Survival Quest by Vasily Mahanenko fulfilled the “LitRPG Book” from the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. LitRPG is a new genre for me. I read Ready Player One last year because it mentioned Zork. (Yes, I’m that old.) I enjoyed the novel, but Survival Quest blew me away.
Let me qualify the blog post. I’m an old-school gamer. Not D&D, Minecraft, World of Warcraft or consoles like PlayStation. I’m super old-school. I cut my teeth on Adventure, a text-based adventure game where there were no hints. You had to navigate that maze of little passages all alike with no help. I graduated to Zork, King’s Quest, Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy. I like a good role-playing game and Survival Quest hit that button.
The story combines science fiction and fantasy in a well-thought-out scenario. We start in a sci-fi world of virtual reality and overcrowded prisons. Our main character, Daniel Mahan, commits a crime. In his dystopic future, the government tosses criminals into a virtual reality prison where they must work in a copper mine. The game called Barliona (I assume based on Bard’s Tale.) is a totally immersive environment based on an old school D&D. Meaning, they’re in medieval England more or less. Mahan ends up here in a contrived way, which makes you wonder if someone set him up. With his sentencing, we dive into the fantasy world.
Mahan finds quests to complete, learns skills in jewelry making, craft, and charisma. And you’d think listening to the reader run through his stats at each level would be annoying or at the least boring. Nope. I loved it. (Did I mention I listened to the audio for the book?)
Because of my background, I could understand why he’d place points on certain attributes, level up various skills, and even hold back on assigning points until he needed a boost. It made sense to me on a cellular level. Part of me wonders if non-gamers will like the story as much as I did. It’s a great adventure and problems-solving tale. Mahan has to figure out his world, how to survive, and thrive. We cheer for him, love his inventive ways of getting around rules, and are suspicious when certain events (or items) fall in his lap.
Mr. Mahanenko did a wonderful job of weaving three different storylines together to create the full story. We have the sci-fi plot, a man goes to prison after accidentally committing a crime. Was it planned? Was he set up? Then we have the “how does Mahan get out of the prison area and live in the full world of Barliona?” Mahan has to work hard and be creative to get himself free. And since he must stay in the game for the next eight years, he wants to do more than survive. Last, we have the “Way of the Shaman.” There aren’t many shamans in the game and it’s unusual for him to be one. He must find his way down the path of the Shaman, to find true power in the game.
The characters are colorful and well-rounded. Mahan’s story makes you feel you’re playing the game along with him. Needless to say, I bought Book 2 The Kartoss Gambit immediately after I finished Survival Quest.
I give Survival Quest: The way of the Shaman Book 1 by Vasily Mahanenko 5 copper ingots.