Keep the Outside World out: Way of the Shaman, case study

I just finished up the fifth Way of the Shaman book.  It’s a book that shows when an author has run out of ideas, very reminiscent of the fourth book of D. Rus’s series when he introduces Russian Nationalism.

So, what happens in the fifth book?  Well, not a lot.  He isn’t a Shaman anymore, or more accurately, doesn’t have access to all of his Shaman powers.  This might have been an interesting concept, if the book had stuck with it.  Instead, it does the typical hemming and hawing with this where he can use certain powers, sometimes, based on what the author finds convenient at any given moment.

The book already had a bad start for me as it begins by him going through his old quest log and cleaning it out.  I can’t think of a lamer way to start a book than to have a character look at old things that happened and say, “I should go and finish these things.”  Why?  Because he literally has nothing better to do.

This is literally the lamest way to write this imaginable.  This could be viewed as a good thing since after book 1, Mahan, (the main character), gets involved in various world-changing events all the time, and you might see this book as a breather.  I see it more as a filler episode that you get in a series where they have a 12 episode contract and can’t figure out what with four of the episodes.

So we get introduced to a random side character who has nothing to do, we got lots of long tangents and contemplations by Mahan that don’t lead anywhere, and a book that has no aim or purpose, except to craft the last two pieces of the chess set.  The book doesn’t pick up until towards the end, where Mahan gets to tame a mythical beast and then kill a different mythical beast.

Very little of note happens here until we get to the end, where he finishes crafting the chess set.

Spoilers

For our patience of putting up with endless meandering quests that go nowhere and do nothing,  we get a gigantic middle finger.  No, not the ending to the book.  If Vasily Mahanenko had the courage to go through with his ending, I wouldn’t be upset.  It wasn’t a great ending, but it had been set up through all the previous books.  Several times in the previous books, Mahan is told that he gives his girlfriend Anastasia too much control and power, and that he really doesn’t know her at all.  He’s told that he breaks his contract with her and that she has complete power over him.

Thus him getting screwed over by her at the end still would have sucked, but everything would have followed a natural cycle of setup and payoff.  He’s been told, he’s given numerous hints by Clutzer and Reptilis that he is heading for a serious problem.  You might argue that this would defeat a partial message of Way of the Shaman, that it’s the heart that matters and even if what you’re doing makes no logical sense, you should follow your heart anyway.

But if he wanted to go that route, then he needs to redeem Anastasia better than some contrived plotline.  Also, the book only says that his feelings help him with game World decisions, they have nothing to do with real life decisions he makes about who to trust.  Also, they state that you get false feelings when you go past level 100.  There you go, he learns the hard way that emotions aren’t everything and that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

nigerian-scammers-have-made-malaysia-the-new-epicenter-of-online-crime
Still waiting for my millions from a Nigerian dictator

Instead, in The Hour of Pain, for $2.99, Mahanenko decides to pull in the real World.  Anastasia has to screw over Mahan because… he’s spent too much time in game.  So she couldn’t have just bought his freedom, or sent him a telepathy note saying, “Hey, get the f*** out of the game, before you become dependent?”  Nope, the only way to solve this is to stage an elaborate screw job that makes no sense.

“Have you received a report about his immersion levels?” “Yes, it came yesterday. My hunch was accurate— Mahan is too deep into the game. We have to use hate to extract him. There’s no other option.

Mahanenko, Vasily (2017-04-18). The Hour of Pain (The Way of the Shaman: a bonus story) LitRPG Series (Kindle Locations 70-72). Magic Dome Books. Kindle Edition.

Meaning if his girlfriend told him to get out the game so he can meet her in real life, he’d say no?

The person before me was no longer the man I loved, but an agent of the Vecchi— the one who was supposed to destroy Phoenix from within,

Mahanenko, Vasily (2017-04-18). The Hour of Pain (The Way of the Shaman: a bonus story) LitRPG Series (Kindle Locations 96-97). Magic Dome Books. Kindle Edition.

And where does this get introduced?  Oh yeah, nowhere.  Do you want to know how many times the word “Vecchi” appears in book 5?  Zero.  Book 4?  Zero.  Book 3?  Zero.  Book 2?  Zero.  Book 1?  Still Zero.

Substitute the word Vecchi for “Ninjers” and you have the correct translation.  Ninjers break Anastasia’s leg, and Ninjers are monitoring everything she does, and if she doesn’t get Mahan to leave the game, Ninjers are going to kill him.  Does that make the plot sound any better?

This is literally something he pulled from his ass for a contrived plot, and Why the hell is no one calling him out on this?  This is the same situation as with Atamonov’s Video Game Plotline Tester and in both stories, even when they keep doing this, people only complain about the ending.  Once you pull in the first Deus Ex Machina, it’s going to become the go-to solution for any game World problems.

Shaking my head people.  To get back to the sin of Keeping the Outside World Out, the reason is because when author’s let the outside World creep in, they find it way too convenient an excuse to invent a plot coupon that they can redeem at will, which is what Mahanenko does in both stories.  When he needs a plot coupon, boom, insert (outside World group or event) and that takes care of the problem.  It’s lazy writing at its worst.  It’s a literal Deus Ex Machina that descends from the heavens to take care of bad writing.

I would have given book five a 2.5 star review, below average with lots of meandering plot lines that go nowhere.  After the ending, I might have given it a three star review if he had the courage to actually stick with the storyline.  But after reading the overpriced Hour of Pain where he goes back on his premise and invents a bunch of utterly contrived bullshit to justify it, no.  No.

Two stars.  One star for the Hour of Pain.  The two books are collective middle fingers to the audience from an author who’s run out of ideas for his series.  Shame to see it go down like this, but I’m suspecting this is going to be Alterworld books 5+ after this.

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