LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 015

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 015 -  Awaken Online: Apathy, Enhancer, Luck Stat Strategy, Feedback Loop- Book 4

“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:”

Awaken Online: Apathy (Side Quest) (00:21)

Score: 6 out of 10

Enhancer - The Enhancer Series, Book 1 (18:57)

Score: 7.3 out of 10

Luck Stat Strategy: Secret of the Old Ones (30:00)

Score: 8.6 out of 10

Reapers and Repercussions - The Feedback Loop Series, Book 4 (45:58)

Score: 8 out of 10


Awaken Online: Apathy (Side Quest)

By: Travis Bagwell

Narrated by: David Stifel

Series: Awaken Online, Book 3.5

Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins


Here it comes, I am really getting bored with this series.  Awaken Online is the title because I need three cups of coffee and a handful of no-doze to get through the latest books.  Honestly. You want the truth, the best part of this book was that there was no chance of Alexion showing up, and he still had a mention.  Eliza is just a more milquetoast version of Jason. She has his crappy parental relationship, and gets jerked around by an in-game god. The only difference is that Jason’s god is much cooler and much more tolerable.  I absolutely hate every moment that the Hippie appears. I cannot stand Fluffy, and I think that every joke that they do or is done in their spirit falls flatter than a sheaf of rice paper. I just don’t see the appeal of the guy or the black sheep.  His every appearance sends shivers down my spine.

The quests that he send Eliza on are neither funny nor very exciting.  Honestly, at no point did I have a sense of danger or concern, nor even when she was killed.  Yes, she does come up with an innovative way to kill the troll, but it was as exciting as watching someone spray a wasp with a can of Raid.  Her solution for the Stag was slightly better, and she actually showed some life when she confronted the other players, but that went by the wayside as soon as she got back home.  One moment of real growth and it was squished quickly. Seriously, she kills a ton of players but feel bad when she is given a quest to basically wipe out a band of pirates. It made no sense.

For some reason Bagwell has decided that it is much better to have an intellectual battle or solution rather than an actual fight.  I don’t know about you but I like my intellectual battles fought in conjunction with a sword or spear. In his third book the most mind numbing scenes came when the team was doing the Hippy’s trials.  This felt like a longer more drawn out version of those trials. I really don’t know why Bagwell is going this direction because in the first two books Jason not only out thought but he out fought his enemies.  Here, it seems like Eliza is afraid to get her hands dirty. The only real moment where I saw a touch of Jason came when she confronted the PKers. There she duped and destroyed them. Then she went and became old Eliza again.  That was the whole book, cry about how hard her life at home was, arguing with the hippy, doing an asinine Hippy quest, and then complaining about it afterwards. Wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I am not liking the direction this series is taking.  Again, I will reiterate, this felt like a pilot episode for a spin-off within an established series. Chandler from Friends goes to visit his awkward cousin Eliza, we then spend some time with Eliza, Chandler pops back in to say good bye and next fall we have Eliza’s show, The Awkward Herbalist or the Anguished Alchemist, not sure about the title yet, but you get the idea.  This is not a series that I will continue out of love. I’m sure I’ll get it just to keep up the reviews, but that is the only reason.

David Stifel stays true to form, and does his solid work as always.  If you liked him in the other three books you won’t be disappointed here.  He is probably the one saving grace that this book had, because if he hadn’t have been here to keep this story anchored it would have drifted far afield of where it should have been.

I know that there are a lot of Travis Bagwell fans out there, hell, I know authors who won’t even try to do a release near him, but I am growing to be less enthused about this series the longer it goes on.  I’d like to see him stick to Jason’s exploits or create a character who doesn’t have trolls for parents and actually has a spine and a brain. They can be a little broken, but I need a break from the weak and obsequious characters that he pummels us with, and Eliza is the biggest offender.

I’m giving this book a rating of 6 stars.  I feel that this is just a revisit from the last book that really didn’t need written.  Thankfully it wasn’t a 22 hour novel because I would have had a hard time finishing it.



The Enhancer Series, Book 1

By: Wyatt Kane

Narrated by: Chris Graves

Series: The Enhancer Series, Book 1

Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins


According to the book’s description, this book has some light gamelit elements, so I grabbed it for an examination.  When Kane says light he means light. The only things that remotely make this gamelit is the fact that they use Huds, heads up displays, and they have stats that can increase via various manipulations or exercise/practice.  Otherwise, this is a straight up super hero harem tale that isn’t half bad. The book does feel rushed, and I mean there really is not much time between the time that the MC gains his powers until he is at the end fight with the Boss.  Character development comes only from physical changes and is minimal when it comes to actual character growth. The sex scenes come off as a light for of Late night on Cinemax, slightly graphic but not overly explicit if you ask me.

The set up is pretty simple, the main character encounters a battle between two supers, and when the hero is killed, the protagonist, Ty, grabs a strange device that the villain is trying to get and puts it on.  Turns out it is the thing that makes mere mortals into super heroes. His device clears his acne, makes him taller, and irresistible to any female that wears a device similar to him.

Lucky dude that he is he meets one at the end of the battle, and wakes up naked in her safe house.  Her name is Tempest, and she helps him learn the ropes. His powers allow him to create or upgrade any kind of technology.  This potentially makes him the most powerful hero to ever exist. He is fortunate enough to have met the creator of the wristbands that give them their powers.  The creator is the Architect, and he just so happens to have been Tempest’s father. He also left like a million schematics that Ty can use to create or upgrade new power items.  In between, Ty manages to have sex with Tempest and her Roommate a who is a human deer hybrid. The sex scenes are not as hard as they could have been and play out a little lighter than late night cable.  I pretty much say that if you are going for a sex scene have a sex scene. If not fade to black. One thing that drove me crazy is that the deerkin character had antlers. In nature, the only female deer that have antlers are ones with higher than average testosterone levels or reindeer.  She was not a modified human reindeer combo. I would let it slide if it was just a cosmetic change, but my understanding was that it was a far more than superficial change. He should have given her doe ears in addition to the hooves and tail. It is details like that that throw me off and out of a book.  Easily researched details. Also, I have to say that the end battle was incredibly outrageous and so poorly planned that I cannot understand how the villain didn’t destroy them. Ty had open access to the Architect’s plans, schematics, and concept designs and more than 24 hours to plan, and that was the best he could come up with?  He’s already designed a “super suit” replete with offensive and defensive capabilities. He should have been able to design something that would have given them more of an upper hand than they had. It was just silly.

The story is fast paced, and by that I mean there is little development.  The characters are stereotypical, for example Ty’s boss is a clear case of Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter being inserted into a non-teaching role.  Ty is the reluctant hero, and Tempest is the hardcore hero who brooks no insolence. The villain is loud and obnoxious and pretty much as major A-hole. In other words, just what you expect each of them to be.

Graves, is a good narrator who handles the books poor pacing, i.e. rapid plot advancement, in the best way he can, he also tries very hard to take the two dimensional characters and breath some life into them.  His female voices aren’t half bad, but he only did three of them so I’m not sure how much variation or range he has, I’ll need to hear him a few times before I decide on just how far he can push his limits. Either way I enjoyed his work.

The book was a little thin, and certainly felt like it was a bare bones edition of what could have been a pretty epic story.  It needed more characterization and development to make this a solid tale. For that reason I’m going to hit it with a 7.3 star rating.  There was a lot of potential, but most of it was overlooked. I will get the next book, and hopefully some of these issues will have been addressed.


Luck Stat Strategy: Secret of the Old Ones

By: Blaise Corvin

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Length: 4 hrs and 45 mins


Straight up, there is no reason you haven’t gotten this book.  I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here, because I love Delvers, and really appreciate how much Corvin gives back to his readers.  This is one of those books, that if you have read it you want more of immediately. Sincerely, you will crave this stuff like a five dollar hooker craves some smack.  The problem is, this book is not leaping off the shelves, and since Blaise has bills, he writes what pays them. He’s got bills, he’s gotta pay. He’s got mouths to feed.  Why would he write something that no one reads, regardless of how amazing it is? It is a passion project for him. He even has a cover ready to roll on book number two! And do you know why this book isn’t done yet?  Because every time he gets into it some body demands the sequel ASAP, and it puts him right off. Instead of being entitled and demanding, and believe me I completely get that you want, nay, crave more of this magic he doth produce, you might suggest to people you know actually buy the book.  Word of mouth the hell out of it. I actually said to myself, “Self, you are constantly bragging about Delvers, and Nora, but when was the last time you mentioned The Luck Stat strategy?” I almost replied, but then I realized I had asked a rhetorical question, and I didn’t have a rhetorical answer.  SO, I figured the least I could do would be to review this amazing novella, and get it onto some people’s radar! Maybe they would then tell their friends, and then they would tell their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on! Until, by merit of exponential growth this book hit the top of the charts and took off like a bat out of hell with his arse on fire.  I’m realistic, and my hope is that some one will cotton on to just how good this book is and spread the gospel of the Luck Stat. Sorry, if I’m proselytizing too much, but this book is really that endearing and easily garners such fervor and devotion.

So, have I got your attention?  Good well let me tell you about this roller coaster that is the Secret of the old Ones.  And when I say roller coaster, I don’t mean some wimpy coaster like the Magnum XL at Cedar Point, I’m talking the Kingda Ka, the Mount Everest of coasters. This books starts off with a PVP battle between old bitter enemies, like Indiana Jones vs Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  There are some pretty hard feelings, and needless to say things don’t get better when the loser gets looted. The book is a mix of Lovecraft and Steampunk, and it is well thought out, expertly crafted, and the gaming rules are well designed. Writing about a game in which you might lose sanity cannot be easy, but Corvin not only made it look easy, he makes you wonder why this isn’t implemented everywhere.  I know if I was sent to Dolos’s world in Delvers, and came face to face with one of its monsters I’d probably lose a few points of sanity, and they are just regular monsters, not Lovecraftian styled ones. The setting is similar to England in the 1800’s, very Victorian, and thus the steampunk aspect, but the setting lends itself so well to the Cthulhu influences that it feels natural. The story itself is very tightly written, there is no excess and thus no punches are pulled.  The book has some amazing action sequences, and the final fight, on the train was a major standout scene, I think about it all the time. Just like in Delvers when one of the boys goes toe to toe with one of Dolos’s priestesses. It is something you just don’t forget. The characters are well developed, and believably motivated and show a lot of growth and development in the story. This is not your standard players go kill stuff for 30,000 words. There is a lot going on, and there are just hints of better things to come.

One of my favorite aspects was that it was not only PVE and PVP, but there didn’t seem to be a safe zone that Trent could flee to in order to escape his pursuers.  Also, the whole sanity check mechanic worked really well, and if you have ever played COC then you will really respect it here. It was like a snuggly tentacle wrapping around your limp body.  The book is really worth it. Honestly, I know it is shy of a full five hours, but I don’t know of a single person who has read or listened to this that didn’t immediately become a rabid fan. It really is that good.  So much happens that it is hard for me to tell you everything because the book is such a whirlwind that you just wonder where it went and what comes next.

Sometimes, I think this book is cursed to be an actual secret, that only old timers will look back upon fondly in the years to come, and whisper, “I remember the train fight, when all was lost. . .”  I sincerely hope that isn’t the case, and that Blaise writes so many of these books that he runs the series right into the ground. I really think the thing that is holding this book back is its title.  Secret of the Old ones sounds like a bunch of old timers in a nursing a nursing home trying not to admit who farted, and the Luck Stat Strategy sounds like something a college mathematics professor would try to make money in Vegas.  I love Corvin, but I really think that no one grabs this incredible book because of the title. Make a change, call it the Miskatonic Steampunk or Deep Ones Rising. Just something different.

Finally, I come to the amazing work done by Jeff Hayes.  I have to say that his narration here is some of the best I’ve heard him do.  I don’t want to call him subdued, but he is very restrained and in control of the characters and the pacing of the story it’s scary.  He adds to the Lovecraftian atmosphere in such an integrated way that you can just feel the call of the old ones in the background. He brings a menace of being stalked, and an ambience of quiet desperation from the Main character.  And when it gets to the action, I can’t see anyone doing it better. Like I say, that train ride scene was just intense, action packed, and filled with danger. He made you feel every second of it. I know I praise Jeff a lot (and it might be because he’s my favorite narrator) but he really deserves it.  This is an excellent pairing that goes together like wine and cheese only with blood, slimy tentacles, and dead bodies strewn about.

So, here is my score. 8.6 stars, I think it is an intense and overwhelming story that grips you from the moment that you start it, and if you pay attention to its fans it doesn’t let you go afterward.  The only caveat I have is that I have to put a disclaimer and say that we know the next book will come out, we just don’t know when. Regardless, just consider this an Amuse Bouche of this gaming world, and enjoy the wonderful bite that you’ve been given


Reapers and Repercussions

The Feedback Loop Series, Book 4

By: Harmon Cooper

Narrated by: Jeff Hays

Series: The Feedback Loop, Book 4

Length: 7 hrs and 32 mins


Cooper returns to the Proxima Galaxy and everybody's favorite smart mouth, Quantum Hughes, returns in style. My biggest beef with this dish? Not enough Francis Euphoria, I love that dame. The search for Godsick's son is still ongoing, and the dream team is finally making some progress on finding his location, but they end up getting sidetracked into doing a mission for one of the upper crust royal personages that think their diznikes don't stink. It was a blast seeing Quantum get some payback on one of the reaper B-holes that has been a plug in his "but" for a few books. Best use of a sword stick I've ever heard!

Seriously, Hughes is twice as mouthy and grumpier than ever, and his team seems to be suffering from the we can't trust anybody virus, as one or two members do some shady dealings or break a lot easier than they should have. Quantum might be out of the action for a little of this book, but his arena fights are the stuff of Legends! And if you want to talk about funny, all I can say is there are two bits in which Quantum is chided for being racist, the first is an "Engrish Prease" back and forth that made me belly laugh, and the other was about Islamic proselytizing that literally made me almost fall out of my car as I was opening the door because I was laughing so hard. Cooper is clearly the snarkiest snark that ever snarked, and he uses that to his advantage. I would fear a conversation with him, just on the basis that somewhere in the back of his lizard brain lurked a fully formed Quantum Hughes who was ready to strike at the slightest hint of vulnerability.

Also, I love the cover, Qpappy187 looks suitably vicious, but I would have loved to see him in his life vest with Hacky in his hand. That would have fit so much better than the grim and dark angle, but hey, ya gotta go with what sells and this cover is an attention grabber.

Gotta talk about Hays, and his narration. No one else could play the fast talking wise-acre, Quantum Hughes, quite like Hays does. I think other narrators would get marble mouthed just trying to keep up. Plus, it is refreshing to see Jeff doing the whole book solo, I appreciate the other SBT cast members, but Jeff just rocks out stories all on his own, and Quantum is 100% Jeff all the way. He spits out quotes and phrases that would stunt a lesser narrator's growth, and does so with aplomb. Shockingly, I do have a few small issues I have to take with the Master of the Vocal Arts. First, in the aforementioned Islamic bit there is a bit of a pause that goes a little long when the giant is speaking to the Dream team. It goes on for what feels longer than a dramatic pause and seems more like a piece that got spliced back into the story. Like he had to redo it due to a flubbed line, and the timing was just a little off. Next, and this is strictly because I know some chefs, and would get a wet rag slapped in my mouth if I said it this way, but Jeff says the word "Saucier" in a distinctly American manner. Technically, his saying the word as saucey-er isn't incorrect, but it is french, and they way I have always heard it is as saucey-A, with the A being a long vowel sound. The same way that person who recommends wine is referred to as a sommelier. It too, ends with a long A sound. I am sure he did his due diligence and checked out how to pronounce it, but sometimes that old interweb lies or misdirects you. Just check out Top Chef sometime, they will give you the real skinny on how to pronounce those kitchen terms. I really don't want to pick at nits, and I am seriously not pointing the no-no finger at Jeff, but it needed pointing out.

What does all that mean? With the issues that I took umbrage with, i.e. less Francis than I'd have liked, a minute (as in small) pause, and one word being misprounced I'd have to give this a subtraction of .00001 % of a star. Rounding up, there is no negligable difference. This book takes the Proxima Galaxy and sucks it into a black hole of pure awesomeness. You can't go wrong with the combo of Cooper and Hays!

Final score 8 stars, you just can’t go wrong with the combination of Cooper and Hays.


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