Death March (Euphoria Online #1) by Phil Tucker

Death MarchI just recently finished Death March by Phil Tucker and even though I know less about RPGs than you could fit on a pinhead I had a blast with this book.  It was really good.  I found myself liking the characters, it’s a great way of coming up with a convoluted plot and lots of cunning solutions but more than that, now I’ve finished reading I find myself missing the story very much.

So, as you may be able to gather this is a book that falls into the LitRPG genre.  Now, if that has got you feeling like I did initially, that you don’t know much about RPG and therefore this isn’t for you – let me disabuse you of that notion straight away.  I wanted to read this because of the author but deep down I had misgivings, I’m not a gamer – the odd one out in my family apparently – but, the way this is written I really don’t think it’s necessary for you to be clued in.  It’s reader friendly.  Easy to pick up and impressively immersive.

As the book starts we make the acquaintance of Chris.  He’s a school teacher who seems to have had a string of bad luck family wise.  His brother is currently in prison and possibly facing execution (not, I hasten to add, because his crime was heinous but more to make an example of him).  Chris is determined to help and so when his ex-girlfriend offers him a free pass to play in the world’s most exclusive gaming experience, Euphoria, in spite of his nagging doubts about her motives he snatches the offer.  If he survives 6 months in game mode (the equivalent of a long weekend in real life) he can ask for his brother’s freedom as a boon.  You may be thinking ‘hell yes’ to that – but, in order to gain this special reward the gamer must be in ‘death march’ mode so if Chris dies in game – he dies in real life too.  Not an option to be taken lightly but Christ is out of other ideas and he refuses to lose his brother.

Now, the seriousness of death march mode put to one side, you also have to wonder why exactly Chris’s ex-girlfriend has offered him this exclusive pass?  Is something nagging at the back of your mind about ‘hell having no fury like a woman scorned’?

Anyway, Chris is a gamer on a serious level, or at least he was.  However, that means squat when he enters the world of Euphoria.  His stat sheet is the lowest of the low, he could barely run away from a hedgehog without losing strength and so if he runs across any enemies he’s going to have to think fast, a single swipe from a cave troll could kill him outright.  And so begins ‘the grind’.  Gamers will know all about that – a term I’m only familiar with because of the rest of the family.  Basically, Chris needs to put in effort to raise his basic stats, gain points and buy other skills, cantrips, weapons, etc.

Okay, now to the good stuff – sorry if I’ve made it all sound a bit dry with the explanation, I can assure you it’s anything but.  There is of course a little bit of build up and some description of the character mode that Chris chooses and what it all means.  But, rest assured once Chris enters game mode the action kicks off pretty much immediately.

It’s funny but I never imagined myself being able to love a world based on a game world (although Ready Player One) but now I realise how silly that was – the world here is brilliant and more so because being a game, I think, actually frees up so many restrictions or inhibitions that must feel like they bog down the creation of a fantasy world outside of a gaming situation.  It really does feel like anything goes here and with that comes this sense of liberation – you really can go with the flow and accept whatever may be thrown your way.  As it is this feels like a faux mediaeval world to me with a small village and crumbling castle overrun with critters – clearly though this is only one tiny part of the game.

The characters are a whole bunch of likeable too.  Chris is such a good guy that you can’t help but be in his corner and it’s easy to see that eventually he will make friends because of his kindness, sense of humour and compassion.  No surprise that he pretty soon finds himself with a couple of other gamers and the three of them come up with a mission of sorts.  He also makes some other great friends who I must admit have been making me laugh out loud but that I won’t go into detail about here as it will definitely spoil the surprise along the way.

In terms of the plot.  I’d say the first instalment is about setting the scene.  We’re in game mode.  Chris has faced some pretty hairy situations that have required some quick creative thinking where his previous gaming experience has definitely helped and with the aid of his fellow gamers they’ve come up with a way to boost their stats so they can move on.  What could possible go wrong?

On top of this there is the suggestion of something underlying the fun and games – Chris might be in here for one reason but discussion about the AI running the show has definitely got the cogs in my brain whirring and on top of that there’s the added dilemma of what Chris’s ex is really up to.

The writing here is really good which isn’t exactly a surprise as I’ve read this author a couple of times before and like his style.  This is easy to get along with and there’s just the right amount of humour to make it really engaging without being a try hard.

Criticisms, well, there is a little bit of set up – but not much so don’t let that put you off.  And, a cliffhanger – yes, this very much ends on an unresolved note however it simply leaves me gagging for the next instalment. I may have mentioned that I’m missing this now it’s finished and if I had less commitments I would undoubtedly read it again.

I would definitely recommend this – it’s has good pacing, characters that you will become attached to, the world is great and it feels like there are so many possibilities yet to be explored.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

Now check out the cover – I’ve posted it twice just in case you didn’t really check it out at the start – here it is again for your delight:

Death March






6 Responses to “Death March (Euphoria Online #1) by Phil Tucker”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The cover is what drew my attention to this book from the first time I saw it around, and since like you I’m no gamer I will take your recommendation to heart: when I hear that a story is immersive (just as an online game must be, I guess), I do take notice, so I will certainly add this novel to my “wanted” list.
    Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a really enjoyable read – and the cover is excellent.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m not savvy enough on the topic of litRPGs either, though needless to say, being a gamer I am very interested. I just checked up on the Euphoria Online trilogy, and I see from Phil Tucker’s kickstarter that these books will be available in audio down the road. Definitely something to keep on my to-watch list.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I think so – this was really enjoyable in fact I’d say I liked this the most by PT so far.
      Lynn 😀

  3. jessicabookworm

    Lynn, initially, I saw that this was LitRPG genre and nearly switched off, but I continued as you suggested; and I must admit this does sound like a lot of fun. Plus the cover is great! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it tbh and I can see such a lot of scope for stories like this – plus it has a really new feel.
      Lynn 😀

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