While I’ve been writing on this site for years, I’ve recently fallen a bit further behind in my posting duties which I plan to rectify. One reason for my getting back into the game is the inspiration of my daughter. She’s only recently started blogging and writing and her site – Mayas Bookshelves – is doing really well. Of course, as a teenager, she has a bit more time than I do, but I won’t let that stop me!

So without further ado, let’s talk about Life in the North. This is the first book in a still in progress 10 book series. Written by Canadian author Tao Wong it is the quintessential LitRPG and was one of the earliest books in the genre for me. In fact, it is quite possibly the book that got me hooked on LitRPG itself.

With that being said, Life in the North might not initially jump out as a LitRPG as while it does have elf’s and orc’s, they are very different to those from any Tolkein book you might consider as gospel. Within the System Apocalpyse universe dungeon worlds are created when an abundance of raw mana needs an outlet.

This outpouring of mana forces animals to rapidly mutate and change becoming much more dangerous. John Lee discovers this change while on a camping trip in the Yukon. Stuck in an area significantly higher than his basic level, John needs to rapidly acclimate to the changes in the world if he wants to survive.

Plot

John was on a camping trip trying to escape from the problems in his life when the world changed all around him. When Earth becomes a dungeon planet, monsters start spawning all around him.

As a bit of a gamer and geek, John intuitively understands the changes, but his camping location in the Yukon has him starting in a location well above his current level. While this location does afford him with some unexpected benefits and bonuses, his initial survival is very much in doubt.

With very little in the way of weaponry or skills that can help, John struggles to escape the campground and make his way down the mountain to civilization. However, after making his escape he is shocked to find that he has not in fact gone insane as he half hoped for. With death and destruction all around him, the System Apocalpyse has transformed the Earth itself and everyone on it.

Characters

John Lee is our protagonist of choice but is not the only character of interest at all. Along with John we’re introduced to a wisecracking spirit that helps John navigate the changing world.

Along with John and Ali, we get a whole host of other interesting characters which include orcs, elves, and other fantasy tropes. In this case, however, the elf’s, minotaurs, orc’s, and others are actually alien species that have chosen Earth as a new home.

Setting

Dungeon worlds offer lots of rewards but with those rewards comes significant risk. John and the surviving humans have to quickly make their place in this new world. John himself manages to acquire a mecha suit with overtones of Iron Man as he continues to grow in skills and ability.

While he’s advancing, he also understands his limits and knows when it is best to fight and when it is best to cut and run. However, John is the hero you need and not necessarily the one you want. He continues to put himself out there in an attempt to save as many humans as possible.

Unlike traditional LitRPG books with a focus on the fantasy element, with Life in the North, the LitRPG elements are more SciFi in nature. While monsters abound so do lasers, guns, machines and robots giving the story a nice twist.

Writing

As a LitRPG quite a bit of the book covers different abilities and how they work. There is also a lot of focus on the character sheet as individuals advance through levels and grow in their abilities and capabilities.

I will be honest that I often end up skipping the character growth and counting of different levels as it’s not really necessary for me in understanding the story. However, with that being said, it doesn’t take you out of the story too much.

Final Opinion

While I’ve read lots of LitRPG books since this one – check out my review of Land of the Undying for example – it was one of the first and one that I’ve actually read several times.

At this point I’m nine books into the series and while there are some growing pains along the way, this book got me started on the series and I think its a solid and enjoyable read.

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