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Forty Milleniums of Cultivation by Enlightened Master Crouching Cow - Original

Discussion in 'Original Fiction' started by BTT, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Title: Forty Millenia of Cultivation
    Author: Enlightened Master Crouching Cow
    Rating: M
    Status: Ongoing
    Length: 1017 chapters, roughly 2000 words per chapter
    Published: Sept 29, 2016
    Library Category: Original
    Link: Link for summary and reviews, Link with all chapters so far
    Summary: In a world teeming with cultivators, Li Yao, who makes his living collecting scrap metal, encounters the soul of a titan powerhouse from forty thousand years in the past.

    I've been reading this and I figured I'd recommend this since I've finally caught up.

    First of all, it's xianxia - for those not in the know, that means it's Chinese fantasy about martial arts and "levelling up" your soul (for lack of a better word). Frankly, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as your first step into the genre - Coiling Dragon is probably better to start off (as are a bunch of others which I'll readily recommend over PM or in a relevant thread).

    Second, I feel like it's worth mentioning this webnovel does borrow from Warhammer 40k initially, but it's not a Warhams fanfic. Some parts of the background lore are indeed borrowed wholesale, as are chainswords and bolters, but that's mostly it.

    Other scifi has a lot more influence, which IMO results in a far more interesting setting than the usual: for example, deceased Cultivators are collected and moved into robotic bodies, who are then basically treated as the disabled would be in our world. Sects are treated like businesses with stocks. There's an industry of investing in promising cultivators to get them the necessary resources they need to advance.

    And this even influences several of the typical xianxia concepts, like the face-slapping cycle: a young genius shows up and mocks the MC (in this case Li Yao), then gets slapped and made a fool of. Then the young genius' sponsor/elder/mentor shows up and struts around, so he gets made a fool of. Rinse and repeat until entire sects lie in ruin because of stupid escalation. This is how it usually goes. In contrast to that, a young genius gets taken down a peg early on, and while some elders do discuss killing Li Yao, they swiftly get told that the police will be onto their case before long. There's even what's basically internet and internet-based cultivation scams. It's great.

    The author also has a clear grasp of drama: there's a scene roughly a hundred chapters in (the train scenes, for anyone who's read this already) that really hooked me and sold me on the ideal of Cultivators protecting the normals, for instance. Usually, xianxia protagonists just do whatever to get stronger and morals don't really come into it except as an afterthought, but in this case morals do figure into things more.

    However, there's a couple of downsides too. The setting's frankly great but the protagonist is fairly typical for xianxia: blessed with a lucky find that turns him into a far better cultivator than the rest of the setting, keeps getting lucky, and he's also very talented at some branch of item crafting. Li Yao has his moments where he shows off his planning skills, but his audacity, recklesness, and imperviousness to pain and boredom are all fairly standard.

    Also, there's still some standard trappings that haven't been shaken off yet. For example, the protagonist gets a girlfriend. She is, admittedly, far different from the norm in that she's not a blushing ice queen ready to melt for him (but only once they're married!!). But the usual trope of "let's separate the main couple for hundreds of chapters" does apply, presumably because otherwise the woman might get in the way of the real meat of the story or something. At least it's not a harem this time.

    Finally, while it's complete in its original Chinese (3335 chapters in total) it's at about a third of that in English. Updates seem to be roughly twice a day.

    tl;dr xianxia that differs from the norm, well-written and long. An excellent timekiller. 3.5/5 material, IMO.

    Fixed Link -- Zombie
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2019
  2. Sataniel

    Sataniel High Inquisitor

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    Chinese webnovels qualify here too? Will need to post about CCG later (and review this).
     
  3. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    I mean, there's a thread for Coiling Dragon, so I figured there wouldn't be any trouble. I know I'm not the only one who's willing to read this kind of thing, at least.
     
  4. Sataniel

    Sataniel High Inquisitor

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    First thing first.
    I think it would be more proper to link to the official releases and not pirated copies that even steal Wuxiaworld's name.

    Which also leads me to comment on this:
    As this is licenced and unlocking further chapters is more or less paid (you get some free spirit stones, enough to keep up, not enough for a quick catch up), there is a guaranteed release speed which is two chapters a day. Additionally, bonus if it will rank high enough in Power Ranking (it won't), and mass releases sometimes (like for example end of the second volume).
    Worth noting here is an influence of Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy by Liu Cixin (sometimes also called The Three-Body Problem after the title of the first novel), I don't know how big it is in general, because I am yet to read it, but the Dark Forest Theory comes from there and it is kinda one of the central pieces of later worldbuilding.

    You know how there are those "It gets better, I swear" titles? Forty Millenniums of Cultivation (called Cultivation 40k here from now on) is one of those. I've started reading it because I noticed it on Webnovel and the description was pretty weird (it is something that is really shown later) so I looked it up and the setting seemed fairly interesting as was the initial premise.

    Basically, at the start, we meet Li "Vulture" Yao, an orphan living out by getting and repairing stuff from the scrapyard. He attends one of the schools that prepare people to become cultivators - that is those who awakened the spiritual root of their brain and set themselves on the path of further evolution. In contrast to the usual xianxia series where cultivators exist outside of the normal society, here they are deeply integrated into it. They are responsible for high-level administration, creating work of arts, fighting of demon beasts and creating magitek which leads to the progress of the society.

    We also learn that it's semi-isekai, protagonist is reincarnated from another world where he was a street racer and car mechanic, but he only sees this life it dreams, he isn't the same person. Blah, blah, blah, things happen and due to some absurd coincidences he absorbs a fragmented soul of a powerful ancient cultivator (ancient cultivator society was something like typical xianxias) who travelled forward in time.

    From here start problems. There is an arrogant young master, there are badly handled expositions, really idiotic decisions to push plot forward and for a moment it even seemed like the series will be all about muscles and drops the crafting and cunning aspects (which is where I stopped reading for a moment), but it gradually improves and really picks up when Li Yao leaves high school and goes to travel around the world before the uni.

    There are still some absurd strings of coincidences and the absolute lack of subtlety in introducing things for some time during the uni, but it is much more interesting here and the rest of the first book is a fascinating read that constantly improves and the second is still better. Don't really think of books in terms of physical books, because they are looong. It's more a meta-arc. The translation is currently somewhere in the middle of the third book, I paused at the beginning of the second to get more to read. Reading chapters as they come out can be a pain, as they are pretty short and you can hit a combo of constant cliffhangers during some bigger action.

    So, I complained about the early problems, and said that it improves. Why is it worthwhile to read Cultivation 40k?

    Firstly, the worldbuilding. The SF-ication of xianxia concepts such as phases of cultivation is utterly fascinating. As are the various societies and how the environment and history shaped them to be like they currently are. Here comes out one thing that I need to mention. The series subverts many of the xianxia cliches and is better appreciated if you understand what it does. There are also some stupid elements of the setting in the beginning but they are either outright retconned or simply ignored later.

    Secondly, the protagonist. Well, at least as he is later. He is intelligent, but not perfect and that's good. He has well defined personality, which logically shapes his decision. And he is an utter bastard when it comes to fighting. He will always use the dirtiest tricks to win (and probably, bombs, a lot of bombs).

    Thirdly, the antagonists. They have their own motivations, and they usually aren't idiots. To the contrary, most of them are geniuses.

    Which leads us into the fourth point, conflicts based on battles of wits. If you wanted to see characters having backup plans to backup plans to backup plans and decoys that exist to misdirect enemies less from what they theoretically hide but from that thing also being another decoy then this is a series for you. Both protagonist and antagonists weave crazy plans and they are really well foreshadowed and executed. And they generally make sense, it's not some Death Note-tier bullshit.

    And then there are mysteries, they are slowly being introduced later (from retcons you can see that a lot of planning from the beginning was discarded if even there was any serious planning in the beginning) and they really draw you in with various hints being slowly dropped over time. Even the absurd string of coincidences from the beginning was turned into some big mystery at the end of the second volume.

    And last but not least - we get to see some past and cultivation civilisation of dinosaurs. There are no counterarguments against cultivation civilisation of dinosaurs.

    What is mixed is a characterisation. Sometimes you will get someone who will only appears for a few scenes, one small piece of an arc. And yet those scenes will perfectly introduce his personality. Sometimes you have recurring and plot-significant characters who will be terribly flat.

    What's bad aside from the early weaknesses? Definitely pacing, sometimes things are just terribly stretched, sometimes it is a long infodump about history and society (which I like but it sure as hell isn't good writing).

    And things turning out too well for the protagonist even when he fails. The failures aren't true setbacks here, they just redirect his path to one which is more beneficial to him in the end.

    I was sort of torn between 6 and 7 out of 10. But Cultivation 40k has cultivation civilisation of dinosaurs and magical powered armours, so 7/10 it is.
     
  5. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    I'm enjoying this.

    Not quite as much as reverend insanity but it does a lot better than that story, and has a lot of unique selling points.

    I'm enjoying the sci-fi blend and world building. It seems like a lot of the story is based around trying to create a society that works, by directly rejecting a lot of the crazy xianxia stuff that would ruin an effective society.

    The egalitarian justice system, the balance between a central government and sects, and exams that qualify for professional careers rather than just the usual arbitrary rewards.

    Compared to RI, the protagonist always has things come up his way, and there's no meaningful setbacks that don't lead to a different reward.

    However, I think what's won me over is the speech below, though I'm yet to see if anything comes of it.

    I find it really refreshing that this protagonist is 1) not a shameless 'renegade' who can't form relationships with people inside his own group (even if every first meeting always has the usual, he must be shot - woah I've totally underestimated him). And 2) he sincerely believes in some moral and ethical principles.

    The quote comes from him returning from months away at an adventure and wanting to crack on with his overarching progress. He has the usual genius tier cultivation obsession of a xianxia MC and his teacher directly calls it out with this speech. I really enjoyed that, 'cus I've never seen it challenges in any other webnovel translation.