Let me start by saying, that the author (Mr. Arand) crafts an excellent story blending science fiction, fantasy, technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and adventure in the first book of this of what I hope to be a groundbreaking trilogy. Add to this the outstanding audio narration by Jeff Hays and I could not have hoped for a more engrossing and exciting story than what I received within Otherlife Dreams”. I am surprised that I have not heard of this trilogy earlier, and to be honest I wish I had.
If you like or are interested in MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online) games such as “World of Warcraft”, “EverQuest” or “Ultima Online” or RPGs (Role Playing games) in general, you will enjoy this book; and I’m sure the rest in the “Selfless Hero“ trilogy series. Even if you are not interested in gaming, the story is engrossing and has enough fantasy and adventure to keep everyone engaged. There are heroes, rogues, thieves, barbarians, sorceresses, and many other character types one would expect to find in both gaming and fantasy stories, but that is not all. One will find scenes including space marines, an unforgiving computer AI, and a greater story I suspect will be told over the series.
There were many time while reading/listening to this book that I laughed out loud as I too have been frustrated or experienced many of the same things the main character experienced while playing gaming. One can quickly see the inflexibility of the game system and how this often frustrates the player. The humor and whit, while not always gamer related, will be enjoyed by nearly everyone. The characters are likeable, developed, and believable. There is adventure, action, intrigue, and even some light romance all woven in to about 230 pages. Be aware that this book, like other trilogies, ends on a cliff-hanger so you will want/need to read the others to understand the whole story.
I will say that I was not a fan at first of the book’s cover art, however, after reading the book and knowing the story, this cover fits the book like a glove. If you think this is just a light or young adult (YA) story, do not be fooled, the tale told here is deep, captivating, and well worth your time.
I often leave a section at the bottom of my reviews to talk about narration for those interested in the audiobook version. However, with the amazing narration done by Jeff Hays for this book, I needed to include it higher up in my review. I cannot believe this book was narrated by a single person. I had to confirm multiple times that it was not done by a cast of 2 or more; it was done that well. Not only did Mr. Hays do an exceptional job in voicing the characters, the book almost seemed dramatized by his inclusion of lite sound effects, verbal queues, or other sound modification to differentiate the character in the game world, on the ship, internal speak, etc. If you are not one that likes their audiobooks dramatized, don’t worry as Mr. Hays uses it sparingly and it does not take away from the story in any way.
The narration quality of the audio version is something I would expect coming from a professional recording studio or publisher. The audio was crisp, clean, and contained no disruptive artifacts such as pops, clicks, or missed swallows. I cannot say enough for the level of excellence put into the narration of this book. I’m not sure how he does it, but Hays is able to distinguish all the different characters exceptionally. Thank you for making a great book excellent.
Let me address two items that may exclude your wanting to read this book.
The first is that one of the main character uses vulgar language in nearly every sentence, and in some sentences she could string together 3-5 vulgar words. At times nearly all the other characters also express themselves in this way. I know the author was attempting to create a character and set a personality based on this use of vulgar language, she is a thief. However, this could have been done in many other ways than to make her speak like that. For me, unnecessary use of vulgar words in a science fiction or fantasy story removes me from the setting and bring me back into the here and now as these words would not be used by people in the future or fantasy setting. They would have their own way of expressing themselves. The author could have simply done a search and replace for such words and either removed them or replaced them with not vulgar expressive words and the story would still be as good as it was. Having the amount of vulgar language, for me, would exclude it from young readers, and in many ways I think this audience would have enjoyed the book a great deal.
The second, which is not as prominent is the author’s inclusion of a rape scene, light sexual/sex discussion, and some other adult subject matter. These topics or subject matter are used sparling and not overly descriptive, but be aware that it is included in this book. It is not anything more than what one may expect from a role playing game, but if these items offend you or you were wanting to know if this book was one that a young teenager should read, I would say no.
If the above do not dissuade you from reading this book, I would say do not miss it. A wonderful story and excellent narration make this one of my favorite book of this year.
Disclaimer: This book was provided to the reviewer by the author, narrator, or publisher in exchange for posting an un-bias review.