Welcome, one and all, to another MDM Projects book review. This time around I’ve been delving into a genre that I’m not hugely familiar with: LitRPG. The book in question is Hell’s Glitch: Into a Dark Adventure by Belart Wright. By way of disclosure, I did not request a review copy of this particular book, but picked it up a copy on Kindle myself. I really liked Belart’s debut novel, Average Joe and the Extraordinaires, so figured that it would be worthwhile delving into some of his other work. Was the book worth shelling out for? Let’s find out.
Background: Detroit born Belart Wright is the author of multiple books, including the aforementioned AJatE, The Story of K, Liandra and the Dream Reader, Psy Hunters, Hell’s Glitch: Into a Dark Adventure, and the upcoming Hell’s Glitch: The Glitch Fiends.
Today’s book, Hell’s Glitch: Into a Dark Adventure, tells the story of video game tester Sam Nagai as he joins a project to hunt for glitches in a new VR based dark fantasy game. As the story goes on, things take a dark turn for our hero, and he soon finds that there is more at stake than a pay check.
For those as unfamiliar with the Literary RPG genre as I was going in, the basic premise is this: the books are essentially MMORPG’s in novel form, complete with stat displays, level grinding, and usually (but not always) VR immersion. To me, the genre reminds me of anime such as .Hack, though others may find similarities with other things.
The Good: So, one thing I want to note here is that the amount of time Belart has spent crafting the actual rules for his book’s setting is quite apparent. While the Dark Souls influence is clear (and indeed referenced by both the author and the characters), the fact remains that there is a great deal of thought put into the different character classes and stats. From the actual displays to the in-game descriptions of different items and their effects, Belart has poured a lot of thought into this, and that is to be commended. Given the setting, having rules in place is essential, and the author really needs a clear understanding of how certain can play out as opposed to how they’d want them to play out. For example, while having a massive sword to swing around a la Cloud in FFVII would look cool, if your character does not have a high enough level of strength to make that plausible within the game world, you simply can’t do it. Belart sticks to this rigidly, complete with Sam directly encountering just that situation. It’s attention to detail like that that really helps this book work.
Outside the mechanics, I also think that the cast deserves some praise. One thing that I liked in Belart’s first novel, AJatE, was how authentic the lead characters felt in their interactions, and the way that they all teased and supported each other was a big part of what made them so likeable. Despite shifting in genre here, Belart has remained consistent on that front. In particular, the slowly forged relationship that forms between Sam and his allotted contact within the design team, Alex is fantastic to follow. From their playful interactions in the early half of the book through to the more serious conversations later on, the pair have a natural chemistry that makes their scenes a breeze to read through. Alex herself is also a very likeable and, while not the main POV character, plays an important role in the book. Serving as both Sam’s direct connection to the outside world, and a potential ally to our lead in terms of the overarching plot, she is essentially both a bridge across plotlines and a good counter balance to Sam’s more sarcastic nature.
The main story boils down to the trapped in an MMORPG trope, and this (as far as I can tell) is the common thread that binds LitRPG novels together. With multiple books carrying similar plotlines, the key is to do either add a new spin to stand out or to execute your own story well enough that the quality shines through. If I’m being honest, given that this is the only LitRPG novel that I’ve read, I can’t really attest to whether the plot offers something different to others out there. I can, however, confirm that the quality of the work is high. Belart’s strengths in world and character building come to the forefront here, and whether it offers something new or not, the storyline is well crafted and plays out as the first novel in any series should.
The Bad: There isn’t anything here that I can say is a definite bad point that will put readers off en masse. There are a few minor things to note, though I can’t see that they should matter to most people. First up is that Sam, while not unlikeable, does have a habit of swearing quite a bit. If you have a low tolerance for such things, that may reduce your enjoyment somewhat. It should also be noted that, as the first book in a series, Hell’s Glitch: Into a Dark Adventure does leave some questions hanging at the end of the book. The end does make it clear what sort of direction the story is going in, and it does close off this portion of the tale well, so I wouldn’t say that this is strictly a bad point, but I would recommend making yourself aware that there will be more to come so that you don’t expect to see the full story here. Again though, these aren’t things that bothered me personally, and I can’t foresee them being a major issue for the vast majority, so take them more as content warning than a criticism.
Final View: A good word to describe Belart Wright’s work is ‘consistent’. Here, his ability to bring characters to life really shines, and the sheer amount of detail that he has put into designing his world is a definite plus. If you want to dive into the LitRPG genre with something a little dark that clearly has a long-term plan in mind, Hells Glitch: Into a Dark Adventure is a good starting point.
Final Score: 5 / 5