LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 006

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 006 - Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1, Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2, The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2, Dante's Immortality: Beginnings


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Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1 (33:19)


Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2 (08:12)


The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2 (15:00)


Dante's Immortality: Beginnings (21:26)


“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”


Level Up or Die! Underworld, Book 1

Author: Apollos Thorne

Narrator(s): Graham Halstead

Audiobook Length: 7 hrs and 7 mins


(Pause so I can insert a sample of the Audiobook)


Level Up or Die! By Apollos Thorne is a fun book, but not one without its problems.  The main character is a gamer who is snatched from our world and taken to what is essentially a hellish under realm where every fantasy monster you ever heard of is real.  The Underworld is not a human friendly environment, or so we are told, and the only job the abductees have is to . . . you guessed it, level up or die. A great premise with some intriguing characters, but even the Hope Diamond has flaws.


My biggest complaint comes from the title.  Level up or die. There is a boatload of leveling, and not a whole lot of dying.  At least not by anyone except monsters. I suppose that in a case where your protagonist can die, but we all know he’s not going to die, can be hard to write.  But, if you go through the whole of the book the number of deaths that we get, even from background characters is . . . . .well, I won’t say how many, but it sure isn’t a high number.  In fact, there is literally no sense of danger to the MC at any point. Elorion pretty much solos the labyrinth the majority of the time. He plays everything rather smartly, and keeps his head cool in situations most of us would freak out about and so never comes remotely close to any danger.  There is one time where he is shot by an archer, but even that is a minor wound that he comments could have been much worse. This lack of danger really takes some of the kick out of what could have been an outstanding novel.


Elorion is an interesting player, who seems to adjust well to whatever situation he is dropped into.  He uses his head, and at the right time listens to his heart. His unique abilities allow him to level himself, and others, far quicker than should have been possible.  He also manages to constantly think of innovative ways to use his powers that show he will be a force to be reckoned with when the time comes. At no point was I ever bored with the story or any characters, in fact I rather loved seeing the creative methods Elorion came up with to defeat his enemies or apply his abilities.  I know I just carped about the whole no sense of danger thing, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this book in the slightest. The Mistress is a luscious villainess that you love to see appear, and you will want to punch an imp in the face. The MOBs are standard fare, and just fodder, but Thorne’s writing still makes them interesting creatures to kill.  I did appreciate that most loot that Elorion pillaged from the corpses of his enemies was not something that he could always use, or even if he could use it he did not employ it. He sold or shared most of the loot.


Graham Halstead narrates the story, and does very well.  His voice isn’t as smooth as Luke Daniels or Jeff Hays, but it still works in this genre.  He’s read a ton of novels, and knows what he is doing. He plays a multitude of roles, and has fun with it, and so you enjoy the listening even more.  He has a done a few other series that I have looked at, and will now probably pick up and give a listen to in the future.


In spite of the few flaws, the book is fun, and keeps your attention.  I only paused the book because work or real life intruded, otherwise it would have been a straight shot all the way through.  I cannot wait for the next novel in the series, and look forward to more great things from Thorne.


Final Score 7 out of 10



Super Sales on Super Heroes Book 2

By: William D. Arand

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins


Legion First!!! That is the motto Felix's people live, die, and get resurrected by, and it is the way that you need to think of this book series. Get it before all others. This is a fantastically fun romp into a melding of gamelit and superheroes that is over far too fast, and is filled with funny lines, a harem of beauties, bad grass mo-fo villains, and a gubernatorial run.


This book does not take you where you expect it to go. When we first started out I really thought the whole thing would be about Felix running for governor and consolidating his forces in the new city. It's not. There is so much more to it. That's the thing with Arand, he shows you a roadmap, then promptly takes an indelible marker and makes his own roads into areas and territories you would not expect. He's pretty slick, and he continually pulls the rug out from under you. Then you find there is no floor beneath the rug. Additionally, the space below you isn't empty as it actually leads into a magma pit filled with fireproof alligators and Piranha. He then hands you an umbrella to slow your descent, and some aloe to soothe your burns. You just have to live with the bites.


Seriously, this could have been a major let down on so many levels. First, the original book in the series was simply brilliant in concept and creation. The characters, and I do mean all of them, suck you in. You love all of them, each for a different reason. Third, the first book made it so that this book had to really go freaking big or blow up. There wasn't going to be a middle ground. This book most certainly comes up to the level of being his The Empire Strikes Back book. I really hope he can avoid a Return of the Jedi in book three. Felix just continues to impress, and his solutions are pretty ingenious. I love his "fixers". Each of the other characters evolve in their own way; Kit, Andrea, Felicia, Lilly, and the rest all have their own subplots/development that fits. With a cast as large as this that is hard to do.


Another area that could have tanked this audible version is that, for whatever reason, Jeff Hays did not return as the narrator. Now, I have repeatedly stated, and will continue to do so, that Jeff is far and away my favorite narrator. He cannot be touched, and this is his genre! I was crushed when I found out that he wasn't returning for the rest of the series, and I worried that it might be a blow that SSOSH wouldn't be able to recover from. Now, if you expect me to say that Nick came in and did a better job, forget it. Hays is the MAN. HOWEVER, I will concede that if it had to be anyone, then Pohdel was the cat to take care of business. He really does his best to emulate the voices that Jeff put forth, and I think he comes closest with Andrea, but his pancakes will never be Jeff's pancakes. The rest of the voices are all great jobs, although I did have some difficulty knowing if it was Kit or Lilly talking, but I believe that is only because I have listened to Jeff's version so many times that their voices are ingrained in my head.


I hope that you, the person reading this review sees that I feel that this is one of the best series on the market, not matter what genre you look at. I believe that there is no way that you could not enjoy this book unless you completely lack imagination or a soul. Yes, it does deal with some dark stuff, like slavery (but not in the way you are thinking) and brains are as likely to blow by as a tumbleweed in a western or a newspaper in a post apocalyptic world, but this is an adventure. This is a lamborghini strapped to a rollercoaster rail ride of a lifetime. Don't miss out. Join Legion now!! Remember, Legion first!!!!!!


Final Score:  7.5




The Hobgoblin Riot Dominion of Blades, Book 2

By: Matt Dinniman

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau, Hays McGee

Length: 18 hrs and 24 mins




    Hobgoblin Riot, throw back a bottle of beer, Hobgoblin Riot, never know when the polecat’s near!  Many thanks to the Cherry Poppin' Daddies for letting me butcher that song in parody.

The Hobgoblin Riot was darn good, though there was a bit of wheel spinning in some ways and some seemingly dropped plotlines that end up paying off at the end so it’s mostly forgiven. Also sometimes it can be a bit confusing as to the timing of certain things if you don't pay attention to the perspective changes.


Almost double the length of book one, feels sort of like 2 books smooshed into one.  I don’t have a problem with extended times like this, so long as it is a good book, and I have to say, Popper’s outbursts alone could keep me occupied for a fortnight before I got bored.  I really can’t tell if Dinniman can write great one liners, or if Andrea’s reading of them is so superb, but I laughed at every exasperated utterance Popper made. Most likely, it is a combination.  The whole book is like that, Dinniman and Parsneau have this great symbiotic relationship going on, he creates a vivid and detailed scene or event, and she adds color and emotion that you simply miss when reading. The book itself is almost a type of comedic horror, a few levels above Abbot and Costello directed by Tobe Hooper or Clive Barker .


The narration by Andrea Parsneau is about as flawless as you can get, she really nails the voices, but if I have to be honest here, I could listen to her read the phone book, so long as she did it in Popper’s voice and threw out a zinger every ten or so numbers.  Do we even have phonebooks anymore? The sound quality is beyond reproach, and I don’t think I heard her misspeak a word or a line. I do have to cast a dubious eye at this Hays McGee fella, whom she claims is her husband, and not actually Jeff Hays in vocal disguise.  The jury is still out on that one, Andrea! Hays, whoever he really is, does a great job as well, and he backs Andrea’s narration up like he’s been doing this his whole life. Well done, sir. Well, done indeed. Oh, and I loved the way that Andrea handled the mob scene!  That is how audio is done. Has she gotten an Oscar or something yet? I have to add that my all time favorite female character voice is that of Harley Quinn, from Batman the Animated Series. My number 2? Andrea’s version of Popper!


Ok, aside from me referencing Abbot and Costello, whom I know 95% of kids alive today have never heard of, I try to keep things simple, so here it is.  Book one was great as we got to see the characters feel out who they were, and learn what they could accomplish. It was slick introducing characters that you never see in a traditional gaming party including a hippocorn and polecat (whom I love), and here we get to see them progress and evolve.  My biggest issue is that it really feels like two books that got compressed together, and some plotlines were forgotten or dropped in the melding., but the characters are what drive this book. To me, the plotline was incidental to how the characters handled things. That is why I am ok with some of the dropped plots.  Maybe book three will address them, maybe not, but I do know one thing for certain, I’ll be there to find out when it does come out! Hopefully you will too, because this is a great book and an amazing series. Don’t pass this one up!!


Final score 8 stars, with points taken for dropped plots and a few places where the story stalled out for a bit.




Dante's Immortality: Beginnings

By: Antonio Terzini

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Series: Dante's Immortality, Book 1

Length: 14 hrs and 28 mins


This is one of those books where I sincerely believe that it could have worked better without the LitRPG elements. This isn't to say that the LitRPG doesn't work. It is cool as hell, but I think that this would have actually been more powerful as a straight up fantasy novel. It is one heck of a magic system. The world is built with precision and purpose, and is one of the best fantasy settings I have ever read. The characters that fill it all seem to be major S.O.B.s, though, lol. This is most certainly a place where you can trust no one. Everyone has an ulterior motive, and is out to remove you from their way or see what they can get from you.


There are some really scary things here, such as wraith collars and predatory dungeons. Sincerely, this world is a character unto itself, and Dante is just an intriguing character. I have to say that this book does one thing right compared to 99% of all other books and that is the layout of the nemesis and the fate of said nemesis. It is handled the way any intelligent person would, and when it happened I shouted out "YES!!!" Terzini knows how to put you in the car, strap you in, hit the buttons, send you up the hill, and just before you go over the top scream at you that the rollercoaster has no brakes!!!!! The ride requires very little set up, and once the story starts going it never stops. There are parts that are just heart wrenching, and others where you cheer and shout for joy! I loved every minute with Dante and want more right now.


Jeff Hays is on point narrating, and dang if this doesn't seem to be his best work. I mean you could just feel Dante's suffering in his voice, and the growl from his anger put off heat. You ever see the movie Dune? Where they have the weirding modules that allow a person's voice to set fires, rend flesh, and shatter stone? Yeah? Well, I think Jeff is about to lose the need for a weirding module. His vocal powers are legendary, but here he just stomped Zeus into the dirt leaving godhood behind and becoming a full fledged Titan. He just brought this book home in a solid gold limousine. I don't know how he does this everytime, but he is continually improving and getting stronger. Rock Solid narration. Nuff said.


Final Rating:  8.75 stars


This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.


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