Infinite Dendrogram: Those Who Bind the Possibilities

By Sakon Kaidou and Taiki. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Andrew Hodgson.

I’ll pick up with a point I made in the last review: there was honestly no reason that the author couldn’t have simply kept this with the fourth book and released it as one big tome. It took me a while to get back into where the action was, as if you were watching the climax of a movie and stopped with 15 minutes to go so you could go on a two-week vacation. That said, given that we’ve not only got the climax of the previous book, but also an extended epilogue and a side story or two, this is a light, easy read. In fact, the side stories may be the best part of the book. Because this is a series where the world not only is a game, but also one where people are not trapped in said game, we’re actually allowed to deal with real life issues like making sure you do all your pre-college prep. And having the hero and villain pass each other like ships in the night.

We also get more of the Starling brothers and their eccentric awesomeness, though it appears it’s more “the Starling family”, as we hear about an older sister who’s more insane than either brother. (It would be nice to meet her, but I expect she’s just the sort of character to be talked about but never show up.) Shu proves to be, as the reader likely guessed all along, a phenomenal powerhouse who uses his incredibly unbalanced build and real-life martial arts skills to completely decimate Franklin’s army of monsters, all while making the bear minimum number of puns. And then there is Ray, who still sees himself as the typical, normal male protagonist even as he gets himself some evil blood-red armor and also loses an arm, replacing it with a hook. Nemesis was introduced into the book as his lovestruck familiar, but lately she seems to exist to occasionally sigh and mutter to herself about Ray’s tastes.

As for Franklin and Hugo, I was fairly surprised by their relationship, though again, I do think it would have had more impact if the book hadn’t been divided into two parts. Franklin’s “character” is a classic sneering, arrogant villain, the sort who thinks they’re being stoic but really they’re just being awful. I’m not entirely sure if the obsession with Ray Starling will extend into the real world – they’re oblivious to each other at the moment, but I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. I was slightly saddened to see that Marie’s character, while still remaining relatively badass, has acquired a bit of a comic relief quality, mostly in everyone knowing her real identity despite everything. I also enjoyed the two adult Superiors going out for a drink with a third one who, it’s implied, has just turned ten. Again, this is the nature of online gaming.

This book ends the first “arc” of the series, and we’re also almost caught up with Japan, though I think we’ll have one more volume to go before we have to wait. I expect the next arc will deal with what Franklin implied in this one, which is that of course Dendrogram is not “just” a game, there’s clearly something else to it. Till then, enjoy working your way through this book, though you might want to re-read the previous one first.

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