Matt’s Media Review – 2023

As this year draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about how I spent my time. Some of it was spent well, some of it not. Can’t help that now.

But as part of this reflection, I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ve read and watched this year that I’ve enjoyed, and I figure that I should make a list so other people can find what I loved.

 

I have a vague idea to make this an annual thing, and I have plans in place to record the new things I discover this upcoming year. But we’ll see how that goes.

All the Skills

The Scourge erupts, always trying to corrupt the world. Against them, the dragons and their riders fight using magic cards placed in inside their hearts. But that’s not our story (yet). Our gaze falls on the lowest of the low, a peasant who stumbles on the best card ever.

You ever read a story, then sit down and start writing an RPG? That was my experience here. I think there’s a lot of potential in this story. Book 1 is a slow burn, but our MC begins to be a serious mover and shaker in Book 2. But with each chapter, we learn more of the world and its pretty cool.

Ar’Kendrithyst

Eric and Jane are pulled to a world of monsters and magic. One with a lot of problems, but nothing a little sword and sorcery can’t fix, right? Right??

3.2 million words. That’s how this review should start. It’s a MASSIVE work, and it’s really good. But I can’t really tell you much, because things change as the story progresses. I’ve started re-reading it. It’s been three weeks and I’m about half done with the re-read. There’s some good foreshadowing hidden back there.

Auntie Toasts the VRMMORPG

Auntie Flora was a genius, but age is catching up to her. But there’s a new sort of retirement home, one where the residents spend their days hooked up to a VRMMO, at 3 times the time, and none of the pain. 

Sadly, on hiatus, but it was a lot of fun to read. Flora was a bit too zany with the toaster thing, but I love seeing someone unexpectedly rise to greatness. and this had that in spades.

Beware of Chicken

Jin is reborn into a world of cultivators, magic, and martial arts. And he immediately quits all of that to start a farm.

This is the best thing I have ever read.

Book 1 got stubbed back in the spring, so you can find it on Kindle or wherever, not online. The audiobook is amazing and recommended.

The Butcher of Gadobhra

ACME has wind of a new AI-MMO and has a plan to set their corporate foothold firmly on this land. And to do that, they need workers. Workers willing to do the scut work of building an empire from scratch, while all the crazy monsters of a fantasy game are breathing down their neck.

I love a VRMMO story. I read a bunch of them. BoG is one of the best. The problem these stories tends to be “How do we make the stakes matter?” and there’s all sorts of ways, but the idea that your work performance is based on the game is new to me. I’ve seen plenty of things that are “Die in the game, die in real life,” but “get fired in game, lose your job in real life” is a new one for me.

And then the characters themselves are great and the system they play in allows them to grow, despite the chains their contract overlords have placed on their character sheets.

Chrysalis

No italic summary this time, as the basics of the story don’t fit well with that. MC is reincarnated, into an ant. And it’s a fight to find safety for him and his new family.

Data Dragon Danika

Living Jade Empire is a MMO that reacts to the players, creating stories and quests in response to their actions. Danika saved her Karma to become a dragon but got a faerie dragon instead. Now this big world looks even bigger, but there’s so much to explore. 

The thing about DDD is I can’t tell you about all of the things I like, because the gradual implementation is ruined if you’re looking for it. There are spoilers. But the first three books are on Audible, and I hope we get the rest of Danika’s story eventually.

The Elcy Protocol Trilogy

When a battleship retires, no one expects them to reenlist. But Elcy has. And while she’s trying to be a regular cadet, she’s anything but.

I stumbled on a Sci Fi trilogy this year. Aliens who really feel alien, and the best use I think I’ve ever seen of manipulating a computer’s memories. As a ship core, even with a human-like shell, missions can vanish and reappear from Elcy’s head. And sometimes, this makes her the best person for a job where nobody needs to know it happened, even the one who did it.

Industrial Strength Magic

1% of living creatures have a chance to become superpowered. Sounds neat, until you realize how many insects and fish there are, and how bad it is for humanity. New Franklin is a walled city filled with superheroes and supervillains, super science and magic, and poor Paradox is caught in the middle of it all.

There’s a lot of fun in character exploiting their powers to make themselves the best they can be. And Perry has exploits in spades. From using magical materials in machines to using robotics to control rituals, he can use both heritages to bolster his powers a LOT.

Kaiju Preservation Society

Jamie is at rock bottom, when a chance encounter provides him the opportunity to participate in an incredible job working with some incredible beasts. If you can call them that.

The title jumped out at me, and I had to check it out. It’s short, a little preachy, but it felt like 1950s sci-fi brought to the modern day. The science is grounded in fact, and you can tell the author has probably spent his life wondering how Godzilla would actually work.

Pluto

Talia thought she was going to work for her mother, Athena, when her training was done. Instead, the gods have another thing planned and she’s chosen to serve as Avatar to Hades.

Another full book. Two of them, iirc. Monsters are a thing, and the gods act. In part to save mortals, in part to preserve these ancient beasts, and normally, all gods involved have an angle. But since the gods can’t act directly, they have Avatars that serve in their place. And Talia is good at her job.

Was a fun read, if shorter than other things I’ve read this year.

Stray Cat Strut

The Antithesis threaten all of the galaxy, but the Protectors have a plan. Appoint people to be the Vanguard on worlds that need saving and equip them to save themselves. Cat is the newest of these, and it’s unlikely that a stranger choice could have been made to protect the human race.

I had thought of Cyberpunk as a genre, but it turns out, I was wrong. It’s a setting, like most Sci-fi. So, what do you do with a setting to make it interesting? Add an alien invasion to this cyberpunk world.

I’ve never read a book that I really really wanted to play as a video game before. The first arc had me picturing how it would go, and my brian doesn’t do that very well.

I bought the audio book, as well as the printed copy of book 1.

There is no Epic Loot here, Only Puns.

Delta has a problem. She can’t remember her past. Also, her body seems to be gone, she’s stuck in a hole, there’s some creepy people in the basement and everybody seems to expect her to be killing people! 

One of the earliest books I read on RR. I love a dungeoncore story and No Epic Loot is perfect. All of the characters are just so filled with personality.

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