Sword Art Online, often abbreviated “SAO” for the rest of this article, is quite possibly the best Light Novel (series) that I’ve ever come across. It fulfills my love of Japanese culture, video games, reading, and roleplaying (videogame-wise) all in one.
There are six volumes in total. The first three follow the main character, Kirito, then the fourth and fifth are side stories, and the sixth and final goes back to Kirito.
To explain the general plot, I’m going to have to spoil the book a bit, but it’s information that you find out about 50 pages into the first one, so I don’t feel guilty.
Background Info to the Storyline: There’s a new gaming technology called NERvGear. It’s basically a virtual reality system, but much more advanced. What it does is intercept the signals sent from your muscles and spine and redirect them into the NERvGear system, instead of your brain. This creates a whole new type of gaming. You control your characters by moving exactly how would feel natural, but you aren’t physically moving at all.
Plot Outline: A new game called Sword Art Online has just been released. It’s supposed to be the first game to fully take advantage of this new NERvGear technology. Tens of thousands are logging in within the first couple hours: the game is a hit. A couple hours into the game, a few players start noticing what they initially call a bug: the “Log Out” button isn’t there anymore. Most people are relaxed about it, figuring the game has just been released and bugs like that are common. Some start trying to summon GMs (admins), but to no avail. Now the population is getting worried. Without that button, they can’t physically leave this game because their bodies are completely immobilized by how NERvGear operates.
A few minutes past everyone’s paranoia sets in, the players learn that this game has now become their reality. The creator of the game notified all in-game players and the outside world of his plan: No one would be able to leave until all 100 levels were cooperatively cleared. Death in game, would mean real death. The removal or attempted tampering of the NERvGear, would result in the player’s brains being rendered unusable by an electric pulse similar to that of a microwave. While many test their own theories for getting out of this world, Kirito immediately gets to work leveling his skills. The World ends up splitting into a few factions, none of which interest Kirito. Kirito ends up becoming one of the most skilled fighters in the game, dearly sought after by all the factions. During the 6 week beta testing of the game a few months prior, the players had only made it past a few levels, and that’s with death being a daily occurence. Will they be able to conquer the 100th level with a limited player count, all of which have only a single life to work with?
If you are interested in the English translated version, comment here and I’ll upload it somewhere and put up a link here.