SJ Reaver

SJ Reaver

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Reviews
CYOA -- Pandora's Gacha World

The first chapter and the author has already effortlessly given us a taste of the world, the system, the protagonist's personality, and the sort of beautiful prose that makes me envy No Dragon to no end.

 

 


carl@fire

Well-Written but Cartoony and Incoherent


I’ll start this review with a warning to prospective readers: this story has a ton of rape.

The villains are all rape happy, almost every chapter has a description of sexual assault or enslavement,  and its handled with all the sophistication of a man slipping on a banana peel. Moreover, in this story, while the “good” women don’t want to be raped, “bad” women enjoy it. We literally get the viewpoint of a woman who is forcibly sodomized until her anus rips and bleeds but, not only is she fine with this, considers the person who did it ‘a real man’ and wants to marry her daughter to him.

The strange thing is that half this time, this is a wacky anime-like comedy where a dense MC has been trapped in a video game world with his admin powers, but spends his time bumbling around, thinking that every person he meets is a dedicated role-player.

The main character, Carl, is a married 49-year-old IT admin for a VRMMO, who gets trapped inside when his boss removes his ability to log out. The system used has no life-support function, and the MC is completely alone in an office building on a Friday evening.

He is momentarily irritated about possibly wetting himself before deciding to just enjoy his game time. That would work in a wacky comedy with a teenage MC. Or if the boss was instead a college-age frat boy stupidly playing a dangerous ‘joke’ on his buddy.

Carl is almost 50, and the narrative emphasizes that he’s a responsible adult with a family. That his boss has left him paralyzed and in danger of dying of dehydration should be treated with some seriousness.

There’s this tension in the story in that the author wants to bring up more serious and mature subjects, but doesn’t know how to handle them.

Carl has gone to AA (alcoholics anonymous) previously, but the flashback where we’re shown his ‘problem’ is him just sipping at a can of beer and thinking how ‘tasty, tasty’ it is. It’s addiction by way of Homer Simpson.

Humans in this VR world have enslaved elves and use them sex slaves. This means human nobles literally parade them naked around town with a leash and chain around their neck. It’s slavery by way of some BDSM porn on RedTube.

We’re introduced to an older human man in this world who was a soldier for three decades. We’re given another flashback to him watching an elven town burn as soldiers murder innocents, and it psychologically damages him. He has to leave the army and losses faith in humanity and the gods.

This is great stuff!

Then he meets the MC, fawns over his nice clothing and cool weapon, and regains his love of life after a three-minute conversation where the MC gives him a single compliment. All that bitterness and pain is just wiped away by being near the awesome Carl.

I vomited in my mouth a little watching that play out.

The story is well-written. The author has a great command of the language, a strong voice, and is able to keep scene after scene interesting and engaging. The use of multiple viewpoints works. It does a good job of pulling you in and keeping you hitting that ‘next chapter’ button.

I believe the author has a wonderful novel in them, but this is not it.


Edit: Had to drop this a star.

As the novel continues, the author spends more and more time on his incoherent rants and 'performance art.' Pretty poor cover for the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing or where the story is going. At some point, I hope he turns his talents toward writing a good story instead of this extended ego-tripping.



The Code

Maybe if the author had presented this as a plotless slice-of-life story, I could have adjusted my expectations but even then the issues with the characterization would weigh it down.

The premise is that the MC stumbles on a Code that does something. What? I'm not sure because we never got to that part. At five chapters in, we have pages and pages of boring backstory about him liking Minecraft, wanting to make a game, and being a bullied loner who likes a pretty girl.

This could work if the MC was more interesting or the side characters were well developed or the interactions were compelling, but they're not. It's a pure slog.


Chrysalis

Light-hearted, action-filled, monster evo story

This story is the best type of popcorn flick. It is an incoherent, adventure packed ramble by a mildly insane MC who becomes an ant, loves his colony, adopts a lightning shooting ape, and end up spewing out gravity bombs with the help of his second brain.

The writing is serviceable. There are frequent grammatical and structural errors, but the breezy narration and fast pace mean you’re not lingering on the prose. The MC might be cunning, but he completely submerges himself into the mindset of a monster ant fighting for survival in some mana-fueled battle-royale. This leads to rationalizations that don’t make much sense from a human’s viewpoint, but that always manage to pull the story forward.

There are constant hints of world-building. The break into human perspectives are enough to flesh out the world while not being too much of a distraction.

It’s probably one of the most charming and fun stories I’ve run across on RR, which more than makes up for its flaws.

 


Flow

I lost a night reading this

Stuff I loved:

- MC with depth and personality

- Non-humans who are more alien than 80% of what you see in science fiction

- Gender, sexuality, and class are handled in a mature and thoughtful manner

- Plot is a slow build, but gripping once you sink yourself a few chapters in

- F/F romance is hot, but I don’t find myself wondering if the author is a 40-year-old NEET who’s never been on a date and sleeps with an anime loli body-pillow. (So, better than the majority of f/f on this site)

 

Stuff I didn’t love:

- One of the characters is a designated asshole. He has no depth or redeeming features; he’s there for you to what to slap the shit out of him. In a novel with a larger cast, this would be fine, but we focus on the adventures of four characters. After 85k words, all of them should have psychological depth.

 - The story begins floundering in the middle. I remain invested, but I wonder if the writer had much of an outline when they started as much of the original intensity is leaking out, and the romantic elements are getting a bit repetitive.

 

 

Style -

It's a simple and engaging style, as benefits first-person narration. The pacing is slower than I'd prefer, partially because of the author's tendency to give overcomplicated descriptions.

 

Story –

It starts as a slice of life, moves to mystery, and then horror/adventure. I sat down and read this in one go, eager to see what the author would throw at our heroine next.

 

Character –

Well realized MC, which is so important in first person. The other characters are solid. I wish the writer gave us a more expansive cast or increased the complexity/depth of some of the other characters. 36 chapters in, and only then do we learn anything about Yavone’s history?

 

Grammar –

I noticed errors, but that’s because I’m a writer myself. It’s one of the top 5% for RRL.


Cursed Era

One of my favorite stories on RRL.

Interesting characters, slow and thoughtful pacing, and a world that feels fleshed out and real. The writing and grammar is top notch, and it's obvious that the writer has worked hard to give the reader something unique and worthwhile to read.

Sit down and spend time reading the entire thing; you won't regret it.


Threadbare

Cute story with a lot of heart

Nice MC, solid writing, interesting premise and world development. A bit too heavy on exposition and the human falls flat at times.


The Dream Journal

I think this is a one-shot that hasn't been marked as completed. If not, I've only read the first chapter.

It's a creepy little horror short story. Not too gory. Nice twist at the end.


My life as a male harpy

I hope it lives up to its potential

Going through new submissions is like digging with your hands through a compost heap full of scorpions in an effort to find a gem. This is that gem.

The prose flows smooth and lyrical, the author adds comedy with a gentle touch, and the main character feels realist. This is not your typical OP, no-personality MC with a harem of harpies.

I do have to say that the grammar isn't perfect though, and I was disappointed that the author used the term 'noodle' to describe male genitals. We're all adults here and that sort of infantilization has no place in a mature story like this.

 

I also knocked off half a score because the descriptions get very vague at times. I have trouble visualizing the MC and the god of orange juice.

 

 


The World beyond the Veil

Up to Chapter 15:

Well-written, character-centric, interesting world building, and gradually but consitantly developing plot.

Give it a try if you want something different.