LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 017
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 017 - The Slayer, Tamer 4, Everybody Loves Large Chests- Volume 3, Apocalypse Gates - Book 2, Hero Hunter
“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:”
The Slayer: Aether Gate Online (00:18)
Score: 5 out of 10
Tamer 4: King of Dinosaurs (17:03)
Score: 8.1 out of 10
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Score: 7.7 out of 10
Hero Hunter: A Superhero Gamelit Saga (01:03:23)
Score: 7.7 out of 10
The Slayer: Aether Gate Online
By: Darren Hultberg Jr
Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett
Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
This was a wonky bit of work. The story is ambitious, but in a lot of ways its grasps impedes its reach. It wants to do a lot of things, and goes all over the board because of it. Game mechanics were weird, motivations were off, and the characterizations were off putting. For example, the main character finds himself in a game only to discover that it is not a game, it is a real game and that if you die there then you die for real. The players have been separated mentally from their bodies, but the bodies remain alive, as do their minds. Dying in the game is true death, and disconnecting from the game will cause the body to die, and will have severe repercussions for the player who is still alive. This disconnect issue makes no sense. No one would live very long if they were forced to stay attached to the game, and that means that the issues that the players face is going to happen to all of them at some point regardless of what they do in the game. Secondly, the whole mind body connection is tenuous at best. Either they are on a new world with new bodies, or they are still on Earth and playing a game. It can’t be both.
Another issue was the omniscient powers of the Main character, Adam. Although he is just as much a newbie as every other player in the game he somehow knows certain rules and prohibitions that no one else does. It is never explained why or how he can do this and no one else can. Also, the mechanics of the game fluctuate. Sometimes they require energy and sometimes they don’t, cooldowns are the same. It really felt like this was a book that was started one way and then changed direction midway through and was never reworked at all. Another issue is the fact that you only have one life. Yet Adam and other players continually do things to risk their existence for no reason. I don’t know about you, but if I have to decide to be safe, get a job, and maybe start a family vs going out into the wilds of an unknown alien world full of magic, monsters, and mazes and most likely getting killed I’m going to become a merchant. There is no reason to risk themselves. Yes, Adam is tempted with the possibility of going back home, but you and I both know as readers that the likelihood of that happening is about two hundred to one odds against.
There were a lot of issues, and I have to ask myself if it would have worked as a straightforward fantasy, and I still say no. Adam is kind of boring and dumb. I mean he just doesn’t catch on to things that my five year old would see coming from a mile away. Honestly, the entire premise of the reborn world makes very little sense when you consider that the people who destroyed it before are going to do the same thing over again, and not one of the newly minted NPC’s who are real people remembers the events that trashed their world the first time around. The book is very predictable and not even being a straight up fantasy could have done a thing to help it.
Scott Bennett narrates this story, and while he does a good job he could not save this hot mess. I often wonder why Bennett is not a bigger part of the LITRPG community, he has done a lot of LITRPG books, but he seems to only pop in on the FB pages on occasion. I’d love to see him become a larger part of our community. Honestly, there is nothing that he or anyone could have done to save this book. It was a hot mess from start to finish with inconsistencies, a bland MC, and predictable storytelling. Bennett is not a magician, and I do not lay one issue this book has on his feet. He did everything he could to keep this ship afloat. But this book was the Titanic carrying twenty tons of instant forming concrete mix, and another forty tons of steel girders. It started off with some hope and went down quickly. Bennett was like one of those brave musicians who continued to play as the ship sank. They had nothing to do with the crash, but did everything they could to make the passengers feel better. He tries to bout your spirits, but to no avail, a sinking ship is a sinking ship no matter what sounds it makes as it submerges.
This book isn’t as bad as some I’ve reviewed, but I had to force myself to listen. I know when I’m doing that a quarter of the way in it isn’t going to be fun. I have thought a lot about this score. If I am honest I didn’t loathe the book, but neither did I like it. It was kind of like an accidental bully, it beat you up without meaning to. Regardless of the intent, it still left me with bruises. So, in fairness I am giving this a 5 out of 10, since this book wasn’t a complete dumpster fire, and I think it had the skeletal frame of a decent book that just got bogged down with inconsistencies.
Tamer 4: King of Dinosaurs
By: Michael-Scott Earle
Narrated by: Luke Daniels
Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins
First of all, I have to say it is nice to get a new MSE book on Audible. Earle might not have ever vanished from Audible like he did Amazon, but there really wan't anything NEW popping up. Honestly, I've read several series of Earle's, Destroyer, Lion's Quest, and so on but nothing really blew me away. Hell, it felt like three quarters of Lion's Quest was outside of th game, and Destroyer was so overhyped that I kept hearing, just wait till he snaps on the elves. Just wait. I did, and wasn't impressed. Then I tried Tamer, because I didn't hate the books, they didn't blow me away. Tamer clicked right away, and I have been a fane since.
Tamer is a light LITRPG that actually focuses more of world and camp building than it does leveling, stats, or character sheets. Everyone in Dinoworld has a power, some are amazing, some aren't but Victor has a killer one. He can control dinos, and in Dinoland that gives him quite the edge. He'd built up quite a (literal) harem, and seems to add more ladies to his roster each book.
One thing that I like is that this book picks up exactly where the last left off, and we find Victor negotiating with another camp for goods. Of course, something goes off the rails after their meeting and there is a scramble to prepare for the coming danger. Things they have to deal with, Trell's pregnancy, a flying humanoid, and an assualt on the fort. In between we have a few sex scenes, and get to know a little more about the mysterious Jade. For some reason, Victor seems to be able to understand her when no one else can. So, MSE gives you a likttle information that only serves to make the reptilian replicator even more mysteious.
I have always felt that MSE knows how to pace a story. I might not have loved Destroyer, but it moved right along. Here though, while the pacing is fine it is getting a touch predictable. As soon as he left the others camp I knew there was going to be a fight. Going to the watering hole has become a euphamism for going to bed with whomever he is with. There is a nice snappy drumbeat that says here is where we try to improve the camp, and here is where we have a fight. I'm not complaining. I still enjoy the story, and can't wait to see what happenes, but I sort of know what is coming next depending on the time of day or where they are.
The biggest issue that I have is that we are now four books into the series and it feels like we are treading water. No real advances have been made. Are they on a spaceship or a planet? Don't know. Who are their abductors, and what are they doing with the people they've snatched? Don't Know. How much longer will new people be added to the planet? Don't know. These are things that haven't even been hinted at. There are no solid answers, and while the stories are fun and fast paced they are on a treadmill. We are handed out bits and pieces thaty come from different puzzles and expected to trust that it is going to make an awesome picture in the end. After three books I think we need some answers, not more questions. A lsighter issue is that the more women that get added the more difficult it becomes to connect with the ladies. Sheila was a standout character to me, and I have long hoped that Victor would get a chance to fight her husband at some point. Now she is barely mentioned in contrast to Trell, who somehow manages to dominate each scene that the women are in. Earle focuses on only two or three women a book, and the majority of that deals with them having sex with Victor. It makes it hard to connect with the newbies and maintain ties to the classic guard of the camp. It makes me wonder just how many women becomes too many women in a Harem. Yes, I get that the village needs to grow, and that everyone who is new has some ability that will make thier lives easier in the long run, but it can be overwhelming. To be honest he added a couple of girls in the last book and I can't even tell you the name of the alien who can make things heavier or lighter. The newest batch of babes are just a blur to me.
Still, I think one of the biggest standout moments came during Victor's battle. It was great to see him finally go toe to talon with a bloke that he wouldn't have even considered a possibility of fighting in book one. It was a great bloody fight that showed Victor what he was actually made of, and that he belonged as the leader of the team. It was a cool villain, too. To me, that fight scene made the whole book worthwhile. I still want to see Victor tackle Shelia's husband sans Dinos now more than ever.
Luke Daniels is an narration BEAST. I know I tout Jeff Hays alot, but I have to admit that Daniels is my second go to guy for narration. He has a bag full of voices that are authentic and stunning, he just doesn't do women's voices as well as Jeff, but he does do one hell of a dog. Just listen to the Iron Druid and you will see what I mean. He does a killer Irish Wolfhound impression. Here he completely knocks this story out of the park. He lends emotion to Victor that you could only get from amazing voicework. It doens't come from the page so much as Daniels' heart.
The book is good, but I am starting to need more from the series than just setting up camp, sex scenes, and dinosaurs. My final score is an 8.1. The book and series continues to hold my attention, but it is becoming predictable in its plot and pacing, the saving graces are that it has great fight scenes and Victor shows growth in each book.
Vortena: Everybody Loves Large Chests, Volume 3
By: Neven Iliev (Author), Jeff Hays (Narrator), Spoken Realms (Publisher)
Length: 14 hours and 11 minutes
Boxy's back and your gonna be in trouble . . . . . . hey ya, Boxy's back.
Everybody's favorite murder box has returned for yet another installation of this amazing series of monstrous adventures. It has a few things going for it right off the bat. First, it pretty much picks up where the last book ended. I like that. Sometimes a months later type opening works, but not here; it is important to note that Boxy is still very young, in spite of his powers, and it is good to stay with that. Secondly, we get right into the lich action, we don't really dawdle around trying to set the story up.
Iliev knows how to write so that the more things change the more they stay the same. By that I mean that no matter what happens to Boxy, no matter how he evolves he is still that little chest full of teeth and as brutal as ever. Truth is, every time someting happened I nearly panicked thinking things were going to dramatically alter the way our monster worked, and no matter what evolution Boxy went through he remained Boxy. Clueless, cunning, and without mercy. There are numerous battles that are fairly epic in nature; I really enjoyed the encounter with the Lich and how the murder box dealt with her. The demons are as nasty as you remember, which means lots of naughty fun. The only issue that I have with the book comes in how the mimic treats Fizzy. Her brutalization actually bothered me a bit, because unlike the demons or undead she was a living being who was basically tortured on a constant basis, and then there is an event that occurs that pretty much nearly made me stop listening just because it was rather real. I sort of wish Iliev had just pulled a Shawshank move and rolled away around the corner and left things to our imaginations, but later on it is clearly spelled out what happened. As an adult, I can say that this is an adult book, and how can I complain about something like that when people are being murdered left and right and I didn't blink an eye. So, contextually it fit, but I have to admit it hit me kind of hard. So be warned, there are some very grown up issues taking place. One thing that really amazed me is that this somehow turned into a harem book, with the mad box at the center of all the sexcapades. Considering that Boxy is basically an amorphous asexual I didn't see that part on the horizon at all.
Vortena is not heavy most of the time. Generally you will find your self chuckling at the antics of one of th characters or situations. The book is funny as hell, and it made me laugh multiple times, and I won't lie I never enjoyed the book more than when Boxy was slaughtering people. Ignorance is his armor and his confidence is his sword. A paragon of humility he is not.
The narration is top of the line, and Hays really nails the vocals. Seriously, I think he played Fizzy so well that she become pretty real, and that was why her incident bothered me so much. Also, there are only two books that have amazing hotline phonecalls, one is After Life by Domino Finn, and the other is this killer series. I cannot wait for the moments when boxy calls Carl and talks things over. Those moments are so precious that I really appreciate the way that they are handled. Jeff really upped his game this time around, as the emotional stakes also increased to such a high point. He made some stuff real. Kudos, because as much as I admire Jeff's voicework I don't think he ever hit a Fizzy emotional rollercoaster moment like this before. This is some top tier narration, and it rocked me right back to 1981, when Stray Cats released Rock this Town, cause that ws just what he did. He rocked it inside out. Hays just continues to get better and better.
This isone of those books that you burn through like it was soaked in gasoline. You have so much fun that you are sorry that there isn't a new novel lined up, so I get jealous of people who are just discovering this series, because they can SBT and chill as the series unfolds. Seriously, I was not panning the events in the book, but I will say that they will hit you hard, so be prepared. Get the latest installment now, because I need my Boxy to come back and eat more towns.
Final score 8.4
Valley of Death: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 2
By: Daniel Schinhofen
Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau
Length: 9 hrs and 39 mins
Make no mistake, one of my favorite style of games to play was survival horror, I was a Resident Evil Junkie, and I played Dino Crisis long after I should have. Hell, I bought an entire gaming console just to play Alien Vs Predator when it first came out. I love horror, not the crappy stuff that Stephen King calls horror, I mean real horror. Like when John Caprenter was actually crafting films, rather than cranking them out. Ghosts of Mars, I am looking at you. So, when you hit me with a book with a horror theme I’m all in.
Valley of Death does that thing I like where they pick up where they left off in the last book. I just wish that the tone would have carried over as well. This book confused me on a couple of levels. Book one set up that Alvin, the anti-hero (because he’s a self professed A-hole) is set on the task of creating various safe places for humanity to rebuild from, or at least take a solid stance to survive from. He fought some zombies and mutated animals and basically did what he set out to do. He managed to start a settlement and have it prepared to defend itself. Then these things called the Apocalypse gates get opened, making things even harder to survive in. Sounded even more interesting, as we would now have more monsters for Alvin and Gothy to fight.
The truth is it kind of turned into a hodge podge of genre’s that took away the horror elements the first book established. Suddenly there are dragons, wyverns, drakes, and Fey to deal with making the book into more of a dark fantasy survivalist setting. Sure there are still zombies and mutated animals, but Alvin literally has a discussion with a set of mutated birds that eliminates a need to fight, and we gloss over that the zombies are becoming more intelligent and using weapons. This reminded me of the Walking Dead TV show in one way, they pretty much overlook the zombies until they are necessary to the plot. What could have been a great turn of events is overshadowed by boring flying lizards and and weaksauce elves. Oh, and you know how I am always kvetching about doing research before you write something? Here is a prime example. In the book, Alvin and Gothy are attacked by giant toads. It was a cool scenes and awesome premise, but toads do not live in the water. They are amphibians, yes, but the ONLY time that they live in water is during their metamorphic stages as tadpoles. Once they are adults they are land bound. They would not have gone into the water, and I don’t want to hear that they are monsters and so can do whatever the writer says. That’s a crap argument. If he meant frogs then he should have used frogs, the terms are not interchangeable. It is stuff like that that takes me out of a story pronto.
Another issue I had was that in spite of upping his charisma, which as supposed to make his life easier he still seems to run into jerks that don’t trust him or try to kill him. This is in every single potential settlement. Secondly, and my biggest beef is that there are massive changes that happen at the end of the book that really negates everything that Alvin has worked to achieve. It really makes no sense. It felt like Schinhofen had gotten tired of the outline that he had and scrapped it in hopes of making something more suited to what he wanted. Don’t change horses midstream. Don’t rewrite code while you are playing a game, and don’t shift a plot for no discernable reason. Granted, as I listened to this book I kept saying to myself that it felt like Schinhofen was just spinning his tires. It was try to start a settlement, have sex with Gothy, kill something, have sex, start a settlement. I could see that even with the gates open that it was just a kill a new kind of monster adventure.
My issue comes from the fact that I totally respect Alvin and Gothy’s relationship. It is very healthy and supportive and shows that two people can be adults and not fight all the time. There is no struggle in their relationship. This is the books shining achievement, and it gets a little undercut with the constant sex. I would have preferred a tender moment or two over three or four of the sex scenes. Sex scenes you can skip, but open emotional feeling filled scenes, ones played by the intense Parsneau add a hell of a lot more than them boning for two or more pages. I know there are people who skip the sex scenes, but I don’t, and even I felt like there were more than there should have been. Especially towards the end of the book. They just popped up like daisies.
Parsneau is what keeps this book on an even course. She fuels it with emotion, and can read an action scene far better than Michael Bay can direct one. I know that I often come across as an unabashed fanboy, but Andrea really knows her craft and tells one hell of a story. I doubt that I would have enjoyed this story as much if she hadn’t been given the reigns. It is her portrayal of Gothy that just resonates with the listener and rings so true she makes you believe that she is real.
The book lacks a solid direction, and really did nothing here to advance the story. I was not happy with the changes that were implemented, which seemed to be arbitrary, and by that I am talking about the entire Settlement issue. I don’t see why that was redone, and it pretty much negated a lot of what Alvin did in the first book. Still, I enjoyed the book. I just didn’t see any progression, and it was a step away from the horror elements introduced in book one. The fey are not creatures of horror, no matter what they do, and dragons in any setting are fantasy creatures.
I’m giving this book a 7.7 stars. It isn’t bad, but it was just one long run down a dark hallway that had no door at the end, in other words it went nowhere fast. I sincerely hope book three does a course correction and gets this back on track. Even though I did receive a promo code for this review it in no way influenced my considerations of the material, and in fact, inspired me to be more honest. Getting a code generally makes me harsher as a reviewer as I am more often concerned what someone like Me will decide based on my review.
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Finally we come to:
Hero Hunter: A Superhero Gamelit Saga
The Heroes Rising Series, Book 1
By: Darren Hultberg Jr
Narrated by: J. Scott Bennett
Length: 5 hrs and 53 mins
Ok, so I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, where I review two books by the same author on the same show, but not only am I doing the same author, but the same narrator as well. This time I think I’ll start with the narration. J. Scott Bennett has long been one of my Audible go to’s. He narrates an amazing series called Brother Bones. It’s not LITRPG, but it is an incredible pulp noir paranormal tale that will knock your socks off, so don’t listen to it in your bare feet or it’ll get messy. As I generally say with Bennett you get a solid all-around performance. The man knows his craft, and I enjoy listening to him. He really treats the material right, and you get an enjoyable story guaranteed from him.
Unlike Slayer, Hero Hunter is fairly consistent as it goes. It is light Litrpg, but it does have states, HUDs, and character sheets. The powers are clearly defined, as are the hero/villain class levels from C to S. I didn’t see any fluctuations or 180 degree changes that I did in The Slayer. The characters are well developed and well thought out. I also think that the Supers all had cool names. Generally, in Superhero novels you get some really dopey, and not Dope, names. Valor, Nightfall, Dragon, even Hero Hunter all work. The only name that felt forced was that of the Hero Hunters super hero ID, Tech Imperious. Imperious Tech flows better (butt then I’ve always been a Namor fan).
The story is pretty simple, Hero Hunter is wronged and begins killing heroes in retaliation of what was done to him and his friends. The only flaw that I really see in this whole characterization is that If HH started out on the side of the angels, then why would he kill innocent heroes? A good and decent guy would not grease every hero he encountered just because one of the big names in heroland did something horrifying. Otherwise the story is decent and has some cool fight scenes.
The run time works well too, the story isn’t overly long, but fits in pretty well for the time that we are given. I find more and more that I am liking my books to be five to eight hours in length.
Final Score 7.7 stars.
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