Book Review: Lost Archive and Soul Reckoning

I’m going to review Lost Archive and Soul Reckoning by Isaac Winter together, since I did read both Veilwalkers books close together. In short, linguistic scholar Winston Beckett goes to game world, has adventures, is a decently good guy; I’d give them about 3.5 out of 5 stars. In long….

Been spoiled by Log Horizon and Death March, I have.

There’s two specific aspects my bunnies always look for in a “trapped in a game as your character” story. Worldbuilding, and how the character deals with body dysphoria/ having strikingly different abilities from when he was an average Joe. I crave those things in an Isekai (in another world) story, in part because those are the main reasons I hunt down gameworld sourcebooks in the first place: imagining a different world, different ecosystems, different cultures, and being a vastly different physical person.

(Because seriously. Any D&D adventure would kill me. I’m squishy.)

The Veilwalkers books kind of fail, on both points. I think, in part, because there’s no on-Earth game used as a basis here. No game to start with means no worldbuilding and background knowledge beyond what Winston runs into himself. Which means, among other things, he has no idea what to expect – or be surprised by – when he chooses dark elf as a character race in the very brief character build segment.

One of the things he should be surprised by is Cael’s several inches of height. I have to admit one of the things that makes me adore Log Horizon forever was Shiroe tripping over his own feet – because he was about an inch or so taller than he was used to.

But outside of some very brief descriptions of gray skin and the “flatter” colors of darkvision, we don’t get much sense of the physical differences between the human scholar and his dark elf alter ego. This when he’s learning to use magic and various pointy things his human self might have a hard time lifting. It just doesn’t ring right that a scholar doesn’t really think about it.

And the worldbuilding… we don’t find out how the original bad guy crossed the Veil in the first place. We don’t know how anyone from earth differs from one of the NPC characters, or even if they do, given the NPCs refer to “noobs” just as a gamer would. It jars.

The writing is pretty good. Characters come across well as different people with different agendas. But without that depth of worldbuilding behind them, it’s hard to see how the world can matter to the characters. Messy.

Also there’s an instance in the second book where Winston mentions having encountered monsters we did not see in the first book. Plothole. Argh.

Still, the books did at least get me absorbed into a world not here-and-now, which is what I wanted. I just have the feeling of hoping for a nice meaty sandwich, and getting glazed donuts instead. Food, but not as much substance.

If you want a light read with the good guys living through the end, though, you might check it out.

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Lost Archive and Soul Reckoning

  1. To be fair, some of those things you mentioned about being in another world/character/etc are ones that depend at least in part on the origin character. While RPGs aren’t a perfect example, they do allow one to get an idea for what sort of factors might be troublesome for you if you found yourself in an Isekai situation.

    All of my RPG characters are aspects of me, adjusted for the difference in setting and background. They may not have all of my core aspects, but their core aspects are also my core aspects, because that’s the only way I can reliably play them. On the other hand, while I can’t reliably play something too divergent in its core, I have learned by testing in different games just how much isn’t actually a core aspect for me, and just how much adjustment I can make for differing worlds/backgrounds/etc.

    I must note that I think this is at least in part because I have Aspergers, and a key part of that is not naturally “automatically (and subconsciously)” figuring out how stuff works, instead having to figure out conscious lists of rules for how everything in the world works, and how to interact with it. Real life is as much an RPG as any actual game, for me, and my real self is essentially a game character already. I don’t have problem distinguishing real life from any fictional world, any more than I have trouble distinguishing one fictional world from another, but on the other hand I also see it as “just another world (that just happens to be the real one)”.

    Taking the example of Shiroe finding an inch of height difference “difficult to adjust to”, that may be so for someone who isn’t used to having to consciously deal with such things. For me, while I do have good kinesthetic sense, I’m also already used to actively moving in certain non-standard ways so as to constantly receive sensory input that helps me ensure that everything is where I thought it was.

    I expect if I were to have something like Shiroe did happen to me, it would only take a few minutes to be adjusted for. Even Akatsuki’s problem is one which I don’t expect would give me much trouble. And even alternate senses wouldn’t surprise me much (Synesthesia already produces similar effects, and must be accounted for). On the other hand, something that changes my actual mind “suddenly, you have different priorities” like a forced alignment change would be exceedingly difficult to adjust for.

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  2. I’m not a big fan of the type of fiction in general, mainly because I do find most don’t answer that type of question(And also that everyone assumes a basic level of knowledge that, well, there’s no such thing!)

    I do think that looking at some of the actual medical stuff involved would help. Goodness knows that my “self” image and physical image don’t match to the point where I have to spend a couple of minutes looking at photos to see me. And body dysmorphia in general sucks. It would be worse with the extra/different limbs crowd(or better for some people with specific phantom limbs, hrm!) It is one of the things I actually liked about Sword Arts Online that I think is overlooked, that he actually made sure their game image looked like them. That probably saved more then a few lives, which is kind of a warped sense of fairness.

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  3. Because seriously. Any D&D adventure would kill me. I’m squishy.

    Level 1 commoner here, too.
    You know the joke about how D&D is supposedly bad because a house cat can kill a level one commoner?
    My first exposure to the idea of kill points on the human body was my mom flipping out about putting barn cats too close to our throats– because even kitten claws, if panicked, can fatally wound you there.

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    1. I’m in the category of 50/50 survival chance. Either I’d do really well, or I’d fail horribly. I’ve had enough adventure already, and enough experience living in other countries/cultures (including where I didn’t know the language) that this part of it wouldn’t inherently be a problem (tho specific situations still could). I’ve had training in combat of several types, but I also know that it’s only enough to protect me against those who aren’t actually experts. I’ve had enough practice with all sorts of skills to be relatively confident that if nothing goes horribly wrong, I should be able to do pretty well. And I have studied enough things, and run thought-exercises “for just in case”, to have a reasonably good chance of knowing what to do and not freezing up, yet still with enough gaps that if I’m unlucky I could hit a point of being completely out of my depth. For me, being dumped into an Isekai really is a tossup of all or nothing, for success.

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  4. Unless I ended up in a community big enough for more specialized skills to be appreciated enough for someone else to help keep me alive, I would be a survival fail.

    I was kind of hoping a few more people would add in good “Lost in another world” books, though. I love Log Horizon, will have to check out Death March, and will add No Game No Life (the anime more than the novels) as another interesting twist on the genre.

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    1. The… very bright… colors in the anime of No Game No Life were quite blink-worthy when I started watching it. But somehow it all worked.

      The original Witch World by Andre Norton is a “Lost in another world” novel, too. 😉

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