The perma players' new reality gains depth and color. The virtual world has seen its first birth - and its first death. The invisible umbilical cord connecting AlterWorld to Earth grows thinner, and even the Fallen One cannot prevent the looming catastrophe. Could Max have ignored the Russian girl who'd just escaped slavery in a virtual China? Could he have turned a deaf ear to her pleas as the desperate fugitive clutched at straws on hearing her native tongue? All this triggers a full-blown confrontation, sending armies of thousands into battle in the heart of the Frontier, burning kilotons of mana, melting desert sands and hacking through impervious mithril armor. The two nations' furious war cries obscure the sky as the gods shudder at humans' desperate cruelty.
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So. I'm clipping through this series extremely quickly, just about a book a day- that should tell folks a lot about how engaging it is. I was rapidly developing into major fandom after I finished book II; this hasn't really been taken off the table, but it has been placed on the back burner pending book four. I'm going to preface the following with this: these books are translated and, as such, a *lot* can get lost in the process if it isn't done carefully. There are a few idioms and grammatical errors that are clearly translator/editor errors. The following issues may also be partially such as well.
Where the first two books were concerned with growth, building, and amazement (which isn't to say that isn't part of the current book), some very odd factors are starting to bleed into the story. Rus is starting to express some extremely xenophobic and... nationalistic feelings in his books. While we are rolling along in Alterworld, the protagonist goes on paragraphs long tirades about the glory of the Russian army in world war II, the cost of defeating the Germans, and centuries old hatred of Asians. Then we're ripped back into this world of magic and swords.
I'm not xenophobic myself, nor do I expect the world to conform to my "American Born During the Last Gasp of the Cold War" outlook on things. I fully understand that this is a Russian author writing about Russians who have melded into a virtual world. My issue isn't necessarily with the nationalism etc (not that I agree with it, obviously), but rather its bizarre juxtaposition in the book. I would take identical pause with a lot of talk about the glorious American spirit and centuries old anger at England for oppressing us, or how we liberated the concentration camps being interspersed in a piece of pure nerd fiction. It's almost like we have Monty Python sitting there saying "and now for something completely different..."
This being said, Rus has started to explore much more intense concepts as well. Slavery is discussed at length... but instead of it being a laudable denial of slavery in total, it is once more put through the nationalistic lens. For example, Russian lives are worth 10 of X race and, during one exchange, citizens from former USSR nations are left in captivity.
Religion is also tackled more intensely in this installment, which is always a touchy subject in MMORPGs. I don't think Rus does a particularly bad job of exploring it, nor is anything terribly offensive to the mind. Those more dogmatically inclined may feel differently.
Rus also exposes more of a chauvinistic side as well. In prior books it could be interpreted as a commentary on how women are treated in games (which is a very valid commentary indeed), but... it's verged a few times into the grey zone in this installment. Nothing outrightly 'bad' necessarily... just off.
I don't want to make it sound like the whole book was off-putting, it really wasn't. The vast majority was extremely entertaining and driven. The characters are developing nicely, drama is present, and we have moved into much broader topics. Overall I was less impressed, but still clipped along with the listening. Giving book four a shot, we'll see how it plays out.
Still worth a listen and your time, especially if you have been following along since book one.
I very much enjoyed this instalment if the series! I kept looking for more time to keep listening! This book really showed Max growing as a leader, tied up some loose ends from the first and second books, explore more of Alter World, and liberate more slaves. Another aspect of the story I really like is that each chapter starts with some IRL events and reports; in this book there are player characters that are followed IRL. My only real problem is with how the book ended felt rushed at some point. A good portion of the book was about going thru Asian territory to get to another temple; when they get there it's a matter of about 10 minutes and Max ends the raid ASAP. It felt like this time in the temple was rushed to get to the conclusion.
I really want to mention, though, that I have read some other reviews are this book concerning racism. Some reviewers say that D. Rus used some stereotyping of Asian people and go further saying that he makes a generalization that all Asian's are the same. this is absolutely not true. D Rus created Asian slaver bad guys but no where does it mention that all Asian's are like the bad guys. If anything, Mr. Rus gives Russia's more crap than anyone else. that's just something that bothered me.
some favorite moments were Loth's lair, Max picking up his 'cat' Bageara, assault on the gangster/slaver fort, Basilisk eggs, and almost every IRL moment.
Also, Michael Goldstrom has done another AMAZING job yet again. he is one of my new favorite narrators