“Look,” it said. “I'm here to help you and even if I wasn't, it would take a lot more than a friggin noob to take me out.”(Kong, 2015, P. 31)
This sentence, spoken by an imp in the very first few pages of “The Land: Founding,” encapsulates the entire tone of the work by Aleron Kong — witty and completely gamer-focused.
Kong has claimed the title as “The Father of LitRPG.” This literary genre is a relatively new phenomenon, having first emerged in 2013. Its definition remains hotly debated within the community of authors and fans of the genre alike. However, the general consensus sounds something like this: LitRPG, or Literary Role Playing Games, combines the worlds of role-playing games within the context of fantasy or science-fiction novels.
“The Land: Founding,” the first in the “Chaos Seeds” series, follows these conventions exactly, following a character initially named James, who finds himself waking up not in his bed but in a wide, open glade with an imp speaking to him. The imp explains that James' body and soul have been transported to a world referred to as “The Land,” which is not a game, but a real world, like the one he last remembered playing a video game in before waking up where he is now. James has the ability to see his stats and receive visual messages and notifications on his abilities and skills as if he were in a video game. The imp suggests James change his name for this new world as not to give away his power to others who may threaten him or even kill him. James chooses the name Richter before continuing on his journey, which involves everything a fantasy fan could ever want — goblins, sprites, dwarves, demons, gods and magic, magic, magic.
If you are like me and have dabbled in video games without calling yourself any type of game master, you will surely find “The Land: Founding” an amusing romp and solid introduction into the genre. On the other hand, avid gamers have perhaps found their match made in Heaven with Kong's work, though that is not to say that it doesn't come without its flaws.
- A truly immersive world: By far the biggest praise is the world Kong has built — in-depth, engaging and a LOT of fun
- Undeniable creativity: The book is a great example of what LitRPG has to offer in terms of creativity and originality
- High enjoyment factor: It's a quick book to get through and chances are you'll want to keep on reading the following books in the series
- Charming characters: Richter acts as a humorous protagonist in a strange new world
- Topical humor: Topical humor has always been a hit or miss with readers, but those who like it will find a healthy dose here
- Plot issues: Be prepared to really just go with it here and not ask too many hypothetical questions
- Unpolished writing style: The book could benefit from another read-through by an editor
As aforementioned, the biggest appeal of the book is the world Kong has crafted. Drawing from rules from such much-loved RPG games as Dungeons and Dragons, the protagonist finds himself facing all sorts of mystical creatures with the possibility of death, respawning him back at the starting point of his adventure when he does meet it. Readers will easily find themselves entranced by the setting and immersed in the world itself. As an individual who used to play such RPG board games as Dungeons and Dragons in college, I quickly found myself transported to a better time spent rolling dice over a table with friends, creating new worlds together.
Moreover, when interacting with the world, the protagonist will receive such notifications as the following:
“You have received: Simple short bow. Damage 5-7. Durability 15/15. Item Class: Common. Quality: Average. Weight: 3.1 kg”(Kong, 2015, P. 52)
For fans of fantasy and RPG games, the blend of these messages, along with the literary adventure, will act as the ultimate adventure and thrill. At the same time, I can see those unfamiliar with this sort of information update finding themselves either fascinated with their introduction or quickly wearied of them, as they do appear again and again throughout the entirety of the work. The genre is reminiscent of the ever-popular “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of the '80s and '90s in which readers could decide how the story they are reading plays out by making decisions on what happens next, though readers rely on Richter this time.
Putting aside the setting, the main character, Richter, is certainly amusing and relatable in his sense of both wonder and hesitancy in the new world in which he finds himself. The other characters he comes across during his journey are intriguing in their own right, with Kong doing a good job of introducing a variety of personalities across the way. The interaction between Richter and the other characters is humor-based, and Kong does not shy away from throwing in Millennial witticism and references. Like myself, those in that age group will understand and usually get a kick out of those jokes, though readers who aren't particularly drawn to that kind of humor might find the dialogue both weak and awkward. Kong also takes the risk of dating the book by infusing such topical humor, though, with the new emergence and ever-evolving world of RPG, all LitRPG books have the risk of doing the same.
On top of that, the humor can border on demeaning at times, particularly when it comes to female characters as introduced in the story. Those who aren't a fan of, should we say ‘middle school boy humor' might be off-put by these kinds of gags Kong has included in the work and should proceed with caution.
As for the plot, readers will have to suspend their disbelief here. It's agreed upon with most other readers that things can go a bit too easily for our main character, with him somehow finding the right tools or resources right when he needs them. That's usually the case for many adventure stories, so it's not a huge surprise, but it definitely requires forgiveness on the part of the reader. There are also the usual adventure themes here — survival, heroism, determination, loss, success, overcoming challenges and facing new ones with bravery. In this way, it's pretty predictable, but some readers may enjoy that, as it's what's to be expected with an RPG-centered story.
The actual plot is a little murky. Essentially, Richter builds a nation that brings together humans and non-humans as the ‘chaos seeds' in question can cause some serious destruction in the wrong hands. This gives Richter a chance to act as a type of God which can prove to be interesting if not questionable during some points in the story. In the end, It's clear that the plot is irrelevant in the grand scheme of the book itself, which will irritate those who were hoping for something detailed a la Tolkien. By the same token, those who found themselves bored with the intricate details of something like “Lord of the Rings” will definitely have an easier time working through this story.
Lastly, there's no denying that the book could have used more time in the hands of an editor. There are missing commas and apostrophes and one too many exclamation marks. At times, word usage can be a little out of place or awkward, which can throw off the reader and take him or her out of the story. Again, this won't be a big deal to some, though I found that it could distract from what I was supposed to be caring about at times. At the same time, this makes the book a breeze to get through, not using overly complex descriptions, phrases or verbiage that will take time to decipher. Those who like this book will likely be tempted to read the rest of the series and keep an eye out for Kong's future works.
4 Stars: Good read for people that are into the genre
Recommended for: Fans of LitRPG or newcomers alike.
Lovers of the LitRPG will have no doubt heard of this book and should definitely check it out, as it remains a foundation in the genre. Newcomers will either be enthralled by the upcoming genre or may find it's simply not for them — but “The Land: Founding” is worth a shot to see whether it's a fit or not.
- Trigger Warning: Readers who are off-put by crude humor, especially in regards to gender, may feel triggered by this work.