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WORM

Something special

By Fluff, member

Jul 5, 2012: From the depths of a failing and ruined city to the heights of a hinted at wonder, Worm charts a world of super-powered individuals with flaws and hopes that seem all too real.

I stumbled across Worm without planning on spending my time on what is now quite a lengthy piece of prose after a year of regular updates, but instead found myself being drawn in immediately and devouring the chapters in only a few sittings and loudly demanding more. The two great strengths I find in Worm are the depth and creativity of the main characters personality and actions, and the richness of the setting and mythology.

On the former, as the protagonist Taylor Hebert/Skitter tries to escape the trap of her dreadful school life, you realise this is a smart brave and very resourceful young woman. But not without flaws, and like all teenagers she doesn’t think far enough ahead, and is so eager to move from what she was and prove herself she takes a road paved with good intentions and problematic outcomes. But Wildbow writes Worm with subtle shades of grey, and even as Taylor sinks further into what a less insightful author would have as the villains you can’t help but wonder if this is the better course of action after all. Is it more important to do Good, or be labelled Good?

On the setting aspect, the city of Brockton Bay has been written with care to feel like a real and breathing place; with its districts and problems, its civil and criminal histories, and its people and powereds just trying to live and thrive. Yet despite these minute detailing the reader still left with the impression the city is but part of a wider stage on which a grander story is playing out for this world, and that whatever happens it will not be without weight of meaning.

Nothings perfect of course, and my point of dissatisfaction overall would be the hectic pace of events within the story as the protagonists jump from one crisis and crucial event to the next, and the unclear blocking of some of the fight scenes (though certainly not their inventiveness, which is top notch!).

7 of 7 members found this review helpful.
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WORM

I burned through the archive in a day…

By Shutsumon, author of Tales of the First

Sep 19, 2012: Short Version: Recommended for all Superhero fiction fans. When I started reading it a couple of weeks ago I burned through the archive in one day.

Setup: Taylor is a teenage girl with an unusual superpower – she controls insects and arachnids. She dreams of becoming a superhero and when a group of teenage supervillains mistake her for a villain and invite her to join them she agrees in order to spy on and eventually betray them. But as she gets to know them and the heroes better she realises things may not be so clear cut.

The Good: The characters in Worm are really vividly drawn and wonderfully complex. The world building is similarly delightful. One particularly nice touch is that since most capes are triggered by a traumatic experience there are more villains than heroes in the world and a large number of independents who refuse to get involved. Then there’s the fact that the villains are actually people with personalities and goals. Some of them are genuinely nasty, some of them are decent in spite of their career choices, some of them have been screwed over by their powers and all of them (even the nasty ones) are people. The heroes are a similarly diverse bunch and some of them are pretty much villains with badges but again they are all people – even the shallow nasty ones.

The Bad: There’s not much bad to say about this story in my opinion. Taylor might be a bit too nice and idealistic for some people early on and it looks like the story is ramping up to ‘save the world’ levels that might make the scope too wide for some readers but all in all it’s a fantastic example of its genre.

Will I be reading more? Not just yes, but hell yes. I’m really enjoying it. Long may it continue!

7 of 8 members found this review helpful.
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WORM

Worm Is Amazing: Update!

By Asmora, member

Aug 27, 2012: I am glad to say that Worm has just become my favorite ongoing web serial, surpassing my long-standing love of Tales of MU. As a superhero story, Worm shines by taking a much more realistic approach to the social and personal impact of superpowered individuals than I’ve seen anywhere else. The heroes act like police and soldiers and human beings, not caricatures or mythic heroes. The villains (most of them) are similarly realistic and well-developed, acting out of the sort of motivations that lead real people to lead lives outside the law. The story definitely focuses on the villains a bit more than the heroes, and Wildbow shows us an extremely wide array of motivations for characters who wind up with the "villain" label, all of whom have different morals, agendas, and M.O.s, ranging from the Undersiders, a group of teenagers who are initially in it mostly for the thrill, to the Slaughterhouse Nine, a pack of truly horrible murderous psychopaths, to Kaiser, a white supremacist, to Coil, a businessman. Just as importantly, the interplay between hero and villain and the unwritten rules of those interactions are shown to be a careful balancing act, with neither side resorting to killing or unmasking unless the other side does so first. These "rules" aren’t the clear-cut morals of four-color comics, with Batman refusing to sink to the level of his murderous enemies. They’re a complex, subjective minefield that even the most evil villain pays attention to, even if that attention is merely to note the location of the line as he crosses it.

The morality of Worm is a large part of what makes it transcend its genre. It is not simply a superhero (or supervillain) story. All of the main characters, especially Taylor, the protagonist, repeatedly find themselves in situations that force them to question what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals, what those goals should be, and what they’re willing to risk. Best of all, while the story focuses on these vital questions, it never gets bogged down in them. The action is extremely well-paced, compelling, and well-narrated.

Another great strength of Worm is its setting. After writing hundreds of unpublished snippets and short stories, Wildbow has created a large, well-developed world in which to let the story of Worm play out. Dozens, if not hundreds, of characters fill the world, most of whom receive enough spotlight to show that they are realistic, well-rounded characters with interesting, original powers and compelling motivations. Despite the large cast, there is never a Robert Jordan feeling of being overwhelmed. Those that are meant to remain relevant receive enough ongoing attention that the reader can easily remember them, and those that do not remain relevant receive an appropriate re-introduction if they come up again.

Worm starts out disguised as a teenage angst story (a well-written one that deals with the issue of bullying in a way that is neither offensive nor heavy-handed), but it quickly reveals that this is only its civilian identity. Once it dons its costume, the story reveals its superpowers of compelling writing, fascinating characters, and unreasonably frequent, long updates. Mere mortals cannot hope to stand against the might of such a superstory.

UPDATE: Six months later, the Wormverse continues to grow, surprise, and astonish. The plot advances, the characters develop, and the tension builds.

Spoiler alert: Taylor becomes an even more amazing individual without diving off the deep end into Mary Sueism.

The contributions of readers have led to many more Interludes, which give the story and the setting incredible depth and breadth without neglecting the main story. Most recently, Wildbow did an "event week," which consisted of writing an update EVERY DAY for a week, resulting in the Migration story arc. Aside from the fact that writing 52,525 words in 8 days is a jaw-dropping accomplishment, this pulse-pounding story arc tells an incredible story that sheds light on how things got to where they are now and sets up things to come. (Sorry to be vague, but I want to avoid spoilers.)

I’ve already touched on the quality and ingenuity of Worm, but the sheer quantity of it continues to astonish me. With a bare minimum for two 4k+-word updates per week, following Worm almost feels like I’m still archive binging. Each update is meaty and substantive. While I’m always left wanting more, I feel satisfied by each update, unlike many serial fictions.

When I first got caught up on Worm, I felt like Wildbow was one of the better authors doing amateur webfiction. Now, I feel like I’m getting in on the ground floor of following an author who is destined to go on to much bigger things. Watch Wildbow. He’ll surprise you.

7 of 8 members found this review helpful.
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