Tower of Somnus

by CoCop

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

When humanity first encountered alien life, we were judged and found wanting.  

The Galactic Consensus interviewed our leaders and subjected us to a battery of psychological tests to determine our progress as a society.  They found us to be selfish, wasteful, impulsive, and boorish neighbors.  Earth was blockaded and our collective encounter with our extrasolar neighbors rapidly faded from memory.

All they left behind was a hypercomm relay and a handful of subscriptions to a massively multiplayer game that participants played in their sleep.  The Consensus said that it would let us interact with our neighbors in a controlled setting.  That it would teach us to be better members of the galactic community.

The megacorporations that controlled Earth ignored the game until they learned that the powers earned from clearing dungeons were just as real when day broke.  Magic, supernatural abilities and rumors exploded from nothing and a subscription to The Tower of Somnus became a status symbol.

Katherine ‘Kat’ Debs doesn’t have much, but it could be worse.  Born in an arcology, she was assigned a job in the megacorporation that raised her almost as soon as she could work.  Despite the stability of her corporate life, she wanted something more.  A chance to claw her way up the rigid social and financial ladder to make something of herself.

A chance that wouldn’t come naturally to someone as familiar with dark alleyways and the glint of steel as she was with office work and corporate niceties.

Cover art by Faewild

Coloring/shading by KrazeKode

- - - - - -



Book One was  a National Novel Writing Month/Writeathon entry.  Book one has zero editing or proofreading.

As a warning, this WILL eventually go to Kindle Unlimited (meaning each book will come down shortly before I publish it).

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CoCop

CoCop

Founding Member of the Zard Skwad

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DoomAlsoDoom
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{ Edit at end of Book 1.
I'm bumping my story score to 5. Everything leading up to the end of book 1 was very satisfying. Well worth the read.}

Almost half a novel's worth of writing done in this story and it's fantastic. I'm not usually a fan of mixing VR-like and real life in a LitRPG story, but the author went ouf of his way to make the real world interesting and relevant.

While I enjoy the VR-like/LitRPG aspect, I actually enjoy the cyberpunk street samurai corporate dystopia world even more, where their powers from the VR carry over. The world building is great and it feels like the characters are walking around in a real world.

Style: I was already a fan of the author's general writing style, so this was a bit of a no brainer for me. 

Grammar: The grammar is excellent. There are a few areas where the prose is a little rough, but there are very few, if any, grammatical mistakes. Even with that, he's writing it incredibly fast so if there were things that stood out, I wouldn't be too mad.

Story: I'm a big picture type of reader. I tend to look for the overarching plot, so without that I can't yet give it 5 stars. We haven't reached a critical point where the story turning point happens. When we get there, I'll update my review accordingly.

Character: The characters are very good. The MC is a great character. I wouldn't continue reading if she weren't. That being said, my favorite charcter is actually the one I love to hate in the story. If I can love a character that was written to be hated, you've got my vote.

Definitely give this story a shot.

caerulex
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Humanity lives in a dystopian future shaped by first contact with aliens decades before. As stated in the synopsis, aliens judged humans and found them wanting. However, they gave humanity access to a game called Tower of Somnus that all the other discovered peoples across the galaxy subscribe to.

Tower of Somnus isn't just a game but something more: When you sleep, you enter the game, and the power you gain in ToS carries over into the real world. Becoming a player is something that people on the lower rungs of society can only dream about.

Due to a certain circumstance, the main character, Kat, gets the opportunity to become a player.

Kat was already living a double life as a runner of goods/information while being a student. The story explores how Kat balances entering the workforce, her illegal running operations, and venturing forth with newfound alien friends inside of ToS while gaining levels/advancing through the tower's floors.

Kat is an excellent progression fantasy MC because she starts off scrappy out of the gate. She works hard, is top of her class, and is a potent fighter with a knife. When she enters ToS, it very much feels like it's a kind of setting that she was born to do well in thanks to her fighting instincts and general good sense of logic/reason.

The action scenes both IRL (people die; knife fights are legit) and in ToS are described well. Coco has a good grasp of martial arts and I think that definitely helps to add some realism to some of the action sequences.

I must also commend Coco for making a detestable yet highly realistic manipulative "friend" in Arnold. He's an antagonist done well: you can see why he's maybe doing the things he's doing, but at the same time he's pathetic, desperate, and creepy. He's the kind of person you hope you never get tangled up with.

Update: as of latest chapter is still going strong!

Ebisou
Overall

Great start so far.  Good grammar.  All we've seen so far is coorporate dystopia.  The litrpg is  just being introduced and I'm looking forward to it.  Characters seem believable enough and 3 dimensional.   

Can Kat escpape corporate slavery?  This story has a ton of potential.  

Adding to the review at chapter 25.  Still only a little bit of RPG, but I don't care.  This is a very character centric novel and Kat is a really good character.  The real world action is all really well written.  

Syrupotheosis
Overall

Solid grammar. It's an interesting premise: I love the idea of aliens testing humanity, and an intergalactic VRMMO is one of the more creative and believable models for LitRPG I've ever heard. The corporate villains are well set up and I have a pretty good sense of what the world is like. The characters have personality. All told, this seems like a good start to a promising premise!!

Materia-Blade
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Real World as Interesting as the Game

Reviewed at: Chapter 19

This is the first story by CoCop I've read, (though I've been meaning to get to Blessed Time.) This story, completely unedited from what I've gathered, is head and shoulders about 90% of all other game world stories out there.

The concept isn't the most original but as we all know, the execution is what counts. An alien conglomorate gives humanity access to a gameworld for "reasons." Like I said, you've probably seen this before. The setting is what sets it apart from the rest though.

This story is set in a future world where humanity has become quite a bit harsher than it is now. Arcologies rule the world and at first I felt like this story had poorly established its hook. The first two or three chapters set up the real world before the dive into the game begins and when it does it picks up fast with a wonderfully satisfying character change happening right off the bat. 

Style is golden. You won't find purple prose here, but you equally won't have any trouble following along. Almost rated a tad lower because paragraphs tend to be on the longer side which looks a little funny on my computer, but thats more my problem than the stories. It tells a grand tale and tells it well, which leads me to:

Story: The plot takes about two chapters to draw you in. If you skim until the game stuff, then you're like me, but you'll do that and then you'll start getting interested in the real world setting and backtrack to reread the opening because as the review states, the Real World setting in this story is every bit as interesting as the game world. Both work wonderfully with each other. 

Grammar? What's there to say? I think I found maybe one error in 50,000 words? I'm no perfect proofreader but I was never once pulled out of the story by grammar or spelling errors. And this is friggin unedited? Easy 5. Eaaaasy 5.

Character. The MC is surprisingly deep. A product of her society and the world built around her. There is a subtle difference between the humans in this story and normal people that I think is actually intentional. A certain... company-man attitude thats shared by the entire race. An almost indoctrinated feeling of "This is the best we can get, so lets try to be happy anyway." It's sad and its visible through the attitudes and word choices that come from the MC and her family, as well as other sub characters, all in the same hopeless situation, just at varying levels. Its nuanced and its perfectly subverted with nights spent in the game where the pressure is off and the only thing Kat needs to fear is dying.

Its a great story with plenty of meat to sink your teeth into already and a frankly maddening update pace. I'm looking forward to opening Blessed Time already.

Travis Chin
Overall

The MC is just too into murder to feel real

Reviewed at: Chapter 4

To clarify-- Book 2 Chapter 4

 

It's decent. I was expecting a story about an MC that is forced into a difficult life because of poverty, clawing her way up desperately.

Instead she stumbles into a great and welcoming party in game, gets her family out of the slums, then stays as an assassin because *she likes the rush*.

She never worries she's going to die, which is fine... but most teenagers would at least express something besides excitement at a double digit body count. Additionally, I really hate her decision making-- her continuing moral failings are 100% going to come crashing down on herself and the honorable aliens that have invested in her in game-- a game that is orders of magnitude more important than her assassin side gig.

If the story is trying to hammer in that humans are shitty because of nature rather than circumstance, and to reinforce that they shouldn't be trusted... it's doing a pretty good job.

l nimbus
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

A brief review of ToS.

Reviewed at: Chapter 5

I will preface this review by saying several things in order to clarify various aspects of it. 

 

  • The content I am reviewing is ahead of what is posted on RoyalRoad as I have, for reviewing purposes, been granted access to all written chapters, not just what is public. 
  • While I will do by best to offer an unbiased look at what this story, what it tries to be and how well it suceeds in that, it is impossible for me not to let some level of personal preference dicate how much I enjoyed the experience. 
  • I do not judge and rate compared to the very best of trad published fictions, since that is an unfair comparison to compare one auther to how polished and readable a team of professional editors could make a book, but by the standard of the average work hosted on RoyalRoad. Therefor, a 5-star rating does not mean "Best Fantasy Work Of All Time" but rather a top-level story for what is offered for free on RoyalRoad. 

 

With that out of the way, lets jump right into the actual review. 

 

An overview of an aspect that delights me within ToS:

 

Let us talk, for a moment, about settings. Not just for this serial, but in general. So many RoyalRoad authors treat setting as a backdrop, a backround that simply colours the actions their protagonists take, often being interchangeable with other settings if one simply switched descriptions and some occurances. A reskin if you would.

 

Not, in fact, an actual driving force of the plot and influence to the actions of its characters. 

 

Tower of Somnus, is then, one of the most involved serials I have seen in regards to the setting, both in the time period and various locales and enviroments that it takes place in. This is not an aesthetic canvas, simply here to provide a few descriptions and sounds at the MC hurries past to chase the plot. This is not a single, but serveral fleshed out world and histories, interwoven and coming together, imfluencing the plot through the unique dynamics they provide and having a hand within the actions of the characters that exist within.

 

The dystopian influences of this future earth are clearly felt and seen, coming into the story through how they affect the actions of the characters, influence thought and life in a degree large enough that this story would be hard-pressed to work in another setting. It's reaches are clearly felt and seen in social and political ways, a harsh reality that is ever-present in the minds of the cast and guides their every waking move. 

 

The contrast provided between the tower and Earth is stark, the moods they set and dangers they provide fleshing out each other and the galaxy at large. This is extremely well-crafted, meticulously planned and plotted, no small effort invested into these separate dimensions that drive each other forward. 

 

This setting is one of the reasons that ToS stands out from the crowd. Not just the appeal of a dystopian world where the rich slip into another world entirely to gain strength and powers they are able to wield bsck home, but the constant pressure and stakes that a blunder in either world can bring. A dance on the razor's edge, and the long, harsh fall that an unlucky draw of the cards may bring. 

 

Story:

 

This is a constant. Something I am fond of when an author achieves. A story that starts off strong and keeps feeding information through character actions, thoughts, dialogue and unobtrusive exposition. A journey with a defined goal for the MC and surprising/non-predictable ways of getting there. Plot threads hidden and woven alongside one another, keeping pace and never feeling left behind or abandoned. 

 

Again, this is a major aspect of Somnus I approve of. The setting clearly influences not only character choices and goals, but the difficulty and struggle they face to reach those ambitions. 

 

Earth and Somnus are not two different stories advancing as we read, but a singular plotline that smoothly dips from one to the other, with both being kept interesting, with high stakes, dangerous, character development, moments of humour and a constant edge of danger. Neither one feels lacking or lagging behind the other. Neither feels like a simple backdrop, or a truly seperate entity. Earth influences Somnus and vice versa. The story carries from one realm to the other moving between worlds in a way that never feels janky and jarring. 

 

The entire story is well-crafted and thought out, and gave me proper emotional investment in the plot, keeping things not only exciting and satisfying, but non-standard and unique. This is where the writing was at its most brilliant, with a combination of locales, scenarios and unique dangers that never left me even somewhat disinterested and bored. 

 

The plot moves at perfect pace, always continuing the main plot, setting up, advancing and concluding side threads and actions, always with something fresh to show me or another idea to ponder. 

 

The action scenes are well-crafted, never feeling stale or repetitive, always carrying that edge of danger and forcing the cast to think on the fly and adapt to every new situation. 

 

And through it all, Coco shows considerable expertise in writing this as a singular, joined experience that flows smoothly and refuses to take shortcuts. Which is doubly ironic since most of the first book was speed-written in just about a month for the Nanowrimo challenge. Take that into account, then compare it to the overall quality of the story, and this tells you that the author's writing skills are fairly frickin impressive. 

 

Style:

 

Subtle exposition, clean flow and grammar, a proper understanding of structure and formula. This is what I see the author's style as. It is extremely readable, to the point where you blink and the chapter has whizzed by. While it took me a chapter or two to get truly interested, it did work it's charms on me and continued to do so right up until the end of my reading experience. All in all, high marks for all-around great performance in this section. 

 

The dialogue is a middling point for me, being well enough to get the job done and even good, but sometimes, the way it's delivered is somewhat jarring to me and even lowers the experience in some chapters. But, again, this was speed-written and still of high quality.

 

Grammar: 

 

For a story that was speed-written, the quality is fantastic. Some small mistakes, yes, but nothing worth bothering yourself over or that detracts from the overall experience. Prose is great, as is vocabulary and dialogue. The writing never feels lackluster with it's wordplay, but I wouldn't go far as to call it stellar either. 

 

It is firmly highly-above average and both proud and content with that. 

 

Characters:

 

A story without good characters is akin to a truck without wheels. You might sit inside it, turn on the radio, admire the interior and how well it was built. Amuse yourself for a while. But you won't truly enjoy the full experience, nor will you go places. 

 

The cast of ToS, is quite simply, great. Fleshed out, unique, thought-provoking and at times a harsh look at societal norms people ignore. 

 

I want to address several things that seem to be common complaints from readers who might have difficulty reading between the lines or that can be common misconceptions when skimming through the story at high speed. 

 

Mild spoilers ahead.

 

Kat is not a Mary Sue:

 

This one annoys me. Kat is blatantly an underdog at all times, fighting desperately against higher odds and stronger foes, never really having the upper hand against her foes, human or otherwise. She has never had it easy or laid out for her. She has had pyrrhic victories and lost people throughout the course of the series. She has bled, been physically injured and had to fight through that. 

 

She has started from the bottom and had to navigate a razor's edge of power in a dystopian society where the wrong move has her family and herself vanish for good and no questions asked. She has not somehow managed to fix the entire world or magically make everything sunshine and rainbows. 

 

Her actions have had consequences for her and others. She herself admits to several fights being won through sheer desperation and luck. 

 

This is not, I think, Mary Sueing.

 

Dorrik is not wokeness being forced into the story: 

 

I think Dorrik has unironically triggered people by merely existing. This is Coco's attempt at writing something truly alien and it succeeded pretty well. However, it seems the general acceptance was mixed. 

 

A quick explanation: Dorrik is a character from an alien race called the Lokkels, a race who mature and grow into their genders instead of being born with them. This isn't an obvious, forced aspect but rather something simply told and moved past. 

 

Instead of being called he/him, which will happen when Dorrik reaches maturity, the reference is instead they/them. Nothing sexual, nothing to rage about. But am I surprised? No. I've seen readers get triggered over a race of sentient dust inhabiting suits of armor being referred to as they/them. 

 

With those two explanations out of my system, let's move on. 

 

Remember how I talked earlier on how the setting impacts the story in deep and unique ways? The same goes for its influence on the cast.

 

This is where the dystopian setting and it's insidious influences on culture and people's wants and necessities truly comes to life. Life is cheap. Profits means everything. Family is replaceable. Position and Power above all else. These seem ridiculous right?

 

Not really. They're already prevalent in modern society, and only grown upon in the silver halls of the Arcology. Those with power rule and control every aspect of life. Those without it obey or vanish forever. 

 

Every character we meet is influenced by this world. Everyone has their unique set of goals aligned with how they came through this harsh world and moral compass adjusted accordingly. Several characters are case studies in different moral paths, and how ruthless and manipulative one has to be to rise above the rest. 

 

You will have to read it yourself to truly understand what I mean and how this future reflection of humanity is it's own worst enemy, but I doubt you'll walk away bored if you like the premise and are still reading this review. 

 

Needless to say, full marks in this section. A job well done. 

 

Closing:

 

Not much to ramble on beyond this point, other than wish for more content and note this story had quite a good prologue that actually felt pretty good and set up the world quite well, which is somewhat surprising given that prologues tend to do terribly on RR in many cases. 

 

Oh, and go make more words, Coco. Your corporate overlords demand it.

JHawk55
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

This story is fantastic. The characters are real, the situation is terrifyingly relatable, and the LitRPG aspects are excellent. The concept is pretty cool, and while it isn't a terrifbly unique idea, it is well-executed and deserving of a read. 

Note: This review is scaled to RR standards. 

Style: 5/5

The author's style is not terribly distinctive, but they write well. Descriptions are evocative and emotions and actions are shown, not told. The flow is natural and overall the author has a very grounded style. 

Story: 5/5

It's fantastic. The ideas aren't the most unique but they are strung together with complete coherence and make for a very compelling read.

Grammar: 4.5/5

As the summary says, this story is a rough draft with no editing, and that shows sometimes. That being said, it's only distracted me from my reading twice. I'd argue that even without editing this story boasts better grammar than most stories on this site. 

Character: 5/5

Fantastic characters. They all feel incredibly real. The MC comes from the same scrappy, hard-working character mold as Rick from Street Cultivation, but she has a distinct personality. She isn't perfect, but her flaws don't feel like an occasional afterthought. The other characters are also real - the almost-boyfriend, the sister, the mom, even the rich girl has depth and rationality in her character design. I particularly like the aliens - they don't really mold to stereotypes without reason, and they're actually really interesting. 

Give the story a read. It's fantastic and it's so very binge-worthy. It's also great to slowly savor and re-read. There is nuance and depth to interactions that can be easily skimmed over by accident. Hihgly recommend, 10/10. 

Daoist Enigma
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

The more we learn about the vast and endless space, the more we realize that the chances of us being the only form of sentient life out there is infinitesimally small. The story has my attention from the begining, as the alien overseer sent to judge planet earth is subject to attempted 'examination' (not the voluntary kind) by different corporations, offered bribes and tried to sway an entity whose powers they do not know the full extent of.

It feels laughably real, and in all honesty hits too close to home. 'As a whole, their race considers altruism to be a weakness'  (Chapter 0- prologue) beautifully sums it up and sets a very realistic setting for a litrpg, a feat that few stories manage to accomplish. 

Style- Witty, snarky at times and easily digestible. The author's style transitions well and there are almost no instances where I found jarring or immersion breaking scenes. The combat scenes are great fun to read as well!

Grammar- Excellent. Considering this story is for Nanowrimo and it's objective is to be written as fast as possible to completion, it's honestly stupefying at times how the author maintains such a rapid pace while having very few (if any) grammatical errors per chapter. And I say this as a Royal Road author myself. 

Story- I prefer not to delve too deeply into the story as part of the review, as I tend to get carried away. But, as I mentioned earlier, the realistic setting is a big plus right off the bat. The setup has you diving into Tower of Somnus, while the powers you get can be carried over to the real world. The final nail in the coffin is the corporate overlords set up as heartless, purely mechanical existances that seek the greatest gain. The MC too finds herself trapped under the thumb of corporate control. The question is, can she escape? If so, just what will it take to do so. 

Character- Kat is not a MC that is not averse to risk. The kind I personally like. She's competent, not one to shy away from the darker side of society (illegal information broker) and good at fighting. That being said, if you like good antagonists, you're in for a treat. 

 

Litchi
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Wonderful character growth !!

Reviewed at: Chapter 4

This is a fantastic story by CoCop. In a dystopian future where everyone is a dept-slave, we follow the amazing Kat. 

 What is very nice in this story is that Kat has two lives. One is in the fantasy tower where she can win Litrpg powers while meeting alien. And there is her everyday life where she is a student working as a runner for a gang. Those two lives are fully used and interconnected. This is not a VR story where the real world has no importance. Those two worlds make this story much more complex and interesting.

The second thing that I love in this story is the characters. The plot is driven by the character's personality. We have Arnold a rich and stupid student, he often chose the stupid option. I hate him, really. So yes this character is really well made. Every character has a distinct personality. And there is a lot of character growth at the start of the story that makes you love (or hate) the characters.

For the grammar 5/5. But English is not my first language.

The style is good but I think the combat scenes are too small. 

 

Thank you CoCop for this wonderful story.