This is a review I wrote for a university seminar. We had to review something of our choice and I chose to write about Worm.
„Worm – Doing the wrong things for the right reasons“, written and published by wildbow on http://parahumans.wordpress.com is a web serial that revolves around, and is told from the viewpoint of, the teenager Taylor Hebert and her adventures in a world of superheroes and -villains fighting both each other and themselves.
Web serials are, as a general rule, works of fiction which are released on a set schedule in segments of work or chapters, allowing the audience to give feedback on the work while it is still in progress, creating dynamic stories riddled with more cliffhangers than ‘normal’ publications. They can actually be compared to TV serials: instead of a single storyline, most web serials consist of several stories linked by common characters and what can be referred to as a ‘myth arc’ – a story bigger than any of the individual challenges the characters have to deal with, hints of which come out and suggest links between the events of the entire series. This style of writing has not yet caught on with the public, even though the art of serial writing dates back to the days of Mark Twain.
Due to its sprawling nature, a complete analysis and review of Worm would take far more time and space than is feasible, so this review shall focus on three points that are, in my opinion, especially attractive: the update schedule coupled with the quantity and quality of text, the strong characterization and the original superpowers and applications of such displayed.
Since the novel’s first chapter, which was uploaded on June 11, 2011, the author has not missed a single update, updating at least twice a week, every week. The average chapter is seven thousand words long, with many chapters exceeding that amount. Furthermore, whenever a certain donation goal is met, the author publishes a bonus chapter on a thursday which, unlike the regular chapters, is told from the viewpoints of varying characters instead of the main character. At first, the donation goal was at $20. At the time of this writing, it has reached $600 in order to limit the amount of extra chapters the author has to write. Yet, at this time, the donations have been so numerous that 9 bonus chapters have backlogged. In the last few months, this number has remained steady despite weekly bonus chapters. As for the quality of writing, one can only point to the fact that of all the chapters published to this day, only two were found wanting both by the author and the audience, with only one of them being taken offline.
Furthermore the characters portrayed in this story are, one and all, believable humans despite their superhuman abilities. Starting with the main character, Taylor, and working down, all of them have been shown to act in rational – or, in some cases, believably in unrational – ways befitting their personalities and circumstances. The main character, though she goes down a very dark path, is always authentic, allowing the audience to relate to her no matter what she does. She is smart and brash, brave and insecure, caring and vicious, looking forward while also grieving. Having gone through much heartbreak and trauma (which is a prerequisite for aquiring superpowers within the setting), the readers can always sympathize with her; they grieve with her when she is sad, they rejoice whenever she manages to accomplish her goals or when her character develops further. The same can be said, to a lesser degree, of every other character important enough to focused upon (and some that are not so important). This strong characterization makes sure that the audience truly cares about the fates of these characters, which is the primary appeal of the novel.
In addition, despite being part of a genre that has been exhausted in comic books, novels, movies and games to a degree where originality is the rarest exception to the rule, especially in regards to superpowers, Worm manages to make nearly every superpower unique. No two powers within its setting are the same, even if they may seem so. Also, even the weakest, most unassuming powers are turned into effective tools through the ingenuity of their wielders. The main character has a power that is, at first glance, nearly useless: she can control bugs. She cannot summon them, she can only control those within her range. She cannot make them stronger, faster or in any way more capable than they would normally be. She simply controls them and shares their senses, though her brain can only process their sense of touch. In contrast, some of her enemies are: a super-scientist who literally deploys on every fight with a brand-new powersuit; another super-scientist who has reduced himself to the bare minimum of necessary organs contained within an environmentally sealed shell, perfectly countering her power in every way and a thirty-foot tall, immortal, nigh-invulnerable killing machine whose most basic tactic is to unleash tsunamis. Yet she fights against them and though she has not been able to defeat every one of them, she has been able to conceive new, unpredicted uses for her power, allowing her to stand her ground against her foes. And there are other so-called ‘parahumans’ with even more unassuming powers who manage to exploit what they are given to its full potential.
Lastly, it would be a terrible omission not to mention the loyal fanbase of the novel. The comment section that follows each chapter is home to lively discussions of story, characters and much more, including current events. There are usually several hundreds of comments for each chapter, especially in the last six months. After reading through every single comment given since the first chapter, one cannot fail to notice the genial atmosphere in these sections – there has not been a single case of one commentator insulting another or any form of disrespect, either towards the author or towards other commentators whatsoever (though at least one of them has apparently made it his life goal to drive everyone else insane – in an incredibly amusing way). The commentators also provide the services of an editor, pointing out grammatical and orthographical mistakes as well as unfortunate phrasing and proposing corrections.
With that said, to truly understand the attraction of Worm, one needs to read it. It is one of the best web novels I have ever read – and I do not think it is an exaggeration if I call it one of the best novels I have ever read, at all. I can only recommend it warmly to everyone who loves intricate, involving storytelling, strong characters or superheroes and -villains.