Solo leveling - review and similar?
Solo Leveling (Korean: 나 혼자만 레벨업; RR: Na Honjaman Rebereop; lit. I Alone Level Up) is a South Korean web novel written by Chugong starting from February 14, 2014. It was then serialized as a novel on Papyrus and ended with 14 volumes and 270 chapters. On April 13, 2018, a webtoon serialization was released on KakaoPage, drawn by artists Gi So-Ryeong (기소령) and Jang Sung-Rak (장성락). As of August 2021, the webtoon has 161 chapters and is still ongoing. The novel has been licensed in English by Webnovel under the title Only I Level Up.
After the appearance of portals known as "gates" connecting the world of monsters to humans, a small portion of the population has acquired superhuman powers to defend against the monsters. The protagonist of the story, Sung Jin-woo, is a member of the lowest rank of hunters and is the weakest hunter in all of South Korea, barely stronger than a normal human. One day, he and some other hunters find themselves trapped in an extremely dangerous and rare dual dungeon, and only a few of them survive and manage to escape. Sung Jin-woo himself "dies" but manages to complete all the trials in this dungeon. He then wakes up in a hospital and finds he has turned into a reawakened "player" who can now see an interface showing him quests, stats, inventory, store, and levels, along with the unique ability to grow exponentially stronger. Sung Jin-Woo begins on a quest to become the strongest hunter in the world and uncover the mystery of the world of monsters.
Like many other power-fantasy stories, Solo Leveling provides a satisfying look into how a protagonist can grow from being looked down upon by almost everyone to a powerful hunter admired by all in a short amount of time. The protagonist’s growth is partly done through a training regimen that pays tribute to One-Punch Man, which is detailed in the novel’s prologue.
The one thing that the novel does better than its manhwa adaptation is a focus on character psychologies. The earlier chapters within the double dungeon, in particular, deliver some absolutely pulse-pounding action by placing its main characters in a serious life-threatening situation within a horrifying environment that feels simultaneously grandiose and claustrophobic. The characters’ desperation comes across vividly, so even though some of their behavior is appalling, they are still relatable for the way they cling to life.
Besides characters, the world-building of the light novel is also quite impressive in how complicated it is. There is the hunter world, with an intricate ranking system that is the backbone of Solo Leveling’s power-scaling; the dungeons and monster races have their own rankings and, in addition, there's Jinwoo’s video game-like power-up system that only he can see. New information is constantly being introduced to the readers about these respective worlds, but they hardly feel overwhelming since they are usually introduced when the characters themselves learn the information, so the exposition feels naturalistic and not forced.
The only problem is that this exposition can sometimes come across as redundant. There are things that readers can figure out on their own but the novel still repeats it over and over.This kind of problem often occurs in works by new writers, and since Solo Leveling is only author Chugong’s second novel, it is a completely understandable issue that will probably be resolved after the story moves past the world-building stage.
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