World Seed by Justin Miller
Narrated by Neil Hellegers
Baneful Baby Bunnies!
As long as I have been reading fantasy books, I have never encountered such a way for a main character to be killed. Thousands of different variations on manslaughter have been portrayed in the likes of fantasy novels since the dawn of time. All in the name of “entertainment”, rightfully so because it is hilarious.
As an avid gamer as well as bibliophile; my feelings of the macabre are the antithesis to “cringe”. I love reading or as in this case, listening to new and varied ways of death. Almost immediately you are greeted with an interesting take upon an otherwise average fantasy world. Starting in a typical new player locale, the main character is greeted by an amoral sarcastic advanced AI; tutorials being run on the player to determine the starting stats for his character.
The world creation for this book is astounding. Apparently the magic and world(s) that exist in this reality are massive. Not only are all four elements represented (earth, air, fire, water) but they play a pivotal role in the mage using them to balance out the cause and effect of their magic. Take for example, a plant mage can not cast their spells in space; being a vacuum, no plants can live in it, so the magic has no power.
Our fearless protagonist however is not only attempting to tackle that, but also his profession of alchemy (which includes it’s own very complicated steps of progression), but also his Character’s Class; which in this case would be a druid. Each base class has several subclasses attached to them that are unlocked upon meeting specific requirements. All of this is pretty basic in terms of gaming and fantasy books in general.
Here is where it gets complicated.
Not only does this world exist in the VR game, it is an entire universe of digital worlds spread out adrift in this particular binary cosmos. Thus generating thousands of playable races, classes, professions, and every mix and match of gaming archetype you can think of. For me, that is playing a little greedy with “the rule of cool”. Normally this will trump any logic to be found in a situation.
I am all for having some amazing things happening in a novel. I also know what happens when a restaurant tries to sell food from 10 nationalities at once; it just doesn’t work. Most of the time during this book I am trying to focus on one subject long enough with the narrator to not feel like I am in a dissertation about the balance of life. As soon as I start to get a grasp on that the story changes to tackle some new aspect that is equally as involved and complicated as explaining the mana system.
I would have really liked this book if the world building was stuck to just one location for the first book. There is a LOT of attention to detail here but you lose the forrest through the trees honestly. If you want to rewind and listen to the same chapters over and again to understand what is going on before moving forward; you will love this book. Personally, I save that for books I’ve already sat through in one listening and just HAD to read it again! Unfortunately this is not one of those books.
If you have read everything else on your list for the genre, then I would start this series. As far as Neil Hellegers, this was the first story I have heard him in and really enjoyed his performance. The voices and subtleties he brought to the book definitely added some color to the otherwise overpowering gloom of detailed information. I look forward to hearing something else of his, maybe the second book will make things come together more. Only time will tell.