Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, the web novel by SingShong, embodies everything I love about reading. This isn’t the story I thought it would be—it’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.
The following is a spoiler-free review of all volumes of ORV and my attempt to express how grateful I am for this novel.
For a decade, 28-year-old Kim Dokja has been the only reader of his favorite web novel, Ways of Survival. In the novel, the apocalypse descends upon Seoul in the form of the scenarios, brutal challenges that humans are forced to endure. Immensely powerful beings of legend called Constellations watch from above, entertained by the bloodbath. The thousands of chapters of Ways of Survival follow the regressor Yoo Joonghyuk, who is transported back to the beginning of the apocalypse every time he dies. Through Yoo Joonghyuk’s story, Dokja survives his own life, comforted by the fact that the protagonist suffered worse and kept going despite it all.
Dokja’s aimless life grinds to a halt on the day when Ways of Survival is meant to end. Suddenly, the story he’s used to escape from reality for much of his life merges with the real Seoul, and Yoo Joonghyuk himself appears, along with the carnage of the scenarios. As the city descends into the apocalypse, the reader Kim Dokja is the only one who knows how to reach the epilogue of this ruined world.
Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint succeeds on every level. This story is plot-driven, character-driven, and theme-driven, and it never lets up on any front. In fact, these three aspects are inextricably intertwined in ways deeper than I could have anticipated in the beginning.
Even without delving far beneath the surface, Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint is a masterpiece. The action is exhilarating, intense, and unexpectedly clever, but balanced with plenty of memorable gentle and comedic scenes. Many of the most powerful emotional moments are placed within the choreography of an action scene, and that adrenaline elevates them to impossible new heights. The plot is so satisfying that it almost feels self-indulgent in that it kept evoking emotions I didn’t even know I wanted to feel. Looking back, I can see how every twist is connected in logical but shocking ways that reveal how deliberately the story was plotted from the very beginning.
The core of Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint lies in its themes. ORV is a love letter to the power of stories, both regenerative and destructive. The worldbuilding and power system are built on these themes. Likewise, the plot twists are imbued with incredible thematic foreshadowing. Every single scene is thoughtful on levels that aren’t fully apparent until the conclusion. This novel has scenes that are some of the most impactful moments I’ve read in a book, and that’s due in part to the impressive thematic continuity of the story.
Kim Dokja, with his motifs of sacrifice and salvation, is a complicated character. He’s cunning, always scheming and scamming, always prepared to get on someone’s nerves. He’s completely dedicated to creating the ending he’s always wanted to read. He only trusts a select few people, but he loves those companions deeply and will do anything for them. Despite this, he is always unsure of his place among them. He downplays the value of his own presence. He’s very good at some things and terrible at or oblivious about other things. In the scenarios, in his element, he’s brazenly confident and justifiably so. His knowledge gives him an edge, but he can also improvise scarily well, even under immense pressure. From a storytelling standpoint, his power is written very well. He doesn’t have the fighting skills of a regressor or the talent of a protagonist, but his ability to find loopholes is unmatched. He surprises and scares me at every turn. Dokja is an amazing character, so fun to follow, hard to understand, and easy to love.
Dokja’s first-person narration is one notable aspect of Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint. It’s unclear just how reliable he is, or if he’s more unreliable than he appears to be. The writing frequently played with my expectations and blinded me to the things to which I should have paid more attention. It’s a sneaky type of foreshadowing that I appreciate a lot upon rereading. In addition, Dokja’s narration of his interactions with the other characters is full of subtleties, especially with Joonghyuk (with whom he apparently cannot have a straightforward conversation). Their intentions are not always written out, and on top of that, Dokja often misunderstands their meaning. Trying to understand these characters’ true feelings based on context and knowledge from the amount of time we’ve spent with them is fascinating.
The more I read ORV, the more I appreciate Yoo Joonghyuk. He’s cold and ruthless but probably the biggest idealist of the book, and he cares more profoundly than is immediately apparent. He’s very proud but also honest with himself; he’s willing to work behind-the-scenes if he believes he isn’t the best person for a task. He fights ceaselessly to save the world, even though he feels less and less like a part of that world as he falls into the regressor’s mindset of being the only human in a landscape that continually resets around him. It’s easy to pass him off as a killing machine who’s lost his humanity, especially in the beginning, but there’s much more to him than that. He’s written exactly like a protagonist—stoic, undaunted, stubborn, blunt, somehow still heroic—although he isn’t really the protagonist anymore. We only get glimpses of Joonghyuk in his element, but I think I can understand why Dokja read about him for a decade. In other words, the character work in Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint is outstanding.
There’s a great cast of complex side characters, including many incredible female characters whom I could go on and on about, as well as powerful young and elderly characters. The ways in which they interact with each other are all distinct. Each gets their time to shine and their own driving philosophy; even if they’re not always in the spotlight like Dokja is, they feel like real people with essential roles in the story. Together, they make up my favorite part of ORV, the found family at its heart. I really love them. They’re unlikely companions who would never have befriended each other before the scenarios, but they fit together so well regardless. The growth of that bond of trust is both softly and incisively beautiful.
ORV works because it makes the reader feel everything it expresses, all the emotions around which it revolves: love for a story, desire to see the ending, imagining past the conclusion. This full immersion is possible because the novel is about someone who loves reading. The resonance between Dokja’s feelings and ours as his readers makes the world come to life in electrifying and heartbreaking ways.
As excellent as this web novel is, it’s definitely a commitment. It has 551 chapters and is well over one million words long. I can’t call it anything less than an epic. The epilogues alone are the length of an average book. It’s so long that I feel like I’ve been living it. However, despite its length, this is the only story I’ve started to reread immediately upon finishing. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Whenever I think about this book (which is often), I realize something else about it that amazes me once more. Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint gives my imagination limitless fuel in a way that nothing else has before. It calls out to be read.
Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint by SingShong is a story that means everything to me and so many other readers. Filled with an invigorating sense of defiance, optimism, and fearlessness, it’s often tragic but also unwaveringly hopeful. When I reached the ending for the first time, I was devastated, overflowing with wonder, and overwhelmed by appreciation for the care put into this work. There’s nothing more I could say, except that ORV is truly meant for everyone who’s ever seen themselves in a story. It completely changed the way I consider storytelling itself. I think it will always linger with me.