Log Horizon is one of those “trapped in a game” stories, kind of like Tron. But there are a few differences from the standard stuck in cyberspace story. For one, the characters have absolutely no idea how they were sucked into a video game. Due to that there seems to be no obvious way to get back home. The rules of this new world do not seem to 100% line up with the game, Elder Tales, either. There are plenty of similarities but also aspects in line with real life, like needing to eat and sleep.
On its own, this first book really does not do too much. Despite being a full book it really feels more like just a prologue. We are introduced to the central characters and get a feel for their personalities. The people stuck in this situation start dealing with the fact that they are stuck in this new world. A fantastic element of the story is the characters ability to fight (or lack thereof). They are all used to playing a video game on a computer. In this new world they have to actually fight, swinging swords and firing bows, and it is terrifying. They are fighting literal monsters with all the sights, sounds, and smells that are present on a battlefield. This is a big change of pace from the many stories where the characters are one-man armies from the start.
Because this is a video game world, the characters cannot die. If killed they just revive in the nearest town like in any other game. This puts a big philosophical question on all these people: if death is not a variable, what is the value of life? These people are all just thrown into a new world together. There is no pre-established society here. No rules, no laws, no government, no stability. Everyone can do whatever they want, for better or for worse.
We mainly just see how all these questions are answered by main character Shiroe and his closest comrades. Standalone, this first book is ok because there is not much plot advancement. A lot of the book is spent explaining things, from the characters figuring out their new world to explanations about how their game (and MMO games in general) work for the audience’s sake. Both these factors lay the groundwork for quite a few things. Many questions are still unanswered by the end of the book, so the story could go in a few different directions. The Beginning of Another World is just that, a beginning. Not phenomenal start but certainly with the potential to lead to greater things.