“After dying from a strange terminal illness, Ling Lan was reborn into a world 10,000 years into the future. Although she dearly wished she could just live a peaceful and uneventful life in her new healthy body, fate had other plans.
Forced to disguise herself as a boy just so she could inherit her deceased father’s premium military benefits, Ling Lan’s journey to adulthood was full of challenges. After much difficulty, she finally turned sixteen when she could drop the charade. But before she could grasp her newfound freedom to get married and start her own family, a twist of fate results in her being thrown into the Federation’s top military boys’ school.
With the challenges life threw her way, Ling Lan had little choice but to walk further and further down a path of no return, one of cold and aloof dominance.”
It’s Not Easy to Be a Man is an outstandingly captivating read uniting the genres of outer space sci-fi and cultivation, with a strong female lead who, refreshingly, does not focus solely on romance.
Like many reincarnation novels, this one starts with a scene of the MC’s death. Despite her family’s anguish, Ling Lan, who had been suffering from a debilitating illness, actually sees death as a release and is ready to move on in the afterlife. This doesn’t happen, however – Ling Lan is reincarnated in the body of a newborn girl from the distant future who, interestingly shares the same name.
There’s a hitch, however. Though the new Ling Lan is a loved and very much wanted child, her family cannot reveal her gender and must pass her as a boy instead. That’s right – this is the only way little Ling Lan gets to inherit her father’s substantial military benefits. To tell you the truth, this is a detail I did not find entirely plausible. I mean… 10,000 years into the future, amazing technology that sounds more like magic, an extremely advanced world, but women are still being seen as ‘less than’? But alright, I’m willing to accept this for the sake of the premise.
So Ling Lan grows up in her well-off family, leading a relatively uneventful life until she turns sixteen. At that point, due to an unexpected turn of events she – still disguised as a girl – finds her way to a top military academy for boys. I loved this plot development – strong Mulan vibes in a futuristic sci-fi setting. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but this is the point where things begin to get really interesting.
There are two main elements which, in my opinion, makes this book so easy to read and so deservedly popular. One is the world-building. The novel features a beautifully intricate system of a world with amazing technological development, but also with spiritual elements – not cold mechanical sci-fi as many readers of the space sci-fi genre have gotten used to. The world’s system is plausible and makes sense – everything really hangs well together.
The second thing that makes this novel so attractive is Ling Lan’s character. She just makes this story. Kind, upright, honest, clever, fiercely protective of her loyal followers, she is just the quintessential “good side” lead. Due to the nature of her upbringing, she is naturally tomboyish, but there is still something profoundly feminine in her mind and her way of thinking. She is not just a ‘male brain in a female body’ as I have sometimes encountered in novels of this type.
I especially enjoyed the dialogues between Ling Lan and Little Four, a supremely advanced AI creation able to take over a human body if technology advances far enough. He and Ling Lan have a sort of symbiotic existence. Little Four was actually one of the reasons why Ling Lan had suffered so much, and died so young, in her previous life. He was simply not compatible with her old body. On the up side, however, he was also responsible for Ling Lan’s reincarnation:
“Your previous body could not support your powerful spiritual power, and so thoroughly collapsed. Luckily for you, a once in a blue moon wormhole happened to open up right then. I managed to gather your diffusing spiritual energy at the final moment and took the opportunity to absorb some local energy to carry your spiritual self through the wormhole to this advanced world 10,000 years in the future.”
Find this difficult to wrap your head around? So do I, but this novel is actually very well-paced and allows the reader plenty of time to get used to the innovations of its world. With over 1,100 published chapters and going strong, we receive the new developments in digestible bite-sized chunks, without the info dumps that are unfortunately prevalent in novels with very extensive worldbuilding, where it seems the author is trying to give too much background at once.
In short, it is perfectly clear to me why this book has over 40 million reads on Webnovel. I predict its popularity is only going to rise – it certainly deserves to have a wide fan base.
Another great aspect of this novel is the romantic relationship between Ling Lan and her love interest, Li Lanfeng, who also happens to be her first true friend. I love romance that gradually blossoms out of friendship – much preferable, in my eyes, to a development where the heroine swoons in the hero’s arms the first time they meet and becomes a timid little flower from that moment on. This is something Ling Lan is definitely not.
Bottom line: this novel is recommended for lovers of epic sci-fi, reincarnation, and a strong female lead who knows how to take care of herself.