30 July 2017

[Fiction] Awaken Online: Catharsis

What follows is a mini-review of author Travis Bagwell's "Awaken Online: Catharsis" (AOC) which is available on Amazon as both softcover and ebook. This review is written primarily from the standpoint of a reader and gamer and not as an editor.

Why? Well, speaking as an editor I must say this is definitely a first novel. The writing lacks polish and Bagwell makes some freshman errors in grammar and usage. So if one is a grammar pedant it may be wise to avoid this work for now. For the rest of us? I recommend you give the book a read.

A few days ago I was approached by a friends of Bagwell's, who enthusiastically recommended AOC to me. Right away her description of the books put me off:
It's about a virtual reality game that becomes almost like real life to its participants and eventually starts having an effect on the real world!
It's been done! And done, and done, and done ... She kept after me, eventually bringing me her personal copies of both books and again urging me to read them. Well? One simply cannot beat a free read so I decided to humor her and at least give the books a try.

What I found what a delightfully fresh take on the whole players confuse virtual reality with real life and an AI wants to rule the world scenario. The story revolves around a brilliant but limited by its creators artificial intelligence (AI) and details the AI's struggles to meet the goals assigned by its programmers. A second story line involves a player in the games, which is known as Awaken Online, who is an underdog in the real world but becomes a major player in the virtual.

Yes, there are Mary Sue elements to the story but the entire novel skews toward YA Fiction and is thus in good company (Eragon, Hunger Games, Twilight). This does not detract from some fresh ideas and rather entertaining story telling, both in the virtual game reality and weaving in real life elements and how the whole thing might actually work if the concept actually existed for us.

Further, one could really see the format used in this book as an excellent basis for a true D&D big screen film. It deftly weaves elements of the player's workaday world and artificial reality, with short interludes for dealing with game mechanics such as assigning attribute bonuses and increasing abilities when leveling up.

Bottom Line: Awaken Online: Catharsis and Awaken Online: Precipice are a refreshing take on a time-honored science fiction theme. Author Travis Bagwell is apparently set on writing a series of novel based upon this idea and has, so far, presented some very entertaining tales. Keep on eye on this author and I recommend this book to sci-fi readers, RPG'ers, and computer gamers.

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