In the future, prisoners are no longer kept in traditional prisons. They're put into comas and permanently dwell within realistic, full-dive virtual worlds. Mei is a journalist and activist falsely convicted of political crimes after accusing an official of sexual harassment. She finds herself in chains aboard a ship in the Caribbean, a prison realm set in 1675, in the age of sail.
Oversight is corrupt and the guards are violent. While most prisoners sullenly endure their hardship, Mei knows that this world has a loophole: prisoners can buy their freedom — if they can get the gold.
And this also happens to be the golden age of piracy. Yo ho, yo ho.
It's a pirate's life for Mei.
Mei arrives in the Caribbean and battles for her freedom against the devilish English navy, is kidnapped by Caribs, and comes face-to-face with a jaguar. She recruits fellow prisoners in an attempt to steal a boat and flee the prison colony.
Mei and her crew arrive in Sint Maartin and learn that the French and the Dutch are at war! As Lance, Juan, and Cheeto face their pasts, the crew becomes privateers. Their first prize: a ship full of rum and a week of drunken debauchery in Curacao. This puts them on the trail of Aztec gold buried deep in jungle ruins. An adventure filled with doublecrosses and stealing their first true ship!
This is the All Ages version. Mature content is available on Patreon.
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Allow me to start by simply directing your eyes to the synopsis:
"In the future, prisoners are no longer kept in traditional prisons. They're put into comas and permanently dwell within realistic, full-dive virtual worlds. Mei, falsely convicted of political crimes, finds herself in chains aboard a ship in the Caribbean, a prison realm set in 1675, in the age of sail."
You know, in some ways it makes a lot of sense - presuming you have the technology - to put prisoners in some kind of virtual world. Think about it: they can't escape and you have complete control over every single detail of it. It allows one to have perfect security and an enviorment tailor made for rehabilitation. And honestly, imagining a dystopian future where corporations somehow monetize those virtual worlds is hardly difficult. In some places it basicaly exists, minus the VR of course.
"Oversight is corrupt and the guards are abusive. While most prisoners sullenly endure their hardship, Mei knows that this world has a loophole: prisoners can buy their freedom — if they can get the gold."
The second paragraph seems to make good on that assumption: there is a way to monetize this, and by exploiting this greed a prisoner can escape the normal bounds of the rules.
A fairly simple set up, right?
Well, this web novel fucks it up pretty hard.
As of chapter 11, it appears that the way these corporations make money is from the government paying them for rehabilitating prisoners. Which, makes sense when you read it, but breaks the novel's set up over its knee.
If they are paid for rehabilitating prisoners - why does the code allow them to be pirates at all?
If the in-game currency's only worth is in-game, why does the code allow criminals to steal their way to freedom?
Keep in mind that in a game if a feature exists, it had to be developed. Someone had to take the time to model breast physics and someone had to model genitals. Someone had to specifically design the game in a way that allows prison rape to happen. THE DEVELOPERS OF THE GAME INTENDED PRISON RAPE TO BE POSSIBLE.
To be clear: the problem here is not that prison rape is possible in this game, but that there appears to be no point to prison rape being possible in this game. It doesn't help rehabilitate prisoners, it doesn't make running the prison easier, and it doesn't appear to earn any kind of income. This feature would have cost significant money and time for the developers to implement. Entire teams of artists, animators, coders, writers, and voice actors would have spent weeks - perhaps months - working out how this would function. Then it would have gone to a QA team and with something this complex it probably got kicked back to the dev's for bug fixes soon after.
This process would also have to be done for the cannibals, but honestly I would have expected the company's legal or PR team to stop that one. Racism doesn't sell very well outside a small niche, and once a company gets involved in that they can never lose the stigma of it. Of course, the question of why there are AI cannibals that attack the prison colony at all, well, it is probably better left unasked.
Again, I get it: Evil Corporate Dystopia with a Corrupt Government, but that is not the same thing as being stupid.
This brings me to how I think this novel could be improved. I think the author needs to sit down and examine each plot point as ask themselves the following:
1) Does (setting/feature/action) either a, profit the corporation or b, make rehabilitation easier?
if yes, than 2a) Does my story explain how (setting/feature/action) either profits the corporation or makes rehabilitation easier?
and, if no, than 2b) What can I add to the story to explain the existence of (setting/feature/action)?
and finally, 3) If I was the sociopathic CEO of this company, would I approve spending on this feature?
Also, keep in mind that the abuses within this virtual world will quickly and inevitably be made public because prison populations are constantly changing with admission and release. So if every woman that ends up in this prison is raped by the guards people should be wholly aware of it and there should be some kind of societal reaction - even if that reaction is just to keep their head down because the government is too strong to resist.
This story is interesting, fun, and highly enjoyable. The character is snarky and quick witted, each character Mei finds herself encountering feels real. I highly recommend this story.
Style - 3.5/5
I will start with the aspect of this story that needs the most work. While the quick and almost dry style helps with the comedic effect, and compliments the sassiness of our MC Mei, I found myself craving more descriptive elements to the story in instances of stress.
Mei is strong, no doubt, but every warrior has their weakness. I want to see this weakness, and the only effective way to do that is via imagery that is sprinkled throughout. While I think show-y words would detract from this story, really homing in on those anxious habits and fearful twitches. Expanding on these moments of terror will really make this story shine.
Minor fixes here - I pointed out a few sentences that were in need of a rework, or words that didn't seem right, but overall I found this story polished.
The story is my favorite. The idea that prisoners are tossed into this game-like world to be tortured and disciplined is so intriguing to me, and every aspect of it feels real. The greed, the mayhem, and the chaos tie together perfectly to create this sequence of trials that would make even the sanest of Prisoners tremble - imagine being stuck in a world that is set to break you down. The risks are heavier than the rewards, and Mei eyes are obviously set on the idea of a rewarding freedom. However, I would like to know more about Mei's original world - outside of the game world. What is civilization like? Are people more frightened because they know they will not be sent to a jail cell, and instead a game-like alternate reality where they will be punished?
Super good idea, and I loved every minute of it.
Mei is nearly perfect. Sassy, sarcastic, and fun! That said, I want to know more of her origins. May this be through flashbacks or just sprinklings of her past throughout, I would love to know what makes Mei, Mei and what makes her tick. I think this will be aided if the author goes in to add those aspects of imagery :)
Overall, this is an amazing story and one that I'll be keeping up with through the continuations and revisions (if the author was to make any). Great job :)
First off, as always I'm going with my absolute scale: The very best story will get a really high score, and a middling score of three stars means that the story is still well readable and enjoyable - not bad.
The easiest parts first: Grammar is okay. I noticed the occasional misspelling, and the author is eager to correct them when notified. That is in itself a great attitude.
The style is enjoyable: Characters get introduced quickly while making clear who is on which side, and in the very first chapter we're told on the nose that our MC will pursue a career as outlaw. Story premise is set, and that career is kickstarted halfway involuntarily right one chapter later with a "prison escape". The story flows with a quick pace afterwards. I give one point of deduction for (apparently) lots of retconning in the story, as visible in the very first chapter that underwent more than just spellchecking revisions. Done right, retconning early chapters should make a story better, though.
I'm leaving the abysmal story score aside for a bit and first get to the character: Our MC is easily identifiable as a Chinese opposition person, and she faces punishment for reporting on the corruption of some minor bureaucrat who then sends her to... oh no wait, Mei faces punishment for having been out on a protest, and was incarcerated on a government crackdown on the demonstration. Sure, both can be true at the same time, resulting in her long prison sentence, but please get the story straight instead of telling different background stuff in different chapters. Aside from that character background, Mei is a likeable MC, who is out of her depths in the first chapters despite having had massive luck in a prison break, killing at least three of the men guarding her. Yes, that is all simulated, but also somewhat realistic, and so Mei next faces the task of survival in a hostile environment next, before she will surely become a pirate captain and amass lots of gold. All in all, that "ingame simulation" is not too bad, and also her nefarious opponents are evilly characterized.
What I am now going to blast the story for, is the Real-Life embedding of that game simulation. Nothing there makes any sense: Mei is a political prisoner. In China (or other Han-centric far-east advanced dictatorial regimes; this all might also be Singapore or Malaysia in theory), the punishment will include not just prison and prison labor: The government's goal with political prisoners is re-education (brainwashing) and afterwards a re-integration into society as either a broken person who will no longer make trouble, or preferably as an upstanding citizen: an indoctrinated individual built anew from the ground up, now firmly following the party line without pesky questions.
So Mei gets sentenced to a simulated prison life and put into a jar and is uploaded... directly into a western-world run prison simulation full of individualistic anarchy. That doesn't make any sense. At all. Not even if the United Kingdom or the entire world also has fallen under corrupt dictatorial government: The Chinese government would want to re-educate ITS values to any prisoner, not some UK values. It gets worse: There is no re-education going to happen. Imagine that Mei wouldn't escape and would serve her entire 20 years in simulation-"prison": All she knows afterwards is how to do menial jobs in an agrarian prison colony. That work also doesn't bring any value in RL: whatever people are minecrafting on the prison servers, it is not actually producing any value, they are just wasting resources in RL as they need to be kept fed in their vats. All that meaningless digital slave-work also doesn't prepare Mei for a re-integration into RL Chinese society. At best, the government could expect her to emerge totally broken, and completely out of touch with the world which has developed further, for 20 years! It gets worse again: Prison is just going to be awful senseless torture... or joining the rebels against the system which is surprisingly left an option. In fact, the only option to get early release is if Mei becomes a defiant pirate and amasses simulation-gold (which doesn't bring any RL value for the unscrupulous company that runs the prison servers), and then pays off the prison guards. That is ludicrous, that is like allowing a jailed drug lord to dig a new cellar in the prison where they can build a factory to produce opiods and sell it to the outside of the prison, in order to pay off the prison guards.
In short, this virtual prison system is utterly flawed IF it works the way it is described in the first ten chapters. If there is any more to it (like Mei's pirate life is secretly intended by the UK government as training for being a spy or a rebel leader to topple the Chinese government) - then the whole story premise is still flawed on several levels.
Summing things up: It should be easy to ignore the deeper ramifications of the underlying world. If you're just here to read a zany pirate RPG story with an MC who goes from rags to riches? If you want thrilling action in a well-formed language? Then I'd say this can be your story!
This is my first review on this website so i'm not sure if i'm doing it right, but here it goes...
style: 4/5. personally i thought it was good. honestly i'm not sure what i'm supposed to be grading here, but i guess the story flowed well?
story: 5/5. very interesting premise and survival stuff, you won't be disappointed by this.
grammar: 3/5. i am basically grammar hitler so it's not surprising that i found countless errors in each chapter. i don't feel like commenting on them because there are too many. however this is the case for almost every amateur story/web novel i read so i don't think it's a big deal... probably.
character: 5/5. i love intelligent and/or capable female protagonists so this was a treat. the other characters are nice, too. you can definitely tell what type of guy Fowler, Governor, and others are from when we meet them. not many characters and developing them deeper (depth over breadth) is in play here. though i will say that since it is a survival story (so far) there haven't been many opportunities to meet more characters, so maybe this rating is still unstable 🤔
Anyway, read this if you want a nice survival/on the run story with an interesting premise and capable female lead. 👍
First off, Hats off to you.
This was an amazing adventure and a Great Start to what will Undoubtedly become a new Favorite on this site. Amid the ranks of Beware of Chicken and Many others. Mei was a delight. Strong but also Compassionate. A perfect blend of Open heart and Iron will, She will go far in this story.
The First few Chapters. Bold and Beautiful. A great way to establish the stakes and the Rules of this universe. the Backstory flows into the Mainbody nicely and the Explosive finish was great. You made a promise and kept it. She Escaped the Boat and dealt her vengeance.
Next, we take a Breather, which was a lot to swallow all at once. But it didn't tread water either. The struggles of survival in the Caribbean Isles along with the paranoia of capture are excellent but not so intense that we fall over. Not to mention the Jaguar and a peek into how the Prison world is run.
Next, The Island Cannibals. Sorry if I'm spoiling anything. But I will say this, You went from Terror in the Jungle, to Tragedy and Sympathy, with butter smoothness. You revealed the Humanity and Inhumanity of such a setting by playing with perspective and with Real Life lore of these places. Introducing New Friends and Future Enemies in the same stroke. Juxtaposing them against outward Perceptions and Complex reality. Congrats Man, People are gonna cry when they read this.
THE RAID, Ouiff, Where to begin.
Explosive Bookends. Amon the Baker, and Duel for the ages. Framed with Cannon Balls and Clashing Blades. Utterly outmatched, yet Clever and undaunted. There was no reason to doubt this would be great, as Climaxes Go, I can only think of one other that can match this. And you Well deserved that comparison.
Taste Explosion!! is my new favorite phrase.
One thing I will say going forward is Where are the Priests. The Church never misses a chance to preach to a captive audience like this. Especially the Catholics. A Prison Preacher would certainly want in on this setting. Food for thought.
Second, I eagerly await the further development of Juan, Armand, Lance, and Chitto. There is some heavy backstory in there, but it doesn't matter, New Day and all that. I can't wait to see what they become.
Lia, Ah, Lia is a treasure. Almost a spitting image of Mei, but not nearly as tempered by the world as she is. Her idolizing Mei is admirable, even if she doesn't quite understand what's going on. That aside. She is very much Young and impressionable. Her journey is just starting. And I can't wait to see where it takes her. it's gonna be wild watching this Carib Warrior blossom into something truly legendary.
Your Villians, Captain Fowler, Odessa, and The Governor. Three unique men, Three unique challenges. Fowler, A stand-up man, truly Honorable and Loyal. Respectable in all things. And that is where the Challenge lies. He's entirely too loyal to the Broken system that abuses him and the prisoner under his care. You do care for him and his struggles, A Rock and a hard place. Reality and Duty, His rivalry with Mei is thematically perfect. And Framed in a sort of begrudging respect. He'll be her greatest Enemy and Ally in the days to come.
Odessa and the Governor, The Exact opposite and the Worst of Both Worlds. I could not have asked, for more obnoxiously evil villains. A cowardly turd who wastes his time on sexual pleasures and throws tantrums, his power flows from the system and its broken state, making him a fitting avatar for it to inhabit. Perfectly done, can't wait to see his grim destiny.
Odessa, the Exact Reason, prisons exist. A creature of such malice and self-centered intent as to be not a man, but a monster. Killing merely for pleasure and sport. While was the mask of human qualities. The Counterbalance to Mei's Freedom and the Proof for Fowlers punishing Order.
Both villains serve a purpose. To act as the arguments against both sides. Fowler is right in wanting to keep men as Odessa locked away, while the Governor is the epitome of the corruption Mei has sworn to overcome. Fowler is in a happy middle, he knows his loyalties, but is willing to accept when things must change for the better, but also what needs to be rejected. Mei is this noble aspect of Freedom and self-Realization. Promoting the idea that people can be better if given a chance, that the Past doesn't control you.
Fowler and Mei are both right, from two different angles. And this story is going to test just how far that goes. This clash of ideals is going to be the engine behind the entire story and its conflicts.
As for the Grammer, eh, don't sweat it. You left some odd ends here and there. Nothing serious. You do well for a Second language, honestly couldn't tell the difference until you told me.
So, in Finality, A Pirates Life for Mei,
Gets all of my praise. It is a wonderfully made, Bold, beautiful fiction. Your attention to detail is excellent. Your setting is sublime, and you have an enviable team of editors helping you out. And if you don't, then Hat's off even more so. there is an unbelievable amount of hard work going into this. And it is worth every drop.
Tyme Flies when your Having Rum me' boys,
Tyme Flies when your Having Rum.