I am a veteran of a few Live Action Role-Playing adventures and lots of running around in woodland armed with sticks and imagination, although both activities are now long ago. If I’d had a bit more money and a bit more transport in my late teens I might have done more but it was a hobby I was interested in and learned a fair bit about. Therefore, it was with a certain degree of fascination that I approached Justin Calderone’s novel where a group of enthusiastic LARPers get the chance to use their skills to save the day.
Another fantasy related thing I remember from my youth is the infamous Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, which catupulted a bunch of kids into a fantasy land where they became the heroes they had previously dreamed of playing. Regretfully, I’d have to suggest that Calderone’s novel does something similar except, remaining set in the “real world”, it becomes even less plausible. Would years of LARPing equip the participants to take over from the US military to free an island captured by a force that appears to be made up of would-be medieval Mongol warriors? Would the US military really be so concerned about collateral damage that it would consider the idea, even if the state governor turned out to be a former LARPer himself?
It sounds like the kind of fantasy that someone might dream up after an exhiliarating adventure (where they have spent a few hours ignoring the fact that the scenery and people are very familiar in order to share in the imagination of the story) but it ends up sounding childish, with limited tensions and a wilful avoidance of the difficult questions I wanted to ask about the scenario. I think Calderone would have done better to make his heroes in their late teens and aim for an audience in their early teens, where believability might not have been such a stumbling block. As it is, I think the story falls flat and the writing, while okay, doesn’t sparkle enough to make up for it. This isn’t the book to make the world sympathetic to the hopes and dreams of live action roleplayers!