MusicMan

MusicMan

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Solo Apocalypse

This is an incredible read. It's an interesting system apocalypse story, with wonderfully human characters, genuine stakes and consequences, and a really creative power.

This story is the best things about a system apocalypse story all in one. There's a genuine apocalypse, people are dying and previously unfathomable monsters are everywhere. The protag has a rather strong power, but at the same time the way it is written clearly has not only limitations, but a cost to its use.

This story handles trauma pretty well, and the way it balances horror and action and intrigue and a rather complex look at humanity in crisis should be applauded.

It's still early days, but I like the system and the way it incentivises intense, high-risk high-reward tasks and breaking new ground. It makes the rewards and abilities the protagonist gets feel  earned and balanced, even when some of them are clearly incredibly powerful.

The monsters and challenges are also very interesting:

Besides a spider monster which, to be fair was a way to introduce us to the world, I love the brainwashing hive mind plant, and the twilight forest had so many secrets and surprises and was just very well put-together.

 

The world is the strength of this story, but its writing style is a close second. This is very captivating writing that maintains the tension and pacing. It communicates the feelings and visceral emotions of the protagonist better than most I've read.

Speaking of the protagonist, the characterisation is pretty good, but not incredible. There isn't a lot of depth to a lot of the characters right now, but given the nature of the story and the protagonist's powers, that makes a lot of sense. Still, wish there was more subtance there, but at least the protagonist is very fleshed out and well-written.

Finally,g rammer si great- no spelling errors etc. that I noticed.

This is one to keep an eye out for. Would highly recommend.


The Dungeon Without a System

This is a great example of a dungeon core story that knows what it wants to be and how to get it.

The world is fun and interesting, our main character is quite creative, and the ecosystem and how the issue of "moral quandaries of killing people vs letting people maybe reach my core and kill me" is addressed is quite nice.

Speaking of the world, the craft and care that's gone into that is noticeable and very lovely. All the details, the way the island evolves and grows, all wonderful.

This is not a story with deep questions or traumatic happenings. It does dip its toe into some darker territory, but not long enough for the overarching tone to shift. It is a fun dungeon core story, and it accomplishes that swimmingly.

The plot is pretty chill and a lot of it is trying to figure out how things work, and it does it quite well without the system. I particularly like the way societies/monsters gain intelligence - it's an interesting thing to explore and I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops further.

Writing is pretty serviceable, could be a smidge better at points, but from a readability standpoint it's perfect.

Characters are the weaker point of this story, but not by much - there is some character growth and some interesting individuals, but mostly I feel like any individual can be summed up by one line about who they are. Everyone has their place and purpose, but they feel like vectors of the story and less like people.

Grammar is pretty good, didn't catch any spelling mistakes.

Overall, it's a fun story, give it a shot.


Goblin Cave

A Brilliant Deconstruction

This is shaping up to be a seminal work, in the same vein as Beware of Chicken and Worm. Not because it shares much in genre, tone, or style with either, but in the way that it approaches its genre in a new light, and how I can see it changing it entirely.

This is a story about a dungeon that has an existential crisis. It is also a critique of the genre, an examination of all the tropes and assumptions built into almost every dungeon core story, and an argument for the beauty of creation and exploration.

It asks questions about why we write and enjoy these stories, puts the nature of power fantasy and vessels for "number goes up" on trial, and makes a compelling argument for why art is beautiful.

Now, is this all intentional? Is this all something the author planned from the get go? I have no idea. I could reading too deep into this. But I think that regardless, this will be a milestone in the genre.

Beyond all this, it is also deeply engaging and interesting to read. It has an analytical and introspective style, and some turns of phrase still resonate with me. This is incredibly well-written, is what I'm saying.

The story is also, as I've been gushing about, unique and interesting. I think I covered it all above, but just to be clear this is a breath of fresh air. I especially love the levels of meta-creation, the musing on whether the gods are just a more advanced dungeon core, and if the goals adventurers pursue are fundamentally different to those of any lvl 1 goblin.

There are very few characters of note. Mostly, it's the dungeon so far in 16 chapters. The almost-puppets that inhabit it rightfully cannot be considered characters, but the new life sprouting, and the adventurers that are starting to explore it are interesting so far. The dungeon, however, is strking. It really feels like someone discovering themselves after a mid-life crisis or shift in circumstance. The way it thinks reminds me a lot of artists and curators I know, and I look forward to seeing how it develops in future.

Grammar is fine, some spelling mistakes here and there but nothing too much.

I will end this review on that anticlimactic note, as I think that, just like this story, conventions in reviews can be questioned and my own desire for narrative flow even in a review is something to be


Dungeon Life

A really interesting take on dungeon cores with almost no emphasis on skills or stats or blue boxes.

This is a comfortable slice of life, and it it does that well. It's also exciting and personable and funny.

The writing style is nice. It's sparse, and frankly I could do with a lot more description personally, but the way it's written fits the genre and tone quite well, like a conversation with the dungeon core. So I would say even though it's not what I normally like to see, it's still pretty awesome.

The grammar/spelling etc. is perfectly fine, no major errors to note.

The story is also really interesting - the ecosystem of the island, the nature of dungeons, the worldbuilding and other dungeons/how they work. It's all great, and I find the way the society/economy and dungeons interwise really fascinating. Also have to give props to all the puns and references and fun little details and flourishes.

The characters are also great. Not only is the dungeon's thought process a treat to witness, but all the characters are interesting and lived in. Most feel like people you could know, and while there are some flatter than others, there is enough where it counts.


Sporemageddon

Fun in an Unfortunate World

A mushroom specialist is reborn by a shunned god in a world that rapidly industrialised.

This is an interesting story in a dystopian world that manages to hit the balance between depressing and fun.

Grammar is pretty spotless.

Writing style is polished and very captivating - very engaging, flows well, pacing is good. Character voice is nice and strong, and the interludes are also written well. Just well written overall.

The world has had a lot of thought built into it - lots of Victorian London vibes with the industrialisation, newly homeless, and smog, lots of general unregulated business vibes with all the safety issues and union-busting. The world-building of the gods is also really interesting, and I especially like Galen's followers. The system is done well, and I'm looking forward to everything that happens with it.

I also found the choice to not pick the highest-rarity class with the eponymous skill to be a fun one, and a great subversion of expectations that "rarity = good".

 

Character is where this story shines. There are very few characters that do things without rhyme or reason. Even throwaway characters that exist for a chapter or less have nuance to who they are, or have an impact on the world.

All in all, a great story, very fun read. Would recommend.


Essence Eater (A Super Progression Fantasy)

As an old fan of Worm, it is really lovely to see its influence evident in great works like this.

And this is a great work. If you want the TL;DR, if you like powers and a well-written story, give this a shot.

Grammar is great, no notes.

The writing is really well-done, and the author does a great job of maintaining pacing/suspense, making things feel impactful and earned.

The story is incredible. There is a lot of worldbuilding that is taken from Worm, but not in a lazy way. They are all recontextualised and used to craft this story. But that is not the strength of this world. The strength is how well London is represented, with how magic and the supernatural and legends are weaved in, and frankly it's just nice to read about mythology that isn't what I'm used to.

In particular, the way karma is approached, and the nuance of the Sur Veda vs the Asura Veda is really lovely. Truly embodies the anti-black-and-white thinking of Worm and The Boys.

The characters are also lovely. They feel like lived in people, and the way they're allowed to be multifaceted and grow and just...be human (supernatural genes aside) is wonderful.


Triple Strength

If you want a story about a system and fast story, then give this a shot.

If you want stakes, tension, drama, growth, a sense of wonder, or anything exciting at all…this might not be the one for you.

I want to first say that I think the author has a decent system, and there’s a lot of details in the world and plot that clearly show that attention and effort has been put into the story. I think there’s something here, and I hope the author continues to explore it.

However.

This story is a great example of why “show, don’t tell” is basic storytelling advice. This story is nothing but exposition and telling. It reads like a teenager writing in their diary about their game character. There is no description, no detail, no flavour, nothing that makes it worth investing in. I can’t really discuss style in much detail, because there is none.

The story, as much as it is tried to be interesting, is paced terribly. Every couple of chapters would be enough for an entire arc, but is instead rushed through with no room to breathe, and just becomes a backdrop for a few more stat/skill gains. It seems to be written with the ethos of conveying the plot as efficiently and as quickly as possible, without considering that it is stripping out all the things that make the plot worth caring about in the process.

Wiremu’s village is not explored, or given any fleshing out. We have to be told that he misses and mourns his parents and master who are now dead…because that’s the only way we’d know. No flashbacks to memories, no introductory chapters/arc about how lovely it is before things go wrong, no breaking down grieving that is given more than a throwaway line.

The prison is filled with disposable characters, none of whom are given any more depth than “sadistic slave driver” or “self-serving slave”. An incredibly soul-crushing and traumatizing experience is stripped of any emotional depth and seems more like an inconvenience that doesn’t justify Wiremu’s later goal to fight against slavery. Like yes, logically experiencing a horrific colonial slave camp would make you hate slavery, but the way it is written it just doesn’t feel connected, because Wiremu as a character doesn’t seem to have any motivation at all besides whatever serves the plot.

I’m going to stop here because I’ll just devolve into unconstructive ranting, but it doesn’t improve as the story goes on.

Because of the way the story is written, nothing the characters do feels earned or realistic. Even though there are clear attempts at making sure things have cause and effect, none of it lands. It doesn’t help that all the dialogue is exposition, and there have been no attempts to give them their own voices or identity. Tabitha has a little bit, in the sense that “unreasonable asshole turned traumatised but friendly person” is technically different to the way Wiremu is written, but all of it still clearly sounds like someone playing a game, and the way the characters act around the system doesn’t help.

Also, Tabitha mentioning that there were rumours of Sensitive Skin enhancing “sexual experience” and that “there were a lot of benefits for a girl like me” (Ch 23) just feels…creepy and unnecessary. Like, first off I don’t think this is relevant to their character, and second the casual way it’s inserted as a throwaway line just doesn’t feel right.

Grammatically it is okay, a few spelling errors here and there but that’s fair enough. What isn’t okay is the length of some paragraphs – there are regularly paragraphs 200 words long. Remember that RR considers 250 the length of a page. That doesn’t help with the feeling of the story – everything blurs together into a wall of text that is truly painful.

I tried to read everything released to make this review as fair as possible, but I hit chapter 26 and found myself yelling at my screen too much to continue.

I also want to apologise to the author if they feel this has been too harsh. It’s just frustrating when I can see the nugget of potential being buried. Keep writing. Read advice on how to have good pacing, tension, characterisation, description, show don’t tell, and just keep at it.


King of Fools : Silver Tongue

NoDragons consistently knocks it out of the park, and this is no exception.

Exciting, gripping, and an interesting system, this isekai is one I highly recommend.

Grammar/spelling/punctuation is pretty flawless.

The writing is engaging and descriptive in all the right ways, and is just fun to read.

The star of the story is Jasper, and he is perfectly human, in the sense that he's an imperfect insecure mess who's had his whole worldview upended but still tries to make the best of it with his acerbic wit. The other characters, no matter how much or little screentime they have, are all fleshed out. I especially like the ambiguity and lack of judgement regarding morality; no "oh this is clearly just a bad guy cardboard cut out to show how awesome the hero is".

The world and the story is also incredible. There are a lot of details that make it easy to visualise what is going on, the plot is interesting and novel, and I'm looking forward to what comes next. The system shares similarities with another story that's kinda NoDragons', but it is definitely unique and different to much of what is out there. The slotting of skills and different combinations is fun in a genre with often clear-cut skills that don't really evolve or change besides being swapped out. The lore of the world is also great, and it feels lived-in and made with care.

So yeah, 5/5 read this.


My Children From Another World

Now THIS, is a story.

A journey of growth and loss, of hope and fatherhood, this is a story I highly recommend. The concept itself is an interesting twist on the isekai genre, examining the role of a guide and also, the role of a father.

I find the pacing and tension to be balanced very well, but that's personal taste.

The characters are human, flawed, believable people. Nobody is perfect, they are all unique and interesting, so fleshed out and deep that I can picture each and every one of them for who they are. The characters are at the core of this story, and that really does it such a service.

Speaking of, the story is incredible. Intricate and interwoven, this is a rich world, with many more stories to tell. I don't want to spoil anything, but the way things naturally develop is extremely satisfying.

The writing style is great, with exciting fights and evocative imagery. The way things are set up and hinted at, payoffs and explanations woven in, it is all incredible. Natural conversation as well, and the character shines through here too.

There are a few typos here and there, but nothing worth docking points over.

5/5 read this.


RE: Trailer Trash

All I'll say is that I started reading this I was in bed getting ready to sleep, and I was up past sunrise. I work a 9-5, and I still think it was worth it.

This story gripped me. It is grounded, real, and there is so much detail and care put into this. It is also clear, not only from the quality but all the little details and asides put in, that the author knows their stuff about writing, and I will be re-reading it to take notes on the bits about "economy of words" and other things I can't recall right now.

Grammatically, I have no comments to make. Very good flow.

Stylistically, this is a visceral story that I can picture.

The characters are all so beautifully flawed and human, and the understanding and maturity behind their depth is to be applauded. It is genuinely thrilling to me to see how, in a genre so often about singular redemption, that Tabitha reaches out so much to others, and how everyone is given a second chance.

The story is wonderful. It subverts many tropes and cliches in the genre, but does it in a way that really works. It captures the zeitgeist of the 90s, and there is so much depth of knowledge that makes it come alive. And the fact that I am thrilled by every twist and turn, knowing that there are no villains, just people who are doing their best in their own broken way, is beautiful.

If you have any interest in a story besides "power fantasy number go up", please read this.