LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 013
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 013 - Travail Online: Resurrection, Pangea Online, The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3, Reboot
“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:”
Score: 8.1 out of 10
The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3 (21:51)
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Score: 8.3 out of 10
Travail Online: Resurrection
A LitRPG Series, Book 2
By: Brian Simons
Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau
Series: Travail Online Series, Book 2
Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
I’m going to take a minute here and rail about last week. Last week I jumped all over a good narrator for mispronouncing the word ensign. Justifiably so, I might add. But, in the spirit of fairness I have to admit when I say something wrong. I mispronounced Andrea Parsneau’s name. I said Parsneau, and it is said as Par Snow, see the pic? It should be easy to make sense of it from that little meme. So, if you guys catch me on something, call me out! I want to extend my apologies to Andrea for pulling a Sweeny Todd on her last name. Anyhow, back to what you came for:
Well, everyone’s favorite tailor/seamstress, Coral, is back and she opens with the wanton slaughter of some vicious humanoids from the deep (a great Corman classic B movie if you haven’t seen it or heard of it) and she is making some awesome armor from their skins. I don’t think that you can get a better opening, when a lady is just minding her business fishing while waiting on some pals to show up and ends up killing a murderous fish man (no, I played D&D for years and could never pronounce their name then, and I can’t now so I’m not even going to try) with a pair of scissors. If you have to open a book then evisceration by scissors is a good way to start. It caught my attention.
This time around there are some Shenanigans taking place by the game devs, who feel that the games economy is generating too much income and is damaging the real economy. Thus, they implement a plan that will obliterate the in game economy, and strip players of their wealth. How do they do this? By brainwashing the players into becoming religious zealots who give all of their money to rebuild a god’s temple.
Simons really plays this at different angles. One member of the party wholeheartedly joins the clerical staff and becomes a priest and does one hell of a fundraising job for the god. Another player gets the whammy put on him and the others struggle to keep him from giving away everything he owns (in the real world and the VR one). He plays with the theme of betrayal and forgiveness. I’m not saying forgiveness is granted, only that he plays with the notion of how people can react to trust be broken. Coral feels betrayed by one of her team mates, a team mates actually betrays them, and the game company breaks trust by manipulating minds. He hits that subject on various levels, and also shows how trust is something that isn’t lightly given, but when it is earned it is worthwhile. The book is emotional, but also has some great fight scenes. Personally, I loved the poison that wanted to be used and kept calling out to kill others. When it was employed all I could think of was the red wedding from Game of Thrones and the pie scene from Stand By Me. Wickedly brilliant and funny in an evil kind of way. It wasn’t written for laughs, but I got a good snicker out of it.
Coral is the heart of the book. She is the team’s center and moral compass, and Andrea plays her so well. I know that she strives to put in emotions that we readers aren’t even supposed to know are there, and here, her reaction as Coral to the betrayal is cinematic. You can feel the hurt and reluctance in her voice, her need to get away, her need to start anew. It is pretty damned impressive. I don’t mean to downplay her ability to play the other characters, because you actually understand the betrayer’s motives, and she conveys their feelings just as deeply. It is one hell of a juggling act that she pulls off. Andrea never fails to impress me.
I am so glad that the snake on the cover with the apple in its mouth is explained, I was very curious about that, but I have to say that was probably the only weak spot that I found in the story. It just came off as a little silly when compared to the depth of the rest of the book. But hey, I love silly. It just felt out of place compared to the various moral quandaries that each character dealt with such as working for a corrupt lord, putting yourself over the team because of jealousy, or dealing with betrayal from someone that you might be in love with or at the very least respect. When the snakes were used later it was much more effective. So, just one bump as far as I was concerned.
I’m awarding a solid 8.1 stars, just because of the depth and character growth that takes place. The story is intriguing and enjoyable. I know that you will like this book.
Pangea Online Book One: Death and Axes: A LitRPG Novel
By: S. L. Rowland
Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Laurie Catherine Winkel
Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a yarn about a boy doomed to toil away his life in a virtual mine. A boy who has no choice but to waste his life digging out electronic ore in order to take care of himself. That is until he discovers a chest full of loot that grants him a free pass to wherever he wants to go in the game, and enough digital currency to see this become a reality. That’s when he learns there are only two things certain in this life, Death and Axes.
The boy is Esil, and his struggles may sound a little similar to another book, one in which a kid has to escape the mines and win a game wide contest. I just can’t remember what it was called. It was . . . . .it was . . .(tank flies in and hits me in the head, prop guy yells Dodge Tank!)
Ow! Yeah. Thanks, prop guy. Dodge tank. Now, while the stories seem similar it is only a facile one at best. Both have protagonists who work in digital mines, and both have that protagonist have to win a game wide contest in order to . . . well you know make their lives better and stuff. Other than those two items, both stories are radically different. Pangea, by the way, was released before Dodge tank by about three months so The similarities are just coincidental.
Anyway, Esil is a pretty good kid, who just happens to meet a popular player his first day in game, and he manages to impress her with a cheat that he doesn’t know he has. The two slowly become friends, and when the inevitable announcement of a worldwide event that will provide money, fame, and game bonuses they agree to help one another out until the final contest, because just like they say in Highlander, there can be only one. Here is where the story reminds me of Harmon Cooper’s Proxima Galaxy, as the game that Esil is in also hosts multiple worlds in hundreds of genres. There were several things that I enjoyed about the contest’s trials. First, the clues actually mislead our heroes, and they don’t solve the first one. Second, we get to go to some exciting new worlds, and third, the game is set so that it takes innovation and wits to advance more than levels for the most part. The characters all carry their own weight, they are interesting, and when a betrayal occurs it cuts to the quick like it should. Esil, or Lone Wolf as I prefer to call him, is crushed by it but pushes ahead anyway. And that is the crux of the tale. Perseverance, dedication, and determination. You really get to see what kind of man Esil is by the way he earns his mount, and the way in which he handles the betrayal. The fight scenes are fun, and Esil’s introduction to the game he has never played is pretty funny when he gets into his first battle. The book is light and fun, and while the plot is something you may have seen a few times you won’t mind because Rowland manages keep things so interesting.
So, you ask me, what about the narration? How was it? Is it worth the time and effort to listen? Is it amazing? The only thing I can say is that this is SBT, a Soundbooth Theater production, so you know that it is going to be great. I really like the pairing of Justin Thomas James and Laurie Catherine Winkel. They have become, for me, the Bonnie and Clyde of the audible world. They are narrators who come in guns blazing, and run off with the story like it was the last hamburger in a world filled with Wimpy’s. Sorry for anyone under 40, that’s a Popeye reference. The incredible part is that they are not even in the same studio when they record, One is in Georgia, and the other in Canada. What? How can there be that much chemistry when people are so far apart? They pair up more and more often, and I really think that their latest efforts, Dave Wilmarth’s the Land of the Undying has been their best effort to date. Here you can see them really unifying into collaborators of the highest quality. Like I say, they are like Bonnie and Clyde, they pull off their narration in a flash and flurry that never lets you know what is coming. I love the way they handle the tale, the characters, and my attention. They never let it become boring. I do believe there was one slight audible flub, but it was nothing major, a line was repeated but that’s all. Otherwise this audio portion was flawless.
So, what’s the verdict? This book is solid, has good writing, plays out tropes but doesn’t tropifiy your mind with them and still manages to keep it interesting, and has some killer narration. It also plays out like it could have been a stand alone novel, and I respect that a great deal. Not every book needs a cliffhanger. This one wraps up pretty well, even though there is another book in the series. Rowland unquestionably makes me want the next book Magic and Mayhem, as well as his other new novel (not on audible yet) Vestiges which is a Post Apoc novel. So, I’m eager for more, that means an 8.25. Can’t ask for more.
Rise and shine campers, its the Feedback Loop
The Feedback Loop: Books 1-3
By: Harmon Cooper
Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Soundbooth Theater
Series: The Feedback Loop, Book 1-3
Length: 16 hrs and 2 mins
Huh? Not enough of a review?
How about Holy Freaking Crap!
Ok, since you are interested have to say that this is just brilliant, and should become a Netflix series. It would so crush Alterd Carbon! They’d just have to add a touch more nudity, but I don’t see Quantum complaining about going to a few strip clubs to help ratings.
It is a sweeping story that begins with Groundhogs Day for a setting, and transitions into a reality hopping mind trip that you just won't forget anytime soon. Quantum, the MC, is interesting and funny. The action is cinematic, and the emotions are like a rabid methhead on redbull who just found out his dog got run over but is alive. The story easily flips settings, and does so effortlessly. The concept is so out there it was on an episode of X-files! I think.
This is not one book, it is a collection of three awe inspiring jaw dropping story telling that centers on a fast talking, hard drinking mug who is trapped in a VR world, and I think suffers from Stockholm Syndrome. Quantum Hughes is a character that you will either love or completely hate. I don’t think there can be a middle ground. Harmon Cooper is a stand out writer, who must have been tripping on peyote all day long to come up with some of the stuff that he conceives in this book. Plus, not only is he imaginative, but he has a real way with words, most importantly, with dialogue. The words his characters speak are believable, emotional, and funny when they need to be. You really get to like his cast of characters, and will fall in love with the whole game concept that he creates.
It’s the fast talk and the creative use of everyday items as implements of murder that make Quantum stand out. I’m just waiting for him to kill someone with a paper clip. Hughes is a bit of a conundrum, as he seems to have flawless pop culture memory to draw upon, but can barely recall what he was like before going into the Proxima Universe. Now, Proxima is a game design company that houses all of its games in one shared universe, so while Hughes has been living like Sam Spade in a noirish 40’s styled game he also gets to visit other worlds and games as well. That is a real plus, as it makes sense for a company to umbrella all of their product into one universe, and it makes it fun knowing that we might get to visit a fantasy realm or a steampunk universe. It is the 40’s noir setting that really sucked me into this book series. It simply isn’t something that you see in LITRPG. Most worlds are fantasy based, some sci fi, and now a few horror ones as well, but this setting, the one in book one, really stands out. It is vast, it is real, and it is all noir. The attitude is more of a Dead Men don’t wear Plaid kinda vibe, as it is so hard to take Hughes seriously. Another plus, you get characters with names like Quantum Hughes and Frances Euphoria. Total fun.
The series does bounce through three different worlds, unless you count the real world, then it’s four. Each book is laced with humor, and rails against things like government interference on what we eat, how we act, and what we think. Each member of the Dream team is fully fleshed out, and have distinctive quirky personalities of their own. No one plays second fiddle to Hughes, which is impressive since he technically should steamroller any other character her encounters in a clash of personalities.
Do I have to talk about Jeff Hays? Yeah? Good, because I have no qualms admitting he is my favorite narrator by far. This guy is so talented he could win a yodeling contest with a ventriloquist dummy, while gargling chocolate syrup. Told you he was my favorite. In all sincerity, the man is a master of the vocal arts, like Dr. Strange, but with words. He can do no wrong in my eyes. Honestly, Hays is the only cat that I can see pulling off Quantum’s incessant ramblings. He not only talks fast, but he infuses the lines with comedic timing that I know isn’t easy to pull off. I will reiterate that Hays knows his characters, and that I know that he is the only guy that can pull some of them off. I think of Jade, from the awesome War Aeternus series, and I can’t think of anyone else being able to play her either. Jeff just nails the people he is playing so well, that there are points that it will not occur to me that Frances, for example, is being read by a man.
This means that the pairing of Cooper and Hays is powerful enough to create a rift in space time if not handled appropriately. It might even cause a feedback loop in our own digital universe! The truth is their combo makes for one heck of a fine time listening to an amazeballs story that you will have never seen anywhere else before. This book is packed with action, morning assassins, backstabs, intrigue, and is a very noticeable loving homage to movies like Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon while dancing into VR territory. I cannot count the number of times that I burst out laughing, or was choked up by a character’s actions. This series collection is well worth the money or credit that you plunk down for it. I have to say that it is easily an 8.4 stars. If you like your books quirky, full of sass, blood splattering action, and fast talking MC’s then you will LOVE this book.
Afterlife Online, Book 1
By: Domino Finn
Narrated by: Justin Thomas James
Series: Afterlife Online, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
Reboot is one of the first litrpg books that I read, and when I say that I quite literally mean listened to, because my time for reading has vanished. To say that the book wowed me would be an understatement, I came into this right after Delvers, Divine Dungeon, and Morningwood. So it most likely was the very first “litrpg full blood” novel that I had gotten. I’m not discounting the other books, as far as I’m concerned they are among the best of the best Litrpg out there, but this one is a bit heavier than them on crunch, such as levels, stats, character sheets, and so on.
The concept reminded me of one of my favorite series the Bobiverse, with We are Legion, we are Bob, because like in Bob, the protagonist dies and wakes up in game. The MC renames himself Talon, and tries to come to grips with the fact that he and the people he meets with are all dead, having been uploaded at some point after passing away. He gets a goofy roommate who wants to do nothing more than sit around the apartment they share and watch movies. Talon decides that he is going to make the most of his life, and sets off to level up and have some fun. A few things happen along the way that makes him upset and curious. First of all, he is not permitted to speak to anyone on the outside. He is repeatedly denied that privilege. Also, whenever he contacts customer support he gets the run around. By the way, the customer support bits are some of the best things about the book. They are witty, cutting, and hilarious. His antics in game also get him into some trouble as he attracts the interest of a play known only as Lucifer. Lucifer is on the Devs crap list, and is wanted for a variety of crimes. Talon has to wonder who he should believe, the mods who won’t let him contact the outside world or the wanted villain who tells him more of what’s going on than anyone else has since he arrived.
The book is part action, part mystery, and all about the characters and their development and growth. This is a rare book in which I loved the grinding aspect so much that I was a little perturbed when the main plotline kicked into gear. Talon has a lot going against him, and his biggest issue is just getting to the truth of what happened to him for real. Finn plays his cards so close to the vest that when the revelation comes it is a revelation. You also want to side against the games creators, who have been keeping things from Talon and company. Oh, hey, and added bonus, Talon sports a spear, and I can respect that he goes against expectations of a standard weapon. The way that Talon interacts with the world and the monsters is far from what you would expect a PC to do, and that helps keep your attention and the plot moving. And man, does this story just cruise by
Another bonus for me is that this book was my introduction to Justin Thomas James as a narrator. I have to say that his characterization of Talon’s Alchemist roommate was simultaneously funny and heart wrenching. Remember, all these folks are dead, and they all have backstories. James adds so much emotion that I really felt like this was an event that happened to him and not the character in the book. I can also see just how much he’s changed in so short a time. He has really developed into one hell of a narrator, and is someone that I really respect in the community. He really brings this story to life and that not easy in book full of dead people.
I did this review because book three of the series is coming soon, and I want everyone to know what a great series it has been thus far. This book is easily an 8.3 stars, and right now that is enough to fill my sky, so go get this and get ready for the new book that is coming.
This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.
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