To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first cracked this book open. Manga? The exact same as the anime? It was the anime all over again, but in a good way; there’s a lot of things that happen in the anime that isn’t in the book, but is approached in another version. It was a new experience to reading, one I’m not 100% sure about at this current time, but it would be a genre I’m willing to pursue. Here is the general gist of the book/anime. Its the year 2020 and a new online game has been released called ‘Sword Art Online’ and it is accompanied by technology that allows the user to completely delve into the game, having complete mental control over their virtual bodies, like they are living in the world itself.
We follow the story/ perspective of a gamer named Kirito, who is part of the first group of gamers to enter into the world of Sword Art Online as well as the group of beta testers who first tested the gaming experience. He is introduced to us as a shy, conservative, die-hard gamer who isn’t very good with people. nonetheless he makes friends with one of the gamers an helps him to get used to the platforming. It is truly a unique gaming experience for the users that is until they discover that there is no log out button. As it turns out the developer Ahkihiba Kyaba has designed the game so that it simulates real life, if you die in the game, you die in real life the user cannot log out, they cannot be forced out and disconnecting or trying to be forced out from the outside will ill them. In order to escape, they have to beat the game and shut it down from the inside. This is where the book and the anime differentiate… where the anime follows them in their first few days of their journey through the game the book straight away skips to two years later, in which gamers have conquered the first 70 odd floors and groups have formed of fighters called ‘Guilds’ who spend their lives in the game on the front lines, working their way through the levels and defeating the ‘Boss’ monsters who defend the gates the the next level. Kirito is one of those gamers, however, he is not apart of a Guild choosing to go it alone, rather than being with people he could risk loosing. The first day we follow his journey her comes across a type of rabbit that’s extremely rare and apparently tastes delicious. He captures it, but he doesn’t have the experience points to cook the meat properly so he has to enlist the help of a fellow gamer… this is where we meet his love interest Asuna.
Asuna is apart of the Knights of Blood guild, and has the nickname ‘The Flash’ because she is wicked fast with her sword and is one of the highest ranked players within the game, as well as one of the prettiest. Since it is in a game, Kawahara wrote the gender statistics to be stereotypically more male populated than female. So Asuna, with her looks and ranking as well as being in one of the most famous guilds is quite famous herself, and garners a lot of attention. Sauna, is fierce, loyal and strong, who has no problem giving Kirito hell..
From here we follow these two gamers as their virtual lives intertwine over and over again and as the slowly fall in love and venture to defeat the game, no longer for themselves but for each other, so that they can meet in the outside world and fall in love all over again. We are with these two as the battle demons, both inner and physical and get married, move to a quiet level by a lake and bring something to fulfilling to each others lives. All the while we explore more and more of the virtual world and all it involves. We are with them through every part of their lives until they finally beat the game.
This novel is… hard to really define in terms of genre; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, romance, comedy, action. It falls under many categories and as such is a really good read for a wide range of people. It explores multiple ascots of the human condition with the backdrop of an amazing sub-plotiline that makes you want to keep reading even past the end. If i had to say one negative thing, it would be that i wished the writing style were less choppy, and maybe that the time was taken to really go into depth with the story of both the defeat of the game and the romance between Kirito and Asuna. As it is, i feel like she popped out of nowhere and all of a sudden their in love and are getting married. This rush is understandable as the author was writing for a contest and was only allotted a certain number of pages -which he went over- but it certainly wasn’t enough to explore this story with all the love it deserves. Maybe his other books that continue the series, will fill in the blanks. Nonetheless, i would recommend this book any day, or at least the anime which is an addictive watch.
Til next time,