Sometimes you read a story about a very typical do-gooder hero who sets out to altruistically make the world a better place because that’s just the sort of person he is.
Janus and Oblivion is not that sort of story. The titular Janus is, for lack of a better words, a self-serving narcissistic asshole. And these qualities work well for this story, because not only does he get his come-uppance, he also comes up on top. It’s a well crafted, beautiful thing. The fact that it uses LitRPG tropes to get to where it is going makes the story that much sweeter.
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The story begins when the 4th son of a business mogul finds himself about to die due to an attempt at revenge gone horribly wrong. It’s made clear from the framing that the main character is efficient, self-absorbed, and doesn’t particularly care too much about the world around him outside of how it can benefit him. It is fitting, then, that a higher power takes note of the main character, and after a conversation of sorts decides to reincarnate him into another world… as a worm.
Janus and Oblivion is a monster evolution story, in which the main character evolves as he gets more experience and gains more power. In this story, Janus also gains the abilities of all of the creatures he kills, which unlocks a lot of interesting options. There’s also a title system in place, such as how the main character acquires the title “Genocide” by killing far too many beings at once. This is sometimes played up for dark comedy, which is good, because the main character does some actions that are reasonable within the world he finds himself but absolutely god awful in our world’s terms.
It’s a small spoiler that while the main character is named Janus, that isn’t a name he chose for himself. It’s also interesting that as he gains a name, he gains additional abilities tied to that name, making him stronger still. Lucky for him, because if there’s one thing Janus and Oblivion excels at it’s showing off just how much power Janus has acquired before putting him in a position where that strength by itself simply isn’t enough. It’s made clear that no matter how strong Janus gets, no matter how Godlike, there are beings hundreds if not tens of thousands of times stronger than he is, all vying for a piece of the world and willing to step on Janus like a bug to make it happen.
As Janus discovers more of the world, it becomes clear that while he isn’t antagonistic towards it he doesn’t see himself as the ender of suffering the other monsters do (and the quickest way to end suffering, it is learned, is to kill – and the more agonizing the death, the more grateful the dead will be to be released.) He retains enough knowledge of his past life to know just how strong military might can be, which is good, because one of the major threats to him and his cohorts happens to be the human race.
In the LitRPG Forum Discord, there’s a poster named Honest Bird who waxes philosophical about things, and one of the things he brings up is how in most settings firearms would render more medieval weaponry absolutely useless. This book takes this idea to 11. A large army of dark creatures has been locked away for centuries, and intends on storming a human kingdom only to get absolutely roflstomped by a military presence of well organized men and women wielding rifles that shoot beams of light. All the magic casting in the world doesn’t matter if a beam of light traveling, well, the speed of light comes out of the end of a barrel and shoots you dead. Technology, baby.
This book isn’t perfect. There are some stats that are brought up in the very beginning that are absolutely abandoned. The main character changes forms with some rapidness, which makes sense for the pacing but not necessarily for the stats presented with them. There are also several points in the story where the point of view shifts for some world building, and while the author handles these scenes well and I feel they add to the overall feel of the world and work as a “pull the camera back” sort of way, the jumping is still a little jarring.
And yet, it is an easy recommend. I’ve never jumped over to the second book of a series so fast. I get the feeling that even as Janus is expected to survive, and even as he stays true to the monster he was before he died, he’s still growing and not just in power. He just might be able to make not only a difference but a name for himself (or to make his name known.) If you like LitRPG monster evolution books, you absolutely need to give this one a try.
Janus and Oblivion: The Nightmares of Alamir Book 1 was written by Noam Oswin (no website listed) and is listed at 331 pages. It can be purchased as an e-book for $4.99, or as a physical edition book, from the Amazon store. It is also available for purchase in electronic format from other retailers.