Paragons tells the story of an Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), Sigil Online, somewhat similar to a steroids version of World of Warcraft. Set sometime in the future the game is played using virtual reality sets that allow the player to move their characters and ‘experience’ the game. Sigil Online has become so massive and renown that the currency in the game is able to be traded for money outside the game, allowing people to make a living through playing the game. It is also so large that television news is filled with stories about the game – deaths of major players, updated to the game etc.

This is not too dissimilar to Ready Player One, the recent smash hit revolving around an MMORPG. However in Ready Player One the outside world’s obsession with the game is explained through a huge monetary prize for finishing a super-quest. The reasons for Sigil Online being as famous as it is isn’t given in the story.

Riley is one of the Sigil Online players making a living from the game, while playing with a major, well-known character. When that character is killed Riley is suddenly back to Level 0 and back to having no income and almost no way to get it. He has to build up a new character, all while finding new friends, discovering old friends weren’t actually friends, and that his old online persona was generally disliked for being a selfish jerk.Riley is given a second chance to remake himself, not just his character.

The online story is interesting, and the action is well told. The powers hte characters have a diverse and interesting. The story is breakneck and has a few good twists in it, and it’s all a little tense… until you remember that it is a game and it doesn’t actually matter that much. Sure Riley makes money form the game and needs it to survive, but it is stated he has several months savings so that risk is not imminent. It never really gives much details of the world outside the game and how he lives and what other opportunities he might have if he didn’t play. The outside world is so vague that the risk of him being forced into the ‘real world’ isn’t really there. Add this to the fact that several character actually do say it doesn’t matter if they die because they have other income and just play for fun. There is therefore no tension with them.
If this was real characters in a fantasy universe it would have been great, but adding the extra MMORPG layer that means the effects on half the characters aren’t real really reduced the impact.

The pacing of the book is a little off too. While it is clear throughout what the climax will be about, it doesn’t actual build the tension to it. It just is suddenly there. And then it is done and there is almost no details of the aftermath (at least not for the characters, there is an ‘afterward’ presented as a news story showing how Sigil Online will change).

Narration by Jeff Hays is great. Well paced, and very easy to listen to. He performs the book, not just reads it. Voices, emotions, comedic timing, building tension. It is all there and well done.

He makes the book better through his narration.