Broken Bodies: A Review of “The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream”

dragon's wrath

Review by Curtis Cole

Brent Roth, like many of Amazon’s self-published authors, have a unique take on science-fiction; often taking cues from their personal life to shore up narrative defects from authorial inexperience, books such as The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream takes inspiration from many sources, but none more so than the author’s own misfortune. This is not a claim made in opposition to such strategies but more of an advisement that a reader is ought to be wary when reading such a text as sometimes it can be difficult to tell where the autobiography ends, and the narrative beings.

Throughout the narrative of Wrath the protagonist, a once athletic and sociable extrovert brimming with confidence, is brought low by a series of accidents. His injuries wound him severely and slowly but surely erode his entity until a shell of his former self is seen: he gains weight, loses confidence, and retreats into an introverted realm of virtual reality in order to compensate for the loss of human interaction, slowly confusing fiction with reality.

Curiously enough, Brent Roth was also injured prior to the writing of this volume. Once injured he was bedridden for three weeks. During this time, he wrote for fourteen hours per day, amassing a mammoth of a book totaling beyond two-hundred thousand words. Obviously this was a kind of therapy for the author while he was recovering; even so, however, aspects of his personality and life—from his political outlook to his romantic inclinations—are reflected ‘between the lines’. So the question is one of this: with many of these autobiographical works operating as either subsumed political manifestos or poorly worked manuscripts rushed out to garner someone’s fifteen minutes of fame, is this work one worth reading?

My opinion would be yes, it is worth reading. Let me explain.

As explained previously, the premise of the novel is that a former socialite is torn from his preppy upper-middle class life. In order to compensate for the lack of socialization and self-esteem, he enters a virtual world. This is where the narrative picks up: the world he enters is called “The Dragon’s Wrath” a Virtual-Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (VR-MMORPG). Ultra-realistic and difficult, reminding readers of a “Hardcore” gaming experiences such as “Dark Souls”, the world of “The Dragon’s Wrath” is something of a medieval fantasy infused with fictional creatures; recreating a Dark Ages inspired by Tolkein, this VR-MMORPG features home building reminiscent of “Minecraft”, first-person combat inspired by “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim”, and player teamwork taken from the “World of Warcraft” handbook. Clearly the author is well rounded in his stable of contemporary fictional realms.

The protagonist, also named Brent, thrives in this world: he starts his game in the northern wastelands, the most formidable and deadly region, the barest of resources and the most desolate in terms of villages and other players. Slowly leveling his character while gathering resources, he is preparing for a trek to the top of a mountain. A place which holds a special artifact which will grant Brent’s character a great advantage in combat. After much effort, time, and patience the player is rewarded: he makes it to the top of the peak to be granted lightning powers, one of only a few such legendary perks in the game.

From here on out the narrative, though lacking overall structure, due—in part—to the nature of world building and volume installments of the narrative as a whole, takes a dive in terms of intelligibility: the plot goes from “discernable objective” to a series of events: a rescue, a raid, town creation, a dungeon crawl… with little indication of what any of the transactions amount to, the reader is left in the dark. With the pace of the volume slowing down, in addition to becoming vaguer, quality as a whole suffers. Since is this the first installment of a large book, however, this is to be expected. And yet, even so, I felt that the author could have pushed just slightly harder to include how the narrative beyond the first volume will play-out.

However, pacing and some narrative murkiness aside, I consider the volume’s largest missteps to reside in those autobiographical elements taken from the author’s own romantic life. Repeatedly throughout the volume, the protagonist muses on his relationships, his status and bodily image as women see him, and how he views women in turn. More than once these musings either border, or directly constitute, misogynistic rants; in truth, the story as a whole takes a nose-dive whenever the protagonist wonders about how women ignore him in his non-virtual life: its content tends to be a pseudo-Men’s Rights diatribe while reading it is the equivalent of being privy to the hormonal rant of a fourteen-year-old boy.

This is to say there is nothing original, innovative, or thought-provoking about these segments and could have the volume, and book as a whole, do without. Of course, I would be amiss to characterize the entirety of these relationship diversions as merely trash; there are moments in the volume which read as exceptional existential meditations. When the protagonist recounts a long-distance relationship with a suicidal girl who later rejects him as being weak, and his subsequent life after the break-up, the reader cannot but help be impressed by the emotion: although, of course, undertones of reactionary sentiment persist, this remembrance reads as an authentic piece of drama laid bare so as to reveal, if not justify, where the protagonist, and by extension author, is coming from. Combined with the injury element this brief tale saves the plot whenever the backward musings on woman arrive: not because it is a justification of the anti-woman aspect, but because it reads as a genuine expression of existential Angst.

With a strong voice, vivid descriptions of both combat and nature, as well as an intriguing game world, the first installment of Wrath deserves a read. It is slow at times, yes, while being a bit obscure at other times but if one is able to ignore these non-terminal mishaps, a mistake epidemic to many novels, especially newcomers, while simply rolling one’s eyes at the romantic-sexual connotations, then any fan of fantasy sci-fi will be enjoying themselves in this short read. With several additional volumes likely in the future, since this volume has only taken up “roughly eighty-five hundred words” out of over two-hundred thousand, future fans will continue to be pleased for several years to come.

The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream

Brent Roth

272 pages. Published by Brent Roth. $3.99 (Kindle).

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