I just got the email for Book 2's Amazon release so I thought to update my review for book 2 here. I might post this there if I ever finally spend $50 on Amazon which is required to leave a review.
Book 1 4/5 overall. Terrific.
I loved the world building and characters, the overall tension and conflict brought on by the 3.5 million credit cancer treatment, and Reece's progression from cripple to celebrity dodge tank.
My favorite aspect was when he had to make the decision to spend the 600k on his legs or his mother's lungs and when Aiko was giving him a lesson. Those parts really showed his character and made him and his situation relatable. Similar to when he decides to take risks like soloing the LM or following his brother out or helping that ranger in trouble.
The betrayal of the archer guy was masterfully done. That one scene I rate 5/5.
My least favorite aspect was his annoying quirks like at the start when he kept ignoring Gilly when he could easily have flicked her a message. He even ends up watching one of Aiko's videos. Now that was just pure idiot burger. It was also obvious that Val wasn't going to be 100% strict on that deadline (she just gave him 600K!!!), as shown when he was 20 mins late. It made this little squabble feel very overly dramatic and artificial in order to develop their relationship and plot.
I feel like the ending is rushed, especially when the one-month deadline was so hyped up. I was expecting this series going to be a build-up to the world boss but I was a bit let-down with it being so easy and Aiko changing her mind like that at a whim. "Oh suddenly we're friends again and I'll help you this one crucial time when you're about to lose everything..." And the subsequent reveal of the secret behind his brother and the world felt very rushed and far too sudden. Not to mention the cliffhanger. I give the ending 3/5
Book 2 3.5/5 overall. Alright.
A big part of what I loved about book 1 was the mystery aspects and Reece's conflict with his brother, Aiko, etc. Now that everything is out in the open and they're one happy group it makes the story less interesting for me to read. But that's just because I'm a fan of mystery novels.
Then Reece's quirks return. He's having a case of "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" syndrome here. His reaction to the whole city will be dead in 6 months is EXTREMELY SUBPAR. His brother is completely right that they should be searching for citadel at all costs after they catch up in levels. Did Reece forget about his mother? Doesn't he want to get the nano back to her in time? Isn't that why he wanted to do this in the first place? What about Gilly parents? or the 1 million people? It's like he thinks, "oh 1 million? Yeah, they'll be fine. I gotta save Val's friend first." He's risking every last human's life to save Val's friend by tanking an LM 10X harder than the world boss they barely defeated and then entering a place that could turn him into a shard wraith (am I reading that correct?). And if Aiko's sister is already a shard wraith, then why even bother? Why is killing her if she's a shard wraith so important??? Do it after you save the city! This almost kills the series for me and kills Reece's character but I read on.
Same for Val and the others. Do they not realize EVERY HUMAN will be dead in 6 months if they don't get the nano back to the city?! Why is getting to Aiko's sister (or her shard wraith) so important??? It doesn't make sense. They should have all started questioning Val and her motives and her sanity. I don't know why Maxis puts up with this.
Then when Reece keeps refusing to tell Maxis about what he saw below the mines, even when Gilly says otherwise. Reece's idiot burger side is in a full-blown rampage right now. He even feels guilty about not coming clean after they promise no secrets but then rationalizes not coming clean to himself. Maxis and his mom is 100% right when they say Reece is just a kid here. He should not be having such a large influence on the team because his feelings are going to get the city killed.
And then he doesn't include Maxis in deciphering the NULL error. Wow just wow. Reece has good intentions but is a frustrating hothead ruled by his feelings and wouldn't have gotten anywhere without the people around him or an insane streak of luck. He needs to learn that and have some big failures because of it otherwise this story is going downhill fast. Maxis needs to take control of the group and hammer in the point that 1 million people are on the line without being a hothead himself.
Then we have the player ruler of the town. If I was in his place I would have just killed Reece and co right there. He's a villain out of a cartoon and I question how he was able to become a ruler of a city in the first place. Where's his mustache that he twirls?
Now I've been wondering... If it's been thousands of years since the AI took over, what have all of humanity's scientists been doing? Why haven't they figured out how to make their own nano? They've hacked the system and can send players to the surface but don't know how nano ticks?
Reece's escapade with Aiko was one of the highlights of the book and they are really good for each other. Aiko balances out Reece's idiot-burger side and really makes him grow up by a lot. I think they would be a good couple. Sorry, Gilly.
I give Aiko/Reece's elope 4/5
The ending was really good. The player villain was actually a villain and not a bad guy from scooby-doo. I really hope Gilly's death or near-death gives Reece some much-needed character development but they still seriously need to all wake up to the gravity of the situation back at the citadel. At this point, even Maxis has seemingly been peer-pressured into discarding the importance of finding citadel somewhat.
I give the ending 4.5/5. 5/5 if the fight with the last boss was tougher. It was hyped up to be like 10X harder than the word boss from book 1 but it didn't really seem like it.
Overall, I loved book 1, though the ending not as much. For book 2, most of the first half was a massive letdown but picked back up if you can move past all the stupidity and shortsightedness from the new A-team.
I read both the ebook and skimmed through this version and the ebook is quite better.
The prose is quite good but the style and voice are a bit inconsistent though that just might reflect the 1st person narrator's mood and attitude at the time.
I'm conflicted over the reputation system. I like how it encourages dynamic interactions with NPCs and putting effort to treat them right but when reputation levels up it seem really artificial and jarring.
My least favorite part is the lawyer at the start pulling that on the MC... I'm not a lawyer but something about that has to be illegal even if he signed a contract. In that position I would have just went public ASAP. If the company tries to do anything because of the contract breach they'll get even more negative press when people find out they forced a contract like that on a guy. People like a martyr and the MC is in a perfect position to become one but for some reason think legal contracts are a word of god. Similar to his friend working at the company. He should go public too. And what about all the other employee? Does no one have a single moral bone in their body?
My most favorite part is the town building aspect and how all the little bad things that happen make the MC need to prioritize what to build and find interesting solutions to building the structures on time. By far my favorite part is Nihilator needing the shrine to be built and them using the lava to make stone blocks.
What I'm not really buying but I'll accept is the guild that hates him because he's doing all the paperwork and organizational duties. Like does no one ask one day, "Hey man what you up to all day?"... If I had a guild that couldn't understand that running a huge guild takes a lot of work then I wouldn't want people like that in my guild. In fact, I would pay someone gold to help with the management so I can go I raid more often.
Overall, I think the MC really needs to contact a lawyer ASAP. He has nearly been deleted like I think 3 times now? And if he gets to tier 9 boss he could be deleted? And the dangerous time compression and knowledge downloads? What about the players that used the race change scroll on him? Are they liable? I mean if this happened irl it would be a massive international shitstorm regardless of NDA. I think this really needs to be addressed and sorted as a subplot. Maybe a governmental intervention that keeps this hush hush to prevent a shitstorm?