A Virtual Dream by Brent Roth
Publisher’s Description: When Brent Roth suffered a workplace accident that rendered him temporarily immobile, he found himself lying in bed dreaming of a better life. He dreamed of a life where maintaining his health was no longer a daily struggle, and then when he had lost all hope, he had discovered a new virtual reality game on the horizon. A VR-MMORPG that offered him everything he lacked in real life, everything that had eluded him.
A world where he could find adventure, companionship, and success all wrapped up in the singular package of The Dragon’s Wrath. The game offered him a chance, a chance for salvation… a glimmer of hope.
It was better than a dream, it was a virtual dream.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
For some, the relatively new genre of LitRPG has no meaning. To clarify, all novels in this genre take place – partly or entirely – within an VRMMORPG: a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game. A young genre, Goodreads already lists 115 LitRPG novels here. This is a genre that has yet to capture a major publishers eye, and the novels I’ve read thus far are self-published and often translated from other languages. I decided to delve into some, and the next few reviews I post will be novels from this genre, for better or worse.
The Good: Dragon’s Wrath is fun. I like video-games, and I’ve played my share of MMOs over the years. Reading a game set within one, but with a virtual reality capsule that allows players to feel the sensations of the world is interesting to think about. As with many LitRPG books, the main character discovers things within the game that few to no other players have, and Dragon’s Wrath is no exception.
One of the few well written novels in the genre where the character both is, and wants to be, left to themselves far from civilization. Time is split between the real world where Brent attends Alpha/Beta tester meetings, and his time in the game where he forges his own path in the snow-covered north in an area most players have written off as useless. There he works to level up and build a town entirely himself, without the aid of other players.
The setting is fresh. Reminiscent of video-games such a “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim” and “Savage Lands”, the viking-inspired, cold and harsh snowy mountains help maintain the feeling of isolation that Brent is looking for. The time spent alone, basically playing a single-player game helps introduce the VR experience to the audience and set it apart from other LitRPG novels.
The Bad: While the time spent in-game is mostly fantastic, some of the scenes set back in reality slow the pace detrimentally. It’s great to know that he’s funding himself while unemployed by selling off the collection of cars he’d built. It’s nice to know he doesn’t want to do that, but has to. That said, taking the time to describe driving around with a potential buyer ultimately doesn’t have any major impact on, and pulls us away from, the story in-game. I can see what the author was trying to do by having those moments – and indeed, the scenes during the Apha/Beta test meetings are worthwhile – but the others unfortunately serve to slow things down.
There are homonyms sprinkled throughout that may bother some. That said, this is also somewhat common in self-published novels in my experience, and so early on I came to terms with it.
The Conclusion: Certain scenes slow the pace of what would otherwise be a superb entry in the LitRPG field. It is the first in a series however, and serves as a fun and solid foundation for more to come. It is definitely one of the better in the genre and certainly worth a read if the concept of LitRPG intrigues you.
Setting up a character far from civilization who mostly interacts with NPCs allows for a fairly introspective ride. However, there are other players introduced both here and as the story progresses through the next entries, which will help those for whom this genre feels too alien. If this review is your introduction to LitRPG, Dragon’s Wrath is worth trying.
If you like this book…
…consider trying Survival Quest (The Way of the Shaman, #1) by Vasily Mahanenko, Project Daily Grind (Mirror World, #1) by Alexey Osadchuk, or Patch 17 (Realm of Arkon, #1) by G. Akella, all in the LitRPG genre.