First of His Kind, book one in Dan Sugralinov’s Sidus series, focuses on Carter Riley’s adventures in the 22nd century, combining pulp science fiction with the videogame focus of a LitRPG novel.
While working at the site of an alien artifact on Mars, Carter and his crew are attacked by extraterrestrials. Six months later, he awakes in a medical facility to discover his squad has been killed and he has lost an arm, along with his memory. Furthermore, the close encounter has imprinted a mystery-message on his subconscious he’s unable to comprehend.
Ten years later, Carter has lost everything: He’s blacklisted by his former employers; his wife and daughter have left, and he’s unemployed and desperate.
Recovering his memory, he is able to decipher the mystery-message, which directs him to Sidus, a spaceport community where aliens convene to trade and compete in the Sidus Arena. Soon, a spaceship carrying him and his outcast friends to an off-world mining job mysteriously changes course to Sidus, where the LitRPG part of the novel commences.
Here, Carter acquires a new arm and special modification for being the first of his species “to make contact with the legacy of the Precursors.” Carter et al must compete, overcoming opponents to level-up, acquire skill-boosting modifications and improve their rankings in order to find answers to questions such as why Sidus was created and the nature of the aliens that attacked Carter on Mars.
This action-packed story begins as a dark, dystopian novel but brightens considerably, aesthetically and narratively, once Carter journeys to Sidus. Carter is an appealing protagonist who readers will sympathize with as he transforms from despairing everyman into a galactic warrior determined to achieve his goals. Fans of videogames will enjoy the story, although readers unfamiliar with LitRPG might find the tonal changes off-putting once Carter arrives at Sidus.
That said, the novel’s action, narrative propulsion and creative worldbuilding should keep readers engaged throughout.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.