Have you ever watched a friend pick up a game and try to play it with no knowledge of the mechanics or the world, but all the confidence in the world? That’s Dan Hanson, a former military man and “wage slave” who finds himself awoken from his hangover to a world where everything is Gamified. Armed with his steel core bat, a grudge towards his neighborhood, and more bravado than sense, Dan sets out less to save the day than to save himself. He’s been alerted to the fact a tournament is coming, and he has been chosen (against his will) to participate. Earth is being purged, and only the top 100 million at the end of the year will be allowed to survive.
The good news is, Dan can respawn after dying. It turns out this is an ability best described as “uncommon, but not rare,” and is tied to a staging area that is his former bedroom but essentially in its own plane with an inter-dimensional door. Dan also has years of military training to fall back on, and while it takes him a bit he does get into the pace of focusing on “what needs to be done.”
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Fortunately, and this is key to understanding the humor and enjoyability of the book, Dan pays for those dumb mistakes, HARD. He learns a little, fortunately, but even in that learning he makes new mistakes that lead to new exciting lessons. It turns out, surviving the apocolypse and indeed the real life equivalent of a Battle Royale match has one hell of a learning curve, and poor Dan is slow on the uptake.
The down side to this is that the reader’s enjoyment of the book really hinges on how well they connect with Dan. I’ll admit, I had moments where I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. The story is told by Dan himself, in a first person passive voice that often tells more than show and is prone to a few more commas than I would like. He also is a bit of a washout and the way he shares his story can make it hard to cheer for the guy.
There’s also some unusual inconsistencies in the story. One example is when Dan is facing off with his undead former neighbors. He has a quest to kill all 1780 undead in his subdivision – one hell of a large cul de sac! The tournament starts in 36 hours. Every time he dies he is incapacitated for 60 minutes before respawning (although he respawns with full health and Stamina.) He revives 4 times that we know of, and the telling of the story suggests about half a dozen more but we’ll ignore those.
Do the math, that’s about one dead zombie a minute over a 30 hour period. Which is doable, but also creates one of several situations where it feels like this Apocalypse is where the stats are made up and the points don’t matter.
Overall, it’s a fun read, just hard to take seriously on its own merits and I’ve got concerns of how it will continue to pull together in future installments. Hopefully the next book will do more with the mimic that has the preferred shape of an Amazon shipping box.
Apocalypse Hero was written by Andrew O’ Kelley and as of this review available for $2.99 for the electronic edition. It is also available to be read at no additional charge for those with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription.