A while back I reviewed the Log Horizon anime. Since then, I’ve also decided to start reading the Log Horizon novels as well. First off is the first volume in the series.
Log Horizon, at first glance, appears to be like the standard “Trapped in the MMO” game, but as covered in my review of the show – the dynamic of removing death’s sting does a lot to change the dynamics of the genre in a lot of respects.
The first book is a more conventional adventure story set immediately after The Calamity trapped everyone in the world of the game. The book almost exclusively follows Shirou as a point of view character, as the population of The World tries to adapt to the situation they’ve found themselves in, and Shirou starts collecting the first members of his group of allies – Akatsuki (aka Tiny Ninja), and Naotsugu. The perspective shifts slightly on occasion to Serara, as she sees how society in Susukino is collapsing and meets Nyanta.
The novel and the anime have some very pronounced shifts aside from adjustments to the point-of-view characters. In the anime, there is a clearly accessible HUD in the game world. By comparison, characters in the anime cannot access the HUD. Further, in the show, while in some flashbacks we see the game played in a Mouse & Keyboard format, the implication from the character’s experiences with the HUD is that the game had, at least for a little bit, been playable in VR. In the books, on the game has always been played Mouse & Keyboard style. This leads to another societal wrinkle – monsters are scary. Death may have not metaphorical sting, but fighting monsters hurts, and facing down a dragon is psychologically easier when you’re looking through a computer screen, instead of when it’s big as life.
Other than that, the book is fairly strong. The big Three – Shirou, Naotsugu and Tiny Ninja – are fleshed out fairly early, and with it is their character dynamic. This is the case both with their character relationships, and the idea that Naotsugu and Shirou have worked together in the past and know each other IRL, while Akatsuki has played with the two before, but isn’t friends in the same way, and thus she feels a little awed at how well they work together.
The book also starts laying the groundwork for some of the concepts that will be important in the next plot – the malaise filling Akiba, the state of the food, and so on, though it doesn’t quite set up what the real narrative thrust of the series will be in subsequent works.