In a somewhat crowed space, one series has been overall well received by a large majority of people. “Play to Live” is a series of books classified in the RPGLit or Gaming genre written by D. Rus and narrated by Michael Goldstorm. Alter World is the first book, in a series of seven books you will need to complete if you are a person who wants the full story. I liked the first book (this review) along with the second; the first five are currently in my library. I have not yet delved into the other books which some say become more and more strange the later in the series one goes, mostly said of books six and seven. If you like the RPG or gaming genre of literature, I think you will find Alter World a welcomed piece to your library.
Making the book more interesting, the author sets up a few unique aspects of the world our main characters live and play in. There is a company that created an alternate world and also manufactures VR capsules one uses to enter and play “The Game” with others. Much like a standard MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) world, those who enter Alter World can meet up and go on quests, etc. One of the more unique aspects of this story is that some of the characters willingly, while others not, are permanently placed in the Alter World and cannot exit it. Why would someone willingly do such a thing? In the near future, as with today, there are incurable ailments, some being terminal, which drive people to want to inject themselves in to the Alter World where their bodies may slowly die but in the game, there is life and freedom. This becoming a part of the game is called the Perma-Effect. The real world is battling many black-market efforts assisting people to become prema to get out of paying their debts or just to escape life.
However, as with nearly any type of MMO game, there are quests along with epic battles of good and evil. Here Alter World does a decent job of bringing the world to life. It is not all fun and adventure, as players of MMOs understand, people must grind their skills to improve and make money for survival, but for many, this grinding is better than what awaits them; actual death. I found it interested that people also catered to the prema players in the game by creating a means of communicating with the outside (real) world by way of email type messages. There were also services the likes of PayPal that would exchange game currency for real currency and deposit them into a real bank account. All of this would be done for a small fee to keep the services operational. Here players would be able to assist or support their families when in reality they would be bed ridden at home or n hospitals. I found it interesting that some players who were in the game came to realize that they became perma players unwillingly. It seemed that sometimes one would become stuck in the game and never wanted to be.
If all of this sounds like a unique story, I would agree. That is not to say that there are not issues with the writing and characters in this book. First, one needs to realize the series is translated into English, so there are a few nuances that come from that aspect; like with The Third-Body Problem. Secondly, the author does a good job of building the world and investing in development of the quests, but this often comes at the lack of deep character creation. Many of the characters seemed flat or childish from what I would have expected them to have been. The quests were interesting, however the dialogue at times seemed more forced and even odd. Over used repeated phrases such as “my inner greedy pig” were at first cute and fun, but because tiresome and I wish had either been removed or replaced after being used 20-30 times.
I enjoyed the professional narration by Michael Goldstrom and have listened to other books he has narrated outside of this series. I do not recall any issues with the audio itself (volume, etc.) or any artifacts such a swallows or page turns. The pace of the reading was consistent and the voicing of the many characters was well done. I look forward to hearing the other books in this series narrated by him, and also future materials he may be releasing.
If you are looking for a new series that will take 70+ hours to complete, and you do not mind shallow characters but do want an expansive virtual world to explore, Alter Word and the Play to Live series may be the book(s) you are looking for.