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Solid Story, Fantastic Potential

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Feb 13, 2018: Worm is an odd story. It is one I enjoyed reading the first time vastly more than I enjoyed reading the second.

On one hand, Wildbow has crafted what might be my favorite superhero world. It is a world that combines just about every trope from superhero genre fiction into a consistent whole. It’s a world that crafts plausible reasons as to why people put on costumes and fight each other. It’s a story that expands from the street level to the cosmic level without feeling out of place. It’s a world with a whole lot of neat characters in it.

Unfortunately, the protagonist is not one of those neat characters.

Taylor Hebert is a character who I’m still not sure whether we’re supposed to watch with reserved detachment, or be a character we’re supposed to emphasise with and root for. But either way, she isn’t particularly interesting past the first major arc. Eventually, you stop wondering whether Taylor will win and start speculating how.

Ultimately, many of the supporting cast members are simply more interesting. Armsmaster, Taylor’s initial nemesis, for example, is a standout character.

Worm is a story that lurches from crisis to crisis, never slowing down. It’s a story that isn’t particularly interested in examining the implications of superheroes in the world, nor is it concerned with picking apart the mentality someone like Taylor. The story has a rough anti-authority bent that is, again, unsure if the world is just that bad or Taylor’s perceptions are just that warped.

Worm is also a very long story. Unfortunately, there are many parts of Worm that could be trimmed down without harming plot or character development. There are chapters that could be totally excised without harm. This is a rough criterion as the strengths of a serial are that it doesn’t necessarily need to work like a novel.

Worm is at its strongest up until the end of the Leviathan arc. What flaws the story has, only really begin to show up after that. Unfortunately, they become more numerous as the story goes on, including a much maligned ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ timeskip. By the time the story has broadened in scope to be fighting cloned armies and other beings for the fate of the Multiverse, Worm has lost what drew me to it in the first place—the street-level cape shenanigans.

On a technical level, it is much the same. Worm explodes in length the longer it goes on. The initial chapters might be shorter and less well-constructed on a technical level (the prose is rough in parts) but they are much easier to follow and, in a way, neater. As the story goes on, chapters seem to increase in length because they had to be long. Because of this, the story becomes hard to follow. Not because it is a particularly complex or dense story, but because it uses many words when few would suffice.

What is frustrating about the verbosity Wildbow employs at points is that certain things, such as character descriptors, are mentioned once and then never touched on again. There are other times where, despite all the words and the length, points in the text are maddeningly imprecise or unclear. And yet other times where the writing feels like a mechanical description of a storyboard.

Wildbow has said that there are plans to edit Worm and publish it conventionally. I hope this happens. I feel the Worm that goes through that process will emerge a much stronger story with a firmer idea of what it is. I look forward to reading it, and will probably pre-purchase it.

As it is, Worm is one of the better web serials. But it is not without flaws—the only issue is whether those flaws are ones that bother you. For me, they were particularly bothersome.

Do I recommend Worm? Absolutely. Is it a masterpiece right now? No. But it might just be in the future.

6 of 9 members found this review helpful.
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