Title: Auger & Augment (The Blood of the Boundless #1)
Author: W.A. Bateman
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: February 25, 2018
Genre(s): Role Playing Game, Fantasy, Alternative Reality
Page Count: 319 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Zenzuck has given up everything to secure a new life in The Boundless, a first-of-its-kind virtual reality world that shatters the boundary between real life and video games.
Alone in a world of gods, war, and magic, where death comes swiftly and never offers release, can he forge a life for himself outside of anything he’s ever known?
Will his demons let him?
The concept of a Literary Role Playing Game, or in other words a book that follows the precepts of a role-playing game, is an interesting one, as it would appear to provide a crossover between two genres that have much in common (Fantasy literature and Fantasy gaming). The difficulty arises in the mechanisms of each. The novel format allows for the development of characters and their environment through the pursuance of a goal-oriented plot, which often requires that the villain is bested. Role-playing games require the player to develop, through luck or choice, their core skills, often through a battle against opponents. This is determined through a points-based mechanism where success is obtained through a simple mathematical exercise. The quests, followed by the gamers, were historically controlled by a non-player dungeon-master in either a dungeon-like environment or one that is more open-ended; many recent games provide quests based on card selection. What is most noticeable is that the novel format is quite passive, whereas the game requires selectivity and strategy. Thematic games do provide some attempt to allow the player to take on a role, but more often the characters take second place to the action.
This novel attempts to incorporate the numerical aspects of skill development from gaming into the novel along with some of the jargon that would be familiar to gamers. With regards to the mathematics, whilst this is interesting it does slow down and interrupts the flow of the story. Of course, this is an inherent part of gaming but does not add to the reading experience. Similarly, the use of jargon and ultimately abbreviations is actually quite confusing to the non-gamer. That said, the mechanism does provide a pragmatic rationale for actions taken by the characters. As noted, one of the perceived weaknesses of games is that they do not allow for well-rounded character development. Sadly, this is the case with this story as the characters lack any real presence except through their actions. Fragments of backstory are revealed, but they do little to make the characters recognizable. In fact, by the end of the book I had forgotten who the characters were, either in terms of creature, sex or personality, they were simply names. The lead character lacks depth; his homosexuality is introduced through a reaction to another character and is largely dropped thereafter. Similarly, his relationship with family members is quite superficial. Plot development is also weak. There are clearly identified tasks, but there does not seem to be a specific goal. The setting of the story and the overarching concept is very interesting, but it does tend to get overshadowed by the lesser task-based scenes. Dungeons are introduced as an arena for action and the feel of them is more like rounds in a game than novel-like.
There is no romantic chemistry in the book. One scene provides one kiss, but even that comes at a cost. Relationships between individuals do seem to grow throughout the story but as the characters are not developed there is no real sense of familiarity or empathy for the reader.
Given that the distractions outlined above affect the story, it is good to note that the flow of the plot is not significantly distracted and the themes are quite interesting and hold the reader’s attention. This is not a difficult read and the writing style is approachable.
This is the first in a series of books and quite a number of threads remain unresolved. The story ends at a natural break point, but there is no cliffhanger as such.
Please note that whilst this book has a gay character, it is not a romantic novel.