I just finished listening to The Land: Founding by Aleron Kong, and what a treat it was.
The land is the second audiobook I’ve listened to as well as the second LitRPG book I have “read.” My first experience with LitRPG was reading Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell. Comparing the two, The Land is LitRPG with the training wheels taken off.
If you’re new to the genre like I am, you might be asking, “What is LitRPG?” LitRPG is a subgenre of fantasy and occasionally science fiction in which (at least so far) a real person is pulled into a game, usually virtual reality-based. What makes LitRPG different than standard scifi/fantasy is the tracking of character skills, stats, and abilities. It’s almost like reading or listening to a play by play fantasy role playing game like any of the Elder Scrolls, World of Warcraft, or other role playing games.
When I mentioned The Land was like taking the training wheels off, I was referring to the meticulous attention to detail when relating character attributes and abilities. Story-wise, it seems to me to be a very simple formula. Because of the frequent relaying of character progression, the author does not have to progress the storyline very far for each book. Because it’s really just a game, characters can go on side quests and monster-hunting tasks to increase their abilities and level, and the reader isn’t put off by it because it’s part of the game!
Aleron really kicked it up a notch with The Land. His attention to detail regarding every skill, stat, ability, and item found is incredible, and this is where it gets complicated. The challenge for the aspiring author lies in the minutia of details. This is bound to trip up even the best fantasy writers, but Aleron handles it with aplomb.
The Land is a game created by a god or some other powerful entity for the sake of collecting human soles. He created the game because a person has to willingly surrender themselves, and the easiest way to do that is by letting people believe they’re just playing a game. This is what happens to our hero, who goes by the name Richter. By clicking a prompt, Richter gets transported to a real-life version of the game and must grow stronger in order to survive and create the chaos that will eventually set the god free.
I really enjoyed the audiobook. While the Richter we read about doesn’t have the charisma his character portrays, I wasn’t turned off by him like some of the harsher critics were. (I just read some of the reviews on Goodreads. Ouch!) I found myself chuckling and even laughing out loud at some of the humorous comments. The only one that made me cringe was a “What does the fox say?” reference. That was brutally painful.
The story does not advance much in the first book. There only a few major plot points hit with at least half the book being side quests, but it all serves a purpose. This is how Richter gains experience and allies. While the attention to detail regarding Richter’s character sheet was impressive, I did find myself skipping past much of it. I like the LitRPG notion, but I can do without reading the entire character sheet every single time he levels. I understand this is a hallmark of the genre, so I certainly won’t ding the author for it. DO YOU HEAR THAT, MR. AND MRS. ONE-STAR REVIEWER? It’s part of the genre. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. You don’t read Steven King’s horror stories and give him one star because you didn’t like how scary it was. Know what you’re getting into, is what I’m saying.
The Land was fantastically Narrated by Nick Podehl. I can see why he he’s able to charge up to $1000 an hour. Yes, you read that right. His recitation is fluid and natural, and his voices are fantastic. His female voices actually sound like women! I would say he deserves as much credit for the audiobook being so good as the author is. Maybe even more so. He brought it to life and made it real. He’s like the Geppetto of Narrating.
If you like LitRPG, then I’m confident you will enjoy The Land. If you like fantasy but aren’t familiar with LitRPG, then google it, read up on it, and if it sounds good to you, then this would be a great series to start with.
I give Aleron 4 out of 5 stars for the story and 6 out of 5 for Nick Podehl’s recitation.