Best LITRPG Books
LitRPG an emerging subgenre of Science Fiction & Fantasy and, arguably, the fastest growing new speclatutive fiction genre, if you look at the sheer number of LitRRPG indie fiction being released right now.
LitRPG literally stands for 'literature Role Playing Game'. In other words, a story version of an RPG -- at least in theory. Truth be told the genre has busted out of its pure gaming roots and has started to define an identity. What it will be in a few years might not be what it is now.
The Short History of LitRPG
The genre (which up to recently was often bundled in with Cyberpunk) started out in Korea as a sort of successful fanfic experiment.
This new kind of story (about gamers trapped in VR gaming worlds) gained some popularity in Korea.
Then a few Russians, sensing an opportunity, started to dabble in this new genre, releasing LitRPG books in Russia. D Rus (Play to Live) and V Manhanenko (The Way of the Shaman) were the first such.
These authors soon became fairly successful in Russia which garnered the attention a well-regarded Russian Science Fiction writer Andrei Livadny who wrote the Phantom Series novels.
This series became a national best seller in Russia and soon LitRPG became a real thing in Russia, not just an obscure niche of science fiction.
A few years later, D Rus translated his Play to Live series into English and released them on the Kindle marketplace.
The books found a hungry English-speaking readership willing to buy anything stamped with LitRPG on it and soon, the Russian invasion of LitRGP began.
English Indie SFF writers saw how successful this new genre was on the marketplace (dominated up to this point by Russian-translated works) and started writing their own LitRPG stores.
And here we are a few years later with a new genre.
An Emerging Genre Still in Flux
Regardless of the LitRPG definition, one key element that defines it is the inclusion of a virtual game world as a big part of the story.
Clearly, telling stories that involve gaming nerds trapped in the very games they play has hit some sort of cultural nerve among a segment of readers, if the explosion of indie LitRPG is any indication.
Indeed, if you check out Amazon and start browsing for fantasy or science fiction books, I'm willing to be a significant percentage of all the new indies published are LITRPG. As such, LitRGP and Indie Fantasy are currently attached by the hip (see our Best Indie Fantasy Books list).
The genre is still in flux with writers still finding their feet.
As stated above, it's an emerging genre right now.
Most of the best LITRPG is by Russian authors (translated into English) which can make for some particular language oddities and 'lost in translation' moments during your reading.
The rest of the LitRPG is by indie authors, which can make for some challenging reading, to say the least.
A good amount of the LitRGP is clearly written as wish fulfillment by nerds who've are gaming addicts or talked to a girl. But then again, amidst the pure crap, there's some good reading to be had if you dig deep.
In the hustle of this exploding genre, a few of the best books have floated to the surface. And surprise, surprise, if you can suspend your disbelief (which can be a challenge when reading LitRPG, even for well-established fantasy readers used to do such) and relax your expectations a bit, you might just be treating to some compelling, and surprisingly addictive readings.
So What is LITRPG?
It's all about virtual reality becoming reality, where everything that happens takes place partly or entirely inside virtual reality. Think the Matrix meets World of Warcraft meets Ender's Game and you have a good idea what it is.
LITRPG is pretty much what happens when you pry a MMORPG gaming addict off his chair, force him to bang out a few hundred pages of story, then publish the result via the Amazon Kindle Program.
Ok, I'm joking -- but only a bit. There's a lot of crap out there (in fact, about 98% of all LITRPG is crap), but there are a few good reads to get warmed up on.
This genre, when you compare it to the more established fantasy genres, is one of those guilty pleasures, but if you do manage to find a good LITRPG, you might find that it can be surprisingly addictive.
I just recommend you LISTEN to the audiobook version over reading it as it makes the stories far more palatable (especially with the stat announcements managed by the narrator).
The books kind of read out like an RPG-converted-to-novel mated with a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.
If you read enough LITRPG, you'll see a few elements that remain the same from book to book. I call these the LITRPG 'clichés and you'll encounter them over and over in most LitRPG's you read, in some form of another.
You typically get two types of 'heroes' in a LitRPG novel: incredibly overpowered or barely scraping by -- rarely anything else.
Standard Features of the LITRPG Novel
-A character forced into a game virtual reality world, modeled after RPG games but through advanced Virtual Reality. The character experience the world like a video game where every element of the world is defined by the stat characteristics you find in video games (strength, charisma, chance, dexterity, etc).
-MMORPG terminology is used by the characters in the book such as noob, mob, loot, pvp'ers, levels, experience points, reputation, item durability, item class (common, uncommon, rare, epic, legendary). Basically, terms straight out of a D&D gaming manual.
-The characters are often on a quest (if not to escape the game world back to reality) to achieve greatness by acquiring rare ‘loot’, gaining reputation points, new class abilities, achievements, and levels.
-The character continually improves his statistics (model after an RPG) through in game quests/events / actions which increase his game character 'level' ranking which gives him/her more power in the game.
-The character usually has a list of RPG-like 'skill's that he improves gaining new abilities. These skills and levels are announced by a sort of 3rd party narration of the stat bonuses when the character gains a rank or skill increase.
-Player can often win special achievements in the game world by the game for achieving certain feats (capturing a dungeon first, killing some special monster, gaining some reputation by completing a quest)
-Game gods or controlling forces that help guide the protagonist are often occupied by the game's artificial intelligence which often becomes sentient.
-The game is usually populated by many (millions usually) of other real people who control other player avatars. There are also NPC's controlled by AI.
-The character is often stuck in this virtual world and unable to log out, or if they can log out, are compelled to stay in the world for long periods of time (earning online cash, stuck in a prison, dead and trapped online.
-There is some method describing how the character interacts with the game world (a game capsule where the player stays linked up to via neurological connections)
-The events in the game may impact the real world (you can earn money which can be translated to real-world currency or the game dynamics and politics influence real-world politics and power struggles or the game reality bleeds into reality
-The character (usually) starts as a new player (noob) with ZERO experience and must navigate the world
-The protagonist is some sort of prodigy (often a Gary Stu) and through the book uses his smarts (or in some cases, sheer luck) to shortcut his way through the world, quickly gaining influence, reputation, and social power and becoming a force that conflicts with the status quo, both in the game and in the real world through the game.
Slogging Through a Desolate Landscape of Fiction To Bring You The Best LitRGP Recommendations
And that my friends is the essence (so far) of the LITRPG genre. Technically, LITRPG is science fiction (virtual game world and all), but it's often a fantasy adventure through the trappings of the sci-fi game world.
So with the rise of this new genre -- and the sheer popularity of LITRPG among some readers (who consume these books like a body builder does protein scoops), let's take a good look at some of the best in the genre.
To put this list together, I have personally plowed through dozens and dozens of LitRPG books (probably 40 at least). It's taken about 6 months, but I wanted to make sure I fully explored this emerging genre before I cooked up this best list.
As one of Scott R. Bakker's characters in The Judging Eye says when recounting a nightmare voyage through a monster-infested landscape: doing so was 'the slog of slogs'.
As there's a FLOOD of new LitRPG's being released every single day, I'll keep this list updated from month to month.