The Sum Of All My-Next Lives?

So bizarre crossover fanfics are nothing new. Yet this ultra-bizarre crossover fanfic idea/fusion has just leapt into my mind after seeing a few strange similarities and having my eyes light up. It’s My Next Life As A Villainess/Hamefura and-the “Ryanverse”, specifically (gulp) The Sum of All Fears. Granted, part of the appeal is just the strangeness.

The first spark is the reincarnation of “Monkey Girl” (her pre-reincarnation proper name is never given but that nickname is) being weirdly crossover-friendly. It’s impressive that it’s character-focused. Take a good-natured and sometimes right-twice-a-day (her obsession with farming, thinking she would have to fend for herself, was actually sound) but clueless about human relationships person who thinks the world runs on video game logic, and there’s a surprisingly high number of things you can do with it.

The second was how the original pre-reincarnation Katarina was a vindictive, hate-sink villainess. Who else fit that bill? Elizabeth Elliot, whose novelty made her one of my favorite technothriller antagonists. So there was a bizarre mutual overlap already. But my brain didn’t stop there. Oh no, because of the thought of bringing otome game logic to one of the most male genres in existence just felt amazing. So The Sum of All Hearts would star analyst Cathy Ryan. She’d have a man named Jack as one of several love interests, having to pursue one of them while at the same time trying to stop a nuclear war. It would be something.

Granted, the specifics would probably wreck it, but why worry about such things as “details” and “plausibility” when you have such a delightfully mushed-up concept? And hey, it’s not really any farther from Clancy’s original tone than some of the other “Tom Clancy’s” label franchises are.

(Come to think of it, “Rainbow Six” [with that number of love interests] could be the title of a romantic game…)

Review: My Next Life As A Villainess Volume 3

My Next Life As A Villainess Volume 3

The third volume of My Next Life As A Villainess takes place after the original planned ending of the story. In-universe, it takes place after Katarina has “beaten the game”. There’s two reasons why this declines in quality. The first is that the second volume was such a good stopping point that it feels a little wrong (even if understandable) to go past it. The second is that the setup just really isn’t that deep, so it’s especially vulnerable to getting worse as it gets bigger.

The structural fundamentals present in the past two books are still there, for better and worse. But it’s definitely lost something. Going from “someone tries to munchkin a setting through foreknowledge and successfully ‘fails’ because she thinks it’s still railroaded when it’s not” to just “light fantasy antics” is a big step down. There’s a reason why, despite enjoying the first two installments, the third is the last I’ve read, with little motivation to keep going further.

Review: My Next Life as a Villainess Vol 2

My Next Life as a Villainess: Volume 2

The second volume of My Next Life as a Villainess deals with Katarina now going to the actual academy setting of the game and demonstrating her biggest character trait of absolute obliviousness towards romantic attraction (the fandom joke is that black holes are less dense than her). One of the biggest and best buildups in the first volume was foreshadowing the game’s protagonist, Maria Campbell. The second doesn’t disappoint when she actually appears. Katarina is clueless to the fact that her being actually nice has already butterflied almost all of the original game’s plot away, and equally clueless to how Maria is now attracted to her.

The plot is worse when it tries to go for more genuine danger and drama, simply because it conflicts with the tone of the rest of the story. But even that’s not too bad. While I can understand why that would be included, it’d probably have been more preferable to just focus entirely on its heroine worrying about nonexistent “death flags”.

It also has a good conclusion as Katarina survives the “game” and hears Maria’s confession, which she of course doesn’t get. When I read that this was the original planned ending, it didn’t surprise me at all. Of course, it was successful enough to continue, but just as how The Sum of All Fears serves as a good stopping point for Jack Ryan, so does this for the series (boy, never thought I’d be directly comparing those two).

The structural issues I mentioned in the past volume are still there. But after seeing so much of setting munchkinism, and coming from an online community where this kind of thing is a stereotype, I love the concept of someone who tries to munchkin the setting and it doesn’t work out (well, in this case it does, but not in the way Katarina thought or intended). While I probably won’t read too far beyond the original end, I still enjoyed this series as a break from tanks exploding.

Review: My Next Life As A Villainess Vol 1

My Next Life As a Villainess: Volume 1

I felt it was time to check out of one of those “anime antics” settings that Spacebattles has a bizarre fascination with. In this case, it was Saturo Yamaguchi’s light novel series, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom (these are notorious for their extremely long titles). Frequently abbreviated as Hamefura, this is the story of someone who is reincarnated as a video game character.

More specifically, it’s the story of a schoolgirl who stayed up too late playing her dating sims, which led to her death in a bicycle/car accident as she tried to hurry to compensate the next day. This led to her being reborn as Katarina Claes, the antagonist/rival girl in one of them set in a fantasy academy setting. Upon recovering her memories of her past life, and knowing that Katarina is fated to have a bad end in the game, the heroine tries to get a better fate.

This initial installment isn’t bad. I can see the “it’s a good concept even if the execution is ‘iffy’ ” that made appealing to fanfic writers. The prose is pretty well, matter of fact. I don’t know how much of that is due to translation issues and how much is due to the novel being intended to be smooth and easy to read (you could say it was meant as light literature). But it’s not a deal breaker, and neither are the “anime antics” surrounding Katarina and the inevitable boys. I had fun with it and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual fare here.

Review: Seven Up

Seven Up

It kind of goes without saying that I’m not in author Janet Evanovich’s target audience, and neither is a Stephanie Plum novel the kind of book I was expecting to review at the beginning of this blog. But Seven Up itself and the story behind how I read it is worth it.

Though the seventh book in the series, this was the first tale of the wacky New Jersey bounty hunter that I read. When I read the back cover blurb, the implication was of a thriller. This was wrong. When I started reading the actual book, it felt like it was going to be a duller one about family drama. This was also wrong. I got one of the biggest pleasant surprises I’d ever read.

When I finished the book, it turned to be a hilarious, fast-moving, laugh-out-loud goofy novel of pure fun. Really, despite its initially slow start, I had a great time with it. To be honest, it reminded me of The Simpsons at its height, which is always something that humorous fiction should aspire to. While I’ve heard the series has grown stale since then, Seven Up itself is extremely fresh and enjoyable.

Review: The One Who Eats Monsters

The One Who Eats Monsters

monstercover

Once again, Fuldapocalypse takes the plunge into a new genre. After seeing a good review of it on Spacebattles, I decided to read Casey Matthews’ The One Who Eats Monsters for myself.

This of course, is an “urban fantasy” novel, where you have supernatural entities hidden inside the modern world. Ryn, the protagonist is one of them, an ancient humanoid creature and vicious ‘hunter of monsters’. Throughout the book she alternates between being a vigilante and protecting a politician’s daughter she begins to develop very human feelings for.

Urban fantasy isn’t really a genre I read much of, although more for matters of admitted personal taste than any actual, inherent dislike. With that in mind, it was good for what it was. It definitely has some notable flaws. The human dialogue was often, er, “subpar”, and there were dramatic contrivances that made sense in-universe but still felt forced from a storytelling perspective.

But that’s more than made up for by the book having exactly what a cheap thriller needs to succeed-good action and good pacing. This definitely has both, although the sequel hook segment at the end is incredibly rushed.

The characterization is mixed but still ultimately positive. Many of the other characters are either shallow, stereotypical, or both. However, Ryn’s “monster with a conscience” is well-done, and that’s what matters most. Even the romance (and this is not a romantic fiction blog) is done surprisingly well-done.

One interesting note is that this is technically an alternate history novel. Among other things, supernatural shenanigans prolonged the existence of the Soviet Union (ah, those Fuldapocalypse zombie sorceresses). It reminded me, alternate history reader and writer, of this very big phenomena where a lot of fiction could be reasonably labeled “alternate history”, but because there’s no real incentive to do so, it isn’t.

I’m still not exactly a fan of urban fantasy, but I don’t regret taking a chance on a different genre with this book.

Review: Daughters of the Night Sky

Daughters of the Night Sky

nightskycover

With Aimie Runyan’s Daughters of the Night Sky, Fuldapocalypse moves into yet another new genre-the Romance Centered Around Night Witches. It’s a little tricky to review, but I’ll try. The first “issue” is that this is obviously chick-lit, which is not something normally associated with the Eastern Front, for good reason. That the heroine falls in love with an artist is kind of the icing on the cake.

The second issue is that it feels like chick-lit and not like characters who are actually in the middle of a horrendous world war. What this came across as was “romance characters, plus add a few obligatory flying scenes and the occasional stereotype like a reference to blocking detachments.” While the author admits she wasn’t that knowledgeable about Russia or military aviation, it just feels too generic.

And that brings me to the third issue, which is that the actual flying isn’t very good. While I wasn’t expecting Dale Brown and while it’s actually admirable to not try and dwell on something you admit you don’t have much knowledge of, this still falls short. The problem is there’s too much of it and not enough research.

It would be like if a writer was making a story about American football (hey, I’m posting this review on NFL Draft day) and only knew the basic positions, such as quarterback and receiver. This would be obvious to those who read it and knew even a bit about the subject matter, but the writer still insisted on showing several games. This is like that, only with Polikarpovs instead.

As a whole, this is just a fluffy romance novel with World War II flying scenes and the characters having Russian names.