I received a copy of this book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.
I went into this book knowing nothing about the rest of the series. The characters and storylines are set up in a way that no background knowledge is required and this book can be read without having any previous knowledge of SAO.
This was a really cool concept for a series and it was played out in an interesting way. The combination of game setup, upgrading, and boss fights make it feel like playing a game, but still contains enough twists and turn like the scam mystery to make for an interesting book.
At some points the explanations of gaming concepts (upgrades, menu options, health bars, potion effects) is a little dull, but is necessary to some extent for the plot, especially for readers unfamiliar with a lot of MMOs and RPGs.
The main thing that annoyed me was Kirito's creepy descriptions of Asuna in which he just rants about how beautiful she is. We get it, the male fantasy of a hot gamer chick is hard to steer away from, but can we at least try? While Kirito did give Asuna's fighting skills some props too, I feel like he mostly just drooled over her shiny hair. As I said, I don't know anything about the series so I don't know how the characters wind up, but personally Kirito came off as a creep in this aspect.
Besides that, the descriptions were great, with enough detail to describe the fights without boring the reader. Overall I really liked this monster of a book and may check out some of the other adaptations.