Tl;dr: Not my cup of tea in general, but it’s also not a harbinger of the end of times or remotely the worst LitRPG that I’ve read. Most of my criticisms are the general criticisms of Dungeon-Core books in general.
As a first impression, it’s a 3.5 stars. I was asked to review this book, (I haven’t heard the audio performance), by Jeff Hays, because he said some people really hated it and wanted my opinion if it was really that loathsome.
I was asked to review this one because it’s supposed to be the second seal of the Apocalypse, doom-and-gloom for all ye who read this book. My impressions? I can’t find anything to get really upset over from a narrative point of view, and I can’t find anything to really like. It’s not Lion’s Quest or Delvers, but it’s also not The Gold Farmer.
The criticisms I have of the book are the same ones I have of dungeon-core books in general. This is definitely not a dungeon-core book, but it follows the same narrative structure as one. It even points this out itself by parodying a D-Core trope at the end where the protagonist refuses to become a dungeon owner.
Our erm… hero(?) is a mimic, a creature known to Dark Soul players as the annoying thing that killed them once and now makes them swing their sword spastically every time they see a treasure chest.
My general problem with this sort of character, and hence my criticism of most dungeon-core novels is that the protagonist doesn’t really want anything. They have no strong need or desire, outside from leveling up and not dying. As such, they are constantly just reacting to the outside World.
Another general criticism I have of D-Core novels is that they rely too much on game mechanics. Since the main character doesn’t have any real desires or motivation, the other side characters get even less attention. The side characters don’t have personalities so much as they have roles in the story. This means the characters are all variant stock characters, they’re all one-dimensional, flat, and bland.
Guilty of that one as well.
Another criticism I have is that there is a lot of “ad hoc-isms” used to move the story along, coincidences occur all over the place. Since the main storyline is “level up and don’t die”, the protagonists get tons of level-ups for little to no reason, except as needed by the story. Still guilty.
Concrete example time of an ad-hocism. As a lesser mimic, (he becomes a greater mimic later in the book), he summons a succubus to Earth as a warlock. He then forgets why he did it and immediately eats her to recover the mana loss. Then he forgets what he did and repeats it over and over again.
Ok, so he has no real strategy and long-term memory, which is something the book sets up. But in another scene, a scouting party gets sent after him for killing five town guards. He then knows that multiple scouting parties will be sent after him as humans form raids, and he concocts a grand plan with his succubus on how to deal with the scouting parties involving multiple days, faking his own death, and all sorts of other intricacies.
The scene doesn’t add up to much or serve any real point in the story, but it was something to do. More important, when the book needs the mimic to be dumb, it’s dumb. When the book needs the mimic to be a genius, it’s a genius, or at least an idiot savant. This is ad hocism.
The ad hoc nature of the novel comes up again when the mimic dials “Demons R Us” to level up his demonology skills. If I remember the Royal Road version correctly, there was an actual Latin invocation to summon demon.
Another aspect is that even though the book covers a lot of ground, it doesn’t go anywhere. Again, same criticism I have of D-core books in general.
There’s also a persistent level of crudeness to the novel. It’s not trying to be erotic, humorous, or sexy, it’s just crude. While Aleron Kong’s characters constantly referencing their dicks like it’s a Yin-Yang Twins song can get tiresome, “Aleronisms” never slip into the amount of vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity that this book has.
So far, the criticisms I have are pretty similar to the ones I have of a book like Dungeon Born. I might even have to say on a purely technical level, this one is better written.
But Dungeon Born doesn’t inspire hate, but this one does. So, what’s unique about it?
The main thing I can see in a book that would incite offense is that this book is completely amoral. Not immoral, because the characters don’t have our sense of morals, but amoral. Completely lacking any morals. The book revels in it, fitting the description of “Sin boldly.”
I’ve read a few books where the character is supposedly evil, but really isn’t. So we end up with the Undead Knight who also moonlights as a grief counselor when he’s not planning on overthrowing the World.
Or we have books where the main character will hand-wriggle over doing evil deeds, but do them anyway. The book will then not comment on what the main character did. “Oh, he slaughtered a room full of kids. Better skip over that.”
Or have the main character do evil things, but justify it because the other characters are evil. It’s often annoyed me when books do this. They want a bad character but don’t want to actually write one. The end result is we end up with either a schizophrenic character (Runner from The Selfless Hero Trilogy) or a bad guy with no bite, (think Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)
This book has none of that. They’re bad creatures doing bad things. No repentance, glossing-over, or mea culpas given. I think that’s the thing that will probably make most people react viscerally to it. From a story/plot structure, it’s all the same critiques I have of any d-core story, and from a grammar perspective, there’s easily a lot worse out there.
It looks like a lot of material was cut out of the book from the Royal Road version, so I can’t say if anything more is in the original one that might have been offensive. I’d rank this book more crude than offensive.
If vulgarity and evilness are not your thing, then this isn’t going to be your book. But if you don’t mind vulgarity, are a fan of D-core books, and are looking for a book that revels in amorality without repentance, well, this is your book.
For me, it’s a 3.5 out of 5. There were some fun ideas and parts, some interesting game mechanics, but game mechanics can’t make up for story elements.
I don’t care about the main character, too many scenes were made-up for the sake of having something to do, and nothing much happened overall. It’s a snack read for fun, but it’s not going to stick with you when you’re done with it.