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Publisher's Summary

October, 2042
An extinction-level asteroid, 213 Astraea, is cannonballing toward Earth. Collision, imminent. An international team of scientists is working around the clock to avert the cataclysm - few are optimistic. World governments are preparing for impact with deep earth bio-dome bunkers, but only a select few lottery winners will be saved.
Jack Mitchel, a 32-year-old EMT living in a tiny studio apartment on the west coast, isn't one of those winners.
Still, there might be a way for him to survive Astraea: a slim chance, requiring a radical leap of faith. Through a connection at Osmark Technologies, Jack's acquired a NexGenVR capsule and with it, a one-way ticket to the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Taking that leap of faith, though, means permanently trapping his mind in the game, killing his body in the process.
Worse, one in six die during the transition, and even if Jack beats the odds, he'll have to navigate a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, domineering AIs, and cutthroat players. And when Jack stumbles upon a secret conspiracy to sell off virtual real estate to the ultrawealthy - transforming V.G.O. into a new feudal dark age - the deadly creatures inhabiting Viridian Gate's expansive dungeons will be the least of his concerns.
If Jack can't game the system, he's going to be trading in a quick death for a long, brutal one....
©2017 James A. Hunter and Shadow Alley Press, Inc. (P)2017 James A. Hunter and Shadow Alley Press, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

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By Irshad Karim on 05-04-17

There's some potential here, but far from perfect

The premise is definitely strong - I've always loved the clash of the real and the virtual worlds, trying to come to terms with age old challenges in a new environment, with a chance to upset the balance of power.

That said, this book has a lot of weaknesses that keep it from really taking advantage of its own plot. It leaves much for sequels, but ends up focusing so much on the quests, the levelling, making them the primary focus rather than storytelling devices.

This is very much my own opinion, but I've always preferred litrpgs that don't rely on quests and interactions with npcs (unless they're really fleshed out) to drive the story forward. The thing about quests is that they feel inherently fabricated - it's like reading a standard fantasy novel, obstructed by the lens of VR and MMORPGs. Again, this is specific to what I look for in a litrpg, but my favourite titles have always been much more rooted in the interactions of real players, using the virtual world, the npcs, the quests, etc. as a backdrop.

Story aside, I did feel that the writing ckuld use some refinement. While there was some lovely turn of phrase, much of the vocabulary smelled of ex-roleplayers, who have a tendency of needlessly over complicating their wording. Complexity is not always the best choice.

Finally, the narration - generally not bad, a great variety of voices. My only issue was with the way there seemed at times a sort of forced sense of drama, especially at the end of each chapter, in the way the last few words were read. May have also been more if an issue with the writing itself, trying to punctuate every chapter with an almost campy concluding phrase.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

By Steve H. Caldwell on 06-14-17

My favorite LitRPG story to date!

LitRPG has been a hit or miss genre to me since I discovered it a couple years ago. While there are some really good books in it, there are also some that just seem to be trying to cash in by writing a generic story which just adds stats/leveling up and dungeon crawls and loot drops to be called LitRPG and grab onto the popularity the genre is currently having. That being said, Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm, is not one of those. It is, in fact, my favorite title in the Genre, surpassing the Way of the Shaman series. That's a pretty good recommendation in my opinion.

Viridian Gate Online (VGO) has a fairly unique premise. The story starts off with Jack, an EMT, conflicted over whether he should get into the immersion pod for VGO provided to him by an old college friend that works for the company that developed VGO. The reason he is conflicted is that if he gets in and stays 72 hours, one of 2 things will happen. He could stay in, and his mind would be mapped and digitized and he would remain in the game as his character, Grim Jack, forever. However, his body would shut down and he would only survive in game. however, there is a one in 6 chance he would die before that in the tank, his mind rejecting the transition, and he would just be dead instead.

However, this is all kind of a moot point, since in 9 days, almost everyone will be dead. Yes, you heard that right. There is a 9 mile wide asteroid, 213 Astraea, headed for Earth, projected to land just off the coast of Greenland. Well, that's an extinction level event, so, game over, so to speak. Except for the ridiculously wealthy and survival lottery winners, planning to live in deep earth bunkers, the only way to "survive" is to immerse in VGO, where your digitized mind will survive in the 7 great overmind servers buried deep underground. Well, since Jack is the main character of the story, you can guess which path he chose.

After immersing himself in the game, Jack goes into the character development screen. He goes through the character race types, and picks Mirk Elf for himself (think dark elf) type, liking some of the character's natural bonuses. Being an experienced MMO gamer, Jack knows he has lots of choices in class for himself down the line, and the game doesn't force a class choice immediately. After he sets up the character, she starts the game play. He awakens in a cage in a dungeon lab, where someone has been vivisecting people. Not the most promising start to a game! He finds a piece of metal and tries to pick the lock on his cage. No luck. Someone then tells him its not as easy as it looks. In another cage is a prisoner, who offers to get them both out if he gives him the piece of metal after some discussion, he does just that. The man then picks his own lock and then come out and opens Jack's. The other prisoner is named Cutter, a thief. apparently they are in some evil dark priest's torture dungeon. No place they want to hang out in.

They make their escape, although along the way they discover an old mirk elf woman on the edge of death. She charges Jack to return her medallion to her tribe, to let them know how she dies. She also unlocks the shadow spark in Jack, allowing him some access to special abilities. This is now a quest for Jack, with the attendant quest requirements and rewards attached to it. After their escape, Cutter takes Jack to his city, where he introduces Jack to the local thieves' union hall, since thieves don't have a guild.

What starts here is the adventures Jack expected, since after some training, he goes on a series of adventures, collecting loot, leveling up, basically doing what everyone does in an RPG. After being contacted by his old college friend Abbie, he takes a teleport scroll and goes to meet her with Cutter. Being early, he decides to go into the nearby woods and go after mobs, killing monsters to level up. Well, he gets more than he expected, the monsters being much stronger than he thought, and he also meets a hamadryad who gives him a new quest. Returning to his landing point, he finds Cutter held at knifepoint by a Reeshie, kind of like an orc. Then Abbie comes out, and explains why she wanted to meet with him. She has Cutter released, and starts a discussion with Jack.

She explains she discovered irregularities in the code of VGO, that rich people have paid to have restricted areas and quests set aside, so that they could easily level up and gain legendary level weapons and gear, basically cheating to create a paradise with themselves at the top of the food chain. Abbie wants to end around that and see if they can circumvent it. They then start the set of adventures and quests that will determine the fate of VGO. Will it just be a rich persons paradise with everyone else a serf, or will it be a chance to excel for all? What follows is a set of epic adventures and quests, which test the mettle, heart and skills of Grim Jack and Cutter, meeting a wide assortment of characters and completing more and more challenging quests, all while finding out even deeper truths about VGO, and about what the world truly faces in game. He will have to make some life and

This book is a must read for any fan of LitRPG, or fan of good writing, actually. The characters are phenomenal, with Jack and Cutter being the standouts, but even the secondary characters and even the monsters are well drawn out. The dialogue is tight, and there is real emotional punch to the story. The world building is epic in scale, but so well described you feel as though you are right there in the thick of things, which is all you can ask from a writer. You can tell there is a much larger world and story out there, and that we are just being introduced to something grand.

Narration wise, Armen Taylor does a great job bringing each character to life. They all have their own personalities, quirks and voices. He uses tone, inflection and accent to differentiate each character. Overall, a top notch performance.

I cant stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I truly believe it is the best LitRPG on the market today, and I hope the author has huge success with it and keeps writing more! I for one, will be in line to get the next installment.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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By Norma Miles on 10-19-17

Always someone bigger bester faster, so be smarter

This reader has never been a gamer but can still enjoy the novels, especially those which have an additional purpose other than simple immersion in a medieval type fantasy of slogging through peasants and adversaries to bolster the player's self esteem. This one had purpose aplenty - becoming permanently part of the Viridian World might well be the only way to survive, albeit in digital form, given the an huge asteroid is due to hit the real one, killing most, if not all. But there is still a risk: one in six do not survive the transition. And those that do can never return.

Jack, a veteran player of other games decides the risk is one worth taking. An old friend had supplied the means and he enters Viridian, nervous and not knowing exactly what to expect. He finds the initial experience terrifyingly real even pain is factored in. But it is a meeting with his old friend that revealed that his new world is not what was expected, that conspiracies were afoot to turn the starter level playing ground into a paradise for the specially empowered elites. This is his world now, possibly for a very long time, and Jack doesn't want to be one of the serfs in a rich Man's kingdom.

This book is an easy read, fast and with plenty of action but also filled with good descriptive world building, great characterisation (and characters) with sharp dialogue and humour. Amen Taylor's animated narration catches all of this beautifully with excellent intonation and pacing, and with individually distinct voicings for all of the many protagonists. His reading is warm and compelling: a great performance which really enhanced the written text.

This is a fun and enjoyable book which should appeal to all who enjoy fantasy SF as well as those with a fondness for the LitRPG genre. Even for non game players, like myself. I am personally looking forward to continuing the journey with Jack and his new game companion, Cutter, in the next book in the series, Crimson Alliance.

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By C. Silva on 08-10-17

Couldn't STOP listening¡!!! Amazing book.

Very well written. great peace straight away was drawned to the character and is companions. and amazing performance j. a. Hunter really brought the book to life!!!! 5 🌟

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By Tarcha on 07-16-17

Interesting story

I liked the storyline, it is obviously well thought out and planned.
The main character was interesting, not a noob and not a hardcore MMORPG player as in many stories.
I didn't like Armen's redition very much, I felt that he may not have read the lines before he recorders them as often he would read someone's comment but the emotion that the book followed up with didn't represent how he had read it. And many of the side characters were very hard to understand.

Overall I enjoyed it and wished that the next two were on audible so I could listen to them too. As it is I'm going to have to read them :)

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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