492 pages | Hummel Books| Fantasy/ SFF/ Science Fiction
I was sent an ARC of Radioactive Evolution in exchange for an honest review.
The digest: a great introduction to the litRPG genre. Give this one a look if you’re a fan of RPG, dragons, and defined methods of characters growing stronger. Radioactive Evolution is a solid, entertaining read suitable for most fantasy fans.
From Radioactive Evolution’s Goodreads page:
“Decimated by nuclear war, humanity stands at the precipice of extinction. The rich and powerful take to the oceans and skies on floating utopias, escaping destruction and forcing everyone else to fend off mutated creatures that roam the world.
At the turn of the third millennium, earth’s remaining survivors glimpse hope when a brilliant scientist invents nanotechnology, and mankind finally has a chance to push back against the walls of their radioactive prisons.
No longer enslaved within the safe zone, Jared embraces the new technology. He plunges deep into the twisted, scarred wastelands and unwittingly binds himself to a being of great power. But a discovery breeds doubt and fear; the nanomachines surging inside his body are killing him!
Faced with this new reality, Jared must become an apex predator to survive. He must surpass human limitations to defeat those in power and bring justice to any deserving.”
- This novel is a litRPG – meaning that it is effectively a novelised game of chance (like Dungeons and Dragons) wherein the characters are physically able to level up their stats. Kill an enemy, collect some of their life force, and suddenly you have a few points to increase your strength, or perhaps you have a whole new ability entirely. I have not read a litRPG book before, and am happy that Radioactive Evolution was my introduction to the genre. The whole concept is described with such clarity and precision that I was never lost.
- The bonus point here is that the system actually makes sense within the story itself, and Jared’s own understanding grows with ours as he slowly realizes just what he is capable of.
- The worldbuilding is rather good. The world has gone to pot and Jared spends the novel exploring different areas – some of which are very familiar, others of which are almost entirely alien to us. The mystery surrounding the lead up to the current post-apocalyptic state is well thought out (though of course there is always more intrigue just over the horizon) and entertaining.
- The world is populated by a vast array of mutated creatures, Hummel’s playing with tropes familiar to fans of RPGs by having a multitude of lower-level enemies attacking Jared until a Big Bad Boss figures appeared, usually with enhanced
- There’s a dragon, and she’s bloody brilliant. Without going into too much detail, I will say that I appreciated the organic way in which the relationship between her and Jared grew as the story progressed. There were a few parts where I thought that things were moving a bit too fast, but these were few and far between.
- The story of the novel is quite entertaining and certainly kept me interested. Lone wolf (ish) Jared comes across a dragon and they team up in a post-apocalyptic world. Good premise for a novel, and fans of RPGs or fantasy more generally will probably enjoy their time with it.
- There were moments of genuine tension. Not every book manages to get me invested enough in its contents to care about what happens to the characters and the world around them, but fortunately Radioactive Evolution managed to do just that.
- There is a bit too much over-explanation at points. If the character is thinking something, we as readers don’t need to them see him repeat these thoughts aloud to other characters.
- Some of the dialogue feels far too rigid. If you’re being attacked by a terrifying creature, you won’t really have time to calmy reiterate a point you made earlier. Part of Jared’s story is that he has been without human contact for a while (surviving on his own), and this made it a little more difficult to see him suddenly have perfect English straight away again. Surely he’d be a little rough around the edges and not so polite?
- There is a very uncomfortable romance aspect a fair way through the novel which reminded me a little bit of Neville’s thought processes during the I Am Legend story.
- The story was too fast-paced for me personally. There’s a strand of media theory which basically says that the reader/audience/viewer needs to be moved closer to and further from the crux of any given plot in order to retain their attention and prevent fatigue. In this novel, unfortunately, we never have any real break from the action, which made the experience feel a little bit like a grind on occasion. Jared goes from heroic deed to heroic deed and the lad needs to take a proper break away from it all every now and again.
Conclusion: 3.5/5 (rounded to 3/5). Radioactive Evolution seems to be a great starting point for the readers new to the litRPG genre in that Hummel expertly constructs a narrative and world which work well with this core. It’s a good, fun read that unfortunately suffers from a bit of waffly and lack of polish – I’d want Jared to speak more like a human being and be a little more believable in his actions and trusting. The conclusion to Radioactive Evolution has certainly made me interested to find out what happens in the next book.