There were some consistency errors like tiger changing gender or Sam turning 8 after her 10th birthday that prevailed from earlier draft of this book. The author fixed after I've pointed them out.
I also found some missing article and a couple of punctuatin errors here and there.
Unfortunatley, it's beyond my strenght to try pin pointing every single such error I've noticed, it would require rather extensive editing and re-reading; and I'm no professional editor. Besides, few as they are, they didn't impair my enjoyment of the story at all.
Unless the author is planning to publish this book on amazon or somewhere, I think grammar quality alone, it's better than 99% of webnovels.
The strongest part of this story is the style. Written in a descriptive, perhaps flowery language it brilliantly ewokes imaginary of various locations and creatures portrayed in the story. Reading through most of this novel, I felt like I could almost see, hear and even touch things with my very own senses.
The author is thus clearly talented at writing creative descriptions that are capable of immerrsing the reader without boring them.
Though, in final chapters of the story, these descriptions seemed a bit..hmm...rushed? The action scenes also lacked what I'd call 'tension', but perhaps I'm judging it from the perspective of adult. If this book is aimed at children, as it seems to be, they are fine for what they are.
It was obvious everything is going to be fine after the climax point in chapter 10, and thus reading for example the final battle was rather boring; I was more interested in seeing how creative the author will get with fight descriptions rather than what was actually going on in the story.
I also want to mention that for a story about dreamworld, I expected more unreliable narration. But here, everything is exactly as it seems to be, which was somewhat of a letdown.
The story is mostly written in 3rd person limited, following Sam.... except for the moments when it switches to omnipresent narration to explain what some characters think. It didn't bother me personally tho, but perhaps that's because I'm used to such hybrid narrative style.
Pacing is...very good for most part. In fact, the balance between action, descriptions and dialogs is pretty much perfect. Nothing drags on for too long to leave me bored, yet everything pushes the plot forward in some ways.
My biggest issue is with the story itself. After the initial sense of mystery and wonder wears off, and we know exctly what's going on, we can also predict what's gonna happen next. The tension goes puff as
Samantha goes through speedrun journey gathering allies in a dreamlike world, which reminded me of The Neverending Story, except without the moral lessons and the depth of that classic.
Though, it's not like the story ever tried to be anything more than that from the beginning, so maybe it's my fault for raising my expectations a bit too high. Still,
I think it's a bit dissapointing we never learned what the dreamworld is or how it came to be.
This is a 106 page story. Since it's so short, it's understandable that besides Sam the other characters aren't particualraly fleshed out. They are all pretty one-dimensional, and exist to play a role in narrative.
The exception being the Author. I was rather curious about him by the time it was over, alas, we didn't really learn much by the end of it.
Worth noting is that I didn't struggle to remember any names, neither of characters nor locations, even though by the end of the story quite a few of them accumulated. This is a plus.
A fun read. Nothing overly deep or special, but the quality of writing and the fact it's actually completed puts it above most webnovels. I think the author can and perhaps even should continue using his talent for fantastic descriptions in other stories.
I'm sorry, but despite my affinity for steampunk genre, the pretty cool cover, and the plot that promises some nice and thicc political intrigue, I don't feel like continuing reading this one. Within 7 chapters, it failed to pick my interest.
But it did succeed at confusing me, and not in a good way. Here's why.
Lotsa puntctuation and captializaiton errors, and occasionally weird and unclear syntax is bad enough. But the main struggle of the author seem to be tenses.
Some(not all!) examples below:
And if one is not careful they can be lost in the thick crowds. One child has learned this lesson the hard way as she and her aunt squeezed through. The child was wearing a strawberry red dress that is hidden underneath a light brown cloak.
tense switch at the beginning of the prologue
He made sure all men were in their position, Then Alpha gave the order.
capitalization error in chapter 1
When Elizabeth let go, Alice cannot believe that her daughter was growing up so fast
switching tense mid sentence in chpater 1
None of the attackers can take a clear shot as they were scrambling to avoid the falling lifeships.
tense switch mid sentence in chapter 2
Kinney shook the child off and when she doesn’t want to let go, pushed her which caused the child to stumble and fall
tense switch in chapter 2
The Badlands is a name given to a region of Aelmion that is covered with craggy mountain ranges, Thick impenetrable forests and wide open plains that stretch well below the Silvus Empire.
capitalization and tense error in the beggining of chapter 3
Soon Kinney could feel they are faced again with another intersection and before Elizabeth could guide them, the sound of footsteps came in front of them.
switching tense mid sentence in chapter 3, unclear syntax
The weapon they were carrying was a Curved, glowing single edge blade. Ketil has only read about the fabled swords of Riyax and they are powerful enough to cut a steamtank’s armor with a single stroke. The knight sheathed their weapon and walked through the room until it stood between the group of teenagers and the man with metal teeth.
A sweet paragraph from chapter 3. Tense switch, punctuation error, unclear syntax, missing articles...
Ketil can immediately smell the gunpowder on him as he sat right next beside him.
tense switch mid sentence in chapter 4
It bothered Ketil on how Solomon and the Bounty Hunter acted towards each other. He can swear they seem to act like… family.
tense switch at the beginning of chapter 5
If there is something Luna adores about their quarterly lunches is that it was always a meal with a show and the show they just had will stick with her for a long while. The meeting to discuss the raid on the slaver hold begins at dusk so she is wasting her time reading a newspaper in a café near the town square.
Luna sipped her wine as she flicked through the main articles to get to the page where the weekly lottery numbers are.
begging of chapter 6. Tense...ah, forget it.
Generally, in english language when writing a story in present tense, one should stick to present tenses. And if one is writing in past tense, one should stick to past tenses. Changing tenses in a single chapter, or worse, in a single sentence is a pretty grave error.
And considering the frequency, it's too big of a problem to ignore.
Style and characters:
Fairly standard omniscient narration for most part. Except...
"STOP SCREAMING AT ME!" She screamed as she wrote the review.
...is how most of the dialog goes here.
Now then, perhaps show not tell method in a review might be a bit esoteric, so allow me to elaborte.
Everytime someone SCREAMS, it's written in all caps. FEELS LIKE THEY ARE SCREAMING AT ME! I know it's a stylistic choice, and it's as stylistic choice I find to my dislike. One can indiicate a scream through means other than ALL CAPS. And people scream in this story A WHOLE LOT OK!?
They also keep saying things as they are doing something else. Mocking as they cross thier arms, whispering as they tug on the sleeve, whimpering as they pick their nose....
It gets a bit tiring, not gonna lie.
Fortunatley, were the style fails in dialog, it makes up in descriptions of things, people and actions. The author doesn't just throw names(at least most of the time) such as "grappling hook", but takes care to describe how it works in couple of sentences. I also like how characters are described not by the way they look, but also by the impresion and vibe they give off.
...And then we go back to dialog, because I gotta mention that the characters lack what some writers call a "voice". That means I can't tell who is talking by their manner of speech unless the narration points it out.
The fact that we got introduced to 6 named characters in prologue alone, and 17 named characters by chapter 7 doesn't make it any easier to remember. As well as countless names of organizaitons, geographical regions, political entities etc. sprinkled with a moderate to heavy amount of infodumping.
To say it short. I'd have to make notes to remember everything, or just accept being perma confused, shrug and roll with it.
Plot and characters:
Let's do this "what I expected vs what I got" thing.
Looking at the cover, and reading the synopsis, I expected steampunk, and got it.
I expected a narrative focused on two characters and lotsa action. Didn't get it.
What I got instead was lotsa political intrigue and a huge cast of characters, some of whom might be relevant later, and others...can't for obvious reason. 7 chapters in, I don't have much idea about what is going on, and I assume I won't know the main conflict of the story until I read at least the next 7...which I'm not sure I am going to do.
The little girl was written fairly well for a child character, and I almost sympathised with her.
The female mc, Luna...was not. Her intro was supposed to be awesome, but tbh she gave me red flag mary sue vibes.
Here's how she was introduced in chapter 4:
The door opened and a woman wearing a huge black hat that blocked her face from sight entered the room. It was so large her face was barely visible and the large black long coat she wore dragged on the floor. She headed towards the chair right next to Solomon’s right and the servants took her coat and large hat.
Ketil was surprised at the athletic looking young woman with raven black hair that was styled into a beautiful medium pixie cut. Her other features however made her look… chilling.
She had sickly pale ash grey, yet smooth skin and visible dark bags underneath her incredibly ghostly white eyes. Her eyes though, were something Ketil had seen only in some of the men in the insane asylums. They were strangely mesmerizing but also dull and lifeless; it’s as if the owner has lived through some of the most horrific times imaginable. The only color on her face was her blood red lipstick that made her look dangerously sultry.
The woman was wearing a leather black vest on top of a long white dress shirt and thick leather gloves. Ketil also noted of the weird looking gun contraption holstered on her belt. Ketil had to admit aside from her pale grey skin, she found her rather eye-catching. She caught him staring which made him look away.
Mary Sue enters, insta makes huge impression on the npc! He can even tell she's athletic even tho she's wearing a huge hat and a long coat. Oh my.
...If an author wants to make a character look badass and awesome, they should write them doing something awesome. Not looking awesome. Her behavior in the next chapters wasn't so great either; she was introduced as this dead inside cold ass pro, but behaved and talked like a fairly average person.
Which kinda goes with my complaint about character's unique voice earler.
Alice, the woman on wheelchair, made a better "badass" impression than Luna tbh.
The cliffhanger at the end of the chapter 5 wasn't needed, and it didn't lead to anything anyway. I hate these kinda cliffhangers. I call them "chapter bait".
So what should I rate this?
If this was goodreads or a similar site, I'd give it an average rating of 5/10. That translates to 2.5 stars on rr, right? But hey, authors on this site find such "low" ratings discouraging.
Apparently for many people here, anything below 4 stars is trash.
So here's 3.5 and hopefully the content of my review was helpful to both the author and reader alike. The story, starting slowly, might get good later, but I bet a lot of people will not give it a chance unless the prevalent tense issues are fixed.
Reminiscent of works such as dark souls, madoka magicka and alice in wonderland, this is a truly unique story.
The author occasionally throws at us beautiful and flowery descriptions that are almost poetic in nature, I mean look at this sentence:
In the darkness of the night, the moon would create scary apparitions from the shadow of the dark green leaves
Such prose invokes the feelings of fable like melancholia, and is further enhanced by the events of the story and the author's unmatched imagination.
The various fantastical creatures, moments of light, and moments of blood colored darkness, all come alive thanks to detailed and fantastical descriptions.
I mean, a turtle like monster with moss like shell, fish like head and transparent breathing sacs instead of hair? Pretty cool if you ask me.
And another thing that is pretty cool...
is how mc is dellirious and her perception of reality changes depending on her mental state, including some visions I'd expect to see on certain hallucinogenic substances. I don't see it done often in fiction, and it's done quite well here.
The main plot revolves around the themes of death, rebirth, irreversible loss, and impending tragedy. Before going to this work, probably reading synopsis is enough.
Do not skip the prologue!!(I know some people do that....)
However, there are some issues.
Major problem lies in grammar. The author's first language isn't english, and it shows. There are many repetitions, overusing "would" and "had", mixed tenses, mixed plural with singular, some spelling issues....
Becuase I liked this story so much, I took it upon myself to help the author out, and fortunately with my advice a lot of these problems will start disappearing.
Already I can see that later chapters are much better than early ones, as far as writing in correct English is concerned, which is a very optimistic trend.
However, at no point did this impede me from enjoying this work, and despite these linguistic issues, most of the time I had no problems with clarity(understanding what author wanted to communicate) which is something I can't say about most webnovels.
This is early review written after reading all the currently published (11) chapters, meant to show my appreciation of the work. It's contents may change in the future as more chapters are accumulated.
Early review time wooo woo(I still read more than any other reviewer so headpatt me for that)
...ok, so here's the deal.
The grammar is pretty good. In fact, from my pov it's perfect, but my first language is not english. It's not even my second language. So don't take my word on it! But didn't notice any glaring mistakes in tenses, spelling or punctuation.
Also, the clarity is A+, there wasn't a single sentence I had to re-read to understand what is going on, which is not something I can say about most webnovels, and reading the entire thing was very smooth and pleasant. In fact, since it's so smoothly written, I can just...probably...eventually...read all of it even though...
....the story and the characters aren't to my liking.
Yep, said that. There, I said that!
Also, this review is written in- dare I say- a snarky style that aims to emulate the style this novel is written in. I know, I'm such an unoriginal edgelord. But basically, this novel reads like that.
*blah blah blah* narrator breaks the 4th wall and inserts some pop culture meta reference *blah blah back to action*.
Do you like that? I kinda like that tbh. Hence style gets 4 stars from me.
BUT. I gotta say, that some scenes were meant to be emotional, and the constant snarky delivery and jokes kinda ruined the impact.
But maybe my perception is wrong and they weren't meant to be emotional after all. Whatever.
Ok, back to the elephant in the room.
The story and the characters. I know this work isn't meant to be 100% serious, I am aware. Except when it is. And it doesn't work out very well.
As long as it's just the mc and his totally not gay love interest Sal and cute and beautiful sister Selene hanging around and doing stupid shit, breaking some cliches and some jaws, it's fun. Combined with easy to read grammar and snarky style it's like eating popcorn with coca-cola.
But that doesn't make them particularly likeable, and the plot is super simplistic. There are some hints at deeper conspiracy going on, but it's what Ryukishi07 calls "evangellion style mystery", in other words a mystery that makes you wonder but doesn't provide any clues to solving it, so you just roll with it and wait to be spoonfed answers.
Not my type of plot at all. Also, why is Bluejay always mentioned to be horny, why is Twee always a tsundere, why do we have to be reminded that the cowboy dude speak with British accent every time he speaks? and so on, and so forth.
Well, because it's a popcorn fiction, and I guess the author assumes we the readers don't have very functional memory and attention spawn.
...which probably isn't on average very incorrect considering what kinda novels are top popular on this site. But, I happen to be outside that audience.
ok, I'm starting to ramble. 4/5 overall for enjoyment, not a masterpiece by any means, but not trying to be one either.
If Quincy and Sal are actually gay for each other and it wasn't my fujoshi mind playing tricks on me, I might bump the score up tho.
The title of the review refers to how several characters keep whispering stuff to each other's ear as if it's the most normal thing ever. Maybe it's culture shock, but where I come from, people usually don't do it unless they are horny. Or maybe I am horny.
So at first, I made the mistake of thinking this is supposed to be a serious sci fi story, and thought it's really bad. But as I kept reading, I realized I'm actually reading a post modernist meta parody of the science fiction genre!!
The story of this book is pretty simple, its about first AI conceived by scientists and tested by them. But actually! The author's real intention is to test the reader! In a truly fourth wall breaking style, we are the real test subjects here, and the text, both in form and in essence, constantly challenges our intellectual capacities in ever creative ways.
For example, consider the following sentence:
He wasn't a genius at reading the room, but he was on top of the bell-curve.
What could it possibly mean? Well, it's up to the reader to decode! It's like a brilliant logic puzzle that we are supposed to solve.
Or this one:
Again, the same was being pulled.
See the pattern? After reading countless sentences where entire words seem to be missing, the obvious conclusion is that the author is doing that on purpose, in order to mislead us!
Then there are moments like this:
What surprised Troy, was that the hallways actually changed, the deeper into the facility you went. As mentioned before, the only defining features of the hallways were the blue gradients on the walls.
Amazing! In the first sentence, the author starts in third person, and then switches to second person suddenly revealing in narrative itself that it's not Troy who is walking, you are actually walking there! And then, the narrator addresses you directly, breaking the forth wall.
The "as mention before" part doesn't mean, like one would expect, that it was mentioned before to Troy! No, it's the narrator speaking directly to the audience, reminding them that he mentioned something to them before, but, assuming they forgot, going out of his way to mention it again!
Last but not least, the author just loves comas. He puts them everywhere he can, and even in some places he can't. I'm not quite sure what a purpose of such elaborate tactic is.
Perhaps its just a mistake, and authors command of English langue is so so, but it actually makes a good job of confusing the audience, like a white noise of sorts, so it might be intentional, just like various tests AI is subjected to in the story are meant to confuse the AI, in the never ending game of back and forth between the author and us.
Having covered the style and grammar a little bit, let's move to the story and characters.
The main character of the story is the AI tested. Here too, the brilliance of the author in mocking basic logic shines brightly. Although the following content of my review doesn't contain any heavy spoilers for the first 10 chapters, I will put it in spoiler tag anyway, just in case some rogue AI algorithm misunderstands the plot importance of the examples provided.
Because in fact, this story has no "plot" in traditional sense. It's real plot is making fun of sci fi tropes, modern culture, English language, France and many other things, while engaging in dialog with the reader.
For example, despite being a super advanced society in fairly far future, the receptionist at the desk plays classic tetris while ignoring her client.
For example, a head scientist makes monthy python and dark souls references.
For example, these scientists behave like a bunch of immature children, and the entire secret underground facility where the action is taking place reminds me of insane asylum.
For example, secondary main character chosen to essentially play games with the AI was chosen for being stupid, friendless and broke, which made him a perfect candidate.
For example, they keep using names like "code epsilon" for their passwords, which is a mockery of 1960's science fiction, when they thought that putting greek and Latin words everywhere was cool and actual scientists do that.
For example, the scientists, despite supposedly being scientists, don't understand how basic human biology works.
In technicality, she is still hungover. She just doesn't have much more alcohol left in her systems anymore.
This line referred to a scientist, or a person who mistakenly imagines herself as scientist, who got drunk last night and suffered hungover, so she is implied to have used some kind of cybernetic body modification that got rid of the remaining alcohol, which decreased the symptoms of the hangover...how? That's literally not how it works.
This might be a foreshadowing that these people are not actually who they claim to be, as they fail to understand elementary school tier biology.
Or perhaps they are scientists, and the author is making some kind of post modernist mockery of them on purpose, in order to criticize modern day science.
I'll know for sure if and when I'll read further, and I will certainly continue this story. But I really am hoping it's the latter option, it would play well into absurdist setting of smileys on the walls and other such things atypical of how a hidden base is imagined to look like.
There are also other political statements hidden in the narrative, such as:
For example, even though Troy, the man testing the AI, is essentially kidnapped and experimented on, in authors own words, "it's not illegal because it's done by government" which is a very clever jab at authoritarian states that ignore their own constitution and think themselves above the law.
For example, he spends half a chapter trying to figure out why AI, named "Adam", is referred to as "he", which is probably some kind of debate on socially constructed gender.
There are many other examples of the authors meta-brilliance, but it's not a purpose of the review to write down the entire book, now is it? Needless to say, I had a really healthy laugh, and I bet you will, too!
To find this kind of book in this god forsaken litrpg xianxia wuxia isekaihole is quite a surprise, yet here it is. No over the top combat, no power ups, no over the top gore, just the struggles of disabled girl in ableist low-fantasy feudal society. I really dig it.
The story for the first 10 chapters is nothing short of masterpiece. It was clearly carefully planned and rewritten multiple times. Not gonna lie, it actually brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, when something good happened to the main character I cheered, and when something bad happened I was mortified.
After that the setting of the story changed a bit, and the pacing sped up. The style got less flowery and more light novel style, reflecting it. Frankly speaking I am not a fan of one sentence long paragraphs in novels, but it made it easy to read. In fact I binged all the 30-something chapters currently published in one go.
The author switch to writing on the go, and even though clearly there is some planning involved, unfortunately I caught some moments of certain characters, both good and bad guys, acting a bit stupid just to move the plot forwards or excite emotional reaction. So far it's not anything major, but it kinda left a distate in my mouth, hence story and characters scores lost half a star. I know the author can do better, as proven in first story arc!
But I think the strongest element of this novel is the use of unreliable first person perspective. This is something I absolutely love, and the I enjoy the moments when perspective changes from the point of view of our deaf child protagonist to someone else, often revisiting same scenes from different eyes. This is a correct and proficenet use of first person pov, and I wish more authors did it. Alas, perhaps average enjoyer of litrpg wouldn't be able to appreciate it, as they are used to taking things presented by narrative as objective truths and don't put much thought into what they are reading. A tragedy.
And tragedy it is. The book tried hard at making us sad or shocked, and succeeds. But it's not one of these over the op edgy books when the protagonist just can't take the break. That would make it boring and predictable, and his book is anything but!
I can't wait to learn what happens next of Silica and some of the other characters in the story.
Grammar is near perfect. I only found two typos. The author clearly worked hard on the technical aspects of the chapters before publishing it.
Style is....diversive. Sometimes the descriptions are overly wordy, especially when it comes to describing the characters inner thought processes, and I had to read some paragraphs several times to understand what's going on. For example, in the prologue(prologue spoiler)
I didn't quite know what was happening in the second half when De'al was being possessed(?) or what his thought processes were supposed to represent, and I did my fair share of hallucinogenic drugs.
But perhaps that was intentional. Then, in chapter 1
we are introduced to main character and his family, and they, alongside various towns, concepts, tools and dieties are all namedropped, which makes the entire thing confusing and impossible to remember. I think the author would have been better of just naming them based on their positon ex. "aunt" or "mother".
However, after chapter 1, the style improves significantly. The 3rd person narration follows the thought patterns of main character, who is send on a dangerous incognito mission to a very shady village. The author did a splendid job at portraying Arn's thought process. His character stays consistent through next chapter, as he investigates the place he was assigned to. He questions his perception-was it real or is he just paranoid?-and the reader questions it with him.
Seriously, after this work is published, I advice author to consider writing a mystery or a horror, as he seems to have a knack for setting up the mood and building up unreliable narration.
There are only two named characters introduced from this point onwards, and both of them play very important role in the story. The others are only namedropped by their position (eg. receptionist or guardsman) which really helped a lot with clarity.
The worldbuilding-at first rather confusing due to sheer amount of terms dropped that the characters are familiar with but I'm not-slowly started clearing up too, but it's still a bit too early to judge.
The plot, so far introduced more questions than answers. Good, that makes for a nice page turner. I found myself questioning who the good guys and who the bad guys are, and alongside the hero, I'm genuinely getting curious about the past of the world presented that let to the rather dystopian present.
Overall, I think that this story is a solid 4.5 with decent potential at being 5.0 if the story, that author claims to have already prewritten and is publishing at pre established pace, doesn't fail to provide satysfing answers to the questions it presented. More importantly, I'm looking forward to getting to know other characters than mc, and if their characterisation will be as consistent and in depth as his, I will gladly bump my the character score to full five stars.