· 10 reviews · [ Original Fiction ] · by cthulhuraejepsen
mature · ongoing · 818k words · updated 4 months ago
From the age of nine, Juniper Smith began filling notebooks with his worlds, at first places of fantastical imagination, but later with each as an expression of some theme or idea that momentarily grabbed his interest. Over the course of eight years, he shared these worlds with his friends through twice-weekly sessions of tabletop gaming. Now at the age of seventeen, he finds himself in Aerb, a world that appears to be an amalgam of those many notebooks, stuck trying to find the answers to why he's there and what this world is trying to say. The most terrifying answer might be that this world is an expression of the person he was back on Earth.
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A gold standard of the rational genre.
rangerscience | 1 month ago

Everyone is thinking about everything all the time and it's amazing. Every trope is subverted, flirted, and surpassed. Characterization, writing, character *growth*, intense world-building, it's all here. Chock full of insights into personal trauma. Only downside is there's a fair amount of planning, existential and emotional crisis. Plot tends to move in lurches because of this, where the characters spend a fair amount of time planning and talking, and then go execute. Nothing ever goes to plan, it pretty much always escalates quickly, and generally takes less time than planning it in the first place.... but honestly that's how you do it, if you want to be alive later. Comparable in quality (but not style / vibe) to Unsong, HPMOR, Origins of Species, and R!Animorphs. Closest in vibe to R!Animorphs and Wizard of Dunkirk.

Good, but not quite what I was hoping for
DuskStar | 4 months ago

I'm still reading this (about 400k words in), but it's starting to get tiring. I'm not sure exactly what component of it has lead to that, though. Possibly the neverending "I will never get over the people I left behind" which is understandable but... Ugh. Mindrape mechanics, too - kinda squick for me, despite being only a very small part of the story. (to the point I've read so far) But competently written, well planned and frequently updated, all major pluses. I'll probably finish it when I'm stuck on a flight this holiday season.

Pros and Cons
lauert | 4 months ago

I had mixed feelings about this work, pros and cons that balanced each other out. I don't particularly like the Portal Fantasy/LitRPG genre, and this story, while decent on its own merits and much better than other LitRPG serials I've read in the past (How to Avoid Death on a Daily Basis, Delvers LLC, etc), is still a LitRPG. It embraces the common LitRPG tropes: stat sheets, meta-narrative pop cultural awareness, power-leveling and munchkinry. If you can't stand those, there's no reason why you should read this story, let alone write a 1-star review about why you hate the tropes. But as I can stand them, I'll skip over complaining about them because it's pointless and has already been covered by other people. The prose is polished, a few typos and misplaced apostrophes, but it was only a handful of times across half a million words. Much better writing than your average serial, pop culture references were infrequent and when they were used, it usually had some relation to a plot point or backstory. At a more thorough look, I found the prose overall to be serviceable. Not stellar, as the fight scenes and stat sheet descriptions and later game interface sections were clearly written to do a job -- conveying the action. If you want to read literary prose that flows like poetry, this isn't the story for you. However, the character interaction scenes were more thoughtfully written, introspective and a better demonstration in terms of displaying writing skill than everything else. The character interactions were the best part of this story, and is what separates this story from the average LitRPG fic. Juniper's flashbacks to his old life in Kansas, and his gaming sessions with the group allow him and his quest to have more depth than just doing stuff because "The game told me to do it". It's an interesting stylistic choice to flip back and forth between timelines, and although it cuts into the pacing when used during suspenseful chapters, it's an effective way to explain the workings of the Aerb universe and characterize Juniper outside the RPG Hero lens. I've seen other stories where the MC's are dumped into the fantasy world with their Earth memories completely wiped (with the exception of a handful of plot convenient skills and jarring pop cultural reference drops because "harhar I know that thing of which you speak")... and that's generic as fuck. Your protagonist is supposed to be a person, not a NPC. I want to see that. I dropped this story for a long while because the first couple of chapters were very rough. They were the most generic, and worst, parts of the story. Dumped into the Noob Dungeon with no explanation, no weapons, and no idea what is going on. Watch as someone innocent is killed in front of your eyes by the Level One Monster, loot cool stuff, existential crisis about the nature of reality, rinse and repeat. This is the standard story start in these kinds of stories, and I hated it. I thought it was a shitty Maze Runner-style ripoff at first, and wouldn't have continued on without positive commentary on the later chapters of the story. Whitebread default "Most Generic Man Alive" as the MC meets super hot Princess-Needs-Your-Help plot set-up in the early chapters felt like blatant self-insert, pandering nonsense, like this genre's male version of Bella Swan from Twilight. Yes, you want your MC to be relatable and sympathetic from the beginning if you want to keep readers reading, but this was so generic and uninteresting. Frankly, I would have liked it better if Juniper had been a female MC because I have seen so many Whitebread Male Protagonists in LitRPG, but never a female one. It would have shaken up the trope expectations and status quos associated with the genre, and made worldbuilding and NPC interactions a lot more engaging. I actually thought Juniper was a girl in Chapter 1 because I've always understood "Juniper" to be a woman's name, and now that I've read to the latest update, I firmly believe a female MC would have improved this story. It would have given the Arthur-Juniper relationship another layer worth contemplating. The trope expectations I'm talking about, if I am to be blunt about it, is the Harem aspect. The MC is self aware, but it's still there and doesn't add much to the story. 79 chapters published as of now, and the MC's party has 4.5 female members out of the total count of 5 companions. He has a rich exiled warrior princess, a half-elf archer, and a devil girl all wanting to jump his bones. Meanwhile, as of the latest chapter I read (~500k words), the MC still pines over his lost Earth girlfriend. I like character conflict in stories, but does it have to be from a harem romance angle? I'd honestly give it a 3.5/5, but there are no half marks here.

5 Gooey ficdb_admin nomnom NewVeteran Rapacity0
Absolutely outstanding. Can't recommend it enough.
Gooey | 5 months ago

Out-of-this-world amounts of deep and coherent world building and magic systems that are very creative. Diverse, realistic and really well fleshed-out cast of main characters, each with their own different motivations, backstories and goals. Main cast acts as murderhobos for a great part of the story: traveling the world, bumping into trouble, chasing bad guys, getting chased by bad guys, putting out fires, gaining power and picking up new team mates along the way. Also worth mentioning: Main cast of team mates doesn't get left behind and become useless when nearing the end game a-la Dragon Ball Z, they're all connected to the protagonist by special means and grow stronger alongside him. Everyone has their own role to fill. Enjoyable comedy. Often lighthearted banter, puns or dry humor. Engaging philosophical discussions, planning, exposition and pondering on the nature of the world and the meta elements of it. The stuff that makes the folk at r/rational quiver in pleasure. Deep, layered and interesting mysteries that are slowly revealed as the story progresses. Fair share of justified paranoia. Satisfying resolutions to conflicts. Intense and gripping action. Plenty of dark elements to the story, but it doesn't become too overwhelming or grimderp. Clear and defined end-game. Incredibly high stakes. Road to godhood and healing the world, surpassing and defeating the greatest threats starting from the bottom. Shit ton of powerful and unique enemies. Very mild romance elements that don't get sappy or too bothersome. Incredible lengths story wise, currently sitting at around 130 chapters and 750k words. Great update speeds from the author, somewhat resembling Wildbow, but with short occasional hiatuses. Small, but engaged fanbase discussing the story at r/rational. I binged the whole thing in under a week and loved every second of it. Instant top 5 favorites ever. If you're into this sort of stuff, give it a try, it's really good.

4 NewVeteran ficdb_admin lauert nomnom
OP self-insert into RPG world with harem - sounds terrible but so so good
calsem | 6 months ago

From a outside perspective worth the candle sounds like everything that is wrong with online fiction. ✓ Harem ✓ Self-insert ✓ video-game mechanics ✓ rediculously powerful protagonist Yet the author manages to subvert each of these in amazing brilliant ways. I can't explain exactly why for spoilers but I can promise you each "cliche" is not what it seems. The protagonist is powerful but the villains are even more stupidly OP. The self-insert provides necessary background and characterization to the story. The harem isn't treated as a sexist "i get all de gurls" but as a legitimate plot device. The video-game mechanics fit into and advance the story perfectly. It's not a perfect story - If I could I would rate it 4.5 stars, but it is really good and I would highly reccomend it.

4 ficdb_admin NewVeteran God_Of_Donuts Gooey
Outstanding even outside it's gender
marwin | 6 months ago

The plot starts at trainwreck speed, focusing, like many similar works, on combat, stats and surviving another day. What really sets this apart from others in the gender is how well the autor develops the characters and relashionship, so that the plots remain gripping even when it starts to slow down. It also has good humor, flawless worldbuilding, and doesn't require much to follow, despite being slightly meta. Overall the single best LitRPG i had the pleasure of reading.

4 nomnom ficdb_admin Gooey NewVeteran
Fantastic deconstruction of fantastical literature
Edanchu | 6 months ago *

A rational deconstruction of fantasy and litrpg tropes that manages to deal with real life issues like depression and grief while telling an action packed and intelligent fantasy epic.

1 Gooey
MC has the ability to level up in a fantasy world
Canadiak | 6 months ago

MC is a bit of an asshole, but I think that's on purpose, so that's okay.

2 Gooey ficdb_admin
The crème de la crème of LitRPG
ficdb_admin | 6 months ago

Fantastic story-telling meets number crunching, Worth the Candle is the literary wet dream of every LitRPG fan. The worldbuilding on Aerb is astounding. First Empire, Second Empire, the Arcanums, the Exclusion Zones, political and economic movements... cthulhuraejepsen has made Aerb as real a place as our own Earth. At first, Juniper Smith's life on Earth seemed like bland backstory, unnecessary cutaways from the adventure and munchkinery on Aerb. But as I read more and more, I became equally invested in both the story of Juniper the teenager and Juniper the savior. WtC has a way of balancing human problems with fantastical action. Will continue this review after I reread some chapters...

3 Gooey NewVeteran ficdb_admin