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This satire is only surface level. The media that it attacks has a specific general appeal: being a powerful man who can do no wrong, who accumulates a harem of babes and saves the world. Instead of trying to challenge the actual problems with those goals (how hard it is to do lasting good, the struggle between making people work together and taking away their agency, the contradiction between wanting to make your partner(s) happy and splitting your time across a harem) this story instead just mocks the most surface level tropes and characteristics and winds up having the exact same appeal as the trash I usually enjoy.
It doesn't matter if Carl earns his power or has it literally handed to him with a few strokes on a keyboard. It doesn't matter if the babes love him for what he actually is and does, or if they're just rebounding from abuse/rape trauma and cling to any scrap of love and attention. It doesn't matter if he changes the world basically on accident. This story still fulfills all of the trash appeals.
It's fine if you take it as a banal power fantasy, and I would rate it a solid 3 stars if that was what it was trying to be. The writing is high quality, and while I think the story ultimately fails to deliver on its promise, on a small scale, the work consistently achieves its goals. Moreover, it does manage to engage the reader in their relationship with the author through "fun and interactive" author's notes.
I should note that I'm reviewing this halfway through and it might validate itself at any point. If I am, unfortunately, right about the trajectory of this story, each of the three heroes will represent a vice of the readers, and Carl will kill them in effigy, despite himself fulfilling those same roles in this story.
Alternately, this might all be a galaxy-brain meta-satire beyond my comprehension. I say this because of the twist around A11.3, where the story veers wildly from the worst sort of vapid, indulgent, intentionally bad "satire" into a genuinely enjoyable slice-of-life minidrama. I'm hoping that this is supposed to set up a contrast between the good storytelling of the real world, and the over-the=top bullshit fantasy world. Ultimately, the satire may be saved by something directly calling out the readers of this story for indulging in exactly the kind of thoughtless consumption being mocked, bonus points for insulting us for thinking we're smarter than people who can just read stories that don't try to be self-aware.
I’ll start this review with a warning to prospective readers: this story has a ton of rape.
The villains are all rape happy, almost every chapter has a description of sexual assault or enslavement, and its handled with all the sophistication of a man slipping on a banana peel. Moreover, in this story, while the “good” women don’t want to be raped, “bad” women enjoy it. We literally get the viewpoint of a woman who is forcibly sodomized until her anus rips and bleeds but, not only is she fine with this, considers the person who did it ‘a real man’ and wants to marry her daughter to him.
The strange thing is that half this time, this is a wacky anime-like comedy where a dense MC has been trapped in a video game world with his admin powers, but spends his time bumbling around, thinking that every person he meets is a dedicated role-player.
The main character, Carl, is a married 49-year-old IT admin for a VRMMO, who gets trapped inside when his boss removes his ability to log out. The system used has no life-support function, and the MC is completely alone in an office building on a Friday evening.
He is momentarily irritated about possibly wetting himself before deciding to just enjoy his game time. That would work in a wacky comedy with a teenage MC. Or if the boss was instead a college-age frat boy stupidly playing a dangerous ‘joke’ on his buddy.
Carl is almost 50, and the narrative emphasizes that he’s a responsible adult with a family. That his boss has left him paralyzed and in danger of dying of dehydration should be treated with some seriousness.
There’s this tension in the story in that the author wants to bring up more serious and mature subjects, but doesn’t know how to handle them.
Carl has gone to AA (alcoholics anonymous) previously, but the flashback where we’re shown his ‘problem’ is him just sipping at a can of beer and thinking how ‘tasty, tasty’ it is. It’s addiction by way of Homer Simpson.
Humans in this VR world have enslaved elves and use them sex slaves. This means human nobles literally parade them naked around town with a leash and chain around their neck. It’s slavery by way of some BDSM porn on RedTube.
We’re introduced to an older human man in this world who was a soldier for three decades. We’re given another flashback to him watching an elven town burn as soldiers murder innocents, and it psychologically damages him. He has to leave the army and losses faith in humanity and the gods.
This is great stuff!
Then he meets the MC, fawns over his nice clothing and cool weapon, and regains his love of life after a three-minute conversation where the MC gives him a single compliment. All that bitterness and pain is just wiped away by being near the awesome Carl.
I vomited in my mouth a little watching that play out.
The story is well-written. The author has a great command of the language, a strong voice, and is able to keep scene after scene interesting and engaging. The use of multiple viewpoints works. It does a good job of pulling you in and keeping you hitting that ‘next chapter’ button.
I believe the author has a wonderful novel in them, but this is not it.
Edit: Had to drop this a star.
As the novel continues, the author spends more and more time on his incoherent rants and 'performance art.' Pretty poor cover for the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing or where the story is going. At some point, I hope he turns his talents toward writing a good story instead of this extended ego-tripping.
It's an interesting premise, but at 40k+ words in, the MC's briefly gone fishing and then went for a walk.
The premise is that there's an unclear isekai/trapped in a VRMMO sort of thing going on, with a bumbling dad MC who's all-powerful with admin access to the world, but ignores any signs that there's something strange going on, confident that he's in on what's really going on.
If that's the sort of thing you'd like... well, good, because the story is going to wallow in that for all it's worth.
Every single scene is going to get replayed from at least two different perspectives, which is what finally killed the story for me.
For me, it was the equivalent of a stand-up routine in which the comedian stops after every single joke and explains the punchline. I already got the joke, and beating it to death makes it stop being funny after a while.
If you like satire then you may like it but if your looking for a awesome story then this is not for you
the grammer is good
but the constant povs are bad and it keeps backtracking.
For a Toll based sh*t post, it's sub-par. As Satire, the lense for the story lacks direction, flow, and drive. The points to make it Satire aren't really stabbed in when they should be. It's too glacier slow for it to really be Satire. As most of... everything... in this story is rather normal for the umbrella genre, in every aspect, I can only say it's sub-par Portal-Fiction or Trapped in the Matrix. He doesn't really care to define the sub-genre, and I don't really care to find out.
[email protected] is, in the truest sense of the word, a satire. Now, hold up just a second there, before you excitedly run on to read what you assume is a barrel full of laughs. You, my good person, might be thinking 'parody'. Let me explain.
You see, parody and satire are not the same. The purpose of a parody is to closely imitate something, in a matter which entertains the readers.
The purpose of a satire, on the other hand (assuming you still have one, with this story being a steel-jawed trap and all) is to closely imitate something, in a matter which mocks the original, and with which to promote thought and discussion.
That, good/bad/neutral reader, is [email protected]
What does it mock, one might ask? Well, hold on to your chairs, boy/gals/gender neutral folks. You see, despite, yes, despite looking like it's aimed at the isekai genre at first glance, [email protected] has much loftier targets. Not the fantasy genre. Not the combination of whatever tropes its held together by, but something above that. It's aimed at mocking the very site you read it on, and to some extent, if you fall into certain categories, the reader themselves.
It's here to brazenly mock RoyalRoad's biggest tropes, it's likes and dislikes, the plotlines seen most on our beloved(?) site. Everything, basically. Despite that, [email protected] isn't a cobbled-together mess. It is exceedingly well-written, llanned and crafted, once you see what the author is attempting to do.
You might even admire it, between sections of readers becoming triggered beyond belief whenever Carl's wife comes up (more on that later). If not for the story, I urge you to go and read the absolute hilarity that comprises of the comments section in various chapters.
Now, onto the main topics.
Many, and I mean many, people have already expressed their views on this particular subject. You can do doubt already guess half of the current plot JUST by reading the other reviews. But, my dear, innocent reader, I am not here to reassure your feelings as to how awesome, dramatic, hilarious or epic this take is.
I am here to look deeper.
See, when I review, I have a modus operandi (snob way of saying a plan). I look at what the story is, what it tries to be, and how well it lives up to that.
Now, to go back and unearth some history, which some of you might remember.
[email protected] is a satire.
It is not written to be a good, epic, or even coherent piece of fiction at times.
The author, focused on satirizing and mocking the object of the satirization, must therefor have a broader knowledge and scope than a simple plotline. You might think that satire might be the characters or the narrator making fun of tropes on page while you chuckle along, but, oh, you are mistaken, good friend.
True satire is far deeper than that. Yes yes yes, small tropes are here to be bulldozed for your amusement and distracted, but the true intent behind this fiendishly sly piece is to aim higher. Aim for the metafiction itself.
What does RR like? Isekai and OP protagonists, of course. Therefor, we must satirize that, and all the common elements within, decided the collective internet meme machine that calls itself Irony.
What doesn't it like? "Multiple POVs!" Every author on this site will chrous when asked. Therefor, we must satirize that dislike, concluded the hivemind.
We must do our utmost to take every ridiculous trope, setting, precedent and expectation, and then satirize it in such a way that the reader does not realize until it is far too late, was the agreement.
I could list an entire page of the objects being satirized here, from the fictional to the meta, but many of you will discover those for yourselves.
The satire itself is embedded firmly into the story from the first character, slowly growing larger and larger, always hidden behind the thin veneer of a good story. As the pages fall by, however, the curtain is slowly drawn back, exposing the grinning visage underneath, slowly shedding it's false form.
Now, what makes this so cruel is that the frankly vicious satire is hidden inside a well-conceived story. A few arguments have been made, that, should the satire be cut away, this could become or or could have been one of the most popular stories on RoyalRoad.
However, this was never the intent.
To write a good story would have been easy. Indeed, Irony has already done that. Butz to write a good Satire?
That, it seems, is much, much harder.
Tis a pity, many of you would no doubt think, that as talented a writer as Irony instead chooses to write something as brash and POV-heavy and unreadable as [email protected]
The fact that people still read through out, or that it elicited as many responses and outcries as it has so far is, indeed, proof of Irony's prowess as a writer.
Never mind the flawless prose, stunning descriptions, gripping characters, excellent dialogue and fascinating worldbuilding, the fact that Irony has gotten so many people to give a shit, given that this is RoyalRoad, is quite frankly astounding.
Should you perhaps wish to read his other, NON-SATIRE works, inquire with him.
I believe this section is wholly useless, save for pointing out and lording the quality of Irony's editor(s) over the rest of us.
Of course, the entire undertaking of [email protected] would be wholly useless if it did not have good characters.
Wether they are truly good as their own characters, or instead painstakingly crafted to lure the reader into this trap is up to you to decide. Suffice to say they are good, flawed, nuanced, diverse and always fun to read.
Now, lets skip right to the end.
The section where I break the pretense of satire and actually talk about something in the story.
Let me be frank. I find it mildly amusing, and, to some degree, disturbing. The amount of triggering happening whenever this character comes up has me shake my head and wonder at all the comments and replies that bash over her.
Let me explain something to you, good reader.
Carl, in the story, was an addict. He himself realized it. He was living a frankly unhealthy and uncaring lifestyle, by his own admission. He played videogames for days on end, had little to no social life, miserable job prospects and steadily vanishing girlfriends.
Annie, despite all this, stayed with him for three years. Finally, she asked him to make a choice, after exploring every other avenue. (Or so I perceived it.)
Herself, or the videogames.
She did not abuse Carl. She did not hide his games and force him to obey her. She did not threaten, blackmail or scream at him.
She simply asked him to make a choice.
He, in his own rights of freewill and full mental cognition, made a choice. To give up gaming entirely and focus on creating a family with the woman he loved, and who loved him.
Carl himself recognized himself as an addict, and knew that if he ever tried gaming again, he would go right back to his old life. Spending weeks on end on the couch, listlessly watching what he described as trash anime and drinking beer with no drive to do anything else.
He chose to give that up. He. Himself. Carl.
The amount of hate directed tmat Annie from various readers because of that is astounding. Accusations of abusive relationships abound, as do theories of manipulation and general hate.
The fact that some people cannot stomach a character who has the right of free choice choosing a path they themselves do not like astounds me.
That is all I have to say.
[email protected] is a satire. I went into it knowing that and expecting what came.
However, that wasn't to say that the onstant backtracking did not become frustrating, as did the slow progression. However, as this is part of the satire, I cannot detract stars for it, as this review is for a satire story, not my personal enjoyment.
Still, even then, there were moments and themes that galled me at times. Carl's firm decision to believe that this is a dedicated roleplay VRMMO, and that the heinous acts around him can be ig ored and people brutally killed around him will respawn were novel at first. I also know it's an integral part of the story and it's themes. But, I feel this harms the story more than help it, at this point.
I have more, but those would be too spoilery, so I'll shut my yap and move on.
As a good story, [email protected] stars off strong, but quickly becomes frustrating for the average reader.
As a SATIRE, such that it is meant to be, it MORE than succeeds. It combined, near flawlessly, a multitude of topics, tropes and meta-ideas to satirize in a degree of ways, ranging from bluntly, to subtly, to blinkandyoumissit.
As a SATIRE, this is an a amazing work, and is (so far) achieving what the dark hivemind behind it has clapped their legion of eyes on.
More need not be said.
So, the story itself seems to be a fairly solid idea; Carl is basically a lumbering powerhouse that has no clue what's going on, and it can be rather amusing as he bumbles around thinking a coworker trapped him on a RP server for a VR game. Each individual chapter is decently written, I can't see, or remember, any obvious grammer mistakes. And I would like to know about the characters - Carl, the demon queen and the princess all seem like they could develop into pretty nifty people. The author is fond of multiple character view points, which is something that's fairly common with web novels; some like it, some hate it, and some, like me, don't really care as long as its well written.
But, we're 55 chapters in, and a number of problems have cropped up. I think the most glaring problem is that the story is SLOW. AS. HECK. 55 chapters, and we've basically only visited four or so places. We spent so much time just wandering around to just find shoes.
I said that I would love to get the characters more, but... we spend so little time with them that the development is stale. 55 chapters should be enough for a solid characterization of the core cast in any other story, but obviously not this one. As for the villains of this story, well... they're a bunch of shallow hedonists, torturers and the like, with little in the way of anything noteworthy to them at all.
I also said I don't mind multiple view points, but the way that this story uses them annoys me a bit - the author uses them to jump around in time. Its like a flashback every few chapters. That's way too many.
The author spends waaaay to much time with mind-control rapists. Rape is pretty much rampant in the story. There are more rapists and rape victims than not in the story so far. And that includes multiple point of view chapters from said rapists, while performing said raping in several cases. Its enough that it makes you wonder if this is what the author really wanted to write about.
Despite being the titular character, I would not say Carl is a protagonist or a main character. This is not a story about Carl. He's a wandering deus-ex-machina for the real main characters (mainly the princess at this point) to acomplish their goals. Carl is not proactive, carl has no goals or associated plot, no struggles. He's just... there to bumble around.
Author appears to be nearing a nervous breakdown, and in the introduction to the current chapter, has literally threatened to cancel the story if people don't leave better reviews, and stop raising the same issues he has previously rejected as invalid. It is clear that this can't end well -- the story will inevitably be discontinued.
The author deliberately chose a highly unusual and rare literary technique, covering the same time segment and same events & locations from 2, and sometimes many more, POVS. Many have criticized the technique. Rather than simply stating that he disagrees, the author is swearing, ranting and threatening.
My two star rating is based solely on my belief that the literary technique detracts from the story in a major way, making it a slog at times. While I believe it would be legitimate to detract from my rating further based on the likelyhood of cancellation and the fact that the author is threatening readers, I will not do so.
A good idea taken too far for the sake of comedy. The premise is interesting but the only coherent line of thought in the world building and character creation seems to be taking everything to an illogical extreme. The author claims this is a work of parody and yet the way I see it bad writing on purpose reads much the same as bad writing on accident.
I'll start with this: The story is enjoyable, is pretty simple and for the most part has great grammar. Trigger warning: rape
Easiest way to put this is the author is what we in Australia affectionately call a"bit of a cunt". For example, when readers critique parts they dislike about the story, the author reacts by sharing on discord and laughing at people. Maybe they have self moderated since then.
As for the things in the story that I dislike? The biggest frustration would be the way his writings flow. The most current and obvious issue would be the constant POV swap between the mc and isemine that does not give any new, useful or interesting information whatsoever. Sure there is some differences between them, but it's the same as finishing a story with "and then I woke up". It's badly done, breaks the flow of the story and feels like a time waster because it's pointless. We get the mc hasn't got a clue yet. We get everything isemine is saying because the point has been made on the first swap. 7 swaps later and you open the chapter, see who's pov it is, and close because you know ever tiny detail. He's just waxing poetic bullshit to piss people off intentionally, or thinks he is better than everyone else and they need every little detail explained.
If I thought the author wasn't a massive wanker, I'd actually write constructive criticism to try help them improve, and not just write a rant on the off chance a single person might save wasting an hour of their life