Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Looking for Group, by Alexis Hall

I read another book! Also in a finite amount of time! Just as if I were a person capable of reading books. Weird.

Bonus! This one did not make me sad! So that was nice.

Like Boyfriend Material, Looking for Group is also an M/M romance with a single POV character. LFG centers on two college students who meet while playing “Heroes of Legend”, a thinly-veiled stand-in for World of Warcraft. Much of the story takes place while the protagonist plays HoL, so you hear a lot about the game and detailed play-by-plays of dungeons and raids and the occasional grinding or touring the world.

The sum of my WoW-playing experience is “for three hours on one evening, using a free account.” Despite this, I have significant WoW-adjacent experience: Lut played on and off for several years, including as a member of a raiding guild. Many of my other friends have also played a lot of WoW. And I’ve played various other MMORPGs. Anyway, I found the descriptions of raids, dungeons, tactics, strategies, etc. all intelligible and easy to follow. The end of the book has a glossary, which I got to and thought “oh, this would’ve been useful to know about before I finished the book.” And then I paged through it and realized I had immediately recognized every term in it except for “achi”, which I figured out by context two lines after coming across it and which the narrative revealed explicitly in another six lines or so. (Me: “what the heck is ‘achi’? Oh wait you mean CHEEVO? Is calling achievements ‘achi’ a UK thing? Or a teenager thing?” All the other terms I hadn’t recognized were general UK slang, not gaming-specific, and not covered by the glossary.)

I don't know how the book would work for readers who are not familiar with MMORPGs. I found the MMORPG content believable and authentic, and occasionally tedious to read in much the same way that MMORPGs can get tedious to play. I expect reading it as a non-gamer would be similar to reading a fencing romance when you know nothing about fencing -- ie, it might be deal-breaker because you don't want to deal with all the jargon, or it might be fine because you can let it slide in favor of the story.

The story starts with the narrator meeting a female character in-game, and there’s some “I thought you were a girl IRL” drama and mention of homophobia while the narrator contemplates whether or not he might be bi. So content note for that, but it’s pretty lightweight. Overall, the tenor of the book is optimistic and good-humored.

A few things struck me as implausible; the 19-year-old narrator is the “best-geared tank on the server,” plus going to college, plus maintaining an RL social life where he doesn’t raid on the weekends. And I really feel like playing in the top guild on a server is a bigger time commitment than the author suggests here. Like, this is significantly less time commitment than I had to EverQuest, and I was never an elite player. Also, both he and his love interest have been playing since they were 15-16, and my experience with teen MMO players is that their parents will not let them make the kind of commitment to the game required to become an elite player. On the other hand, this is a fictional MMO so one can posit that it allows skill to elide some of the grindiness of real MMOs. The one that startled me more was a 19 year-old character saying that he spent “most summers” visiting a 45 yo friend in Germany. The friendship is perfectly reasonable; when Lut and I met, one of our close friends on Furry was a teen and about half Lut’s age. But a teen traveling to another country to visit a much older man -- eep. I actually do know people who did this (well, “traveled across the US” rather than to another country, but UK to Germany is pretty similar), so it shouldn’t boggle me that his parents didn’t just go “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND” at the concept. But it does.

Regardless, it was nice to see a book refer to the cross-generational friendships common to the online era as a positive thing, instead of “ew adults creeping on kids.”

Overall, I had a great time with this book and am glad I read it. It was in some ways not as good at "romance" as Boyfriend Material -- it doesn't really have scenes that I found so touching that I want to re-read them, for example. But it's a fun read. Maybe I will even try reading YET ANOTHER book! gasp

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Tags: book review, review

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