LitRPG is riddled with overpowered characters and underpowered weenies with overpowered women carrying him. Marc Whipple’s entrance into the World Apocalypse genre brings a type of character that’s refreshing, given this: a character with a unique power that could be used for good or for ill, yet is surprisingly grounded given the gravitas of the threat facing their world. The worst thing I can say about this book is that it has tropes typical of its genre. It’s amazing System Restart. Quit reading this review, go buy it (or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.)
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The premise is standard enough – James Erickson wakes up at a retreat home in Tennessee with “system messages” telling him that the world has been taken over and changed. He’s at a cabin retreat with 7 others, and while it’s not explicitly stated it’s clear to me from context they all have a shared interest in erotic hypnosis. There’s discussion as to what the group intends to do; the bulk of them decide to make their way out of the reclusive cabin and to the nearest town.
The System allows “players” to choose a class, and James being the main character gets an exceptionally unusual class based on his skillset: Mesmerist. This is listed as a “Mage-type class that specializes in mental influence.” The system itself has questions about how it works, so of course it’s the best option for the main character. It allows James a lot of latitude to make suggestions to enemies and allies alike, and it’s a power that could easily be used for villainous purposes. It’s handled pretty well. On the side, he also picks up the ability to heal through psychic suggestions, and “Mana bolt,” an energy ability that scales with levels.
Other party members include a druid type with a tamed pet, a “Defender” who has active abilities to absorb damage, and a catgirl. Danielle, the main female lead, can be hypnotized to reveal her true self as a “Magical Catgirl” and it’s a thing of beauty.
One would expect, with the system being snarky and the world crashing into video game tropes and skills, the rest of the book would be fun loving. There are some fun loving moments, but this is a story of survival, and it gets dark pretty quick.
The party decides to head to Pigeon Forge, which is roughly ten miles from where they are staying. Along the way, the wildlife is out to get them, survivors aren’t all that they appear, and the system is more sadistic than saving. It’s a scenario where all the power in the world does more to show just how powerless the characters are in the face of such evils than it is to make events feel “over the top.”
Mr. Whipple has outdone himself here. Fans of novels like Xander Boyce’s Red Mage series or Dave Willmarth’s Shadow Sun series will feel absolutely at home here, while those who are curious about the genre will find this a welcoming entry point to the subgenre. It also helps that while the book is set up in a way to have a sequel, it has a contained story that doesn’t end on a cliffhanger – a nice change of pace from usual LitRPG fare. Strongly recommend.