Friday, October 6, 2017

Log Horizon 7: Gold of the Kunie by Mamare Touno

Log Horizon 7: Gold of the Kunie
by Mamare Touno

Here we are in the world of Elder Tales again! Now just in case you've skipped the last 5 or so reviews... I will briefly explain. Once upon a time in 21st century Earth there was a super popular MMO called Elder Tales that had a massive player base across the entire planet. Upon the release of a new expansion, people found themselves trapped in the game, and the game world became more and more real. NPCs, who called themselves People of the Earth, were now real people with real emotions, hopes, and goals. Monsters now display tactical planning and react to situations like living, thinking beings who don't want to die to provide you experience points and gold. The players found themselves inhabiting the bodies of their game characters and able to use their abilities. However combat became terrifyingly real and while you would come back when you died (unlike the natives) dying still hurt and costs you memories. In the city of Akihba the player base fell into disarray and apathy. Hither came Shiroe: enchanter, master plotter, and strategist who decided to pull the whole city and the players within kicking and screaming into a working society whether they liked it or not. We have seen him so far establish city governments out of whole cloth, revitalize an economy and engineer a peaceful and productive relationship with the local native state. Of course he was utterly unable to do this alone and it was only with Shiroe working with the people around him and often just explaining his objectives and letting them determine the best use of their own talents and gifts to achieve those objectives that he was able to pull off such dizzying achievements. A lot of people would be content to call it a day and put their feet up, maybe have a nice drink after all that. Not our boy in glasses though, in this book, Shiroe goes raiding.

Now some of you may be asking what a raid is. In the context of a MMO game, a raid is an adventure where a group of players will combine forces to achieve a goal. This is typically an attack by a large group of players into a dungeon to clear it, kill the dungeon boss (usually a boss monster with a frightening amount of hit points and enough special abilities to make you sick) and gain the loot. These boss monsters often take several tries to defeat because you need to learn their combat routine and abilities along with their weaknesses before you'll have a real shot at victory. Raid players are usually happy to take these tries however as these types of raids are well known for the special items that can only be gained by defeating the raid adventure. Most groups will have a system worked out to determine who gets what gear and believe me, this can be hotly contested. The raid in this book is no different, as Shiroe is here to get the kind of epic loot that would make anyone jealous.  You see, there is a primitive banking system in the world of Elder Tales, run by a group of people known as the Kunie clan.  Now the Kunie clan will hold your cash and store items for you but they don’t do loans.  Which is strange for a bank.  When Shiroe meets them to talk about a loan, he’s told to take a walk.  His response?  Sure, he’ll take a walk, right to the dungeon where the source of all money is, but he'll have to overcome some personale difficulties first.

In this book we have the reappearance of the Silver Swords, led by William aka Mithral Eyes. Now the Silver Swords were a powerful raid group that Shiroe invited to join the Round Table government in Akihba but they turned him down (the only guild to do so). Afterward they moved to Susukino, took over the town from the misbehaving adventurers there and started raiding, but then they found themselves falling on hard times. According to William this was because while you still come back from death, you are forced to... well kinda confront yourself and see the flaws within you. Realizing that you're not that great a person is never fun and violently dying and then having your face rubbed in all your flaws sounds like the kind of thing that would get real old, real fast. Especially since not only is dying still really painful but you get to pay for this wonderful privilege by losing some of your memories. Which honestly leaves me wondering: under such a system would it be possible to die so often that you come out the other side a completely different person? I mean who we are if often fundamentally shaped by our experiences and our environment. If you take away those experiences aren't you left with a completely different person? Now the memory loses told to us in the story are fairly minor, Shiroe forgets the name of a ramen restaurant in his home town. Krusty in an earlier book mentioned that he couldn't remember the name of his pet cat from his childhood but this sounds like it would add up. Sure Krusty can still remember having a cat but how long before he loses that? Or the name of his mother? Or if he had any siblings? How much would this change him? The story elects not to answer this question and leave it to the reader to consider.

Another return is the mad monk Demikas, who used to be the bandit king of Susukino, until Shiroe wrecked him in public and William moved in and started enforcing decent behavior. The conflict between Demikas and Shiroe is a petty one in scope but is still interesting as it's two people who hate each other having to learn to acknowledge the other person's humanity and work together. Honestly, Demikas is a horrible person who in my mind wasn't punished enough for his crimes of tormenting and even enslaving the People of the Earth in his area before being stopped. Shiroe's willingness to try and be empathic to Demikas is more than I think I could pull here. I honestly liked the fact that the writer did reform Demikas' behavior but left his basic personality as a violent thug intact and instead of trying to dramatically alter it, just showed us how in specific circumstance even violent thugs can do the right thing and maybe even learn to be a little less thuggish.

This book gives us a look at the consequences of Elder Tales becoming a real place and at the same time shows us how resurrection from death might not be that big a favor. It also lets us see the heroes placed in despair and deciding if they can keep going. I like how it's actually William here who stands up and gets everyone to find their backbone here. The series continues to allow other characters to be awesome instead of only letting it's main character do anything cool. This is a good, self contained story that still touches larger issues and brings up more things to consider in the series.  Not to mention a look at the bigger world in the series itself. That said, I kinda feel like the past actions of characters like Demikas are excused to easily.  He doesn’t have to pay a price for his misbehavior nor does he acknowledge that was bad behavior. That doesn’t quite sit right with me.  That said I enjoyed it and I'm giving Log Horizon 7 by Mamare Touno a B. It's a good interesting entry into the series and I'm really interested in seeing how it plays out. I can't say much more than that without venturing into spoilers territory though.

Next week, we're Keeping it Real with the Quantum Series. Keep Reading!

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