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WORM

Great worldbuilding, complex character, a very realistic superhero Setting: Loved it

By Tolotos23, member

Oct 15, 2018: Okay, before I discuss it more analytically, let me start this review by showing how much I loved reading Worm: I’ve started to read this webseries at the end of February this year and finished it at the beginning of April (keep in mind that it consists of roughly 5.000 pages according to goodreads). Then I found the podcast "We’ve got Worm" where the individual arcs are discussed in a very detailed way about a month ago. I figured I could as well listen to this since my first read of Worm was not that long ago. Abandoned this project after hearing what they had to say about chapter 1.3 . . . – and instead started rereading the whole series and listening to the podcast after completing each arc. Currently, I’ve finished arc 12. So, this series was so great for me, that I’ve started a reread of 5.000 pages after only some months. And even abandoned the books I was regularly reading at the same time which I also enjoyed for this reread.

The last time that happened to me was after reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ for the first time. And that is not only an apt comparison in regards to my personal fascination with both series. Rather, I’d find it appropriate to say that ‘Worm’ does for the superhero genre what ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ does (so far) for the fantasy genre: It manages to tell a very engaging story within the scope of its genre using many tropes while also subverting them and playing with them. In doing so, it uses psychologically complex and brillant characters and tries to show very accurately and with very much thought put into it what would happen if tropes from its genre "really happened". Other similarities include an absolutely epic, consistent and believable World building – Worm very cleverly makes you believe that there is a big world where all this takes place, that stuff happens and rules and organizations exist whether or not they are relevant for the plot at this moment. Which is not to say that it digresses from telling its story often: Wildbow is a real master at narrative economy. He manages to cleverly include details and snippets that enhance his world and we never feel it’s irrelevant or a slight distraction or anything like that.

A further strength of the webseries ‘Worm’ I already hinted at above are the characters: There are really few characters which can be simply classified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and even those that can be are understandable. Most characters instead read like human beings with all their complexities. And while my first readthrough had me utterly sympathetic with Taylor which is why I sometimes was a bit annoyed when she did behave in a way I didn’t like, this time I can understand her much more as a nuanced character with her own flaws (and many, many strengths, too, because I still like the character very much, not only as a character but also as a human being, that is regarding how I value her decisions and thoughts). Even from Taylor’s perspective it is quite apparent that the others characters are great characters (not in-world but from a literary perspective) themselves. But that gets only better in the interludes which present us chapters from the point of view of some of the other characters. Those interludes are one of the highlights: They give us not only further insights into the corresponding character, but also about the world itself (and NEVER in an infodumpey way, even if a paragraph is used to convey information). They also differ in tone A LOT, and Wildbow really manages to make them feel like narrations from different perspectives.

In Worm, there are moral and other philosophical questions en masse: Whether it is about the ethics of different behaviours or about stuff like the influence of certain powers on free will, many such questions spring to mind while reading this series. And they never appear in a preachy way. Mostly (or perhaps even always?), they do not even appear in the narrative at all, but instead are left for the reader to pose. And by looking at the really differing stances people take to these questions they are never presented in a way that lets the reader jump to easy answers.

There are also some reveals and twists in Worm, but they happen in a very organic way so that you never feel cheated. More often, it feels as if everything falls into place now. The one I liked by far the best was the famous (or infamous?) four-word-chapter (though there is not that much foreshadowing here it still feels right). One of the sentences which had the most emotional impact on me in all the books I’ve ever read. But only after carefully thinking about it for a quite long time.

Because ‘Worm’ really does not take the reader by the hand. You have to think about what you read (another much less noteworthy example are the first hints about Shatterbird’s powers).

Also, the ending of this story is great. It is as epic as they come, but still doesn’t feel like forced escalation or anything like that. The story as a whole also feels like a nice Arc for our main character. Which is even more impressing if you consider that it was written serially.

Have I mentioned how creative the powers themselves as well as their uses are? Most of the powers either take a known archetype of a power and modify it in an interesting way or feel completely unique. And concerning the uses of those powers: A common feeling while reading Worm is "Well, this power seems pretty underwhelming . . . " . . . . reads on . . . "WTF? WHY DID I NOT COME UP WITH THIS USE? THIS IS REALLY ANNOYING/BROKEN/ . . . "

Also, the way those powers affect their users and how well thought through this is, is pretty amazing.

Are there any weakpoints? Actually, there are, but they are minor and didn’t reduce my enjoyment of this story much. First, I sometimes felt I would have enjoyed the story more with a few less fights and/or if some the fights would have been shorter. Not the fights aren’t great, they are absolutely marvellous: The descriptions of the fights, the use of the powers, the realistic way they play out – It’s all top-level. But I enjoy the non-fight scenes so much more that my priorities here are clear. Also, I felt like some of them (so far in particular: Arc 10) felt a bit forced. Second, I found (at least on first reading) the pacing in arcs 12-19 felt a bit off for me: Everything here happened a bit too fast and without pauses to breathe. I think I get that this is the feeling that Wildbow went for because it illustrates Taylor’s state of mind quite nicely. But somehow, it broke my suspension of disbelief, since Taylor at this time became more "superhuman" (by which I mean "Capable in a way that feels too much for me" – emphazise on "feel": It is probably rationally explainable, but I still didn’t like it) than anywhere else. Third, I didn’t like Arc 26 at all since it demistyfied some pretty strong moments from earlier in the series for me.

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ENTIRELY PRESENTING YOU

A unique journey of one girl’s struggle for justice, and sanity, in society’s dark underbelly.

By Sharkerbob, author of Graven

Sep 2, 2018: On her sixteenth birthday, Alexis is attacked by, and transformed into, a vampire. As she struggles to maintain a normal life, she finds herself stumbling into the role of a superhero. Almost immediately, any delusions of becoming a friendly neighborhood champion of the downtrodden is swept aside as she becomes deeply embroiled in the violent conflicts and power struggles of her city’s criminal gangs.


On the face of it, Entirely Presenting You has everything I find boring in a story:

-Teen main protagonist and smart-ass child sidekick characters. -Vampire. -Slow pace and long length. -Gang politics/gang war storyline. -Main character going hallucination-grade crazy. -One low-end superhuman with a generic powerset fighting entirely mundane threats with no further science-fantasy superhero world building.

And yet, I would not hesitate to recommend this serial. Despite the slow pace, nippoten is a very competent writer who really digs into the psychology of the character and makes the scenes flow quite naturally. Alexis undergoes radical changes over the course of the story, and the slow pace really helps in making these changes feel natural over time, instead of whip-lashing the character about.

The characters themselves do not feel like the stock archetypes one might describe them as. Alexis is a teen character, but her story doesn’t just follow the paint-by-numbers coming of age hero story you’d expect. The character of D, who comes in several arcs later, is a wily kid character who acts as an agent of chaos; the author does a great job balancing her innate childish personality with her extreme cleverness.

As for the actual plot, the author manages to create a complicated, but comprehensible underworld society that forms a richly realized setting. Even with the major players being larger than life characters in their own ways, the style of writing highlights their personalities while managing to not make them cartoonish.

Likewise, the story attempts to touch upon different genre tones within the purview of the gang war struggle. There are elements of superhero and horror trappings that lend to the atmosphere of the story without going to far in either direction. It adds flavor, without solidly defining the story as either genre.

Having spoken to nippoten directly, I know that his intent with this story was to explore the premise of a “superhero story with only one superhuman”, and so the lack of further super-power related worldbuilding is understandable, as it would just take away from the tone and feel of the story.

One complaint I think I can make that isn’t just a matter of personal taste: despite the slower pace of the writing, there are times when the story will, in fact, lurch ahead to get to events. This usually happens in Arc transitions; there is usually a small jump forward in time. This is normally not an issue; skipping a couple weeks here or there to get to the next important plot point isn’t a big deal, when one can easily surmise that the characters were just going about their daily life in the interim.

However, there are a few times when the time jump hurls you right into the middle of some big event, or the scene cuts off right before a big event, and the next chapter picks up in the aftermath of it. While this trick can sometimes be used to good effect, there are a few times in this story where the stories otherwise smoothly flowing, slower pace is sometimes knocked for a loop when it suddenly feels like we just missed a whole chapter where all the excitement happened. As mentioned, however, this is usually during Arc transitions, so thankfully, this effect does not break up the pacing of the individual Arcs themselves.

Lastly, I would like to comment of the art. Nippoten is a decent artist, and you can see his style improve over time, which is always great to see. There is a manga influence to his art, with Light Novel style covers and even 4-koma omake-style comic strips as bonus material. This helps lend itself to Entirely Presenting You having an almost Light Novel feel to it. With that in mind, those elements which border just on the cusp of being a little too ridiculous for such a mundane setting (such as the character of D), feel a bit more in place if you can imagine the story being adapted to an anime or manga, although I could also easily see it being a live-action Netflix-type series as well.

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THE ZONE

Potential OR Unapologetic Rule of Cool

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Jun 12, 2018: When I review a lot of serials, I do a bit of preliminary investigation into the author. Sometimes it helps to know if, for example, English isn’t their first language. The Zone is a story where I’m going to softball my usual close reading review style given that the author is, apparently, young and this is their first attempt at a story for others to read. On one hand, I want to adjust for age and inflate the score. On the other, as per usual, I don’t think anyone learns if they don’t get the truth (or, at least, some of it). So, here goes.

The Zone is a sci-fi story rendered in a first-person perspective. It doesn’t commit to it as thoroughly as it should. The prose is pretty low on detail and high on telling us about the setting as opposed to letting us experience it. This first-person perspective also creates moments where it feels like the story comes to a stop so Daniel can look into the camera and tell us about bits and pieces of the world. What a Builder is, or a Fighter, or a tag, etc. Sometimes it’s even to explain what Daniel says. The setting is certainly imaginative, even if there’s very little thought given to the implications of some elements*.

Daniel himself is a fairly rough character. He’s not very pleasant or relatable. Part of this because he’s a cyborg packed full of implants that make him superhuman and doesn’t appear to have any weaknesses or concerns. He’s kind of a smirking badass who is edgy enough that you might get cut if you stare at the prose for too long. His ‘small floating house’ has enough firepower to ‘blow an entire Omega* to hell’, for example. His thought process is also strange, to say the least, given that at the threat of being captured by pirates his thought is that it would make him late for school and it would take an ‘unknown amount of time to escape’ (and not the threat of execution he mentions a few lines earlier). It’s like . . . slow down, let this guy have some flaws—some real flaws.

Really, at this point, I think you know where I’ll be going, so, let’s swerve.

Let’s be clear. I’d say every single author on WFG has written something like The Zone. I know I did. Typist Kid, however, has the bravery to put this work up and show it to the world. I also think you can see a clear thread of progression of improvement from the first chapters to the most recent updates, which is something I found very surprising. It’s still a pretty rough story with all the baggage of being a youthful first attempt at writing a longform story, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve seen. The spelling and grammar put some other serials to shame.

Adjusting for age—well, guess I’m doing it—I think The Zone is somewhat impressive if colored by age and, therefore, simplicity. But if Typist Kid keeps writing and reading and learning and honing, well, he might have some pretty interesting stuff to show off in a couple of years.

This story isn’t for everyone, as it is seemingly motivated by Typist Kid’s belief in what’s cool (which I can get behind), and I’d wager most people are going to bounce off it. However, I think it’s an impressive proof of work and hope that Typist Kid can see this through to the end and hone those skills. If I had to pick a word for The Zone, it’d be: potential. If you think you can handle the enthusiastic roughness of The Zone, then you should at least give it a cursory check.

*Note: Omegas are planet-sized battleships. Scale is an issue. This is absolutely not a thinking man’s sci-fi.

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