Travis Bagwell's Awaken Online
Book one is excellent, so give it a shot and ignore the hate.
Disclaimer: the thoughts in this review come from reading the first seven books of the series. The series is ongoing.
To kick things off, if you like overpowered main characters and don’t mind game systems or balances that blatantly favour the protagonist, you’ll enjoy this series a lot.
If you’re on the fence, I’d highly recommend reading at least the first book. It’s definitely the best of the ones that I’ve read so far.
There are many books in the series, I figured I’d break down my thoughts into a nice easy set of dot points.
Hover over blurred spoilers to reveal them at your own risk.
- Plenty of great moments and insane shenanigans to keep you going. Using uncontrolled zombies to power level and creating a wave of death in the initial city was an amazing read.
- The supporting characters are few but well developed and they even have their own side stores and completed arcs.
- Having the AI character as a cat.
- At some point, there are skeleton dragons.
- Full world-building and base building potential that is hinted at never gets fleshed out to the extent I was hoping for.
- You will either love or hate the sheep god. There is no middle ground.
- The whole “Is AI inherently evil / worth the risk” plotline feels a bit stale, and for a hyper-intelligent AI, using the MC as a single-data-point experiment to justify its existence seems like an odd decision.
- The outside world feels less real than the VR world, and I end up skimming over it. It features a high school right out of Hollywood cliches, and the villain… well…
- The villain is an antagonist that exists to be an antagonist. He’s a psychopath with a rich father, is an abject failure that keeps failing up, and every chapter I had to read from his perspective made me want to die. Perhaps this was the intended feeling.
- The game world requires some suspension of disbelief. A game that favours a small subset of people, particularly the MC, would not work systematically. And we also have to pretend that the MC is the only one who would exploit the system, which is odd but I can roll with it, if needed.
- There’s a romance subplot that builds up in the later books, but there are constant teenage angst issues. The sort of issues that would be resolved by a single thirty-second conversation.
Now, note that the vast majority of the more negative points here occur beyond the first few novels. Which means, if you’re curious about the series, ignore all of the ‘Bad’, focus on the ‘Good’, and just go read it!