Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘Entriss Online’ by David J. Pedersen organised by Storytellers on Tour.
I hope that you will check out the book and the author, and enjoy the rest of the tour with the schedule in the banner below or (HERE).
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
They were shutting down Entriss Online, and Ian had no way to stop them. The game was his life — by day, as one of their lead developers; by night, gaming as the accomplished Mandorf the Wizard. After years of leveling up, both professionally and personally, everything he had worked for was going to end. His goggles-and-gloves virtual reality MMORPG was being replaced with Everyworld Online, a next-gen game that provided full immersion so players could experience a world that looks and feels real.
After stumbling on an unknown quest that kills anyone who approaches, Ian discovers an enormous amount of orphaned code that had never made it into the game. Moments before being fired, he checks in the code, enabling The Left Hand of God quest chain, an unexpected world event, and the frightening reality of a fully immersive Entriss Online.
LitRPG is a genre that I’ve only dabbled in before, although I’ve been picking it up more this year and Entriss Online appealed because of its premise – there was that answering pang at the thought of a game disappearing along with all the hours and effort poured into. Entriss Online also gets a bonus point for having a map, which helped a lot as we got into the meat of the game. The cover also caught my attention, and I especially like the warnings and the note about ‘Virtual Reality Hardware not included’, which made me laugh when I read it, but also considering the fact that I struggled to put this one down when I started it, I don’t think that hardware is needed. I loved that we are dropped right into the game and the action – the gamer/d&d player in me was immediately caught up in the fight, and that rush of making a decision when under pressure – and it was a great way to meet Mandorf/Ian (also seeing a wizard having the badass moment was great).
I enjoyed the worldbuilding with this one, although it was a little lighter than I had expected. I did find it a little harder to visualise the ‘real world’ part of the book, apart from Ian’s home – and I loved ‘The Bridge’ and would do pretty much anything for a setup like that. However, the technology aspect was fascinating – from the game development and moving towards second-generation IMMOs, to the immersion pods and how Ian obtained the materials. I also liked how that technology and the gaming world itself, then bled not only into the corporate side of things (which was as bloody as the game itself) and even into politics and international relations. That was such an interesting concept and not one I’d really considered before, but certainly one I would like to see more of.
Entriss was a lot easier to envision, and there were some truly fantastic moments of descriptions – from the setting itself, such as the tomb of Zammon, to the action and magic. Also, I really liked that this is another book where Gnomes ended up featuring heavily! Also, there is a Jackalope, which is one of my favourite critters – and I always smiled when she was on the page. Another thing that I liked is how Pederson used screenshots to show the game mechanics and to explain the developments as they happened. It not only made it easy to follow the game side of the story but also to understand Ian’s frustrations. However, what I really liked is that it was there, but it was never overwhelming and the story never got bogged down by the mechanics – which I have seen in some of the LitRpg I’ve read – and it felt really well-balanced here. Also, the cutscenes and the reactions to them were fantastic – and I was reminded of all those moments when you sit there mashing buttons and trying to skip them, only to be forced to work through them and just imagining actually living through them had me groaning in sympathy.
One small thing, that did feel a little like a missed opportunity – especially given that this is set in the future based on the technology, was that the armour – especially for the female characters – still clung to that impractical and often revealing aspect that is so annoying to see, and it feels that given that everything else had moved forward that should have moved on too. Whereas on the other hand, I really loved that this book did not rely on game mechanics and logic – but on that feeling of ‘reality’ so that we got to see the characters having to use a combination of skills, items and generally muddling through and trying to find the answer. There was never any guarantee of success. There were failures and setbacks. And I loved the feel that gave to everything that happened within the game. Another strength of this book and an element I enjoyed is that while Pederson does a fantastic job of tying the two aspects of the book together – the game, and the real world – with clear bridges between the two, the threats were different as were the ways of dealing with it. It added to that ‘realism’ and for me at least it made Entriss Online feel much stronger because it was its own thing.
There was an interesting and expanding cast of characters – particularly in the latter part of the book, the number increases considerably and while I managed to keep track of those in the game, I found it a little harder to keep track of those in the ‘real world’. We also didn’t really get to dive into most of the characters – although this was the first book, so there is time. Ian is the character that we get to understand the most, but even with him, it felt as though we didn’t get to see beneath the surface as much as could have. That said, I loved Ian as a character. He had a moral compass, and you could feel his devotion and love for the game as though it was a physical force. He did portray some stereotypical aspects of being a gamer-nerd, but this was rounded with his personality (also he loves Dr Pepper), and the way he approached everything – he was an underdog in so many ways, yet he also stood up for others in that role. Pederson has created a wonderfully human ‘hero’ in Ian, and I spent the entire book cheering him on in all his endeavours.
Julie was our other main character, and she was a little harder to get a grasp on, and her ‘secrets’ felt like they clouded the air a little too much. That said, I really liked her as a character – she’s certainly one I want to see more of. I also absolutely adored her relationship with Ian, from the banter and flirting, to the clumsy, set-back filled steps to something more, and they made for a great team. Luanne was a standout character – if only for how much I wanted to throttle her, but she was fantastic at what she was – and also I laughed so much when I realised what happened to her (and I am not saying more, because that is a delight you need to discover for yourself). I also really liked Marc, who was a surprising character for so many reasons.
I had a lot of fun with Entriss Online and I look forward to seeing what Pedersen does with the rest of the series, especially with that ending. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys gaming or LitRPG, and it’s also a great springboard for anyone looking to get into the genre because it is on the lighter side with the game mechanics and with the blend of the VR gameplay and the real world.
David J. Pedersen is a native of Racine, WI who resides in his home town Kansas City, MO. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He has worked in sales, management, retail, video and film production, and IT. David has run 2 marathons, climbed several 14,000 foot mountains and marched in Thee University of Wisconsin Marching Band. He is a geek and a fanboy that enjoys carousing, picking on his wife and kids, playing video games, and slowly muddling through his next novel.
Prize: Entriss Online by David J. Pedersen – International
Grand Prize (1): Hardcover Copy
Runners-Up (3): Paperback Copy
Starts: August 8th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: August 15th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
You can enter here:a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.