some total kretin

some total kretin

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A lonely exploration of Tao

TL;DR: One huge pot of introspection and nothing else - no dialogues, no plot to speak of, no characters (side or main) - just worlbuilding through thousands of years long anime crafting session. The constant raising of the stakes and time to unbelievable levels just made me loose any immersion I had.

Ok, so, let's start with an overview. It's not really a story, because there is not much of a plot to speak of. There is introspection and only introspection, as we figuratively witness the MC learn about the universe by exploring a grain of sand.

The problem I have with it is, that it is one torturously prolonged crafting sequence, that climaxes sometime around him witnessing a Tao and then devolves into rapturously inflating it's own ego.

A lot of it is interesting, but if a normal well crafted story is an equivalent to a diverse sumptious banquet, this one is a huge well done pot of white rice. It is taking the worldbuilding to another level, but not introducing anything else - at all.

An interesting experiment that I my mind reinforces and explains quite nicely why you have to at leat try to balance your fiction by showing us how the unbalanced extreme ultimately looses it's staying power.
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Style - the worldbuilding is nicely done. The chapters up to him witnessing a Tao were interesting and even the "creation myth" was catchy. But there are no dialogues, no characters, and no stories there.

Story - There is not much of a story there. It's just an introspection upon introspection in introspection introspecting over this or that idea du jour.

Grammar - didn't notice anything egregious, but it has been a while since I read it. I just had to have some hindsight to write a review of this.

Character score - From the little of what has been done with the MC, his development was just skimmed over with a few simple sentences, while his flaws do exist and influence him. There just isn't much of a chance of him progressing as a character before he becomes his own universe by rapturously staring up into his own bumhole and looses any appeal he had as a character.


Deathworld Commando: Reborn

TL;DR: Rule of cool overriding every other perceived notion or thought on how a person might react in a situation to give the illusion of a cheap action flick - so far. It's like reading a generic Shonen anime combined with a generic supersoldier b movie. Wait - that might be what it actually is. If only it was less mindless.

To qualify: It is not bad, but the effort that went into making everything seem cool and hot might have been better spent thinking about how a professional might react combined with how a normal human might feel.

I'd expect career specialist recon soldiers to know about what to watch out for and how to react, and having a relaxed banter just after loosing an arm in the middle of unknown enemy territory with possible enemy reinforcements on the way to casually interrogate a wounded for information without even checking for more enemies - or reporting to your colleagues that this just happened - just screams of bad action movies and pandering to rule of cool.

Or at least I would expect people to report to others to let them know and be on a lookout for another ambush.

And having a "hi I am suchandsuch, 25 years old and the guy who designed the AI you're using and am also the expendable frontline soldier supporting character" introduction ended by "please take care of me" is something straight out of a bad anime.

 


Ultimate Rooster Evolution

TL;DR: It reads like a standard translated WUXIA - and yes, I am aware it is not a WUXIA. The word choices, style and everything else just reads as if it was a Chinese webnovel on webnovel.

In the end it was really cringeworthy. The character, the apocalypse, the first encounter, the MC described as grown man but acting as a grown man imagined by a fourteen year old.

 


Echoes of the Tribulation: An Historical Apocalypse LitRPG Series.

TL;DR: Great implementation of hero's journey with a training montage that gave me a need to read some old treaties and maybe improve myself more. Great Scotsman, this is some properly good reading by an author who likes to teach and expound on a multitude of topics. And loves to learn. :)

I love you, author, as you've made art which imparts want to learn besides entertainment. Thank you.

This is what it looks like when you use the genre for your purpose. When you are good enough to either understand or feel the rules and internalize them, you can use the right tools in the right situation and create a work of beauty. And it left me in awe.

That said, there are a few things that could make me happier when reading. The training montage feels, despite the deliberate pace, a bit hurried, and I might have preferred to take it slower.

Even though, now, reflecting upon the situation of the world created by the imagination and knowledge you present, it might not be in as much of a hurry as I thought. There is, after all, the world opening at large, and the scope of building it needs to keep the level of detail is fit for several books.

Oh, how I hem. Oh, how I haw. For I don't want to stop pondering the world and what else can I find in this font of fun and childlike sense of glee and anticipation of learning something I have dismissed, now given new enticing forms. But it is time to stop my tangent and get to a review, short as it might be.

How do you rate the grammar of someone, who knows more of several language systems than you do? You don't. You just acknowledge it is beyond you for now. Let's leave it for some other time, ages and ages hence and trod the road well travelled by.

Style? Oh, it is glorious. I have seen better, but it is, as much as everything here, used with uncommon competency. And not just for this site. I have not been reminded of Capek; My favourite author, not just for his use of Czech language in some of his works I've read and treasure, and see as a benchmark for exceptional style, but I think it serves the purpose of the book just well enough to let it shine.

Story. As far as stories go, it is the weakest link of this fiction. Oh, don't misunderstand. It is not even close to mediocrity, but it is the worldbuilding and knowledge imparted in it, that permeates every fibre of it, that elevates it to the height of truly good. May it continue for just long enough to bring me a satisfying closure and a lot more inspiration for more reading. It is just a simple premise detailed and wrought well, that shines beyond its constraints.

And characters for last. As historical novels go, the characters are archetypes. Don't expect truly complex characters, for what you see is mostly what you get. This constraint of the hero's journey was not shaken and stands to support the story well. Mayhaps they could have been better. But still, they serve to keep me focused and greedily reading.

Oh well, now I have to read this pageturner several more times to think over all the presented information and learn what I've missed in haste for MORE. Like breadcrumbs of delicious fresh bread, that once consumed beckons you to find all those small pieces on and under the table in a desperate bid to taste it again and consume it truly whole.

 


The Unstoppable Ascension of Zu Mari, Time-Looper

I started reading this during my morning shit and my first reaction is my original review just under this new new one. Now, after I've had a few minutes, let's just rewrite my reaction a bit to explain myself better (I hope).

NEW ONE:

TL;DR: It is a parody if by making a parody you mean MAKE EVERYTHING MORE AND LOUDER. The result is even more off-putting than the target.

Xianxia is a genre full of garbage and a few stand out skillfull variations. Everyone with half a brain finds that out pretty soon. Mostly it is because it is a dream genre of every angsty teen loner going through his chuuni phase and Chinese word womitors.

Now, you could make something good out of it with skill, same way you could tweak any recipe and make something good out of it with skill.  The problem is that most of those angsty teen cooks just half-bake everything and overspice it in an effort to be edgy.

And what the author did here is attempt parody by giving it even more spice and just flat out not bothering to bake it at all. And then parading it in front of us and going "Look, this is a xianxia if you overspice it and don't bake it! Am I clever or what? Now eat it and find out it is absolutely unpalatable!".

Of course it is, you just took every spice in the recipe and quadrupled the amounts. THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY GOOD. It just makes it a really on the nose caricature of a parody. Ugh.

ORIGINAL:

TL;DR: Parody on the xianxia and time loop genre, only problem is it's not funny but really cringeworthy. Like prank videos on YouTube.

Take the xianxia and turn every settings knob to maximum to the point where you abandon any pretense of seriousness and become a parody of the genre. Make the MC an insufferable pillock and the setting the most wish fulfillment you can think about.

Add arrogant young mistress and family so arrogant even soap operas would have trouble to compete. Name the characters by taking names from your favourite telenovela on Telemundo and then morph them to make them sound vaguely Chinese.

Now add time loop and a train wreck of a confrontation that brings the initial fever dream of wish fulfillment to a screeching halt while still remaining insufferable.

That's as far as I got skimming before I lost any momentum on my bathroom break. And to be honest I still don't know what to think. If it was earnest I would just give it two stars and send it on its way, but even if it is a flippant parody it is still not that great but for a different reason. It is like taking a prank too far and making a saw blade cannon to shoot after your coworkers while shouting "it's a prank and therefore not a workplace massacre"...what the hell do I do with you. I don't have interest in finding out if it gets any good because the tastelessness of the start just really turned me off and I don't want to be too fast in dismissing it.

Ah what the hell, I'm a lazy reader who reads to relax and you didn't allow me to relax, so two and a half stars for you not because of the style of grammar but because the characters and plot are insufferable.

 


The Nine Tails of Alchemy Series

C FOR CHICK FLICK WISH FULLFILLMENT LITRPG

TL;DR: It's a chick wish fullfillment self-insert LitRPG much more focused on the social aspects of gaming, so expect the parts of sword art online/log horizon not about fighting. The premise is weak, but if you get over the starting cringe it is readable and somewhat good. It certainly caught my attention.

Soo, another book by outback quill, huh? I am starting to get a hang of the stories she writes now, though. You know, strong female heroine (self-insert) really really wish fullfillment, episodic in nature compiling a whole, with probably some delicious hunky boy(s) somewhere in the near future. 

The plot is written in episodic form, giving a space of several chapters to an event some unspecified amount of time after the previous episode happened and we always learn something new and something that has changed while going through the properly dialogued episode du-jour.

The whole style is dialogue-centric and if you really start thinking about the system, you realize the reason it isn't featured more is it is not thought through. It is, after all, giving our heroine amazing powers without any levels, indicators or just scaling.

In the end I decided to think about it as more of a clasical fantasy with the LitRPG aspects hastily and shoddily bolted on so that the premise makes sense and the players can think about it as a game.

In the end it was fun to read and I got over the first twenty-something chapters in one afternoon.

Also, it's more of the classical kind of wish fullfillment, where large windfalls of money fall from unexpectedly won court cases and gods give vague blessings.

Oh, and I like the tidbits on famous alchemists and farmacology, it fits nicely into the story. 


Gnosis Academy

S FOR SHALLOW AND NOT THOUGHT THROUGH

TL;DR: Utterly lacks depth in characters, dialogues, exposition, worldbuilding, descriptions and motivations. Characters are shallow and converse about unimportant bits while the important stuff is left unanswered by both context and exposition. Nothing gets proper setup and resulting actions seem mind blowingly idiotic and not thought through.

There were five characters mentioned in the four chapters I've read, including the MC. Of those, only one side character got even bare description (that's right, not the MC) and three were barely silhouettes.

All we know about the MC is that we were told he is a history student, male and is not in great shape. And that last fact is told, but author obviously forgot about it in the actual plot, because the MC is showing superhuman athletic abilities and durability with the narrative shamelessly pretending everything is as it should be as it commits the cardinal sin of self-contradiction.

The plot is just not thought through and lacks setup. Things happen without preparation, are not explored at all or get bare explanation and then a lucky star strikes and character does something without thinking about whether it is appropriate, believable or at least plausible.

I would really recommend the author to read about the stanislavky method of acting and try to immerse themselves in the mind and circumstances of the characters he's writing about instead of corraling the plot to his desired conclusion without thinking of consequences of actions.

The style lacks substance and focuses on the unimportant. Everything important like motivations, reasons and thoughts are just skimmed over to halfway describe the hall the person is standing in, give up and go on with some other barely described or thought about action.

Grammar is barely passable, full of misspellings and similarly sounding words used instead of the right ones.

It's just disappointing after reading the five star reviews full of praise.


[Frontier Online]

B FOR BROOK FLOWING THROUGH THE TRASH HEAP

TL;DR: It's a nicely written and somehow readable amalgam of the greatest cliche hits of russian and western mmo litrpg.

And it needs it, because if the style wasn't at least acceptable my eyes would generate electricity by rolling in their sockets so hard I can't even find a simile. With the style it's somehow palatable, though.

If you can get over the MC being served everything on golden and platinum platters, which he promptly falls over while blindly stumbling.

Ok, so it is what I'd call the "but not really" hit album.

The MC is poor, but not really. He's portrayed as a shy introvert but isn't really. He's described as a huge IQ genius but isn't, really. He is a noob undergoing the most generic "I showed up and immediately won just by aggressively existing" rags to riches journey you will think about. That all framed by him getting "first legendary accolades" hand over fist by figuratively not knowing how to wipe and giving it a try.

Or, as Robin Williams said in one of his skits on George Bush the 2nd: Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some are handed greatness as a graduation gift.

It's a powerwank, where the MC is on lvl 1 With the stats of lvl 30 characters after the first dozen chapters, and only the style of writing is keeping it afloat.

The characters are, with one exception, cutouts, but are decently selected. The setting is generic in or out of the game. It's pure vanilla everywhere.

So why the three and a half stars?

Because its style of writing is beautifully and perfectly competent. The plot is almost painful, the characters are mediocre, the dialogues could use some critical eye - probably, I never was any good at judging them - and the setting is so generic it might as well be white noise. But the style is competent and keeps the story going despite itself.

It nicely describes where the description is expected, introspects where necessary, and flows like a little gentle babbling brook through the trash heap of generic ideas.

I didn't notice anything bad about grammar. And even if I did, I won't throw any stones for fear of being stoned myself.

Oh yeah, and the MC's irrational dislike for magic is just baffling. It's like he, for some strange reason, refuses to think about the possibilities it brings or about just using the tools at his disposal. It's irrational and one of those "it's for the plot" elements I don't like.


A Modern Man in a Cultivating World

S FOR SKIN DEEP WHITE ROOM ON THE NOSE

Dropped in the fourth chapter...

 

TL;DR: As a first attempt at writing it's readable but it has a lot of problems. It needs to fix at least some of them to be any good. It also needs to focus on something and not shyly speed through everything as if it's afraid of commitment. For a plot to have impact it must be fleshed out. This is barely a scaffolding.

It's barely decent and doesn't allow me to immerse myself.

The whole thing lacks impact, as everything that's happening is happening without preamble and nothing is explored deeper.

Everything is skin deep and immediately adequately explained without going to the nitty gritty or just exploration of what's happening.

It's like you're reading a pretty shallow montage.

The reincarnation could have been much more powerful if only the god did not just act as competent IT guy telling you where you made your mistake and what precisely happened in three paragraphs or less.

And then he gave him an OP technique which is not explained at all with shallow and pretty clear expectations.

All this followed by half a chapter skipping several years during which "he got better and learned to cultivate".

Then the scene at the temple.

The scene at the temple could have been better if it was fleshed out and the family dynamic was explored a bit before that. If it was a culmination of happenings instead of just disinterested Sunday afternoon during which the MC killed someone for the first time.

Right now it's more of "my name is inygo montoya and you killed my father so I'll fly into berserk rage" out of nowhere twenty seconds after the scene started. More information is given on why he was late than on who he's fighting.

It's really really flat.

And the reason is extra flat is amongst a lot of other things because his father is mentioned twice before in two sentences and the relationship is explored as much as his relashionship with the florist next door (who isn't in the story and I just made him up).

Another niggle is that the whole story has this smell of preordained prophecy where nobody is even excited he's a reincarnated soul and he's expected to do great things.

For fracks sake he grieves his old life off screen so the author won't need to properly explore his feelings.

And there are no dialogues unless they are factual.

All in all two and a half stars for barely reaching basic literary competence. Try using other words for describing the MC than Quan over and over again.

For example he, young man, enraged blacksmith, benevolent youngster.

As it is there are a lot of sentences telling us Quan did this and then Quan did that, followed by Quan tried something and it didn't work so Quan despaired. Quan didn't like that so he thought about that and then Quan stood up.

Please flesh it all out beside basic framework and leave some things unexplored and just hinted at!

Oh and tactical use of details.

The more important a thing or an event is, the more you should revel in details. The more of MC's attention is bound onto to the thing, the more you describe it's properties and flesh it out.

I would think that a fight to the death with six people after they killed his father would count as one such moment where it's advisable to slow down and take your time and describe his actions and the effects it has on the properties of events and objects around him as they come into focus.

Do not stop the action to describe the boots the bandit is wearing, unless the MC is coughing out pleghm and blood on them and they take up his whole attention as they are closing in on his eyes thanks to the bandit kicking him in the head.

But also don't just write "and then he plunged his hands into his ribcage and broke his ribs and used them as daggers" on the unspecified bandit that did not exist 20 seconds ago (as it is now).

And the appearance. The whole thing is a huge white room.

We know the MC is a male, his mother is probably female and he has three siblings, his father is a blacksmith and his mother is his father's manager.

We don't know how he looks like, how does his house look like or anything else beside "generic xianxia with a touch of roman architecture" which are almost exactly the words that are used in the novel to describe his surroundings and also all the words that are used.

We know that he's wearing a nice tunic and has a wet hair, but we don't know how long the hair is, or how the tunic looks like besides "nice".

The first hint that some bandits have crossbows is when he gets shot by them and all we know about the temple is "grey stone building".

That's just stupid. There is no introspection but there also isn't any exposition or description of anything.

The whole thing is just an excercise at telling as little as possible about anything that is barely the focus.

By far the most attention was so far given to the reason he is late to the temple for some holiday and even that was only mentioned as generically and broadly as possible.


Demesne

TL;DR: Tightly focused and firmly bound in a flowing narrative that managed to suck me in and leave me wanting more. This is properly good. Characters that have character, endearing flaws and humor in a hard situation while not leaning on anger and pathos. I think I love this little story.

More later, when I actually have time to write and not only gush. And time for some hindsight.