My Amazon review for "The Land: Predators" may be found here.
What I am doing. I am attempting to read and review all of the finalists in the top five categories for the 2018 Dragon Award. This is my second blog post (and corresponding Amazon and Goodreads review) in the category 'Best Fantasy Novel. ' It's my fourth blog post in the series, and I have Amazon reviews written for two more books written before the finalists were announced. One has a blog post, the other doesn't, I have to do some updating, to get them all lined up together. Or something.
Disclaimer: Other than some remote history with some PC-based single-player games, I'm really not familiar with the world of Role Playing Games. Somehow, I missed out on Dungeons and Dragons,and I don't know if that was just a function of my age and college experience, or if I just wasn't paying attention at the right time. Furthermore, until I picked this book to read, I had never heard of the 'LitRPG' genre. So, take what I have to say as coming from someone who is, at best, a novice.
The nature of the book. The Main Character, Richter, does the sort of things that one does when playing a role-playing game: he enters caves, has fights, and gets tired. Now, those are ALSO the things that Bilbo Baggins did, right? Except that Richter has a feature Bilbo didn't: little screens pop up, and tell him what he is looking at, and what benefits may accrue, and what to do about it. In short, it's like what I can recall from my EXTREMELY limited experience playing World of Warcraft; from what I understand, a player in Dungeons and Dragons gets the same sort of information from the person running the game. As I said, I've never played, so I could be wrong about that.
Please feel free to explain it to me, if you have knowledge in the area.
This gives the reader the experience of observing someone else play a game. Since I know absolutely NOTHING about the experience of observing someone else play a game, I drafted an expert: 13 year old Kenneth, my 8th grader. In the past, I had observed him sitting in front of his game screen, and I THOUGHT initially that he was playing Minecraft. Instead, he was watching, avidly, a recording of someone else playing Minecraft. Now, Kenneth OWNS the game, and plays it, so I just didn't get the attraction of observation. Here's what he told me:
Part of it is that you can learn different strategies to solve puzzles in the game. The best part, though, is the jokes the guy makes as he is playing the game.
This is Kenneth, and his 8th grade Home Room teacher, Mrs. Tucker.
Now, while that explanation helped me understand why Kenneth watched Minecraft games, it shed no light on the value of reading about someone else going through an RPG.
The problem. Clearly, with 1,889 reviews Amazon reviews , with 96% being 4 and 5 stars, this work has appeal; it's also the 7th book in a series, so the author has staying power. However, I cannot see the wisdom in including this in the 'Best Fantasy Novel' category. If LitRPG is a genre with staying power, then perhaps it is deserving of it's own category. If not that, then include it in a category that covers games and accessories. Or something. I just don't think it belongs in the 'Best Fantasy Novel' category.
I cannot comment on the content or professionalism of the writing, since I only got through 7% of the book before realizing that this simply was not going to fit my definition of a fantasy novel. I DID read a number of the other reviews, some of which objected to certain scenes, and I had intended to evaluate that portion for myself, but that would serve no purpose, as I am rejecting the entire work as inappropriate for the award category.
1. The extraordinary number of 'Game Dialogue Boxes' that are presented in the text as graphic objects, not as text. When I said above 'little screens pop up,' I do not mean that little screens pop up as you are reading the text; I also do not mean that the text says 'a little screen popped up and told him what he had done.' Nope, inserted as a graphic box in the text is the entire information screen, which frequently includes tables. It takes up a LOT of screen space, and depending on the size of screen you are using, it ranges from 'Not That Bad' to 'Approximately Incomprehensible.' Here's what I'm talking about; this is a screenshot from my laptop on one of the first pop-ups Richter experiences:
Ya see that? I have ONE word of text: 'wished'
The rest of the page is taken up by the TOP of the pop-up. Readability can become a significant issue. My laptop screen gave me the quality of 'Not That Bad'; however, my iPad screen size, while perfectly adequate for most applications, broke the dialogue boxes into pieces, making it difficult to follow. Smart phone? Don't think so.
2. The text is formatted as double-spaced, regardless of the Kindle setting.
These two items are related, in that they both make significant contributions to page count. The Amazon listing for this book reports a page count of 2,202 pages. Since authors are reimbursed via the Kindle Unlimited program based on the number of pages read, I can see the advantage of a high page count. However, a bigger payout to this author for an inflated page count means that other authors, who do NOT artificially inflate their numbers, are being penalized. This is a significant issue, and I lowered my rating from 3 stars to 2, based on this alone.
I can't see "The Land: Predators" as a legitimate contender for the Dragon Award for 'Best Fantasy Novel', regardless of any other merits of the work. YMMV, and I apologize in advance to those who are fans of the LitRPG genre. To them, I can only suggest that they appeal for an award category of their own.
Peace be on your household.