Today we have a recent release by Ukrainian-born author Alexey Osadchuk. It is entitled Project Daily Grind (Mirror World Book #1). This is it's first time being translated into English. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.
The story centers around Russian family man Oleg who has a very big problem. His daughter needs a new heart, and those don't come cheap. Sure, he could slave away in a regular 9-5 job to get the money, but where would be the fun in that? So Oleg decides to earn the cash by delving into the virtual MMORPG called Mirror World and mining fake resources for the game's rich big shots. He chooses his job (digger) and his race (Ennan, a surly character resembling Popeye the sailor) and gets started. But first he has to learn the game's basics, which isn't easy for a non-gamer like himself. And the vile player Shantarsky Jr. immediately takes an intense disliking to him. Having already made an enemy, how could things get worse?
Quite easily, as it turns out. Oleg soon discovers the race he chose is a dead one created by a former Mirror World programmer named Pierrot, and it causes him all sorts of trouble. Pierrot left a bunch of surprises for whoever chooses his race, and these surprises turn out to be both good and bad. For one thing, the Ennan can gain levels much faster than other races, and this makes Oleg a potential target for those who might think he has an unfair advantage. In addition, Shantarsky's father gets wind of this and uses it as leverage against Oleg to get him to do his bidding.
Despite all of this, Oleg manages to make friends and establish his place in Mirror World and begins bringing in the money as he works the game's mines. But with the danger of being exposed very real, and his daughter still needing a new heart, can he achieve his goals and protect what matters most?
Project Daily Grind is a bit of an odd duck. It doesn't have rising stakes (his daughter's condition never deteriorates throughout the course of the story), or even much conflict (Oleg isn't a warrior, so he avoids battle rather than face it head on). In fact, he actually moves his character to another region rather than fight the Shantarskys. Also, for all his troubles, he actually has mostly good luck in Mirror World; things usually go his way thanks to the machinations of Pierrot.
Nevertheless, the story of a father fighting to save his daughter is a compelling one, and I found it easy to root for Oleg throughout the course of the story. Far from a world-saving hero, he's just an ordinary man trying to protect his family, and that makes him very relatable. This is refreshing in a way.
Osadchuk also does a fine job showing off his knowledge of MMORPGs. He has crafted a deep world that has all the elements of games like World of Warcraft, and he spends a large amount of time explaining its different elements. Having played a few MMORPGs in my time, I'm impressed by the level of detail in this story.
In summary: Those expecting a traditional fantasy story will be disappointed, but those wanting something new and different will walk away happy. This is only the first book in the series, so I'm curious as to what future adventures await our Russian everyman.