LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 009

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 009 -

“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:”

Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests (Vol.1) (00:10)

Score: 8.75 out of 10

Inside Out: Bloodfeast, Book 1 (06:50)

Score: 5.75 out of 10

Archaic Venture: The Myth of Cerberus A LitRPG Adventure (17:30)

Score: 5 out of 10

Shard Warrior Crystal Shards Online, Book 2 (38:03)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests (Vol.1)

By: Neven Iliev

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins

This is one of my first forays into LITRPG books, and it was my introduction to Jeff Hays narration.  I have to say that I fell in love with this book instantly. It was vicious, brutal, raunchy, and funny as hell.  It was also original. I’ve been reading books since 1971, and I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like this before.  The fact that Neven even came up with this concept, a book centered on a non-human character, who is about as alien from you and I as is a Xenomorph is impressive.  The fact that he pulls it off is outstanding.

The book centers on a minor mimic, who just wants to live out his days with his limited intellect eating unwary adventurers as they wander through his dungeon.  His life expectancy shouldn’t be very long, but a series of events transpire that help the creature begin to from in both intelligence and power. The fact that Iliev manages to make the beginning part so interesting and not a series of this happened and so he gets stronger proves how adept he is at his craft.  The writing is smooth, effortless, and funny. I really can’t say what has more humor, the characters, the situations they find themselves in, or the entire premise. The mimic, Boxy, is an interesting study in what it is like to be the predator. Its perspective is captivating, and you see that he isn’t so much evil as he is hungry.  He later becomes a lot more clearly evil as he begins to seek out power, but even then you could say that he is only trying to make himself stronger and more efficient as a killer, and as an asexual predator he would see others only as food or a way to improve his lot in life. His compatriots include a couple of demons, although I have to say that Snacks is the best, Arms is interesting, but man oh man, Snacks the succubus manages to steal the show.  She also helps to give the listener some much needed outside perspective. I think that the funniest bit in the whole book was when a grate became Boxy’s greatest foe. Yes, just a simple grate, but so dangerous a foe.

Jeff Hays took this book and claimed it as his own.  His vocalizations of Boxy are some of the funniest pieces to this story.  What would have just been a minor giggle on the page because uproariously funny to actually hear spoken out loud.  I guess, since Boxy is a “box” and he has no lips to speak with that you might consider him having a speech impediment.  It sounds like Jeff is keeping his lips straight as a board when he speaks and his vocalizations made me burst out loud laughing numerous times.  When Boxy finally manages to speak clearly, Jeff made the phone calls (effects and all) the highlights of the book. I really can’t say just how funny Jeff is here, his timing, vocalizations, and style all mesh together so perfectly that it is like listening to Robing Williams doing Stand Up.

This book brought me into the genre full time, and led me to find other stories in the same vein, like the Divine Dungeon series.  The book itself is just about as perfect as you can get. The characters, the world, the humor, and the narration are a perfect storm of audible audacity that you will not forget.  This is one of the best books I have ever listened to, and if you haven’t I highly suggest that you go grab a credit and splurge on this book today.

Final Score: 8.75 stars because this book is just so tasty.


Inside Out: Bloodfeast, Book 1

By: Ellis Michaels

Narrated by: S.K. Linna

Length: 4 hrs and 29 mins


There are a lot of times I will bemoan how a good book was crushed by some crappy narration, but here the only real saving grace is the narration.  The story wanders and lacks any real drama, danger, or character growth. The premise is pretty cool, I’ll give it that, in which a group of players swap places with their characters against their will.  Beyond that it is all wasted potential. The story meanders, and has no real focus beyond the whole “we need to find our way back home” trope. The one element that could have been fun, the characters in the real world is squandered on them eating junk food and watching their players try to find a way back home.  

A lot of the book is confusing because there are few, if anything, about the game that is explained or revealed.  For example the game is called Bloodfeast, and you are supposed to eat the body f your fallen enemies, but no explanation is given as to why they should do that.  I saw no buffs or benefits from the act, just kill and eat. Pardon me, but that sounds a little like a game a psycho would play. If they said what the boons were from eating the dead then I missed it every time they did it.  Also, the book is unintentionally funny. What do I mean by that? There are lines that are not meant to be humorous, but are such as, “The area was full of beggars and prostitutes, who were mostly NPCs.” Poor grammar appeared, and it is hard to notice when doing an audible book, but there they were.  It was mostly when it came to she versus her. By that I mean he would say, “Her and him went to the store.” That kind of stuff popped up all the time, and it tripped me up every time it happened. Poor grammar isn’t something to expect when having a book narrated to you.

You may recall a review that I did in regards to Archaic Venture, where I believed the narrator to have killed the story.  Here, I’m going to say the opposite is true. While Linna isn’t a mind blowing narrator by any stretch of the imagination he does a good job, and I have to admit that his voice for the Luke character sounded like my Uncle Ron, and so I had to like him a bit more than usual.  Honestly, he does do a good job here, and does different voices for each character, and does a decent job of it. I never heard an issue with the sound quality or voice work, he was as solid as the Great Wall of China. I really wish that he would have had a better story to work with, because he might have been amazing.  Tough call, but the issues this story had did not fall at his feet.

I do find it sad that I have to hit this book with a hammer, but the fact is I cannot abide when things are not explained.  One of the most annoying things in this book came when they gamers went on their quest to find the artifact necessary to send them home, and at every step they learn that they were on the trail of a group that looked just like them.  (They were following their character’s routes to the magical object that could send them home), and the entire time I’m thinking that the object has to be gone because the characters had already gotten and used the orb they were seeking , but no.  Surprise the orb was right there! You might argue that it reset, but I’m going to call BS and say it was poor writing because all signs pointed to it being missing, but then nothing ever came from that aspect of the story either. There were too many inconsistencies, a lack of explanations (for example how did their characters become self aware?), and grammatical problems that made this ship look like it was a submarine.   My Final score is five and three quarters stars. Honestly, I don’t think it is worth your money for roughly eleven dollars for a four and a half hour book. I don’t think I’ll be looking at book 2 in this series.


Archaic Venture: The Myth of Cerberus A LitRPG Adventure

By: Henry D. Milton

Narrated by: Jon Wilkins

Length: 3 hrs


The narrator, Milton, sounds like Brad Garrett who just smoke five cartons of cigarettes and drank five bottles  of whiskey and not in an endearing way. He speaks so slowly that I guess a benefit is that you have no issue understanding him, and that he enunciates very clearly due to his rhythm.  He seems to struggle to do various voices. One voice seems to just be a little deeper than the other. No real accents exist that are discernable, nor is any real emotion is added into this storytelling.  He lost me when the hobbit NPC sounded like an orc or ogre. There was no attempt to even sound like a tiny humanoid. Milton almost seems to read the story one sentence at a time. He really takes away from the actual tale, and for me a mediocre narrator can drag down a decent story.  This makes it really hard for me to tell how good the story itself is, and the addition of sound effects and music DETRACTS from the narration rather than adding to it. For example, He talks about a crowd going crazy, then you hear applause, and then he picks up the narration again. It is like he waits for the clapping to die down.  There are also bits of music added in at various places, usually at the start of a chapter or the end. The music starts, then stops, and there is a pause before the narration picks up again. It just starts and ends and serves no purpose other than to act as filler. Then there are parts where an annoying noise repeats over and over after the bar fight for no discernable reason.  Additionally, when Michael does meet Komodo and Rampage I had no idea that one of them was a female, Rampage, as no attempt was made to even make her sound feminine. The narration was a miserable event.

I start out talking about the narration because I recently reviewed a story called the Glass Bard, and my interpretation of the story was harsh due to the narration.  I did not like the story, but admitted that the narration could have been a major contributing factor, and then I saw that Ramon, from the LITRPG Podcast liked the story, and scored it much higher than I did.  This means that the narration played a larger part than I anticipated. Which caused me to dissect the story more than I normally would, since I know that my interpretation was tainted by the less than stellar narration.

The writing isn’t amazing.  I found large chunks of dialogue to be stilted and almost awkward.  The fights were average and did not grip my imagination at all. The story itself was your standard tale of a young man who is disabled, and decides to enter the VR world Archaic Venture so that he can experience what it actually is like to walk and make friends.  The odd thing is that Michael meets two players, Komodo and Rampage, and they reluctantly let him join them in a quest to kill Cerberus, a beast that will earn them $30,000 bucks, godlike in game abilities, and a visit with the game’s creator. Michael then takes them to a bar to seek info on Cerberus and ends up getting them into a battle with a higher level player because Michael just killed his horse.  The fight bonds them. Huh? What? The guy is a noob that one half of the group wasn’t happy allowing to join, and he instantly gets them into a life or death battle and they become closer? I’d have booted the noob out the door once everything finished. I saw no reason for them to bond together other than the thinking that they fought together and now are pals from the experience.

One thing that bothered me was that the book takes about five minutes to start into the story itself, and another half of an hour is tacked on the end for an additional half hour for a book preview.  I don’t mind previews, but I hate it when a book’s runtime is shot up longer than what it is, and honestly it feels a lot like books stuffing. Additionally, the story is only LITPRG in the barest meaning of the word.  Leveling is involved, but it is never explained, but then none of the game mechanics are ever explained, and the loot tends to just be cash, exp, or jewels. Michael jumps from being a newbie to being level thirty in a very short period of time.  The fact that they get a clue on how to power level is all the explanation that we ever get. We never get any stats, character information, or the ramifications for playing various races. Michael opts to play a Drow with a suspect class as well.  You never see any NPCs having a bad reaction to his race or class. The story itself is basically just a go beat the monster for fabulous prizes quest. There’s not a lot about this story otherwise. Before I got this audiobook I looked at the reviews of this on audible, because I have really seeking a great LITRPG short story, and saw a lot of positive reviews, but they were very short, with not a lot to say.  After listening to this I have to wonder what they were listening to. For me, this book was more of a fizzle than a sizzle. I chokingly give it a rating of 5 out of 10 stars.


Shard Warrior Crystal Shards Online, Book 2

By: Rick Scott

Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer

Length: 11 hrs and 28 mins

Holy Moley, I have been waiting on this book since the first one finished and was not disappointed at all by the continuing saga of Reese and his compatriots.  Book one left the team stranded in the real world, where death means death, and there is no respawning going to happen. Reese, Gilly, and Val Helena had just hooked up with Maxis and Rembrandt.  Maxis being Reese’s brother. They found themselves in a barren wasteland, with enemies at every turn, and with Reese and Gilly being so low leveled that it looked to be certain death for them soon.

And this is where Scott does that thing where he takes something that should make you angry and makes it interesting.  What happens is that the characters are not trapped in the barren wastelands surrounded by deadly enemies at every turn.  Nope, turns out that there are safe zones in the real world, and these boundaries keep away the real nasties of the world.  Normally, that would set me right off, we are promised a grim and gritty world unlike any other we have seen and we get safe zones where the characters spend most of their time.  Secondly, we also find out that as dangerous as the place was made out to be the fact is there are players who lived on the surface for a long time. What was looking like a we’ll barely survive this place scenario turns into a place that some players vacation at for fun.  That part I can’t let slide. If Maxis has been there 4 times and is one of the few people to do so and survive then it should be a lot harder a place to get around. The action scenes are still dope as crystal meth, and the character’s growth and development are impressive.  Still, this book almost felt like some spinning tires that made a lot of noise and got nowhere fast, for every revelation you get two more questions. I also, did not like the way Iko became wimpified all of a sudden, and I doubt that Reese’s mother would have been so stupid to do what she did.  So there were a lot of problems that I had here.

Still, Scott manages to make the story interesting, the characters, compelling, and the action flying.  We get a decent villain, and some added worries for Reese as he becomes a town administrator. Each character has some small arc that they go through, and I appreciate that this is a series that I can listen to with my kids.  I can listen to it with youngsters and still enjoy it as an adult. The writing is that strong.

Summerer’s narration is just as good as it was the first time around, and I have to say that he has really grown on me as a narrator.  I loved him in the Dark Herbalist series, and here he continues to make my mouth drop open with his vocal skills. He really adds an element of fun to this audible anime series.

One thing I do want to comment upon briefly is the way the covers are set up.  You place the title right over the center of the artwork, obscuring half of what you paid for.  I would have like to seen Gilly on the cover of Book 2, but she is almost invisible. Move your title up a bit.  Covers are a part of the book, and I will discuss them from time to time.

Again, I had some issues with the story and characterizations, but I still managed to walk away satisfied and eager to see what happens next.  You will too.

Final Score: 8.25 because we were kind of lead to expect a certain type of world, and I must say that the portions we got to see of it were fascinating.  Still, I loved it. Bring on the next one soon.

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

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