- Around the Year #7: Related to the same topic, genre, theme, #1
- PopSugar #45: LitRPG
(So far as my Around the Year plan goes, this book was read a tiny bit out of sequence: I jumped to it while waiting to get off the libe waitlist for category #6. Considering how sick I was this past week, it’s probably just as well that I had a non-taxing title like this one to be working through.)
Based on my experience with the PopSugar challenges over the past few years, I would postulate that the staffers over there* are kinda obsessed with the notion of literary genre.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say that as a slam in the tiniest bit. After all, I spent all my grad school years being obsessed with literary genres, their categorization schema, their overlaps, and so on. But the notion of genre–especially obscure and unusual genres–has definitely been a recurring theme in their construction of topics. I found it most challenging last year when we were asked to read a book in a genre we’d never heard of before: several google searches on the topic only uncovered genres I had heard of before. Too bad I didn’t know about this year’s list while making my 2018 strategy, because 2019 PopSugar names not 1, but 2, different genres I had never heard of till looking at the categories list.
For the uninitiated**, LitRPG is about folks who are inside a computer game and who know they’re inside a computer game. Ready Player One would be the most famous example of the genre, but I read that way back when it was the hot new book on the block, so I had to find a different option. Enter: the first few books in a quirky little series, purchased as part of my obsession with Kindle daily deals.
The series centers on the conceit of a hacker who discovers that our whole world is basically just a sequence of manipulable computer code: he decides to use these reality-altering powers to travel back in time to medieval England and further exploit these powers to been seen by the local populace as a wizard.
Certainly a charming and geeky enough concept to entice me to buy all three titles that I spotted on sale, and once I realized this was the perfect fit for the wacky “LitRPG” category, I also realized I could slot the other two titles into other categories and clear the whole trilogy off my deck.***
Now that I’m at the end of book 1, I don’t think that will be a decision I’m going to regret. It was touch and go for a while, though.
Part of it is just the way that Meyer’s authorial voice isn’t to my tastes. His description of a crisis-point for his protagonist goes like this: “He alternated between panic, tears, and shame, waves of each rolling over his brain in random order and for indeterminate stretches of time.” And I get that the understated dryness here is meant to be part of what makes it funny, and I’m sure that works for lots of readers.**** For me, it was more tiresome than funny, and my own brain was alternating between
Show, don’t tell!
Tears are a brain thing instead of a body one?
More troubling to me was how very unlikeable our protagonist, Martin, started out to be. (Slightly less of a douche-canoe than Ken Perenyi, but only slightly.) If he hadn’t shown at least some minimal character development and moved into vaguely-likable-but-still-cardboard status, I might very well be scrambling for a couple new titles to swap in.
This isn’t to say it’s all bad. The nerd humor made me chuckle here and there, particularly the way Meyer’s world-building allows him to have fun with the different generational and temperamental flavors of nerd-dom. So, I think I’ll be able to temper my expectations and enjoy the nerd humor of the next two books well enough to keep them scheduled for their various categories. The prose will be at a workman-like level of engaging, the editing will be shoddy*****, the characterization will be more 2D than not.
And it’ll be fine, and fun, and basically work like snacking on Kindle popcorn. There are much worse ways to read than that.
* Assuming there is even a “there”: for all I know, the site is staffed by a distributed network of teleworkers.
** <<Raises hand>>
*** I have since learned that in the elapsed time between me purchasing the books and now, the trilogy has become a pentalogy. Whoops!
**** Many, many 4- and 5-star reviews for these babies.
***** The dangers of self-publishing.
Image credit: Photo taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.
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