On the morning of Boxing Day, I explored the Amazon store for books where I could spend a newly acquired gift card. I chanced upon the fantasy novel whose cover is shown to the right, since that cover had me very curious. Look how shameless it is — how could I not buy it? As it was right up my alley, I opened my new e-book.
It turned out to be one of the most unique and entertaining reading experiences I ever had. Say hello to Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests.
Let’s start with the protagonist. This character isn’t too smart — very mentally challenged — yet seeing the world through such eyes makes it feel fresh. It’s amazing how a simple change in vantage point livens up a fantasy world that otherwise looks stale and cliché.
Speaking of which, the world itself behaves as if it were a video game, for this book is part of the “LitRPG” genre popular in Russia, Japan, and Korea. Characters openly acknowledge message boxes, level ups, and skill checks as if they were part of the natural world, and the numbers that make up one’s stats actually determine how well one can perform tasks. In fact, any person can check their stat screen to see an overview of their abilities and what limits those abilities have. As with the protagonist’s unique perspective, the game-like aspects give the story a feeling of strangeness, like you really are in a fantasy world that plays by different rules.
That being said, the game-like nature of the world is also a weakness. Combat sometimes feels too light and airy, and sometimes, damage is described in terms of game mechanics. However, the book does its best to keep combat or other actions from being entirely abstract, often describing the results of actions in concrete terms. Another weakness would be the story’s episodic nature, but it makes up for this by just bei g so much fun; you want to know what crazy situation the main character would get into next, and how far it is willing to go to accomplish its goals.
In many ways, it captures the true spirit of a tabletop roleplaying game. Even though the book has a definite sequence of events, everything feels so free and open (in a good way), like you’re exploring a new world for the first time. Thus, it engages the reader in a different way from large, tightly plotted epics. The main character’s backstory also aids in this, since it isn’t too elaborate. The sheer creativity this story has is a sight to behold.
Such a unique novel needs more love. I highly recommend this book.