“Solarversia: The Year Long Game” by Toby Downton (Kindle, 2015)


If you like video games, chances are you’re either a fan of or are at least familiar with massive multiplayer online role-playing games, better known as MMORPGs. There are a lot of MMORPGs out there right now: Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Star Trek, and Warhammer to name a few. Some are hugely successful, some not so much. But what is known is that a lot of people on this planet like playing them.

So it makes sense then that a book about an addictive MMORPG would also be popular; and there have been a few of them over the last couple years, such as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Reamde by Neal Stephenson and For the Win by Cory Doctorow. Toby Downton is looking to go one step further with more than just a book. But first, lets talk about that book.

The year is 2020 and Solarversia is an MMORPG like no other. It lasts an entire year, as players complete puzzles and obstacles, leveling up and traveling to new places around the planet. By the time the game officially begins, there are 100 million players. As new levels are unlocked by special feats completed by players, they can then travel to other planets to complete further puzzles, culminating in a final showdown on Pluto at the end of the year where there will only be a few players left. The last player standing gets something really special: prize money in the amount of ten million pounds and the opportunity to help develop the next game due to be released in 2024.

Nova Negrahnu is a teenage girl who has been waiting a long time for Solarversia. She was one of the first people to register for the game with her friend, Sushi, and once the year begins, she can’t get enough of it, playing as often as she can and forgoing school work at times. Her parents aren’t big fans of her obsessive game time, but once Nova starts winning some prize money attitudes soon change. It is of course her dream to win it all and help create the next game, but at this point that is little more than wishful thinking.

But the creators of Solarversia also have another big thing to worry about. There is a cult known as the Holy Order whose leader believes an artificial intelligence known as the MAGI will be born from the game and it is MAGI who the followers of the Holy Order believe will come. They plan to sabotage the game and attack its players to help bring forth their new god.

Downton has clearly played a game or two or ten in his life, as a lot of the “game play” in Solarversia feels real, as if it came from an actual video game. His description of action scenes and completing game puzzles and obstacles is exciting and keeps the reader hooked and interested. He has also created a large and complex mythology for the MMORPG which the reader learns about through Nova playing the game and learning its history and back story for its characters and worlds.

Downton’s ultimate goal is to release the MMORPG of Solarversia in 2020, and in the meantime gamers and fans of these types of books can enjoy Solarversia the book for the fun, wild literary video-game ride that it is.

Originally written on August 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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