In such a world, politics is unlikely to disappear. But it will be a crude, disjointed and uncomfortable business… ‘there will be more public participation in government but it will count for less, and the role of the citizen qua citizen will greatly diminish and the role of the citizen as spectator will increase’…

Politics in these circumstances will inevitably become even more personalised than it is at present, as the objects of politics reduce themselves to the subjects of media obsession. Politicians will not abandon the attempt to speak for the state they purport to represent, but it is hard to see how it can be done with much conviction (which will make the appearance of conviction all the more important).

He calls these conflicts Long Wars, in which questions about the correct form of government or how to allocate resources amongst competing groups are not solved in any one decisive battle and play out over multiple theaters of combat across different locations.

Likewise, the simulator is meant to be a level playing field.  Why?  What military unit would give up their advantages in warfare to be on a level playing field?  The US can bomb seven countries currently and France can fight in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.  Did you know France was fighting in those countries?  No?  It’s because war doesn’t affect those of us in the civilized World.

It’s such a minor inconvenience that most of us can’t name the countries the US is currently bombing, or why we’re bombing them.  Most Americans don’t even like being reminded about it.

The crux of the argument is that this virtual World is not as dangerous as the real world.  Okay, but then it tells us that people still die in it or become shell-shocked.  What’s the advantage here for large countries?

For non-state actors, are we imaging Rhith corporation is sending mujahideens Rhith Capsules to engage in warfare?  How big is a group supposed to be to qualify in this?  If I declare war on my neighbor, do we go to battle in a Rhith capsule?

Another problem is the timeline.  The novel introduces us to numerous futuristic names, places, etc.  But the future is only a few decades.

If it’s incidental to the plot, I think Looper did this best.  If the future is really just a plot device and the novel isn’t about the future, then make it a recognizable future.  A radically altered future requires a lot of explanation, and while yes, you can go the full pretentious route of Snow Crash and exposit on Babylonian mythology and neural networks, this doesn’t work in the genre of LitRPGs.

Why?  You don’t have enough time.  This is the Two World problem I talk about in several reviews.  If you have two worlds, you have to invent two sets of mythos for both of them.  Most authors such as this and this do not do a very good job at it.  The more significantly different your version of “Earth” is, the more explaining and the more digressions you have to go into in order to make it work.   Either you’re going to write a gigantic book or you’re going to have a half-baked book.  For most readers, they don’t care about the actions in the mundane World vs. the simulation one.  Which means cut out the mundane World.

When you introduce real-World into virtual environments, it falls apart.  Let’s look at an example:

The formation was made by positioning the three teams into an ever-circulating diamond shape, the spearhead of the diamond would engage the enemy, then move backward into the diamond, allowing it to reform with the original spearhead in the rear, hopefully alive.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2499-2501). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

No ancient military unit fought like that.  The closest are the wedge formations of cavalry units like the Macedonians, Thracians, and Scythians, or the Rhomboid formations of the Thessalians.  They fought in a wedge formation, but didn’t try to burst through a well-formed unit.  They waited until there was a gap and then charged through it, then harassed the flanks and caused the formations to break while the infantry closed in their opponents.

Using a diamond formation in a short-sword conflict means that no one would have a shield able to protect the person in front, so the column would simply attack him on all sides before he could move backwards. This would mean the other people in the diamond would have to step forward to protect the person in front, but they would have to catch up to defend the person in the front of the diamond.  This then leaves them vulnerable to attacks from the side while the rear formation runs up.

Additionally, the first rule of all military units is KISS. Keep it Simple, Stupid.  An ever circulating fighting pattern that required members to be aware of where everyone else is and move forward/backwards wouldn’t work.  There’s a reason that military units drill marching forward in coordination.  It’s not hard to do, and soldiers will be the first to admit that some of their peers are not capable of complex multi-tasking.

When you are in an Earth environment, you need to be able to simulate verisimilitude in the real World.  The more ridiculous your version of Earth gets, the more it strains the reader.

In a fantasy World, the only constraints are that you need to make up rules that make some sense and then follow through with them.  When you start writing about the real World, you need to have some familiarity with economics, military history, history in general, political theory, etc.  The people who can successfully build massive Worlds like Stephen Nielson, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, and George R.R. Martin also know a lot about a variety of subjects.  If you don’t, it will show.

This is the research portion of writing, and Jayden doesn’t appear to have done much research into how the military works.  This shows in all the military scenes, which we’ll look at later.

When an author doesn’t have the education necessary to pull off a complex plot, such as the last three books of D. Rus’s AlterWorld series, the results are horrific.  Rus attempts to bring in Russian nationalism into the book just gets him bogged into making repeated sexist, racist, and nationalistic stereotypes.  He doesn’t have the education to pull that sort of novel off, certainly not in the way that Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, Nabokov, and Dostoevsky could.

This is why teachers give the advice to write small stories and why video game developers tell you to try building pac-mac first before you try making the next grand theft auto game.  Ha Jin’s book is a small story about a man in an arranged marriage.  Hence it works because he doesn’t need to know a lot about numerous subjects to make it work.

I call this George Lucas Syndrome.  When George Lucas works on “soft” fiction in Indiana Jones or Star Wars, the results work.  But when he attempts to introduce grander themes or ideas into his work like Red TailsStar Wars Prequels, or Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, he fails miserably.

j1mk4btSorry George, but Cliff Notes are not the same as doing the actual reading

Thus Hayden’s novel has numerous things introduced that he doesn’t have time to explain.  We get a United Earth Defense (why?  Against what are we united?) that is remarkably better as an international organization than anything on Earth currently.  Numerous fictitious colleges, discussions on pen technology of the future, etc. that come and go.

Shin Godzilla or Godzilla Resurgence takes this on, with an incompetent Japanese bureaucracy unable to make any decisions about what to do in an actual crisis.

Character wise, I don’t like any of the people in the novel.  There are two leads.

The first lead is a female named Lia in real life or Rohini in the novel.  She has no motivation for anything she does.

The other main character, Dale, is supposed to be trying to get into the best college to pursue a career making video games.  He gets offered the college scholarship at the top university.  But he decides to volunteer for civil service instead because his best friend can’t make it into the same college.  He decides to instead join civil service with his best friend (Dale).

But one second after he’s in service, his best friend betrays him and this causes Dale to get killed in the virtual Nagant Wars. Brian gets kicked out of the military after this and Dale even sees it.

Dale gets offered the chance to leave the military, pursue his dreams, and he has absolutely no reason to stay in the military.

What you’re going to naturally assume happens is that Dale leaves the military and goes off to pursue his dreams, because everything we know about his character motivations says he hates war, doesn’t like the government, and dreams of attending a top-tier University.  But that instinct is completely wrong.

Instead, he immediately signs up for the military because he thinks the nurse in the military is hot.  What?

“I’ll only be a minute,” she said.   “I need to get his vital signs and check all these tubes; I’ll be out of your hair in a second.”   She winked. Dale wished she’d take her time.   He vaguely remembered her in a dream. “Everything is looking good, Dale,” she said as she adjusted the sheets, her warm fingers brushing against his skin.   “Your recovery is coming along spectacularly; you’re much stronger today than yesterday.   I’m sure you’ll be back to duty in no time at all.   A hundred percent.” “You think I—” “Yes, of course,” she said, not allowing him to finish his sentence, “you’ll be completely fine.   A complete recovery.   You’re a hero.”   She placed her hand on his shoulder and gave him a squeeze…

We see it in you, son (The Captain says).   We hope you’ll put people— well, son, people like that pretty nurse— we hope you’ll put their needs ahead of your own, for the benefit of all of us, son.   What do you say?”

Dale looked the Captain in the eye and said, “Okay.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations2335-2356). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Yes, this is the main character.

This scene is made even more idiotic because earlier in the book,  he’s already had a civilian explain to him that they can create lifelike artificial creatures and can easily trick him into seeing things that aren’t there.  The civilian even explains that one of the Captains that he thinks is hot isn’t real.

But nevermind character motivation.  He’s throwing away his dreams because a hot nurse that he won’t see again winked at him.

This is also the opposite of how this is supposed to work.  Think of the first Captain America: The First Avenger movie.  In the first act, we see that Steve Rogers really wants to be a great soldier, but he’s a puny runt.  He tries to join up, but can’t because of physical limitations.  A medical official takes pity on him and recruits him to be part of an experiment to create super soldiers.  The other military officers think this is wrong, until Chester Phillips/Tommy Lee Jones throws a grenade and sees that Steve jumps right on it to save the rest of the platoon.  From there, he becomes Captain America.

In Star Wars, Luke grew up hearing tales about the great Jedi and how they possessed mystical powers.  He longs for adventure, but when given the chance, rejects it because his aunt and uncle need him on their farm.  He joins when the Storm Troopers kill his aunt and uncle.

In other words, there’s what the hero wants and an obstacle that causes him to reject “The Hero’s Call” initially.  When the obstacle is gone, the hero accepts the quest.  This signals that the hero is accepting responsibility for what happens throughout the rest of the story.

The other way to do this, the tragic angle, is to have the hero brought in against his will.  Odysseus doesn’t want to fight in the Trojan War, so he feigns madness putting a horse to a cart and salting his own fields.  Palamedes wants to know if Odysseus is faking madness, so he throws Odysseus’ infant son, Telemachus, in the way of the cart.  Odysseus pulls the cart away and thus everyone knows that he is only faking insanity.

You can also think of Gladiator where Russell Crowe refuses to bow to Caligula and gets turned into a slave, after his wife and child are murdered and his home burned.

Since Dale has no real reason for joining the military, his character development falls flat.  Somehow, despite being a weakling art/design/3d modeling student, he’s able to win his first battle and get promoted easily.  The novel also repeatedly calls him a programmer, even though he never programs anything.

He’s a character rigger.  That’s the technical name for someone who builds 3d models and rigs them for animation.

There’s other problems too.  One reason why the military has a ranking system is because you gain maturity over time.  The military has an entire chain of command from NCOs up to COs, and each rank has specific assigned duties.

This novel has a military with virtually no chain of command.  This gets compounded by the fact that everyone feels like they’re 18 year olds.  No military unit could fight effectively like that.

Likewise, people in the novel don’t have assigned roles.  This is one of the first things that happens regardless of service branch, you get assigned a MOS (Military Occupational Speciality).

Further, people in the novel get assigned into teams and units ad hoc.  This is something that never happens in the military.  You get assigned to a command that’s where you stay. Even in training, you get put into a platoon and then into a squad.

The military problems won’t be obvious to most people, but what will be obvious is that there are numerous scenes that lack a transition scene and an establishing shot.  Most of the scenes just happen.

We aren’t told how the characters ended up in their situation or where they are.  We don’t know what they are doing or where they are practicing.  When they’re in the military, are they training in real life or in the simulation?  No idea.  It’s never established.

There’s also an annoying problem that the novel keeps repeating.  One of the rules of improv is Don’t Try to Be Funny.  This advice applies to writing as well.

But you will not have advanced the scene or – more importantly – given your scene partner anything to build upon. Jokes stop the forward momentum of the scene because they literally add nothing; they’re like an aside, a nod to the audience that hey, just wanted you to know I’m funny, just in case this scene doesn’t go anywhere. Guess what? If the scene doesn’t go anywhere, it might be because you went for the joke.

One teacher I admire suggests this: when you have an urge to say something clever or go for a joke or whatever you want to call it, do something big and physical instead. Stay in the moment, add information that your partner can use, AND do it in a big, physical and/or emotional way.

Let’s look at one such scene in Nagrant Wars.

“Thank you,” the Commander told the families, “the world is a safer place due to the service and sacrifice of your young men and women here today that have passed all the required requirements that we require.”   The CO paused for a moment and whispered behind the podium, “take whoever wrote this speech out back and beat him,” apparently not realizing that he was still miked.   He turned back to the crowd and smiled.   “That is all.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2938-2941). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is supposed to be for a laugh, but it kills the scene.  Everyone who has ever been in the military knows that graduation ceremonies are highly ritualized and they say the same things to each graduating class.  That’s what the word uniform in military means, all the same.  The fact that it’s all the same means that soldiers can share the exact same memories and sequences, we all remember FTX, the “shark” swarm upon arrival at training, getting gassed with tear gas, etc.

There’s numerous attempts at comedy like this.  They all fail and kill the scene.

The continuity/transition problems are all over.  Another scene:

The following Monday morning, after receiving medical evaluations, several painful shots with long ominous hypodermic needles, and a lecture about sexual harassment,   Dale and Smith found themselves sitting in the mess hall for the last time.   A new class was scheduled to start basic training the next day…

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2949-2951). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Right, so they’re in the training facility.  Okay.  So then what happens?

Beck stood up and changed into an avatar. He grew a foot taller, his hair became straight and black, and his face grew angular and smooth, accented by pointed ears.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2976-2977). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Wait, what?  Are they receiving shots or are their avatars?  Can they magically transform anywhere in the World?  If they are in the simulation, then the scene with the nurse becomes even more stupid.  If they’re not, Dale is still an idiot because he’s seen first hand that people can change into anything in unexplained location with unexplained rules that he’s at.

She waved her hand in front of herself as she was about to dance.   With her fingers pointing upwards, twirling around, she said a chant and changed into an avatar. Dale called up her identifying pop-up. Race: Naphil had been added to her description. Captain Redding was a beautiful redhead in her human avatar, Dale thought, but in her Naphil avatar she had become exquisite.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 3027-3030). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

40% of the way through the novel, and I have no idea what the rules are/are not, who the characters are, what anyone’s motivation is, and what is going on.  Let me repeat this.  I’m 40% of the way through the book.  For comparison, the setup scene for Ha Jin’s Waiting takes place 3% of the way through the book.

At 40% of the way through the novel, none of the characters even understand what the titular Nagant Wars is.

Overall, Jayden needs to work with a professional development editor for his next book.  Several chapters can be removed entirely, and some of the other chapters need to be rearranged.

I.e. the big conflict is what happens when you die in the game/real World virtual game/whatever.  The answer is given early on.  We already know what happens when you die.  But when we switch to Dale, he talks about it nonstop.  This makes the entire point of the scene and dialogue worthless, we already know the reveal.

Likewise, the Princess completely disappears from the plot after introducing her early on.  So why are we introduced to her at all?  She should be moved to the back of the book so her introduction is relevant to the story.  Nothing she does has any bearing on anything Dale does, except make Nagrant Wars confusing as a reference.

Several of the game mechanics are left completely unexplained, as well as numerous times where the scene transitions without telling us how/why the scene has transitioned.  Overall, the book is incredibly confusing.

That would be my overall summary of the book.  If The Trapped Mind Project is a meditation on boredom then this book is a meditation on confusion.  Much like the Trapped Mind keeps receiving Signals From Fred that the book is boring, this one is filled with Signals From Fred that the book is confusing.

Plot:  2 stars.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s not coherently organized.  Multiple scenes can be removed or rearranged, but the most damning problem is that no one in the book itself seems to know what’s going on.

There’s the outline of a plot, but I have no idea what it really is.

Characters: 2 stars

Neither protagonist has any strong motivation for what they’re doing.  Every side character is either annoying or a creep.  See my review for Selfless Hero Trilogy for the problems with this approach.

Emotions:  2 stars

It’s hard to be emotionally invested in characters that have no strong wants or desires, and that just do things randomly.  The bad dialogue and the horrendous side characters kill any emotional investment.

Overall, I feel as if I can’t stress this enough.  If you want to be a serious author, get an editor.


Long Review, Spoilers, obviously

We begin our story by getting introduced to the princess, Lia De la Espriella in the real World or Princess Rohini Talargo in the game World.

She suits up and enters into the confusingly named Nagrant Wars, since everything in this book is called Nagrant Wars.  It begins with early continuity/plot choice errors.

“From all the online reviews and the stories she heard at school, she’d been one of only a thousand players who had received a special in-game role.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 50-51). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.”

This is one of the things that needs explanation.  What happens if she dies in real life or rage quits the game completely?  How does the game deal with this?  Does another player get the character?  Or does a NPC take over?  Why did she receive this special perk?  Was it a complete randomly assignment or was she chosen for some specific reason.  Are there restrictions on how long she must play each day?  What happens when she isn’t playing?

The name she gives to these types of PCs with special roles are TPCs, Transitional Player Characters.  This mechanic never gets explained and is the source of unending confusion throughout the novel.

 With the exception of these lucky thousand, the look of a personal avatar had restrictions which ensured that avatars closely matched the real human behind it. Princess Rohini Talargo paced the war room, studied maps and magic guides, and bit her lower lip while she considering her options.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 55-57). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is one of the recurring problems in the book, there is no transition between scenes.  We go from discussing how people look in the game to the Princess walking around a war room looking and maps.

Is Lia, the real player, looking at the maps?  Does the game act as a NPC when she’s not around?  Did she wake up to find herself in the map room?  None of it is explained, she is just transported into the scene ex nihilo.

She talks with her Dad, the King for a bit, and we learn this.

Possessing the Jewel of Sartozel, the item being smuggled into her father’s city, would put her life in danger, but being royalty came with obligations and duties.   She’d never regretted taking on the responsibilities that came with the office.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 68-70). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is a violation of the principle of show, don’t tell.  We’re being told she received the quest at some point, but we never see her accepting it.  This is another problem with the story.  In addition to missing key transitions between scenes, most of the scenes start midway through.  What is this Jewel, why is it important, why do we care, when did she get this quest?

We get exposition about the fact that her Dad might get kidnapped and tortured, so he doesn’t want to know where she’s going.  Presumably, the King would already know what this object is and where it is supposed to go. Only we, the readers, have no idea what is going on.

The next scene is also confusing.  She accepts the quest, that we know nothing about, and she levels up.

“Long live the King!”   Princess Rohini Talargo knelt, kissed her father’s hand, and stood to hear the sounds of XP, (Experience Points), being added.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 89-90). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Okay, I get the point of the scene.  Hayden wants to show us why people level up and what happens when they do.  Except that we’ve already had it explained that she has no choice about accepting certain quests.  So why is she leveling up for accepting a quest she would have had to accept anyway?  And more bizarrely, she levels up for accepting a quest, not completing it.

She inspected her character status. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The Arodian Mountains were the most beautiful on the entire planet of Almaach.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 108-110). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

What?  We go from her inspecting her character status to talking about the Arodian mountains.  On a side note, this type of exposition is boring.  If you’re going to get into exposition, you should switch to doing it through the character, not through the narrator.

“She left the castle with her entourage and approached the Arodian Mountains, the most beautiful mountain range on the planet of Almaach.”

Now we have a transition, and we have a point of view description instead of a narrator.  This keeps repeating:

Hundreds of species of trees grew in the forests, and covered tens of thousands of square kilometers.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 110-111). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This should be moved to the character’s experience.  “She saw hundreds of species that grew in the forest, covering tens of thousands…”  We don’t really care about the narrator’s perspective because that’s essentially a travel brochure’s description of the environment . We care about the characters and how they perceive the World.

The narration exposition continues for far too long, and we get another stutter-stop.

and running multiple dungeon instances with them.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 114). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Huh?

Why is she only level 3 prior to her initial level up if she’s done multiple dungeon instances?  Would her father and mother, the King and Queen, allow this?  If he’s worried about her being kidnapped, going off into dungeons in a game that has PvP seems exceedingly dangerous.  Likewise, any soldier would be scared to death to bring a Princess into a dungeon. What if she dies?  Do NPCs respawn?  Do NPCs realize that PCs respawn?

All of these introductory questions are ignored.  Because mechanics are never explained.

As far as she knew, each soldier accompanying her was represented accurately when interacting in their personal avatars, and she’d become friends with several of them.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 114-116). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So are these TPCS or PCs?  Because “she became friends with several of them” is questionable.  Is it saying she is friends with them in the game?  Or is it saying she became friends with them outside?  Are they NPCs or PCs?

Because we get this passage as well.

Ruthann, her personal steward-advisor, rode alongside her.   She had served the royal family her entire life according to the back stories.   Rohini assumed, that like her father and mother, she was an NPC, although she’d not really be sure unless she witnessed her death because NPCs always drop loot; player avatars do not.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 123-125). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Because if these are PCs, why are they soldiers?  Can you pick the assignment of just being a random castle soldier as a player?  Like log into the game, each and every day, and walk around a castle?

Or are they TPCs, special soldiers given to the queen?  In which case, how does she organize when they’ll be around?  Are TPCs controlled by NPCs when they aren’t around?  Shouldn’t that mean there should be a major personality shift?

We don’t know, so we have to guess that they’re NPCs.  That guess is because the next part tells us:

The rest of the party were soldiers, all who belonged to a Royal Solider (sic) Platoon, which received its charter from the Kartikeya Guild.   They varied in levels from three to five.   Since they were all hand-selected young men who had sworn loyalty to the King, passed her tests, and had each spent time wooing her into selecting them, she’d become confident that none were NPCs.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 128-131). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So how did she contact the Royal Soldier Platoon?  How long ago did she select this group, since she started the quest immediately and just accepted it?  Are they part of a group that routinely follows her around?  How does she coordinate when they are all online?  How does she communicate with them?

The communication part will be a big problem later on.

And the in-game pain was as real as could be imagined.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 145). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I’ve already written extensively about this twice, so I’m not going to keep harping on it.

Most people who play video games aren’t into pain, otherwise, they would probably have a different hobby.  In game pain only makes sense if the player gets trapped in the game.  But it doesn’t make sense if the players can just log off, who’d seriously want to get stabbed repeatedly?  No corporation would allow it because they’d lose their player base immediately, in addition to lawsuits.

The exposition continues to tell us what the princess’s role will be in the story.

The Jewel of Sartozel, which was currently hidden inside her pony (as loot— she thought she’d been exceedingly clever in this— who’d kill a sweet pony?), was one of the keys to winning the war.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 145-147). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I don’t know if the intention is to turn the princess into an idiot, but this is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read.  The book already told us that NPCs drop loot while PCs don’t. I quoted it 3 paragraphs up.

As long as she held onto the Jewel, no one could take it from her.  Also if her horse dies, doesn’t that mean she has to go find the corpse, get the loot, and then run back?  Her plan has a lot of holes in it.

Also, how dumb are you not to realize that if you’re being chased, the first thing any creature is going to do is kill the horse you’re on?

Later on in the book, we find out each of these things are exactly what happens.  We also find out that PCs that kill NPCs can see all the loot that gets dropped automatically, and they can also automatically split up the goods.

We then get a middle finger from the author:

She assumed that as levels grew and Lore Books were discovered, the answers would come.   It didn’t matter to her at the moment, she couldn’t control the fate of the other jewels, only the one in her possession, and it didn’t matter what their ultimate purpose was, only that they were crucial to victory in the coming conflict.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 149-151). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is “Middle Finger From Author” a trope?  Thanks for that.

So she’s embarking on a quest we’re supposed to care about when the lead character has no idea why she’s embarking on the quest, shows no concern for finding out why she’s doing it, or shows any concern about figuring out how to successfully accomplish her mission?  See “Character Motivation”.

She goes out with her group until they encounter dragonlings.  They start to engage it.

“Nock,” Rohini said. “Target acquired,” both bowmen said at once.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 175-176). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Are princesses military leaders in this universe?  Because this seems like a command that a military leader would be giving, not someone who is supposed to be under escort. Also, do the bowmen just wait around until she gives orders?  Do the bowmen not have any idea how to be bowmen?

Purplish-red blood poured from the wound, indicating that iron had pierced the heart of the creature, the only sure way to kill one.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 188-189). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is weird because the beast howled in agony when it was hit in the shoulder in an earlier scene.

Presumably, something should only hurt if it has a chance at injuring you.  It’s why we don’t cry when our nails get clipped or our hair gets trimmed, neither has any chance of causing infections or making us bleed out.

Also, chopping the head off a dragonling or driving the sword through the brain seem like pretty good bets as well.  Instead of “the only sure way” it should be “one sure way”.

This could be a game mechanic though since in a later battle with a two-headed ogre, the ogre has both heads cut off and still keeps fighting.  It doesn’t make any sense, but it does happen.

We then jump cut to our other protagonist, Dale.  Dale is a high school student just graduating.  We get what Kate Wilhelm calls a poor me plotline where the male viewpoint character complains he can’t get laid and about his family life.

He’d be in a technical college soon, and that meant freedom.   No more nagging parents, no more annoying sibling, and hopefully he’d meet some friendly girls, not that he’d ever spent much time IRL flirting with the opposite sex. His courage, however, grew exponentially inside any Rhith-World.   He was generally more skillful and powerful than average players, and that gave him the courage and boldness to parlay banter and joint quests into PMs and occasionally, into video chats.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 196-199). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

And here’s Kate Wilhelm’s response to this:

First was the Poor Me story: Mother hates me, Father hates me, brother, sister, teachers . . . Also I’m ugly and I can’t get laid. Enough, we said. No one who asks for pity gets it. Save it for your shrink, someone who gets paid to hear your complaints. Reading is a voluntary act, and no one wants to hear a litany of whines. A dead-end, go-nowhere story. No more.

Next, the obverse: I’m wonderful. After I slayed the dragon and rescued the damsel, I took on and destroyed the enemy and taught the inhabitants how to do everything. I solved the problems, found the treasure, was the object of every girl’s desire . . . Enough. Save your adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasies for the shrink. No one likes a braggart.

Wilhelm, Kate (2005-08-01). Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop (p. 63). Small Beer Press. Kindle Edition.

That brings tears to this critic’s eyes.  The most obnoxious thing about the poor me plotline developed here is it goes nowhere.  It has no bearing on the rest of the story.

“Yes.   I was afraid of this.”   Earl sat at the counter and looked at his wife. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Ohio lawmakers signed another community service bill a few days ago.   They’re conscripting our kids…

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 236-238). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is called As you know, Bob dialogue.

Did the National Guard disband in the future?  Because a State cannot force anyone into national military service for the United States, the States have a separate militia from the actual US government that is appointed under the governor.  The National Guard has been around longer than the US government, so this would be a noteworthy event.

During the Vietnam War, only between 12,000 and 13,000 Army National Guard members were activated for the Vietnam War.  Those that were activated were required to vote on it as a unit or as an individual.  That’s because the National Guard is under the Governor.

Also, the US has required that people register for Selective Service, but it has never attempted to perform an actual draft during peacetime.  The US has skirted the law with this, not formally resolving to call things “wars” but delegating the task to the President.

It’s the reason that even as we needed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US chose to use stop-loss policies instead of starting up a draft since that would require a formal declaration of war.  This was terrible for soldier morale but politicians used it because a formal draft would have sparked civilian revolts.  This is also why mass activations for National Guard units were used, even though it created problems whenever National Guard units were actually needed domestically, like during Hurricane Katrina.

From there, Dale teleports into his room, and we get this scene.

“No, but since when was being fair a requirement imposed by our illustrious leadership?” “You’ll talk to him?” “Of course,” he said, “but I doubt it’ll do any good.” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dale Brown pushed the power button on his Rhith-Console. “Now what?” Brian Daniels, his best friend, asked him over the Rhith-Com Internet Chat App that was running on Dale’s laptop. “Hold on,” Dale said as he undressed.   “Ummm, let me turn off my camera for a minute.” Dale ditched his underwear,

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 242-245). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I’m not joking about the teleportation, he goes from his living room to bedroom with no establishing shot or anything letting us know that he’s in his bedroom.

We also find out midway through he’s talking in his underwear to his best friend. This is a weird situation.

After Dale tries out the suit, we cut back to the Princess in battle with the dragonlings.

Killed: Mountain Dragonling Level 6 Dropped: Ice Magic Book Dropped:   2 iron-tipped arrows Dropped:   4 gold bars

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 274-275). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This goes back to the dead horse problem.  If  people automatically see what’s dropped when a creature dies, then the Princess is a complete idiot.  One of the items the dragonling drops is an ice magic book.

Rohini moved into a better position, and opened her new Ice Magic Book. Ice Magic Skills Increased:   Student Level Achieved. As you increase in Ice Magic you’ll be a better damage dealer and you can also chill drinks… Hint: Not all spells are created equal and fire & ice don’t mix.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 280-283). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

The first problem is the snarky commentary.  It’s super ingratiating.  Yeah, I know that Awaken Online Catharsis does this, but it has a point there.  It commentates on the skills the player actually uses and how the player uses them.  It doesn’t just commentate on the actual skills themselves.

Next, does the game just let you open a book and instantly gain the knowledge while in battle?  It seems like there should be a restriction that you at least read the book, since spells are supposed to be somewhat difficult to learn and all.  That’s the general reason given why mages aren’t everywhere.

She shoots the dragonling and it charges towards her.  When it gets too close:

She replaced her bow with a lightweight saber, a sharp and deadly weapon, but small enough for her to wield with skill…

She brought out a hunting knife and killed two of them.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 311-312). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

How is she bringing out weapons so quick?  Can she think it and automatically have a weapon, does she go through an inventory, or does she already have those weapons on her person?  The writing makes it unclear.  The book repeatedly doesn’t explain mechanics and just does things with no explanation, like the magic book.

She shrieked so loudly her vocal cords shredded and she could no longer scream.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 312-313). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Earlier in the book, it states:

In-game pain levels for training and tutorials, and even friendly PvP, could be set very low.   Even moderate levels were tolerable, but she’d yet to experience an actual war-related quest or battle, and the rumors floating around claimed that injury and death in these situations was shocking, and sometimes trauma producing.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 139-141). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

But it says that war is coming, not that they are at war now.  So are they at war and is everyone now experiencing full pain?  Why?  Why was it optional before?  Because unexplained mechanics.

She cried, or at least she felt as if she was crying, even though she had neither eyes nor tear ducts.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 322). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

However, earlier it states:

“It has an emergency command to exit,” Dale said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 248). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So does the game turn-off the emergency command now?  What’s the point of an emergency command that doesn’t work or do anything?

From there, we cut back to Dale, and are given more irrelevant exposition and As you know dialogue.

“Think positive, boys,” Earl said.   “My grandfather fought in Vietnam, and he claimed it had made him into the man he’d become, and—” “Earl!” Rhonda said.   “Your grandfather committed suicide.   I don’t think your pep talk skills…   This community service business is— I don’t want to think about it— it’s depressing.   And you watched that special with me the other night, honey—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 342-345). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So do you think a wife would talk like that to her husband in front of her children about their grandfather? Do the kids not know that their granddad has PTSD?

It also has the rampant multiple interruptions style that keeps appearing throughout this book.

“Yes,” Rhonda continued, “P-Teeee-SD— the post trauma thing— the soldiers are coming home, from the game world, after experiencing so much drama that they are—” “You mean trauma—” “Yes!   The trauma is causing soldiers to commit suicide or drink too much,” she said, “it’s really sad.   Even the ones that get out of the hospital okay are—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 361-364). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I’m not sure why she doesn’t know what PTSD is, or why this game World is intentionally causing these problems.  This is all “As you know, Bob” dialogue.  We don’t need characters to exposit about other characters we never see, we could simply meet some soldiers who are shell-shocked later on in the story when Dale joins the military.  Show, don’t tell, and all that jazz.

Further, this book is only a few decades in the future, yet everything in it is changed, globally.  Even books that change things radically usually restrict it to a particular location.  Snow Storm restricts the story to talking about changes in Los Angeles.  Escape From New York restricts changes to New York.

Yet everyone in this novel talks about all sorts of things that would require major technological shifts, different laws, etc.

We then move from exposition into Dale going to find out what college he’s going to attend.  He narrates a bunch of nonsense.

Getting programmers to work together was becoming increasingly difficult because each new patent presented such insane potential for profit that nobody wanted to share. The old joke about shared programming wasn’t funny anymore. “What’s open source?” asked the engineer. “Larry’s sister.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 391-394). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is this a meme or a joke?  If it’s a joke, it doesn’t make any sense.  Is there a need to repeatedly introduce casual sexism into the book?  Because if casual sexism is the name of this game, this book succeeds on a grand scale.

If it’s to make a point, about what I can’t guess, that’s why there’s licensing agreements, to prevent conflicts about who owns what.

https://opensource.org/licenses

Programmers can’t do anything complex by themselves, it’s why they hire teams of them.  Any field that has a ton of competition is either going to be long-tail (meaning only a few people make any profit, like football.  Most people who play it never earn a cent) or market-crowded where the average profit margin is slim, like retail sales.  Programmers wouldn’t own the patent, the parent company that employed them would.  Since the programmers wouldn’t be able to do anything complex without help, this sequence makes no sense.

The reality of programming is that it’s trivial.  Except it isn’t.

There is a tremendous amount of spit and polish that goes into making a major website highly usable. A developer, asked how hard something will be to clone, simply does not think about the polish, because the polish is incidental to the implementation.

Code is meaningless if nobody knows about your product. Code is meaningless if the IRS comes and throws you in jail because you didn’t do your taxes. Code is meaningless if you get sued because you didn’t bother having a software license created by a lawyer.

Writing code is trivial. And fun. And something I continue to love doing. But if you really want your code to be successful, you’ll stop coding long enough to do all that other, even more trivial stuff around the code that’s necessary to make it successful.

Dale then goes to take a test for his college career, and we get more weird technology.

…that kind of advanced technology is traceable.   These pens, believe it or not, were made in China in 2011, and yes, I need them back.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 413-414). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is it important we know this?  What does the pen have to do with anything, since it would be the ink that’s important?   We get introduced to forms and tests and everything else, but none of it goes anywhere.  Yes, the novel shows us Terms of Service agreements.  It’s a lot of noise.

He meets the Dean or someone in a Dean-ish position that explains the interview process and all the questions that Dale answered.

Then it jumps to Dale teaching his friend Brian how to play the Nagrant Wars game.  We then get this line:

If I say exit, exit, exit, the helmet will eject, and the whole system  will pause.   You can set different safe words and other commands to exit.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 512-513). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

See the Princess’ death scene commentary above.  Why didn’t she just use the emergency exit, or does emergency exit mean you can only emergency exit if you’re not in a game?  In which case, that’s the most useless emergency exit I’ve ever heard of.  So are you just trapped inside the game at all times until you die?  Because that’s the only way anyone seems to exit the game in this novel.

They then discuss the possibility that Brian and Dale will be sent to war and whether or not they will volunteer.

Con: Your assignment could really suck, you could actually be sent to a South American village to raise chickens, or to Southeast Asia to fight rebels, or any number of horrible missions that could lead to injury, disease, or even death.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 564-566). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

They keep bringing this up again and again, but the military doesn’t raise chickens in South America.  That’s GreenPeace.  Does Jayden not know what the military actually does?  They have a website and everything.  We’ll get back to that again later.

This raises other problems in the story.   Why would any government waste talented people with this?  The military now uses ASVAB and other placement programs to determine skill and job assignments.   At the minimum, recruiters would have asked them to take the test as part of a mandatory assignment and listed which jobs were available based on their rankings.

In other words, they should already know what their likely assignments are.  Even during drafts, they don’t recruit the most intelligent people into war, see draft deferments.

After you’re dead, some kind of medical robot puts you into a coma, and you don’t respawn right away.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 575). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

See lawsuit questions.

Dale and Brian agree to join the military together after walking around Nagrant Wars, and we jump back to the Princess.

Princess Rohini recovered from her respawn with nothing more damaging than a lingering headache, a few scary premonitions about the future, and a new respect for dragonlings.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 612-614). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Didn’t it just tell us that a medical robot puts you into a coma when you die?  So was this death-death or the fake death or what?  Where does this medical robot even come from anyway?  Who cares, these are just mechanics.

She rejoined her companions, and they once again left the capital city of Irkalla.   Along the way they recovered the Jewel of Sartozel and Rohini hid it inside her mount; it still seemed like a prudent hiding place to her.   While creatures may be programmed to destroy all living things, any being with the intention to capture the jewel would probably find more value in a live pony over a dead pony.   Even if captured, it’s possible the jewel would remain safely undetected in her mount. Being careful to avoid dragonlings, her entourage found their way to, and approached,

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 614-618). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Do NPCs respawn?  Does she?  If neither she nor her companions can die, why would her virtual parents care what she did?

Also, see the previous comments about the lack of intelligence she displays.  Why is she putting the gem in the mount if people can see the loot drop when the mount dies? Why wouldn’t anyone who took it alive see what it had on it?  Why wouldn’t anyone who sees it die loot it?  They loot spiders later on, so it seems like most games, this is a “loot everything” system, and a princess’s mount seems like an obvious target for looting.

She goes to a tavern, because of course, and we get a plot coupon redemption.  First, while doing almost nothing, she places one bet and immediately gets a skill.

Gambling Skill Increased: Newbie Level Achieved. As you grow in this skill you will retain the ability to better remember cards played, other player’s strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to calculate accurate odds in wagers. Hint: Gain advantage over your opponents by appearing dumb and exposing cleavage at the tables.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 648-650). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

If it’s this easy, the Princess should give up questing and simply become the greatest gambler in Nagrant Wars.  Also see comments about idiotic snarky commentary.

She gets more random skills coupled with random dialogue.  At this car game, she meets an old man who inexplicably starts talking about caves.

“But the mines were real; I was inside one once myself.”   The old man brought out a long pipe, lit a match, and inhaled deeply.   When he exhaled, the smoke formed an apple, which hovered towards Rohini.   He blew a smoke arrow next, it flew into the apple, which fell to the table in front of her and dissipated into a mist. “Enough,” the dealer said.   “She’s at least sixty years younger than you, Max, and besides, she’s way too classy to give you a second glance.” The old man grunted, blew a smoke cloud that transformed into the face of the dealer, followed by a war hammer which smashed the head into a puff of sparkling dust. “Well, I told you so,” the hunter said.   “The mines and tunnels are real, I knew it was an old dwarf mine the moment I saw it.   I didn’t see no dwarfs, that’s true enough, but I had sense enough to stay clear of the mine, just in case.” Rohini thought silently for another moment.   She needed a good way to get information without seeming like she actually cared about the location of the mines themselves. “I bet you saw a cave,” she said.   If one thing was certain about Almaach, everyone loved to gamble.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 682-694). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This again, makes the princess look like an idiot.  So she left her father and told him that she knew how she was going to get to (unknown location).  She assembled her crew and got them immediately killed.  She’s not very good at this planning thing.

So is this her new plan, or is this her original plan.  In either place, her actual plan is to go gambling, hope that someone knows about a dwarven mine, and then try to find her way into the dwarven mine without anyone knowing?  This is what’s known in literary circles as an idiot plot, a plot that only continues because everyone is an idiot.

She compounds her idiocy by saying that if someone follows her they won’t know she’s interested in the mine.

How dumb would you have to be to go into an inn and ask, “Did you see a woman matching this description come through here?” and hear someone say, “Yes, she left with an old man, but don’t worry.  She’s not really interested in the mine.” and go “Oh yes, well, I better not investigate that mine that the person I’m looking for just went to.”

Also, another annoying aside, everyone immediately falls in love with this girl as soon as they see her.  Everyone.  They arrive at the previously unknown dwarven cave and bring along a witch.  They go to sleep and we get this scene:

During the night Rohini slept uneasily; dreaming one moment of dragonlings and dwarfs, and the next of complex decisions that she had to make in real life as Lia regarding universities and government-run volunteer programs, and whether she should accept the intriguing advances of a certain American. Lia, who lived in Medellín, wasn’t sure where the world was headed, but she did know that serendipity was a factor in more things than random number generators and that love was often found in unsuspected places.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 735-739). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Huh?  There is no intriguing American set up.   There’s no male character that she’s talked to besides the old man. She’s had virtually no contact with anyone.  Most likely this entire sequence was meant to be at a later point in the book where she’ll presumably meet Dale.

They go into the cave, fight enemies, kill a boss, and then we get this unfortunate dialogue.

“Keep looking, there must a secret exit,” the Princess said.   “I can’t imagine we need to break down that gate, but just in case, maybe a couple of you should—” “I found a set of numbers, my lady,” said one of the soldiers. “Great.   New rule.   No more with the my lady, my princess, or your highness.   This isn’t a fantasy novel, Jesus, just call me Rohini, or Roh would be okay—”

“As in row row row your boat…”   One of the soldiers sang. “I’d row her boat—” “I’ll be in my bunk—” “Pigs…”   She shook her head.   “Okay, personal avatars, everyone.   I’m still in charge here.   I think…   Let’s have a feast and rest, while Kelty and Ruthann figure out the puzzle, I know if I ask any of you guys to do it, we’ll starve in here.” “But not before we turn to cannibalism—” “I call dibs on—” “Watch it,” Rohini said.   “I have a sense of humor, but I’m still a lady.” “I thought you said—” “Shut up and eat something.   Oh, Mama Cochin, save me from these fools!”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 893-903). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is this supposed to be funny?  If the NPCs earlier were with the group, wouldn’t they kill these guys or at least respond?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if this game is following any sort of medieval rules, then they’d cut your balls off for talking to a Princess like this.

Also see remarks on every side character is an annoying idiot and/or rapist.

We cut back to Dale, currently eating dinner with his family.  We get more interruptions and random dialogue shouted back and forth.

“I know!” his father snapped. “Don’t yell at me,” Rhonda said to her husband, “I’m not the one responsible for the world falling apart!” “Don’t be so dramatic,” his father said, “I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding.” “That’s what you said about the crash in twenty thirty-five,” she said. “I’m sure this time—” “There!   Quiet!” she shouted at his father. “This is no time to panic,” the attractive newscaster said.   “We’ve been alerted by the Governor’s office that everything will be back to normal soon.   Please, stay calm.   This is Carrie Manderly with channel—” The screen went blank. “What the hell!”   Earl Brown stood and shouted at the screen. “That won’t help,” his mother said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 922-929). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Nobody speaks like humans.

Our next cut is to the PTU (Prootingham Technical University) where Dale meets with the Vice-Dean to discuss enrolling at the school.  We then get our next barrage of dialogue.

“Yes, of course.   I suspect the Rhith Corp…”   He pointed towards the ceiling.   “Even I have to take precautions in my speech, PTU is a subsidiary…   The reason, of course, they are calling the…” “Vice-Dean?” Dale said after waiting a moment.

The Vice-Dean remained in thought. Dale waited, stretched his legs, and then looked into the blue eyes across the desk from him. “The potential hostilities, if that’s what they are, they’re being called the Nagant War because of the game, I mean, son, it’s a play on words.   Probably a marketing ploy.   Students, the young— you’re commodities, sorry to say— all part of the machine.” “Yes,” Dale said.   “I think I understand.   I don’t want to go to war, and I definitely don’t want to be sent to Ecuador to plant bananas or raise chickens.” “You may not have a choice.” “I hate that.”

“As do all free-thinking people,” the Vice-Dean said.   “However, if war is upon us— and it seems it may be— perhaps skilled, brave young men— such as yourself— will be all that stands between us and annihilation.” “Do you really think so?”   Dale was certain all the rumors were just that: rumors, exaggerations, and gossip. The Vice-Dean put his hand on his chin, and lowered his eyes to Dale’s.

“I know it’s possible.   I don’t know if that’s the case here.   Nobody knows.   This isn’t public knowledge, son, so keep it to yourself and don’t add to the rumor mill.   Nobody knows what’s real and what’s not real when it comes to the Nagant Wars, at least not at my pay grade.” Dale frowned. “Some say it’s not really a threat, but a test,” the Vice-Dean said. “A test?” Dale said. “Some speculate that it’s a test, and if we fail, we’ll all be slaves.   Or perhaps become livestock for an alien race.   Nobody knows what reality really is, do they?   I mean, even all of this,” he pounded on the desk, “even all of this isn’t really here.” “Sir?” “The desk, corporeal reality,” the Vice-Dean said, “it’s mostly empty space and electrical signals…”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1027-1045). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Can some humans enter into this equation and have regular dialogue?  Since Dale now knows that it’s easy to fake personas and appearances, his reasoning for joining the Army at a later point, because of hot nurse, looks even dumber.

Dale graduates high school, gets a passive aggressive text from his friend Brian, and goes to school at PTU.

There, we get more meandering dialogue as the Vice-Dean gives an introduction to the school by demonstrating random lifelike holograms and asking random questions.

The world’s governments are currently negotiating a peace treaty, something like the Geneva Convention, that will place all future conflicts into virtual reality.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1170-1171). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I’ve already pointed out the problems with this in the introduction, so I won’t go over it again.  The third day of his tour, he finds out the government is going to recruit them.  Major Blank tells them that he’s part of the

Earth United Defense Army, and at the pleasure of the President of the United States, who is the Chief Commander of the North American Division of the UEDA.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1191-1192). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is a minor gripe, but if they’re Earth United Defense Agency, then their acronym should be EUDA, not UEDA.  But there’s so many of these continuity errors that it breaks the book.

Also, have they contacted aliens?  Because even if they did a media blackout, people have comms, and chatrooms, and the internet, and all that fun stuff.  It doesn’t make much sense to have an Earth United Defense if we don’t anything to defend the Earth from.  But those are details.  Because this is an idiot plot.

After the speech, Brian is waiting for Dale in the visitor room.  Brian wants Dale to join, like he promised.  He says this is because:

“Because they go after the brightest of the bright.   I know you.   You’re not only a great gamer and programmer; you have skills that are not easy to obtain.

“Who says I’m being drafted?” “It’s obviously what’s going to happen.” “You don’t know—” “I’m sure of it, and I’m sure the Troth has you on their radar—” “Well, I’m not joining a hacker’s—” “Even white hat—” “They’re not white—” “Okay, gray, but still—” “Well, I’m still not joining them.” “People can read message boards, Dale.   You know— even between the lines.   And some of the conversations we were in…”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1210-1212). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Up to this point, Dale hasn’t done any programming, he’s rigged skeletons.  That isn’t programming.  It even has him talk with the Vice-Dean earlier about how impressed he is with all the skeletons.

I had to go back and lookup the Troth, since they’ve only been mentioned in passing, but they’re a group that thinks Nagrant Wars and virtual games are turning people into slaves.  Instead of all the pointless scenes we had until now, showing us the Troth or who they are or why they believe these things would have been a better use of time.

Likewise, none of this conversation makes any sense.  They’re just expositing things that the reader has no idea about.

Dale agrees to think about rejoining the Army again, because Brian guilt trips him.

This jump cuts to us meeting Samuel Smith.  He’s really good at video games.  He’s going to beta-test Nagrant Wars.  That’s it.

“You’ve been in a Rhith-Suit, sir? Smith asked.   “A real one?” “Yup.”   Blaine smiled.   “I got to go to this Vegas thing, the girls…”   Mr. Blaine blushed and rubbed his eyes.   “Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to tell Mrs. Blaine about it, not that it was, I mean, the girls aren’t really real, it’s just…   Never mind, Smith.   Can you use a sword?”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1281-1284). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

We have more dialogue where people just spout things off for no reason, and we transition from talking about a Rhith suit to talking about Vegas.  Ok.

Now we jump back to the Princess.

Nope.   Thank you for having the foresight to get a degree in math,” Rohini answered.   “I think I would have killed one of these jokers if we’d been stuck much longer.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1292-1293). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Couldn’t one of them have logged out and gotten the answer online or done it on a computer?  What are the rules in this system?

Nevermind though.  By luck of Plot, the tunnel they went through lands them where they want to be.  By coincidence of Plot, they are immediately discovered.  How many plot coupons must be redeemed to make this work?

A dwarf-creature (not a dwarf?) tells them that they are trespassing.

The butter created a sensation of pure joy in her mouth.   It was as if the treat had magically appeared from a Michelin five-star Parisian restaurant which employed the French Baker of the Year who had found the most perfect recipe in the universe.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1366-1367). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

No comment.

“My lady,” Robur said as he smiled deliciously. Rohini had another creepy feeling. “Are you,” she whispered, “an NPC?” “I’ll be anything you want me to be, my lady,” he said.   His tongue crossed his upper lip.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1369-1371). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So we’re supposed to believe that the character can make sexual advances on the Princess without any repercussions.  Seems like she should be able to drop faction relations or threaten to have them flogged or place in a public prison.  I.e. what would happen if you tried this on a medieval princess?

Pierre Abelard was castrated for far less.

Her aide nudged herself between them, and accomplished one of her primary roles: RPCB, Role Playing Cock-Blocker. “Thank you,” Rohini whispered, again too loudly to be a whisper. “Don’t mention it,” she said.   “And I suggest, Roh, that you sleep in my tent tonight.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1371-1373). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So she doesn’t feel safe around any of the people on her missions. This is going to play into things later.

She gets a mission to escort the ambassador to another place.  They get into a fight with a PC and we get this line

SheWolf14:   This bastard is a cruel sexual deviant, if you’re a chick, and he traps you: kill yourself!!! Rohini closed all her pop-ups and raised her bow.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1468-1469). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

See questions about lawsuits.  See every side character is an idiot or rapist.  And I’m pretty sure that if VR was as real as real life, raping someone in VR would count as a crime.  Also you think the admins would ban this or institute some way to prevent this from happening, but we’re in an idiot plot.

Lia/Princess dies, and this time, she’s in transported back to the real World.

“Well, you stay out of that ridiculous suit,” her mother said.   “Do you hear me?” “Yes, mom.” “But you’re not going to listen, are you?” “I have friends, and I’m—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1498-1500). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Except we’ve seen her in the game for a long time and there’s no one that counts as her friend amongst the group.  We also saw that she didn’t like anyone in her crew.  So what’s the motivation here?  Plot.

We cut back to Dale and we learn that the Thoth group is considered a hate group and they publically execute them by firing squad.  Dale is reporting for military duty, and we get a bad rendition of Full Metal Jacket.

But this is where the book should actually begin, because believe it or not, nothing that has happened up until now matters in the slightest.

“Where’d you get your expertise?” Brian asked. “I’m David, by the way.   David Beck.”   He put out his hand.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1572-1573). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

“State your name.”   A woman dressed in camouflage gear with the rank of captain stood behind a semi-opaque holo-screen that glowed bright blue.   It was similar to computer screens Dale had seen, but more advanced and military-like. “Is that an upgrade to—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1583-1585). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

People keep talking in non sequiturs.  The bad rendition of Full Metal Jacket makes no sense.  He’s in reception.  They don’t harass you at inprocessing in the military, not until you actually arrive at basic training.  It’s not very efficient to harass new recruits when they have to get gear, get their shots, etc.

“That’s, thank you, sir.   You might as well get used to it.   Add a sir to everything you say when talking to an officer.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1606-1607). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

He hasn’t been introduced to the military ranking system.  This is why they hand you a handbook when you get into the military in processing that they tell you to memorize, which includes officer ranks and general military protocol.  You can go read it if you really want to.

He received a message. Message from CaptIanslogg74b:   Hello and Welcome to Unit 19 training.   Please relax and a good-looking Captain with sexy red hair will be with you shortly.   Don’t flirt.   I have dibs.

Reply from Brown, Dale:   Yes, Sir. Message from CaptainRdKilzer87c:   Ignore that lecherous bastard.   I’ll be out in seven minutes.   And relax. Reply from Brown, Dale:   Yes, Sir.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1618-1620). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Where the hell is he receiving a message from?  And if any military officers talked like this, they would have very short careers.  Particularly if the comment is in a format that can be logged.  For the message, see “None of the mechanics or rules in this story are explained at any point.”

Our next scene:

A lizard-like humanoid that stood over two meters tall rushed to Captain Redding and stood at attention. “Yes, sir!” he said. Dale was jaw-droppingly astonished. “Sergeant Dyfrig! she shouted.   “This young man, soon to be one Private Brown, if he can get his sh*t together, thinks you’re a fIcking construct in some kind of child’s game. Can you believe that?” “No, sir!” the lizard-man shouted. “Don’t break him, Dyfrig!” she said loudly and crisply, like a soccer coach, “but please disabuse this private of the notion that you are some stupid Rhith construct made for his amusement.” “Yes, sir!” As the word sir exited the mouth of the lizard-like creature, he dropped to the ground and swept Dale’s feet out from under him.   Before Dale could regain his composure, the lizard had wrapped its tail around his legs, pinned his arms behind his back, and had his fangs at his throat.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1642-1649). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

More unexplained mechanics.  Also, military officers don’t talk like that.  There’s a huge difference between NCOs and Officers, part of that distinction is the “Officer and a Gentleman” idea.

Also, this is an interesting new military where we can attack recruits at random.

“Sit down, Brown,” he said again.   “I like the sound of that.   Down, brown, don’t be a clown.   Remove that frown.   So, you came in from town?” “Sir?” Dale said. “Quit rhyming,” Captain Redding said, “I mean it.” “Anybody want a peanut?” the man said. “God, you’re incorrigible.   And make up your own material.   Hell, who around here is going to get a Princess Bride reference anyway?   That movie is like a hundred years old.” “Naw, more like sixty,” the man said.   “Excuse us, Captain Redding.” “As you wish,” she said. Dale, not realizing what he was doing, watched her ass as she left the tent. “You can drop the sir, Dale.   And quit staring at her ass, it’s kind of weird, don’t you think?   I mean, with a PC, at least, you have something to go home to, but never mind that, I’m a civilian consultant, by the way, and we have some things to go over and some agreements to, well, to agree to.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1659-1667). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

More random, non sequitur dialogue. She’s not a PC, so Dale should get the hint that the nurse later on is not a PC.  Also, why can’t he go home with a NPC?  Because reasons.

“If you get inside the door, son, you’ve been thoroughly vetted.   I can guarantee that.   I’m surprised nobody explained all this to you.   You’re in, son.   This is the best unit you could have possibly drawn duty in.   I swear, the military, they keep you in the dark and don’t understand why you look confused when you don’t understand something nobody has told you.   Sorry about that kid, here, let me explain.” “Wait, um, you’re saying I’m in the military now?”   Dale was really confused.   “I mean, I know I signed up for the volunteer program with the government, and well, I knew the military was a possibility— that and raising chickens in Ecuador— or something…   But I thought, you know, that the testing had to be done first, and—” “Jesus, boy.   Slow down.   You’re going to panic the nursing staff, slow down.   Deep breathing, Dale.   Take a deep breath— let it out— there you go.” “I’m so confused,” Dale said. “You’ve been selected for entrance into Unit Nineteen, son.   It’s the most prestigious unit, in my opinion,” he said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1692-1702). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is known as a”Signal From Fred“:

A comic form of the “Dischism” in which the author’s subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: “This doesn’t make sense.” “This is really boring.” “This sounds like a bad movie.” (Attr. Damon Knight)

I can’t find the original quote, but it seems to be from In Search of Wonder.  Anyway, after a long expository scene in which Dale declines joining an elite military group that does… something, and wants him for…. some reason.  Then he joins a regular light infantry group.

For some reason, they have a voice enabled assistant to help them.  Why this works is unexplained.  What this is doing is unexplained.  Nothing is explained.  Dale then asks

How do you tell the difference between a simulation in a simulation, and a simulation in a simulation in a simulation?

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1834-1835). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is he in a simulation chamber right now or is he walking around a military base?  Since nothing is explained, you can just guess.  A drill Sergeant calls him forward while he’s talking to his invisible AI.

“You talking to me boy!?”   The drill sergeant glared at Dale. “No, sir.   Sorry, sir, I’m just learning—” “Goddammit!   You dumb ass recruit, I work for a living!   I earned these stripes!   If you call me sir again I’m going to challenge you to the pit, and you’re not going like it Private Shit-For-Brains.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1839-1842). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This is the reason why the military publishes handbooks that detail this sort of information prior to recruits arriving to basic training.

After knife training, in VR or not in VR, they go to the mess hall and meet the Sgt who will be in charge of them later.  This is unusual because a low-ranking Sgt would only be in charge of a handful of personnel, usually about four people.

“I’m Sergeant Brass,” a tall, attractive man with broad shoulders said.   “I’m not in charge of any of you, yet.   Once calibration ends, we’ll all be given training missions, and then I’ll be the ranking non-com of the platoon.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1859-1861). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

The correct rank should have been Sergeant First Class or SFC if he’s in charge of a Platoon-sized element.

There were ten additional soldiers, each named him or herself, and Dale tried  to commit their names and faces to memory. Dale: Ërin, can you autosave faces and names for me?

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1874-1875). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

The military has every soldier equip an identification badge that states their last name on it.  This is the reason.  Also, if they’re in a quasi-VR World, or not, wouldn’t the AIs figure out to do this already?  We’ll see it again in other scenes.

They train for six weeks, and they get their first live exercise to go into a dungeon.  Dale has to do four hundred four-count push-ups.  Or 800 push-ups.  Even elite military members can’t do that many quickly, so Dale, someone who has no athletic capabilities, in six weeks, is able to do physical exercises that Navy SEALS would be hard pressed to do?

The Guinness World Record for push-ups in an hour is 2200.  The previous record was 1874, by the same person.  Then we get AI sexual dialogue.

There’s a time and place for unbridled tongue work. Stop. I’ve been watching you dream. Fuck. Exactly….

Dale: Is everything always so confusing? Ërin: You’ll learn.   Besides, all these push-ups are giving you some rock hard— Stop. The chicks dig— Enough.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1911-1923). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

We get another Signal From Fred and more confusion.  If Dale is in VR, then he can do push-ups until the end of time and it won’t change anything.  If Dale is not in VR, then he’s already at an elite level of fitness since the conversation that the Drill Sergeant is having is still ongoing when he stops.

Either which way, nothing here makes any sense so we’re getting Signals From Fred.

The platoon sat together and ate chow. “Damn, this is actually pretty good,” someone said. “Well, when you can program—” “Shut up, damn!   Do you have to ruin the experience?” a female soldier said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1924-1926). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So I’m guessing they’re in VR right now, since in yet another awkwardly interrupted conversation, it seems to suggest that.  So where’s Dale body currently at?  Is he in a Rhith suit?  Who knows?

“Do you guys really think dying will be painful?” Brian asked the group. Dale was worried about it himself.   “I wonder what it’s like to forget things that haven’t been backed up yet…” “I think everything is backed up,” Brian said.   “I was just wondering—” “I know,” said a private named Smith.   He had been the quietest of the group during training and nobody even knew his first name.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1926-1929). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

One, we’ve already seen what dying will be like multiple times.  I get the feeling that the scenes with Princess/Lia were meant to be later on in the story since she’s completely forgotten at this point.  But since the VR dying is supposed to be the big reveal, there is no reveal here.

“The early beta trials were brutal.   They needed to understand human pain and frailty in new ways, so that the war could be, well, properly calibrated.   I think several people really died—” “Wait, real death?” Dale asked. “Yes, I mean, actually died, as in dead and buried,” Smith said.   “Of course, that’s an unsubstantiated rumor, but I think it could be true.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1935-1938). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So if people really die, what’s the point of all this?  Also, we get more introductions to things that aren’t explained.

“Okay, group,” he said, “you’ll have your assignments in your inbox in a few seconds.   Once the system approves my selections, where were we soldiers?”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 1965-1966). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

What are their inboxes?  The VR ones?  Email inboxes?  Nothing is ever explained.  Dale is assigned to a unit with two other members, one being Brian, and the other being Smith, the person briefly introduced for two seconds in another chapter, and again to talk about dying.

The beast bolted. Dale leaped into full sprint chasing it. “I’m going after it,” Dale said.   “Protect my rear.” Dale had run sprints in calibration and testing, but nothing he had done mimicked an actual exercise in the field under stress. His body pumped adrenaline. His heart raced. Sweat dripped down his forehead. He started to gain on the beast when it launched into an open patch in the forest that was covered with leaves and surrounded by trees and brush. Dale had been running so fast that he didn’t realize he’d been lured into a trap until it was too late; two additional beasts revealed themselves.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2024-2029). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

After weeks of training, they never covered small unit tactics?  In the current military, we cover that around week 3, again around weeks 6 – 7, and again during FTX.  It’s in Chapter eight of the handbook.  If you’re infantry, you cover it again for weeks 9 – 14.  It’s been about a decade and a half since I’ve done it, but the military does give you some lasting memories.

Anyway, during the middle of battle, Brian loots a corpse and lets Dale nearly die.  Remember this is his best friend.  After Dale recovers, they head into a cave where they get ambushed by spiders.  Brian gets captured by the queen spider while Dale and Smith kill the other spiders and rescue him.  Dale gives Brian his knife to free himself and we get this scene:

Smith yelled at Brian below him, wanting him to jump into his hands, then upwards to rescue Dale. “We’ve got to save him!” Smith shouted. Brian, however, was in the middle of the dead spiders, once again retrieving loot.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2219-2220). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So with a spider queen attacking, Brian is sifting through dead spider corpses?  While his best friend is dying?  Sure.  I’ll buy this. Ref: All side character are idiots and/or rapists.  See idiot plot.

When he wakes up, he’s in a hospital room.  He gets exposition and the scene I already covered about weak motivation.  Without Brian holding him back, his first response should be to tell the Army to go to hell and that he’s going to college.  Instead, he joins the military full force, because it’s been an amazing experience up to this point.

“I’m so confused,” Dale said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Location 2290). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Signal From Fred.  Yes Dale, the readers are as confused as you are.

“That is, Private Brown, if you decide to continue,” Lieutenant Brinkmann said.   “That’s what we’re here to discuss with you.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2306-2307). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

The military doesn’t give you an option of leaving once you’re in. Trust me, this would be a very popular option if it existed.

He went home for another three days to finish recuperating, and his mother pampered him.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2357-2358). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

The military doesn’t give convalescence leave for such short periods of time.  Also, how far away is his home?  It seems like he can go home in two seconds from this description.  Brian then whines about how he’s being shipped out from light infantry.

“Maybe, I might get sent to Argentina,” Brian said. “That should be interesting, what for?” “Something to do with cattle farming, I think,” he said.   “You know how the government is.   They don’t really tell you anything, they just send you somewhere.

I’m still thinking about contacting the Tr—” “You idiot!”   Dale raised his voice even louder and said, “you realize they probably monitor this stuff!?” “I don’t care.” “You should.” “I don’t.   I’ve got to go.   Good luck with your Nagant thing, I hope you don’t get hurt again.” “Is that your apology?” “I wasn’t the one that put a level ten spider into a training instance, it wasn’t my fault—” “But you were the one who—” “It’s just a game, Dale, you take it—”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2367-2372). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

After a big “It’s you or our country” speech earlier, they send Brian off to be a cattle farmer.  Likewise, the big dreams that Dale has require one speech for him to accept.  People don’t seem to have any motivation for what they do or why they do it.

And we still have the problematic dialogue. I’m also certain that by telling Dale that he’s planning on joining a terrorist organization, Brian would be immediately arrested.  Dale would know that he’s supposed to report this up to the Chain of Command.  It’s in the handbook.

We then get introduced to the next cast of characters.  All of them worthless.

“I don’t care.   We’ll find out soon enough,” Tom said.   “My concern is whether they got the other sword-play correctly calibrated.”   He leered at Galina. “Nakhal,” she said. “Seksual’nyy printsessa,” he replied with a smile. “Lesbian skill decreased,” Smith said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2581-2584). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Much like Arand’s Otherlife Dreams, every male character seems to be a creep and/or rapist.  Who is supposed to identify with these characters?

After the lecture, the platoon entered the training area.   The short-sword practice involved repeating defensive moves and offensive moves over and over. “Wax on, wax off,” someone joked. “It’s why you’re so good at fapping,” another said back. “You know it.” Dale soon became bored, and his mind wandered, while his body went into autopilot mode. That nurse sure was cute.   I wonder what it would take… Ërin’s voice broke into his thoughts: Are you talking to me? No.   Go away.

Okay, don’t be rude. Sorry, but— She sure was pretty, those eyes, those— Stop, I’m going to— “Ouch!” Dale yelled. “Pay attention, dumb ass,” Tom said. “I was—” “You were thinking about pussy,” Tom said. “How…” “Watch out for that Russian, Dale,” Smith shouted from across the training area.   “He’s a clever one, but he’s not a good gambler and he owes me a six pack of Skol.” Tom laughed.   “You can dream about your putana later,” he said, “pay attention to my sword now.   Or you die again.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2431-2441). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Again, who is supposed to identify with these characters?  We also get another Signal From Fred.  Why doesn’t anyone speak and try to make sense when they are speaking?

Also, a fun fact about the regular military.  If you miss training for any reason, you’re required to go through it.  Usually on your down time, they’ll send you out with another unit that is completing the training that you didn’t so you can pass it in abbreviated fashion.  These are known as details in literary circles.

In the next scene, they are marching and the Drill Sergeant is using a Jody Call.  Jody Calls are marching songs that feature lewd descriptions.  Jody Calls are illegal in the military with mixed units or where anyone can overhear them, but shrug.  Plot doesn’t care.

“Pig,” she’d said back to him. “Rozovyi?” “Yes, men like you drove me away from the peen.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2481-2482). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

People just say things because shrug.  Are the humans in this book really the alien civilization?

Next, they’re told they’ll be part of another mission to do combat against other teams.

“All soldiers on the victorious side, who remain alive and fighting until the very end of the battle, will be dining with the base commander tonight.   I hear it’s going to be an assortment of your very favorite foods as recorded in your profiles, so I hope you answered that question seriously.   Otherwise, you’ll be getting your fill of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.” Dale wondered if the announcer had read his profile. Ërin, can I change my profile to Chinese food? Yes, but it’s too late for tonight’s dinner, main control accessed those files yesterday. Shit. Why complain?   You love Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. True.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2491-2497). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So did he not fill out the question at all, did he not fill it out seriously, or did he put Captain Crunch as his favorite food?  If the latter, why did the announcer single that one choice out of an entire platoon element?  Nothing is set up.

Of course, Dale wins the exercise, because of course he can.  It’d be a shame if he actually struggled with something and had to undergo some sort of radical personal growth as a result of his initial failings.  We’ve already set up that he always succeeds.  Even when he dies, it’s not his fault.

We are still on the Captain Crunch themed part of this book, which receives more attention than anything else in the novel up to this point.

 The system is asking me to confirm Peanut Butter Captain Crunch, shall I substitute Chinese dishes? Yes.   Walnut Shrimp, Orange Chicken, and combination fried rice, if they’re asking. Confirmed.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2542-2544). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Next they get a special victors only quest.  Dale is put in charge of the unit.

After the battle, the remaining lieutenants were excluded from the quest, which put Dale, who’d been given the rank of Corporal, in charge of directing forty-seven other soldiers.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2576-2577). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

This brings us back to the part I already mentioned:

He wondered if the factions from the Rhith World Nagant Wars were the same in the  government’s so-called Nagant War, and if so, where the opposing side came from. “What war?” someone said. “You know, the Nagant War,” Dale answered. “You mean Nagant Wars?” the soldier asked. “Whatever,” Dale said.   “I mean…” “I’m Sanjay Patel,” the soldier said.   He put out his hand and Dale shook it.   “Nice to meet you.” “Same,” Dale said.   “So, do you understand what I’m talking about?” “Fucking Dale,” Smith said.   “Sanjay, just ignore him.   He’s always overthinking everything.” “He needs to get laid,” Tom said.   “But not by Russian.   First, Asian girl, I think.” “Hey, screw you,” an Asian girl said. “Exactly what I was hoping you’d say,” the Russian said.   “My name is Tom.” “Buta,” the Asian girl said. “Ignore him,” Galina said.   “Hey, the castle.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2586-2594). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

None of that made any sense and we come across a castle.  But it hasn’t been set up that they are moving or doing anything.  Presumably, somewhere along his training, Dale would have learned to set up a chain of command, assemble people into units, learn what people’s strong points are.  You know, military things.  This is why you do military training.  So you can learn who’s good at what.

It’s why they post top PT scores and top marksmen scores and have contests between platoons.  These are details.

Instead, he asks people after they arrive at the castle what their skills are.  We then get more weird dialogue.

A small, slender woman with cocoa skin and a nasty scar across her face stood in the spot Dale had jumped from, displaying a long thin dagger and scowl on her face.   “I can sneak alright,” she said. Tom was on the ground laughing.   “You should have seen your face, Dale,” he said.   “Hold on, hold on,” he said while sitting on the ground with his eyes closed.   He mouthed the words replay and laughed again.   “Save and tag: Dale’s Face,” he said before opening his eyes.   “Funny.   We haven’t met.   Tom.”   He extended his hand to the woman from his position on the ground. She looked at him for a couple of seconds, then took a step, outstretched her hand, and helped him to his feet.

“Kim,” she said, “Kim Ayanna.” “Thanks,” he said.   “The wound.   A vain woman would have removed.” “I know who I am,” Kim said. “I like.” “Okay, this isn’t Bachelorette Forty.”   Dale stood with his hands on his hips.   “We need to get serious.” “Bachelorette is only on season thirty-eight,” Galina said, “due to the unrest a few years—” “Jesus,” Tom said. “Yes?” asked a Hispanic kid whose name was Jesús. “Enough,” Dale said, “if we don’t start getting serious—” “You’ll miss your Captain Crunch?” someone said. “God,” Smith said.   He sat on the ground, then laid back and stared at the sky.   “They did a nice job with the clouds.” “Help me, someone,” Dale said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2611-2624). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Signal From Fred coming through again.  So Dale doesn’t have the ability to appraise people’s skills?  Because Lia/Princess had this ability according to the introduction.  So why doesn’t Dale?  Why are people still introducing themselves?  Why don’t they have name tags or some sort of user display?  Why after months of training together does everyone act like they have no idea who is around them?  You’re stuck together with no one else for months on end.  You know every single detail about every single person.

But for some reason, even though no one knows anything about each other, everyone knows that Captain Crunch is Dale’s favorite food.  If this is the unit fighting for Earth’s freedom, we deserve to be destroyed.  Dale corrals them into obeying, and his AI tells him.

Dale: Ërin? Ërin:   You’re good.   Everyone accepted. Perfect. You’re a good leader. I wish. You’re learning, you’ll get it.   Take charge. It’s a new— Learn from the Russian. I thought so too. Handsome. You like tattoos? I meant you, silly.   Baby, there’s nobody else. Stop. It’s true. Great, I have a non-corporeal being in love with me. It’s a start.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2643-2648). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Ugh.

“Names, please,” Dale said to the leaders, so your squad can follow along.   Get on the same channels, and then coordinate with Smith.   He’ll be the intermediate between you three and me.” The trio spoke their names, then coordinated what frequencies they’d be using. “Can I get your email, too,” Tom said to Kim. She frowned, but then closed her eyes and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2635-2639). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So they can communicate silently in this scene.  But in this scene:

“Follow me with the torches and call out if you see anything.   Sanjay, leave a couple of soldiers outside, then leave one person every fifty meters or so.   I want to leave a chain of com back to Smith.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2720-2722). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

If he means chain of command, this makes no sense.  If he means chain of communication, his idea is to shout up a relay line every fifty feet? This military unit hasn’t figured out how to do communication?  Or can they do communication since he divided them up into teams?  Can they do silent communications since Tom gets Kim’s email?   These are details.

None of this makes any sense, and at some point in their training, they should have gone over  MOUT tactics.  I mean presumably they actually did something during all their basic training time, right?

They enter the castle and Dale tells the group:

Dale: Okay.   It’s just so…   You wouldn’t understand.   Do we still have com with Smith? Yes, but the messages route through the soldiers you’ve posted, so they will not be private.

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2815-2817). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Why does each message have to go through a posted soldier?  What does it mean that they’re on the same channel?  This is an unestablished mechanic, we have no idea how any of this stuff works or what the rules are.

They invade the castle and take it over, after fighting a two headed ogre who keeps fighting after both his heads are cut off.  Fortunately, the captured princess they were sent to rescue already knows this.  Presumably, this is standard part of Princess training.

Dale goes to get the victory dinner with the officers and wonders what happened to the people on the team who died.

“Are the dead players coming back soon, sir?” Smith asked. “Respawn is working fine, son,” the CO said.   “Well, a few glitches— but this is war— son.   Snafu, tanstaafl, and teotwawki, if you know what I mean…” “Um, no.   Sir?” Smith said. The Commander used chopsticks to pick up a piece of chicken.   “Don’t worry, son.   The medical professionals know what they are doing.” “But, sir—” “Excellent Orange Chicken, wouldn’t you say, Corporal Brown?”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2932-2936). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

I should also point out that officers and enlisted do not typically dine together due to military rules about fraternization, but who cares.  More important, this dialogue.  We finally get a resolution to the Captain Crunch dilemma that has plagued us.

They then graduate training and the Commander gives this speech:

Thank you,” the Commander told the families, “the world is a safer place due to the service and sacrifice of your young men and women here today that have passed all the required requirements that we require.”   The CO paused for a moment and whispered behind the podium, “take whoever wrote this speech out back and beat him,” apparently not realizing that he was still miked.   He turned back to the crowd and smiled.   “That is all.”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2938-2941). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Is this for a laugh?  Because it isn’t funny and destroys the scene.  Anyone who has been through military training knows that it’s all ritualized and done the exact same way each time.  It’s part of what being in the military is, uniform, learning how to act as a single unit.  It’s the whole point.  So this Captain didn’t read the speech he was going to give, or they’ve never graduate a unit before, or what?

Unit 19 reappears in the story and Dale gets offered to join them again.  This time he wants to bring Smith along instead of Brian, and the Captain of the group accepts this.  Again, we have no context for where anything is occurring or what’s going on.  Dale has met his parents and his brother, because they were the ones who saw the ceremony.  Yet even though he’s presumably in the real World, this happens when he gets offered the job in Unit 19.

“By the end of the day, soldier,” Beck said.   “It’s a great opportunity.   We have alliances with many of the top guilds, crews, and tribes.   There’s good pay and chicks dig us.” Beck stood up and changed into an avatar. He grew a foot taller, his hair became straight and black, and his face grew angular and smooth, accented by pointed ears.   His uniform and equipment transmogrified. Chainmail armor over dark-green and brown woodland-camo leather clothing covered most of his torso, and he wore knee-high boots with multicolored lacing.   On his back, he had a shield mounted, as well as a longbow, complete with a quiver filled with arrows. In his hand, he held a wizard staff, covered in gold-leafed runes and symbols,

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 2974-2980). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So can people just randomly do this?  Like walking around town?  Or is this only in wherever the unestablished place they are at is?

They then go to a dungeon and while exploring it, get trapped into a gladiator fight.

That gives us this scene:

Dale had his sword up and battled with one of the Hiisi while Smith fought off the second one. “We need to think of something!”   Dale shouted. “I’m trying!” “Transfer your razor rib sword to me,” Dale said. Smith gave him the razor rib sword.   Dale, now with one sword in each hand, leaped off the back of the galloping rhino onto the Hiisi, which did’t anticipate a flying, double-sword attack.   It lifted its sword, but it was too little, too late.   The razor rib sword was a one-hit kill. After the rider died, Dale found himself mounted on the ostrich. He rode towards the last Hiisi and pinned it between Smith and himself. Between the two of them, they quickly dispatched it. The crowd cheered and booed.   More mugs came flying out of the stands, and Dale was hit in the head with a half-filled container of smelly liquid. The rhino was struck with a blue lightning bolt of power from Algrothist who yelled out a battle scream, “No more animal charm you sneaky bastard!   New betting open, the odds are now even money!   Prepare to be squashed!”

The rhino stopped running, reared up like a war horse, threw Smith across the arena, charged towards Algrothist, and rammed the wall.   The coliseum shook from the blow, and the rhino grunted and fought to remove its horn from the wall. “You stupid beast, attack them!”   Algrothist shook his fist.   “Even money bets, even money bets, place your bets fools!”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 3228-3240). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

So, how did Dale get on top of an ostrich?  He’s swinging two swords.  So he cuts the head off the rider while jumping off a rhino, and he mounts the ostrich from this single jump with the other ride still mounted on top of the ostrich while the ostrich is moving forward?  How does he grab a hold of the reins of the ostrich with two swords?

This whole scene reminds me of Transporters Refueled.

Back to Kate Wilhelm, she has an interesting exercise she has new writers try.

That year we came across several stories with impossible actions, and we paired off the writers and had them try to demonstrate the positions protagonists within the stories were said to have taken. Often the impossible actions were things happening simultaneously. There was a near catastrophe when one student, enacting his story, tried to run out the door, kiss his girlfriend, and put on his shoes all at the same time. One young man tried valiantly to grab his partner by the uvula and kiss her. We also had them read dialogue and in both demonstrations, good points were made. Use a dictionary, for starters, and visualize the scene.

Wilhelm, Kate (2005-08-01). Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop (pp. 28-29). Small Beer Press. Kindle Edition.

Also, Algrothist is interrupting a tournament that has betting in it.  That would normally lead to a riot.  You know, interfering in a tournament usually being against the rules and all.

Also since Smith can use a mystical power, he has to explain it.

“I never told you, I’m in the Nojus Guild.   I had a one-time charm for controlling any mountable, unthinking beast.   I didn’t think it would work in here, but it did.” “Dude, why didn’t you—” “No time to explain, look out!”

Hunter, Jayden (2017-01-31). Nagant Wars: The Pawn’s Dilemma: A LitRPG Novel (Kindle Locations 3222-3225). Zeke Media. Kindle Edition.

Why didn’t he tell him about this power, at some point during their numerous weeks together in training?  Because reasons.

I can keep going here, but I think the point is amply demonstrated.


Summary

At this point, the book is 40% through.  I have no idea what the character motivations are.  The sequence setup at the beginning went nowhere, Dale turns it down.  Princess/Lia has no motivations to join the game and she disappears from the novel.

I have no idea what the Nagrant Wars actually are.  Presumably this is some alien war that is using VR technology, but this is simply inferred since I have no idea where anyone is.  I have no idea what the rules are the mechanics are.  Scenes come and scenes go with little explanation.   Things happen, but there’s no setup.

These are the sorts of things that an editor helps with.  I don’t know how many times I say this, but get an editor.

Outside from that, Jayden has to seriously work on his dialogue.  Every character, regardless of age, rank, station, or race, talks like a frat boy.

Most of the scenes need to be removed or reordered.  The entire beginning goes nowhere.  Nothing that occurs with his parents matter.  Nothing with Brian matters.

The book should start about the point where Dale joins the military.  Key figures, like the Thoth, are left unexplained except for a few short sentences mentioned in passing, while we get an entire plot line exposition on Captain Crunch.

The five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why are untouched.  I have no idea if Lia is playing the game at the same time as Dale, or if she’s playing before.  The fact that it jumps between them seems to assume that it’s around the same time, but several weeks pass and we haven’t seen her in the story.

2 thoughts on “Review of Nagrant Wars: By Jayden Hunter”

  1. […]”When an author doesn’t have the education necessary to pull off a complex plot,[…]” I believe that is specifically the crux with many LitRPG stories.

    In regards to understanding game mechanics, it is akin to looking at a smartphone and having no understanding why it works. “Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (from Clarke’s three laws)

    That is how many Authors approach the game mechanics in Litrpg imo. The early limitations of IF THEN loops are responsible for the evolution of mechanics like aggro in Mobs and many other quirks (I am guessing here btw). Once mastered, it let’s an Author infer what are plausible and not plausible in game experiences to convey to the reader. So if one is a digital illiterate, Nagant Wars could be a result. So maybe education in general and not technical finesse might be the route for some authors to improve.

    It would be interesting to see if you are going to find common mistakes across the books the more you review. Maybe a bad LitRPG bingo could be a good idea in the long run for authors to avoid obvious mistakes.

    So thank you for this exhaustive review. You endured longer than I could.

    Like

    1. The problem in many of these books is that how the mechanics work never comes up and the author just makes it happen from nowhere. This is the difference between a game and a book. In a game, I never have to think about how the character in the game actually uses the item or access it. Press a button, and the item appears.

      This is a common joke when people make fun of Grand Theft Auto games is that there’s a magically appearing rocket launcher or other huge item that they pull out of thin air.

      In books, these rules and mechanics have to be explained because the person can’t experience them directly. A simple sentence like:

      “As the dragon closed in, she thought about the sword she wanted and it appeared in her hand.”

      Tells me that this system uses thoughts as an interface system and doesn’t restrict pulling weapons out during the middle of combat. Some systems might require you to setup hot keys or quick bindings before you can pull open a weapon. Example:

      “As the dragon closed in, she tried to pull out her rapier, but realized it wasn’t set for quick access. She’d have to go through her inventory or keep using her bow.”

      Now we know how that system works. Or maybe the system won’t let you access your inventory at all during battle, you have to have the item equipped on your person.

      “She slung her bow across her back and pulled the rapier out of its sheath. She had a small dagger on her hip she could use if the dragon moved any closer, but she knew if it came down to that, she’d die.”

      As for the common elements, I’d guess that they didn’t outline their story at all and just started writing whatever they felt. The last three books I’ve looked at show no signs of having any structure.

      Things just kind of happen randomly, for no reason, and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of overarching plot or structure to the book.

      This is the difference between a complete crap show like “Nutshack” and “South Park”. South Park uses crude humor to tell a story. Characters are in opposition to each other’s wants and desires. The Nutshack uses crude humor because the writers have no originality or creativity. The characters have no desires, they just walk around and do stuff.

      Like

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