Title: SpeedRunner (Tower of Babel, #1)
Author: Adam Elliott
Genre: LitRPG, Cyberpunk
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Synopsis (from Amazon):
That was what they called it. The day when over four million people vanished in an instant from the island of Manhattan. The day earthquakes ravaged the east coast. The day a one hundred and one kilometre tall tower rose from the wreckage of the now empty city. The day every screen, newspaper, and smart phone displayed a single message from an unknown source:
The Great Emperor has issued his challenge.
From the ruins of the Old World rise the Tower. Its doors will soon open, and the great game will begin.
A hundred floors and a hundred challenges await the worthy.
And to the victor? A Wish of Unlimited Power.
Cayden Caros yearned to play that game. His only problem? The Terms and Conditions. A strict set of rules that, among other things, prevented anyone under the age of sixteen from entering the tower.
Forced to wait for over two years, Cayden did the only thing he could do to pass the time. He researched, he practiced and he prepared. It would take a lot to catch up to players with such an enormous head start. Lucky for him, he was a special type of gamer.
Why I Think Boys May Enjoy This
LitRPGs are the hot new thing right now and this one is no exception. If you notice, though, I consider this one both a LitRPG and a Cyberpunk story, which is something that sets it apart from other LitRPGs that I’ve read so far. Babel is very much an alternate reality system akin to things like The Matrix or the Oasis from Ready Player One. The difference is that it’s still a “gamer-first” world and not something that the entire world is plugged into. The corporate-level interests and financial/economic issues, though, make it feel more cyberpunk than LitRPG at times.
That being said, SpeedRunner has some very consistent elements with LitRPG and a clever mechanic to put out the exposition about things like class and experience and leveling up that make LitRPG what it is. Since Cayden is a streamer and speed runner (someone who focuses on using glitches and extreme practice to complete games in record times), it adds a unique element. It also allows the author to get away with flat-out exposition dumps in a way that would have otherwise been annoying. As with all LitRPGs, I do find sometimes the “pause to explain a talent or to re-read the character sheet” are sometimes annoying pauses to the narrative. I will say, though, that since I listened on audiobook (because Vikas Adam is my hero), it would probably be something I could just gloss over in print/eBook format.
The story is fun. It has multiple “primary” plot points that loop around and show that Elliott has plenty of story left in the tank for additional volumes. What I found most interesting, I think, were the cyberpunk elements even moreso than the LitRPG ones. Corporate interests farming materials for both in-game and out-of-game wealth is, in a way, satirical of the MMO industry in real life. The way Cayden’s “speed run” efforts were completely derailed between the surprise sub-plot that is wrapped up in this book and the surprise skill/class he learns make me definitely want to see where his story goes.
All in all, for those that want to delve into LitRPG and feel they’re reading a lot of the same book over and over, I definitely recommend the unique spin Elliott has in this book to break up a little of that monotony.
While there is actual death (if you fully die inside of Babel, you die in real life), it still is very cartoonish/video gamish in nature. At first, I even kind of missed the importance of what happens if you don’t get healed up after you enter “bleed out” inside the game… until it became an important plot point.
Cayden has a couple of potential romantic interests throughout the book but there is no sexual content nor are there any major language concerns either. More than content appropriate for any gamer kid who experiences a little animated violence (with the understanding that it is “real” from a long-term perspective).