By: Dave Barrett
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
I’ve read quite a number of ‘trapped in a video game’, even more ‘trapped in another world’ books, and I’m always looking for more. It’s All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett is another trapped in a game book, but with a bit of a twist. This isn’t a video game. The main characters are LARPers. The world they wind up trapped in isn’t the video game they were playing, but a real life version on the scenario they were given during the LARP event weekend. It’s a different take on a growing theme in literature, and I was quite enthusiastic to read it.
The novel opens with Allison, our main character, accompanying her friend TJ to a LARP weekend event. She’s a little reluctant and a little nervous. Though they’ve been friends a long time she’s never joined in on LARP events with TJ. But her crush will also be there, and that’s enough for Alison. Once they get there, the pair join up with TJ’s friends begin their adventure. Only it becomes apparent that this is real. This isn’t a game anymore.
I’m not sure I want to admit just how long it took me to get through this book. It’s not too long, only 200 pages. But it starts slowly. Very slowly. So slowly that I think, if I remember correctly, the characters even made a joke about exposition in there. Which was cute, I have to admit.
Now, here’s the thing. All the information at the beginning setting up characters and explaining LARPing is necessary, especially for any readers who may be unfamiliar with the subject. However, I did find it pretty dull. Not a lot happens in the beginning of the novel. It’s slow. Very slow. So slow that I put the book down, disappointed, and didn’t pick it up again for some time.
When I did pick it up again I found the second half to be much faster paced than the first. There is much less exposition and more action in the second half of the book. Once Allison and the others are transported to this other world, the pacing picks up a lot.
As for being transported to a different world, this section was handled oddly. The characters don’t notice at first that they’re in a different world, not even when they enter a small village. Now, I can understand this. It’s not like anyone would be expecting to be dropped into some sort of fantasy world. It does make sense to simply think that the organizers of the event were going all out. Even so, the characters don’t question much of anything for some time. It isn’t until they realize that those are real bandits with real weapons that anything is questions. And then, they simply accept that they are in a different world.
I can understand this, but only to a point. Even Allison, who is new to LARPing, doesn’t have any sort of large, emotional reaction to being in a different world, let alone other events which I won’t go into great detail about due to spoilers. While they do talk about things, it’s very brief, and no one seems to have any kind of real emotional response to it. They aren’t shocked. They aren’t worried. They don’t even seem excited to be in a fantasy world they’ve long thought of as a game. They just seem to move on like it’s another regular day.
Some of this can be explained by the dual memory issue. The characters invented in-game backgrounds and personalities were all carried over to this fantasy realm they find themselves in. They remember their characters’ lives as if they were their own memories. They know how do to things their characters do – swordfighting, magic, stealth. Everything. This is rather fascinating, and definitely has the potential to add a lot of interesting scenarios emotionally and otherwise down the line. I definitely want to see how this is used in the future.
There are things I really liked about this book. I also liked the method by which characters were transported to a different world. It wasn’t anything flashy or showy. The characters and readers didn’t notice the exact moment it happened. The forest they were originally in seamlessly flowed into a forest in a different world, and I really liked that. The cover is also beautiful, and was one of the reasons I was drawn to the book in the first place. And of course I liked the use of memories from a life in our own world alongside memories from living in the fantasy world.
I found myself enjoying the chapters from Chuck’s point of view more than anything from Allison’s point of view. Chuck is the closest we come to any sort of character development in the book. It is with this character that we really see the full extent of what the dual memories, something else I enjoyed, are doing to them. It’s Chuck who seems to struggle the most with these two opposing lives and personalities. We don’t really see this at all with Allison. She was new to LARPing and doesn’t really have any sort of character background to begin with. Chuck does. And it’s Chuck who needs to use everything he has to save the day.
Am I going to continue this series? Maybe. I love fantasy stories and this one has many good, old fashioned staples. Goblins, kobolds, tiny villages that need help from the hero, an evil wizard. And I do love some video game and trapped in another world stories. But I found the pacing off, the characters underdeveloped, and some of their reactions to things unrealistic. If you don’t like characters with little development or books with a ‘trapped in a video game/other world’ theme this might not be the book for you. If you’re looking for a light adventure story with gaming themes than you may want to pick It’s All Fun and Games.