Fantasy Online: Hyperborea
This is the first book in the series and in my past reading experience, there hasn’t been too many books with an introduction such as Fantasy Online. This wasn’t an explosive, bang, bang, hello, but a subtle creep into your mind, exploring, delving deeper, and most importantly cracking open the barriers LitRPG’s hold dear and furthering the understand of what actually goes into story-telling. Needless to say, with talent writing this, the length, and writing style this review will be a bit more brutal as there are heights that I’m expecting this book to reach.
Story: 4.0/5.0 Stars
The story-telling in Hyperborea is great but the pacing is quite slow for the first 200 pages. People such as myself won’t mind because there is depth in the details, but those who aren’t accustomed to such intricate word-weaving might be put off or rather just impatient. This isn’t to say that the pacing takes away from the quality, quite the opposite. However, since half the of the readers of this genre are in for action right out of the gate, this will pose a problem. The mystery parts of this book combine with the RPG elements almost seamlessly, so the reader won’t even know he/she is following a Sherlock Holmes like adventure until the 180th page (I picked it up on page 80).
When adding this component to the story-line it gives the overall book a bit more than two dimensions. This isn’t another plain slate fantasy, nor a overly drawn out path to no where. This is a well guided, focused adventure. The momentum carries the book through a multi-layered story, which proves answers to questions you didn’t even know you were asking yourself. The sense of fulfillment isn’t quite there until you are finished with half of the book or further which could be chalked up to the slower pacing, but needless to say, it’s still there.
Characters: 3.5/5.0 Stars
The main characters within Hyperborea are what makes up the soul of the book but are just in need a little fine tuning. Their personality traits are well thought-out, however understated in the grand scheme of Hyperborea. The story, however good may be, plays a major focus in the book and creates a blank of regression of development where the characters are concerned until about 65% of the book is completed. While this isn’t a killer, it creates a problem of too much growth at one time or as its coined being “OP”. This next part is for the old timers out there; This is like the karate kid effect, the main character is weak, built up by those around him (wax on, wax off), and suddenly has the energy to confront those demons. However, this happens much later than needed and feels forced, and its originality suffers.
It isn’t all thunderstorms and tornadoes though, the modern references about streaming (twitchtube red), internet, viewers, and books were amazing, spot on, and had good dialogue flow each and every time. These points bring levity to the story, they don’t make your forget about the short comings, but do make you think that maybe there is much more to the characters than just constant, rushed change into they eventually become, and let nature run its course.
World/Concept Building: 5.0/5.0 Stars
From the first chapter, Harmon has done his homework about steam-punk, futurist concepts, cultural difference, racism, and even techno-phobia. The little instances of Japanese culture, mixed with a futuristic setting is spot on. It shows how as we’ve seen in the present tense, the Asian culture values honor, culture, and family. It isn’t left on the table in this book, in fact it’s the backbone of some character interactions. This book is if Ghost In The Shell has met with LitRPG, and decided that the world would be better with a book called Fantasy Online: Hyperborea. The world surrounding the book feels alive and willing to turn your image of life upside down at times. At other times the world is at a standstill waiting for your next move, it plays those wonderful games.
Now, I know I’m raving about this world building, etc, but readers know how powerful influence the world surrounding characters and the story in general can be. This futuristic world also leans critical influence over the VR technology that the LitRPG’s backbone is based on; however, loosely it’s actually mentioned. This just gives the story that certain “twist” that hasn’t quite been seen before in that genre.
Overall: 4.5/5.0 Stars
This book overall isn’t perfect, but it leaps over any first book of a series I’ve seen in quite a long time. It leaves itself plot holes, character improvements, and overall mistakes that are common in first books, but has enough wordplay, story-line skill, and character personality to over shadow all that plagues it. The pull that the reader should feel when getting engaged within a book is there. Hell, it’s a push right into the pages that won’t stop until the end. I can’t wait for the next installment and will be using this time to think about ways to bother the author into giving more information on the next book’s story development.
P.S – Here’s a link to Harmon Coopers Amazon Page