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Zac was alone in the middle of the forest when the world changed.
The whole planet was introduced to the multiverse by an unfeeling System... or God. A universe where an endless number of races and civilizations fought for power and dominion. Zac finds himself stuck in the wilderness surrounded by deadly beasts, demons, and worse. Alone, lost and without answers, he must find the means to survive and get stronger in this new cut-throat reality.
With only a hatchet for his weapon, he'll have to seek out his family before the world collapses... or die trying.
5 Chapters a week; Mon-Fri.
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Update: this story pretty quickly becomes your standard "Dao of Luck" xanxia fare, with the MC stumbling into treasures and powering up from near death experiences (that should have killed him). You better believe there's a settlement that he wants to protect at all costs and his motivations for becoming stronger are "because I need to". Biggest bummer is his fighting style devolves into "I hit the other guy harder, so I won". I'm still reading, obviously, but I'm definitely less enthused, and my earlier review may create unrealistic expectations.
I really like this story. Here are some bullet points of the things I like about it.
- Survival- The MC is lost in the woods during a system apocalypse. Always like when a character needs to survive and acclimate to dangerous surroundings, both when it's happening and in the future when the MC gets compared to other people. That seems a long way off, though.
- Realistic Knowledge- Related to above, this story actually has an MC who doesn't know how to immediately game the system. There are a lot of functions of the system that he doesn't know, and even more that he doesn't know he doesn't know, simply because he missed the tutorial. Rarely, you'll see him do something and say, "what an idiot that's clearly not the optimal choice", but all his choices are rational given the amount of information he has. He's super ignorant of what's going on, but using context clues to help himself rather than an deep knowledge of "What to Do when the System Arrives for Dummies".
- System- Its a cool system, fairly background, and kind of sentient. He doesn't immediately get skills and upgrades, it's honestly him surviving as a (albiet super strong) human.
- Struggle- The power creep is good, he struggles for a while, figures out ways to overcome those struggles, and then new stuff pops up to struggle against. Not in the "he'll never see or get hurt by level one mobs" way some xianxia stories do, more like they're there but no longer as much of a threat due to training.
- Plot- Seems like there's some depth to the plot, he's got semi-manditory quests to complete and that may take awhile, day to day survival offset with hints of all the other pieces of the multiverse.
- Realistic Knowledge- The MC is doing fairly well for himself considering, but is by no means a Mary Sue. He's bled for every step forward he's taken. He doesn't immediately know bush craft or how to make armor or anything, it's refreshing to see someone struggle this long. He actually may be at a disadvantage compared to other humans, but is finding a different path to strength, helped in part cuz everyone else is stuck in the tutorial whilst he suffers. He uses his limited resources pretty well, spear stake traps and such.
- Human Emotions- The character actually seems to have to deal with the fact he's stuck alone in the woods forced to fight for his life, rather than just being a mannequin devoid of human emotions. I stress, it really sucks for him almost constantly for the first 30 chapters, but that makes it better IMO cuz there's actually stress when he gets in fights. He actually behaves and feels and thinks in a way that a guy stranded alone might.
- Consistency- All the system stuff is real consistent. The way skills and classes and items work all make sense in this universe.
- Enemies- The monsters are pretty cool
Those are some of the things I like about the story, so far I only have a couple minor negative things to mention
- Lucky- his initial luck in the system, literally a rigged dice roll he shouldn't have won, but that's over and done with by chapter 2 and the plots gotta happen somehow. There really wouldn't be another way to make the same general character and story in a more believable, less lucky manner.
- Town Building I just generally don't like settlement/town management stories, it's nowhere close to getting to that point yet but it seems like a mechanic that's gonna pop up eventually. That's just something I personally don't want to see happen in any story, and it's barely present so far in this one, I just like to whine.
*Edit: new complaints added here as the story continues*
- Overly Expositional its a kind of take the good with the bad situation, and as much as I like reading about a guy figuring out a System, we gotta read through his every thought process for what the system is an does. Sometimes there are multiple paragraphs in row of him just thinking through what he knows, doesn't know or assumes about the new world's physics.
- Overly Introspective - similar to above and also a kind of "too much of a good thing", but the MC will also think through about 4-5 actions he wont do before every action he does do. It just kind of drags the story down at times, I don't really care why he decides not to buy 4 different things if he ends up getting something else, ya know? To me this writing feels like a defense mechanism to shield the writer from RRL comments.
- Weirdly Competent MCs getting real good at murdering demons with an axe/throwing knives for a guy with a pretty hands off system, real quick.
All in all a very well done survival litrpg, with some wuxia elements blended in.
This novel suffers heavily from a lack of planning.
It definitely feels like TheFirstDefier started out with an interesting premise and just kept writing from there.
Things constantly keep escalating and because of that the characters, their characterization, and the world building start to fall by the wayside.
All of this along with the xianxia trappings of cultivation and conflict reminds me of the author I Eat Tomatoes.
For example: things like the coins having grades could've easily been introduced at the start of the story, instead they're only mentioned when Zac becomes insanely rich so that money can still be a driving factor for conflict.
There've been hints at a larger story surrounding Zac and his sister and their place in the universe, but 300 chapters in its still too early to say.
Each new arc introduces many characters that are, in the moment, interesting but rarely matter going forward. The result of this is a very large cast with relatively little characterization.
In one of the recent chapters Zac joked about Emily being a mascot for Port Atwood. Funny, but I had actually forgotten that character was even a part of the story to begin with. I had to go back and reread to jog my memory because she's been such a non-factor.
The power structure, a mix of cultivation and system rpg, is another aspect of the story that feels a little slipshod. The RPG system starts out understandable but becomes bloated over time with the addition of percentage bonuses and bonuses that apply to the effective value of the stat. Zac being mortal and not a cultivator is only really relevant for the first arc of the story. Now he's cycling energy, forming cores, and exploring the Dao with the best of them. Speaking of, it's probably my own bias but opening nodes in the body being more difficult than grasping fundamental truths of the universe just doesn't feel right.
All that said I still think it's a good novel.
The amount that TheFirstDefier puts out is really commendable. It also gives context as to why some of these issues popped up.
Overall I think that once this is finished and we know where we're going a good editing pass would easily smooth out these issues and make this go from good to great.
TLDR; Do you like IET? Then this'll do ya just fine.
My main gripes with this story is the lack of character development or any sort of growth as well as the forgettability of some of the side characters. People like the fisherman and the pet shop employee turned beast master get mentioned every now and then, but is then tossed aside for a couple chapters before reappearing again.
They have so much potential to become interesting characters to have at Zac's side! It's such a shame that I have to go back a couple chapters to remind myself who these people are and what they do on the rare occasions that they get brought up.
My second other main problem is the character development and their goals. Zac literally hasn't changed in any way for 300+ chapters since the incursions began. He still acts like a brute with a misguided sense of ethics and morals. I'm personally not invested in anything to do with Kenzie, Zac's mom, The Mystic Realm and all the other subplots as they feel more like a nuisances that get in the way.
All in all, it's been a very average read though I do have to commend the author for churning out chapters like a mad man! Good luck. :D
This story exhibits all the "standard" flaws of this generic type of story which would be called forgivable in most versions of it:
- the protagonist is a mary sue to the absolute maximum, with the plot straight up handing him everything with no effort 80% of the time: sure, cool. Typical, to the point it's treated as a joke and lampshaded with a "luck" stat.
- The stats and other litrpg elements are utterly superfluous and in many cases just outright lie to the reader instead of providing information (e.g. a character with a lower strength is notably stronger than one with higher in direct tests), many states appear to do nothing, etc. Ok, fine, a litrpg that would be substantially improved by just... not being litrpg, see also 90% of this website.
- The physics of the universe are ill defined, and casually violated whenever they'd result in the MC losing, causing the time and effort of the reader spent learning them to be insultingly wasted: pushing it now, but still typical of this kind of novel.
Standard so far, fairly forgivable? Sure. But the reason we forgive these kinds of stories for those kinds of things is that they're dramatic, action-packed thrill rides where something is always happening. Energy always maintained, whether it's a fight breaking out, family drama, angst, shiny loot being revealed, whatever.
In this story... nothing happens. Like, I don't mean nothing "of significance" I mean actually nothing. The author composes somewhere between three sentences and three short paragraphs of characters taking actions or events occurring, then hides them randomly in five god damned full length posts per week, the rest of the text so completely devoid of actual content that calling it filler is an insult to filler.
We've seen two thousand word posts where the event promised by the title is as much of a non-event as Zac reading a text box... and he hasn't read the one-sentence text box by the end of the chapter. Just stood in place and thought vaguely about how theoretically interesting it would be if he clicked the mouse once to press the button his cursor is already hovering over.
We're not reading a cultivation novel. We're not even reading about a boring accountant doing a spreadsheet. We're reading about a lazy accountant trying to consider starting a spreadsheet that won't even be useful when completed... and never actually entering any data in 80% of chapters.
So all of the bad parts of the genre, with the twist that it also doesn't have the one thing the genre usually does well. Skip.
Defiance does a great job of blending a lot of aspects from western and eastern fantasy. but from arc 1 the pacing has been terrible. Sometimes you get a 130 chapter arc that could be resolved in 60 without the needless fluff, and sometimes you get a 20 chapter mini-arc that could have been stretched to 50+ to great effect. All in all, this is a good read that just has some pacing issues
The story moves along very slowly, until it finishes the build up for that part of the plot then it moves very quickly and unsatisfyingly to the end of the plot so another can be started. Bad guys are built up for hundreds of chapters, and then are dealt with as if they were filler to be forgotten about a chapter later.
I'll start with some pro/con before I give the summary of my opinions and any spoiler stuff until the end.
There is some interesting concepts here, duality is touched on throughout and I'm not sure if it's intentional or just something that came from the cultivation side, regardless it's surprisingly deep for a story like this. This story also doesn't shy away from graphic violence , while I'm not one who prefers violence for violence sake, but the apocalypse would be bloody and disgusting and I think a lot of this story captures that.
The characters are paper thin and without substance, often they're just plot tools to progress from one beat to the next. Plot holes and plot armor galore, almost every system introduced is retroactively walked back, seemingly on accident. The scale is absolutely massive, yet the pacing is incredibly slow. Ham fisted attempt at romance and a love triangle that should have been explored or abandoned not left in limbo.
Some of this summary might contain spoilers so I'll leave them for the very end.
The part that really made me lose interest in this story is the incredibly slow pacing, every action, every item, every theory is followed by 5-10 paragraphs of introspection. Not 5-10 lines, 5-10 actual paragraphs, so much so that sometimes half to three quarters of an entire chapter is introspective exposition. It's full, it's boring and it grinds the plot and pacing down to unimaginable levels. With all the plot threads the author has going this story would easily go to 3000-4000 chapters before finally starting to close them all. I made it to chapter 500 roughly, and everything to that point could have been achieved in 150 chapters, easily.
The second biggest issue in this story for me was the characters, specifically the romance option and the sister. I know a lot of people prefer no romance, but I think this story would have benefitted from the interactions of a romance, there is no social connections in this story, there's really no down time that isn't exposition or a time skip. It's exciting at first but after 200 chapters it's just.. dull. As for the sister, I think she objectively ruins the story, personality wise, their relationship wise , it just falls flat.
Honestly, this story isn't terrible, but it's not great, you can tell this is the first big piece the author has worked on and sometimes it feels like they had ideas for 3-4 seperate books and just crammed them all into this one, but there is potential under the pile of exposition and useless characters. Hopefully on the next work the scale won't kill the pacing.
Ill start this off by saying i'm still reading along due to enjoying the overall plot, but that is about all i enjoy in this story. Hopefully it continues to improve.
Pros - I would say the synopsis does a great job at telling you what this story is about. Overall the plot and the world building introduced is fairly good. Races and civilizations across the universe are brought in the story and fleshed out to a small degree showing what the MC now has to deal with.
Man there are so many that are hard to get past. Repetitive story telling for one. MC goes to fight > thinks about his powerups/new levels and stats he just gained > more internal dialogue about loot gained. Rinse and repeat, and maybe every few times he will have a 1 sentence dialogue with a random side character that goes nowhere. Then will continue with... And then Zac and "character" discussed a few more things and he went off to go prepare to fight
Dialogue and character growth is non existent in this story. He has a somewhat of a core group of people he relies on which are his generals that you know by name, but never have a discussion with, and then there are the "Elites" that support him time and again that he doesn't give the time of day. A new side character might be introduced and given an interlude, and then either die off, or are never brought up again.
Motivations / Loot / Town Building - This ties into the previous point a bit that there is almost no discussion on what he's doing or why he's doing it other than to save his family. Eventually he gets a few people he can rely on but he doesnt try and empower or assist them in any way, always looking to do everything himself. Loot? He has an endless supply of it that you pretty much never see being bought or sold or giving to his town or elites. Meat? Endless supply of mountains of meat that you never see him make or buy. The Town? Again, you see the surface level of one or two buildings in his town, but never more than a sentence or two of discussion about it.
Chapters - The chapters are a bit short in volume and in actual story info. A large part of each chapter is essentially filler (MC ponders on this or that before doing anything of substance) and a small amount of action, and then ends abruptly so he can finish that plot point a few chapters down the road
OK, this novel has a really good start and some funny moments that can get a few good laugh out of anybody, but I'm just tired to be honest. Not a simple thing happens to the MC without struggle. Absolutely nothing without an earth shaking struggle he miraculosly win with a treasure or a dao epiphany....
Of course I'm exagerating becouse let's be honest, thats the fun part. but I had read this novel for 500 chapters and sincearly it's just one fight after the other, une struggle after the other, one apocalyptic crisis after the other... and Zac just do nothing more than fight, get stronger and fight. I just feels that the story is good but the mc spends 99% of the time either fighting or geting stronger and nothing more.
The story advances by how strong is he more than how the characters advance in the story. "Zac is stronger, now he can defeat the next enemy..." repeat the formula and that is the whole first 500 chaps. Nothing happens in the middle, Zac has no chance to do anything but fight or try to use the System to get stronger and i gets repetitive.
Lets avoid the "Luck" component. He just have to much... just so much luck it's not funny.
The story really hasn't progressed far enough to rate the characters but from what I've seen it seems like they're gonna be somewhat better than in the average rrl story.
Other than that, the story is a pretty basic New World/Ghosthound style deal. Everyone gets a system and is teleported to a tutorial while the earth gets fucked up by monster hordes and stuff. Everyone except for the protagonist of course, he doesn't get a tutorial (lol).
Other than that I am fairly impressed by how the story is relatively gritty (and sometimes defies logic, like how the guy used the same hatchet for over a month swinging it with superhuman strength against monsters that are definitely tougher than your average tree, considering they can break them apart by running into them... without breaking the hatchet) the protagonist is powerful, but at least so far he is not overpowered (he has the promise of becoming overpowered later tho if he plays his cards right). He has to survive by the skin of his teeth, he'd die on a daily basis if he didn't have the system giving him a 'sleep and your fatal injuries will be healed' trope. The author basically hands the protagonist everything he needs on a silver platter like in most stories like these, what he has not done however is give him anything more than what he needs, he's given him exactly the bare minimum and nothing more and I like that. It's pretty decently written too so you can feel the protagonists struggle as he suffers for not getting to do the tutorial like everyone else.
Unlike him however, we do get a tutorial, we get all the basic RPG stats eplained to us as if everybody doesn't already know it and the story is chock full of wordy explanations about the most mundane things. This was my gripe with the story, the pacing feels like it's snailing along because sometimes entire chapters are devoted to just seemingly meaningless exposition. Hell the last chapter I read (37) was one such chapter (edit: and 38 was the same. And 39.). Literally nothing happens in the entire chapter.
This kind of stuff is a huge pet peeve of mine, when authors do too much exposition, spend too much time on explaining or detailing things that don't really warrant that much text.
Good writing is a balancing act between colorful wording and effective pacing, this author leans a bit too heavily on the former for my tastes. The only reason the story even progressed anywhere for the past 30 chapters is because the author at some point went 'fuck it' and did a month's time skip. (Thankfully, or we would have had chapter upon chapter of the protagonist doing the exact same thing)
Like others have said I share the opinion that this story has potential, it's too early to tell if it's worse or better than the works it seems inspired by, but I'm worried it will never be finished with this focus on overly detailed explanations.
I would advise the author to show more, and tell less. Not everything needs to be explained in full detail, let the readers imagination work out most of the things and focus on what's important to the main plot progression instead. If you look at some great artists (like say wlop for an excellent example) if you look closely at their artwork you will find that sometimes up to 80% or so of their pictures may end up being just blobs, anything that isn't the main focus/character of the picture is only vaguely defined. And it works, your brain will fill in these details when you look at the picture as a whole, but zoom in on it and all you'll see are blobs.
With the decreasing attention spans of humanity as a whole in our current society, it's vital for writers to adopt a similar strategy in their writing to keep the attention of readers.
Update: Now I'm at chapter 278.
Characters are, in line with my original impression, decent. They're better than in most stories in that they have actual personalities of their own, even if it's mostly template personalities, at least they're not full blown template characters. I should warn you though that if you're into good characters, you probably won't like this story because 90% of it is just focused on the protagonist. Other characters get defined personalities, but they don't get much further fleshed out than that, you won't be finding many tragic backstories or any character development in this story. There's a few interesting characters spread around in the novel, and you might actually be able to feel invested in some characters (hopefully at least the protagonist), but I doubt you'll be singing the author praises for good characters. Suffice it to say that he makes characters that work for the story, rather than a story that works for the characters. The story is centered around the protagonist mostly, other characters are in the end mostly just extras, so far most of the story is still the protagonist going solo, not that I dislike that at all, but it is what it is.
What I do dislike however is that unlike my original impression of the story being similar to new world and randidly ghosthound is that this is actually a xianxia story, I can see the tag is there now but I don't think it was when I started reading; what I do like however is that it's much better organized than any xianxia I've ever seen, namely that the power scaling of everyone is rather properly defined here thanks to the litrpg system, e.g. we pretty much know at all times where the protagonist stands on the global scale of power. Maybe not how powerful he is compared to others on the same scale, but just which scale he's on (i.e. the ratings of A, B, C, D, E and F essentially, and of course the levels). Everyone can be a bit of a wild card since their final power output depends heavily on their class and equipment and their 'daos' (a thing I really dislike in this story, the 'daos' create an undefined power scaling system within a decently defined one, tsk tsk.), but it's usually a fairly safe bet that a rank D warrior will not be able to defeat a rank C one with exceptions (exceptions like plot shields and overpowered daos!)
On that note, now that the story has progressed a bit, the protagonist is now overpowered, but only overpowered within his power scaling category (I don't remember what it was but I mean it's pretty down there like E or something) if you want specific, here's a lil spoiler:
Basically, on Earth, he's the most powerful human, but there are humans who borrow from outside powers which pose a colossal threat to him, and there are also a sizable bunch of non-humans that are more powerful than him. On the intergalactic scale of power he more or less fits in right where you'd think his rank of E (actually, 376 chapters in and he is still stuck at F rank
So is he overpowered? Yes, but also no. The major reason why he can (logically speaking anyway, not sure if the author did this deliberately) still survive on earth is via security through obscurity; in other words it's because he has avoided publicizing the location of his home area, because if some parties knew where he is he'd get hunted down pretty fast. This would be an interesting plot point if it happens, but probably frustrating to readers since it'd bring to ruin everything he's built since the beginning of the story, so it's probably not gonna happen.
As another review said, this story suffers a bit from lack of planning, but I somehow always end up coming back to it, I first dropped it at ch 36 or so, but then came back to it a good long while later when it had 100+ chapters. Then I had enough of this stupidity but eventually came back when it had 200+ chapters, now I'm coming back to it again when it has 300+ chapters.
The faults of the story being as they may, I have to give the author credit where credit is due. I have never on this site seen another author that's as consistent in his publishing rates as this one. I've seen it on other sites mind you, the chinese mass produced trash wuxia/xianxia novels in particular over on sites like webnovel.com do have this, it's just that they're always trash with absolutely no pacing, this story is similar I suppose (xianxia right?), but orders of magnitude better, has actual pacing (even if slow) and the plot is actively developing (even if slowly). So kudos for that!
I stand by my original ratings for the story, although I always end up dropping it at some point because of either pacing issues at some stretch of chapters, or some stupid things going on, I always come back to it fresh and mildly excited to keep reading it months later, which means there's some kind of rare quality to this story, because there aren't many stories I come back to after dropping 'em, and yet for this one it's happened 3 times.
(Update, now at ch 376; pacing issues have gotten worse, not enough happened in the last 100 chapters, dropped style score by half star for how ridiculously reduced the pacing has now become, but as I said earlier, the bad pacing is largely mitigated by the consistently fast chapter release rate, so the real major downside to this really is the amount of filler text, or like I said in the original review, this author should really show more and tell less, rather than listening to my advice however, he seems to have gone the opposite direction, telling more and showing less, sometimes having entire exposition dump chapters just to explain things that were already thoroughly explained in earlier exposition dumps (chapter 375 for instance))
So you know what? Go ahead and read it, it's no masterpiece, you will probably enjoy some of it and get frustrated at some of it, but it is at least so far somewhat worth your time, especially if you can't find anything else good to read. It has a few decent plot twists, and passably good worldbuilding too, I doubt you'll be head over heels for the story but I also doubt you'll hate it, unless you're super picky.