A few days ago, I wrote about the awful portrayal of Christians in today’s fiction. Today, I share a few ideas that could address this concern head on.
My wife and I have often noted that the portrayal of religious people (and Christians specifically) tends to lean somewhere between corny and outright offensive. In video games, developers often use the religion as the antagonist. In books and in TV, they are portrayed as insensitive jerks who have no clue about other’s feelings or emotion state. Combine this an overall sentiment in our society against faith, and you do not have to think hard on why Christians receive so much anger and hate today. Read the rest of this entry »
Video Game Plotline Tester
Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1
By: Michael Atamanov
Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
Audio Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
Release date: 03-31-17
Would you be prepared to work for free? How would you like to bust your hump for a large corporation 60-plus hours a week without a wage or a single day off for the vague promise of some mysterious perks in the distant future?
You’d refuse point blank, wouldn’t you? But what if the job in question was playing a state-of-the-art fantasy MMORPG game? And what if this was the only thing you’re really good at? Especially considering that your in-game partner is someone really special to you – and this person already lives a virtual life?
Knowing all this, would you consider the mysterious future bonus worth your while?
The description on this book does not do a great job setting up the plot. So, allow me to take you on a trip.
Our protagonist applies at a virtual reality company as an MMORPG plotline tester. Down on his luck, nearly broke, and supporting his handicapped sister, he really needs the work. He gets hired on a probationary basis. As such, he has to prove his worth to the company, hit level 20 and jump through a few other hoops, while forced to play a goblin herbalist, one of the worst races/class combinations available in the game world.
In doing so, he faces not only countless threats inside of the game, but numerous ones from the real world. Compared to the last LitRPG I read, I feel this book did a much better job balancing the drama and tension between the character’s in game life and real life. With great pacing, the book introduces new characters, most of which play an important role at some point. I enjoyed hearing how the protagonist successfully helped other employees struggling to keep their jobs as testers.
And the author does a fabulous job of coming up with numerous types of challenges for these characters to overcome. Some of these feel closer to a pen and paper RPG than an MMO at time (even assuming a future design with better programming), but I could just be nitpicking there. Of particular note, the fact that some of the human players felt profound feelings with an NPC died (which oddly, tends to be permanent in this game) pulled me a bit out of the experience. Yet the courage, cleverness and quick comebacks of the main character kept me pulled in. The various plots also did their part to uphold the experience. While one of them felt predictable, others left me scratching my head until resolved, or waiting to see how they play out in future books of the series.
LitRPGs are a relatively new sub-genre of fantasy fiction. As such, most of the books tend to fall short of a compelling experience while authors find their footing. However, Video Game Plotline Tester shows that great progress towards excellence and provides a compelling reading experience. Don’t believe me? My wife listened to bought the remaining books after reading the first one. On book three, she shows no sign of slowing down. My future reviews will reveal if I share her sentiment; however, this first book gives me much hope that I will. I can easily recommend this to fans of fantasy, especially the popular book, Ready Player One. With that said, I give this book 4/5 stars!
Salutations. Earlier this week, the father of a particular child died. The boy worried about his father’s soul, because the father did not believe in God. So, when the Pope visited his town, the tearful child whispered a question into the pope’s ear. “‘A little while ago my father passed away. He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is dad in heaven?’” Read the rest of this entry »
Daughter of Dragons
The Legacy of Dragons, Book 1
By: Jack Campbell
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
Audio Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
Release date: 02-14-17
I do not recall clearly, but I believe I picked this audio book up on a super sale for $1.99 or so. The premise reads,
The world of Dematr had been locked unchanging for centuries by the Great Guilds, most people living in a world of oil lamps, crossbows, and horse cavalry, the Mechanics reserving to themselves the technology for steam locomotives, rifles, and far-talkers while the Mages treated all others as if they were nothing – until Master Mechanic Mari, dragon slayer and pirate queen, and Master of Mages Alain raised the army of the new day to free their world.
Kira of Pacta Servanda, the daughter of the two greatest heroes of her world, was six years old the day she stood on a battlement in Dorcastle, staring up at a statue of her mother while surrounded by bodyguards who fenced Kira off from the nearby crowds. As the morning sun cast the shadow of Mari’s statue over Kira, she realized that she would spend the rest of her life in that shade. Then the world of Dematr learned that a new kind of ship had left the far-distant world of Urth. The ship would take only 10 years to cover the immense distances between stars. Of all the colony worlds, the ship was coming to Dematr. But for what purpose? Kira was 16 when the ship from Urth arrived, and she discovered that her world still needed heroes.
Upon reading the premise, I worried that the plot would consist of moan worthy cliches. I was pleasantly surprised. While Kira, the main character, has angsty, parent-hating moments that you expect from these types of stories, they are tempered by moments when she demonstrates respect for her parents. For me, this made it easier for me to relate to her (and kept me from stopping half way through!). Unfortunately, the plot does involve a budding love interest for her, full of some of the same ol’ one would expect, but the action keeps these from taking center stage for too long.
The above would certainly not push me to recommend this book, but it has three things going for it. First, the original setting draws you in. Dematr has mechanics and wizards in a medieval / steampunk like era… and figuring out how that works and their history becomes part of the fun. Yet, without spoiling too much, how the world got started, and their connection with the ship, proves more interesting. Second, I really liked the antagonist, and how the final confrontation resolves. This evil woman represents the worst of humanity’s greed, and gives the reader motivation to see if and how she’s gets what she wants, or her due. Finally, I really enjoyed the pacing of the book. It jumped into the action and did not let go until the end. A few slow scenes throughout provided a needed respite from the action, but it never drug on too long. I also found it refreshing to read a book that painted parents, and the family relationship, in a positive light.
I can easily recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, sci-fi, and family friendly stories. Mind you, I understand that life is not always peaches and cream. And, I enjoy a down to earth, dark story from time to time. However, I also read books as a form of escape, to imagine better things, and this book does a great job of that… and wraps it all in an exciting journey. 4/5 stars.
When some do retro-reviews, they attempt to view through the lends of that time. Given that I played games as they came out in every decade since the 80’s, I certainly have the qualifications to give that perspective. Ultimately, however, when I rate older games, the bottom line for me is “Did I have fun? Do I want to play this game until the end? Do I want to play it again?” Read the rest of this entry »
Salutations. This article piggybacks a bit off of my previous two about doctrine. You can check them out here and here. In those articles, I made an argument that as Christians, we live in a culture focused around ‘petty theologies’ instead of holy living. I illustrate the critical, core theologies we must have, and how the Bible steers us not to have perfect theology, but implores us to walk a holy life filled with love. Today, I focus on that topic.