LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 022
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 022 - Dark Herbalist - Book 1, Sigil Online, Dahlia's Shadow, Sufficiently Advanced Magic
“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: 7.8 out of 10
Sigil Online: Paragons (19:40)
Score: 8 out of 10
Score: 8.2 out of 10
Is it Lit? : (49:47)
Video Game Plotline Tester: Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1
By: Michael Atamanov
Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
This is a very fun book that really puts the screws to its MC. The aforementioned protagonist takes a job as a video game tester, but lies so that he can get into the program. He tells them that he has never played the game before, which he did, but only briefly. His short lived stint was mad even more problematic when he is killed by a vampire. He get put into a competition with other gamers for slot at the full time gig, and has no say in what kind of a character he gets. Naturally, he ends up being a scruddly little goblin. . . .who just happens to be afflicted by vampirism from his first go round in the game. Not only is he a feeble gobbling he is also afflicted with being a vampire.
So, I decided that I was going to review this since I had already done one of the Reality Bender series, and this was out first. What is fun about this book, and what makes it a little bit better than Reality Benders, is that this game actually has an air of authenticity to it. The game is skill based, and looks to want players to be cooperative with one another. Timothy has his house bound sister join him in the game, and she is very clearly the brains of the operation. What I really liked about the story is that Timothy is rewarded for not doing run of the mill stuff like grinding, and making items. He looks at the paradigm and sees ways around it. He also gets a little extra for finding glitches, so he is on the look out for some glitchy goodness.
One thing I really enjoy are little easter eggs, and I think that when Timothy said her was naming his character Amra I nearly had a geek spasm. Conan the barbarian has an alias that he went by when he was a pirate in Belit, and I really hope that this is a nod to Conan, since Amra seems to be the muscles of the operation. Although I also say that his sister is the brains that really isn’t a fair assessment as Timothy often comes up with some off the wall way of doing things that actually advance him in some manner. Also, as a vampire he has different abilities, and I think my favorite was the Taste Tester power in which he gets 1% bonus for each new blood he puts in his palette. Additionally, I loved the way that stats were used to demonstrate capabilities in the game, for example, the first time that Timothy tries to speak as Amra most of what he says is gibberish or childish gobbledygook. The story is basically about how he is trying to keep his job as a tester, not get discovered to be a vampire, do average game things like leveling up and getting stronger. I thought it was a nice touch to give him a home base that was “haunted”, and give it a mystery of what was doing the haunting and I had a few snickers when he was showing the tribe his powers. If you want to know some of the bad, there are plot holes that do crop up, such as Amra having or using items you had no idea he was carrying, and to me the story really felt like it was just him wandering around trying to figure things out. Personally, I prefer a book to have three solid acts, set up, building of tension, and climax. This was a sort of let’s see where things will take me kind of approach. It was a bit lackadaisical for me.
Eric Michael Summerer, whom you may recognize from the work he’s done on dodge tank, really elevates this book. I have enjoyed him since I first heard him do some Forgotten Realms books back in 2013 or thereabouts, and if you really want to hear him do some amazing stuff (aside from the Dark herbalist or Dodge Tank) go find those and give them a listen. I do think he has grown better, as his Dodge tank work is impeccable, here he carries the story quite nicely.
Final score 7.8 stars. It was good but I found that it was nearly aimless in its execution and there were some plot holes that just popped up that could have very easily been fixed. Plus, it seems like Amra lucks his way out of stuff more than he should have, either way I liked this book and I am sure that you will too.
Sigil Online: Paragons
By: Jeff Sproul
Narrated by: Jeff Hays
Length: 9 hrs and 23 mins
This will be the Soundbooth Spotlight for this episode, even though it is just Jeff’s baby. Paragons is a good intro to a superhero genre MMO. There are some issues with it, ones that always seem to appear in this genre. It has rules that would make it impossible to believe that this would be the most popular game in the world, but it’s like watching a movie, you have to suspend your disbelief. Still I always have a problem with a book that does something along the lines of if your character dies, you have to re-start from scratch. No one would play a game like that, no matter how good it was. I have logged some serious hours playing games and if I had to restart a character I know I would stop playing altogether. This is very different from the I’ve started an Alt to play on occasion etc, etc. Seriously, can you imagine building a character for a year, only to lose them forever in a fight? Secondly, you don't pick your powers or your super name, they just appear randomly. Third, you might pay for a month or longer before you actually GET powers. Plus, you only get to play one character at a time. So, randomized powers, no choice in what your super name is, no multiple characters permitted, and it takes forever to get abilities. Nope, I'd never even get that game off the shelf. Which makes it hard to believe that there is an entire network channel dedicated to events in the game itself. I always think of Warcraft, and no matter how popular it is/was no non-gamers cared enough to even get a 2 minute segment on the nightly news about what certain players did. Just too unbelievable.
That is the bad stuff, and just me doing some nitpicking. Yeah it drives me nuts, but I guess it is needed to drive the plot forward, and so I put on a fresh set of ears and listened to it without those prejudices. The book centers on a guy named Riley who happens to be one of the best players in the game, until his character is killed and he has to start fresh, of course he doesn’t know what his powers will be or when he’ll get them, and he needs them pretty badly since his game play pays for him to live in the real world. When he gets his powers they are not what he really wanted or expected, but he has to make due, and slowly learns to become a better player by working with others. His previous character wasn’t much of a team player kinda guy, he had friends, but they were really just names on a HUD to him. Riley actually networks and forges real acquaintances as he progresses in the game. It seems the first time around he was a horse’s rear end and no one liked him, and that is the crux of the story. The tale is more about Riley growing as an individual, and caring less about himself than others than being wrapped up his own little world. The story is pretty good. It is well paced, and has some good action scenes. The characters all have some nifty powers, and the MC is a likable guy in spite of what everyone seems to think at the beginning of the book. The book had a definite Marvel, rather than DC, vibe and it worked nicely. I liked the other heroes and their powers, and I also liked that not every character that started the game ended as the same hero. In other words, characters aside from Riley die. Well, their heroes do. You know what I mean, and honestly aside from the few things I detailed at the beginning I liked this book.
As always, Jeff Hays knocks it out of the park with his vocal ministrations. I said ministrations, not ministries, I don’t worship Jeff Hays. That spot is reserved for the goddess, Stevie Nicks. Ah, Stevie. Anyway, Jeff goes to town with his vocalizations and really adds personality to each character, big and small. This is a top notch performance, and I really can’t say much more than that. I do think that after listening to Planet Kill, which will be next week’s spotlight that I think that the next book will be amazing with all the added sound effects that he has been adding in his current books. This is the place I want to hear laser blast, giant footsteps, and explosions.
So in all, a few issues with game mechanics, but overall a good story, with interesting characters. I say this is easily a fun 8 on the Richter scale, yes there are issues, but those are my issues. I’m just never going to believe there will be a dedicated news channel/program for a video game, and the same for having to reset a new character every time you died. Those are my issues, and otherwise the book is a real blast.
Dahlia's Shadow: Puatera Online, Book 6
By: Dawn Chapman, Jess Mountifield
Narrated by: Suzanne Barbetta
Length: 3 hrs and 15 mins
Dawn Chapman brings us one step closer to the end game for her putera series, as I think the next book reunites us with a full time Maddie MC. I do so hope anyway. One of the things that I love about this series is that while it has action it also has a lot of emotion, and I never feel like it is spinning its wheels. There is always forward motion and the story never stops or slows down. Up until now we have just been getting puzzle pieces, each piece has a nice shape and is interesting, but it weaves a much bigger picture once you let the pieces fall into place. This is the final solo story of the sisters, and it is a fun ride.
There were a couple of things that I really liked about this book. First, we stayed with the three hour format that has been the case in all of the books except Akilla, book four which was 9 hours. Which was understandable, as it broke away from the first three books of the series. I also love the glitch factor in this game, you don’t see that very often in many LITRPG books where the glitches give stitches, but in Putera it is par for the course. I also have to say that Chapman & Mountifield have really woven an intricate and detailed world for these characters to play in. What I think I liked best was Dahlia’s struggle to finally shine on her own. Even though she is a twin she has sort of been in her sister’s shadow for some time. A place that she essentially skulked about, never really trying to be her own person. Her time in Putera forces her to stand up for herself and actually take control of her life for the first time. This, my people, is how you write character development, and it is pretty impressive just how much character growth the pair of writers manages to get out of Dahlia in just over three hours of time.
Suzanne Barbetta returns for another stab at the Puatera universe, an she brings her A game. She makes the story interesting and fun, but at the same time lets you realize that Dahlia is in danger and that at any moment a glitch is gonna get her. The only umbrage I took with her work is that she very clearly made Jessica sound have a completely different voice and style than she did in the last book. It sort of threw me off. I wanted to stop and then go back and listen to the last book, but I didn’t. I waited until I finished and then double checked and I was right. Same character different voices used. Just needed a little more consistency. Otherwise, a great job.
Oh, and one more thing, I find that usually, books that are four hours and under in length are not as good as I would generally hope they would be, but that isn’t the case here. Chapman, and I’m giving her the credit here since she started this series and did so in 3 hour increments, knows how craft an excellent short story. I didn’t give a lot away on this because it is pretty short, and anything I say could impact your listening pleasure, so I tried to play this close to the vest and not give a lot of specifics here just to avoid any issues of spoilage.
The book has a nice pace, as solid foundation, excellent character growth and development, and a cool ending that looks to lead us into the final book of the series. As things go I say this is a solid 8.2 stars. I am really looking forward to the next book in this series, even though I am saddened to see it coming to a close.
Sufficiently Advanced Magic
By: Andrew Rowe
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Series: Arcane Ascension, Book 1
Length: 21 hrs and 58 mins
This is one of those books that I have heard a lot of people saying that it had a LITRPG feel to it. In fact, it inspired my idea to do this segment in the first place. I would be looking for books and see comments about how lit the book felt or that it should probably qualify as being almost lit, and so it sort of spurred my idea on doing this particular segment. I didn’t do it first, because once I had the idea and asked for suggestions several books popped up that were heavily suggested, and so I ran with them first, but I have always had this book in mind for this segment.
The book opens with a young man, Corin, about to take a life altering test. He comes from a famous noble house that is renowned for its fighting abilities. The test itself is life threatening, and he can die if he doesn’t fight well enough or isn’t smart enough to solve the various puzzles contained therein. Of course he makes it through, but not in the way he expected or in a manner that pleases his father and he is quickly demoted in the family ranking and his half sister gets pushed as the family heir. From there he goes on to a school that will teach him how to use the attunement, I.e. school of magic, that he acquired in the deadly tower. After two years he will then serve in the military. All Corin wants to do is get strong enough to find out what happened to his older brother, who never came back after his tower test. Now this is all a simplification, and things happen in the tower that impact the rest of the novel. Things like Corin freeing three prisoners, angering an aspect of a goddess, and getting the weakest attunement he can.
I have to admit that the book really feels like it was going to be another Harry Potter, pardon me while I vomit, rip off in which we get to see Corin make friends, struggle with other students, and struggle to learn about his magic, and for a little while it really comes across that way, we attend his classes with him, and learn about the magic system but gradually an intrigue starts to build and things happen that pull us back to the tower over and over. Naturally we get to see him improving his magic, but it doesn’t play out like you would expect. For example one of his instructors tells him he needs to get to a certain color level of attunement within three months, and Corin silently vows to get there in a week. Annnnd he doesn’t even come close to fulfilling that vow. The book does that a lot, it sets you up to expect one thing and then does another.
I think the only time that the book actually became predictable was at the end in the tower. I pretty much called every twist and turn that happened, but not because it was easy to see. I kept saying to myself that if I was writing this story this is what I would do here, and then it pretty much happened that way. And that only worked because I am a deeply twisted, troubled individual. The story is long, but it is a well worthwhile trip, and I will probably get the next book in the series. It certainly caught my interest, and had a nice ending that leads right into the next book.
Pohdel is amazing. He pulls out voices that I haven’t heard him do before, and really hits a nice stride with the pacing of the story. I think my favorite voice was of the mysterious upstairs dorm mate who seems to be a ninja. Nick uses a Raj from Big Bang theory voice on him that is dead on, and I do mean perfect. I snickered every time he used that voice, because it was so good.
Now we get down to the nitty gritty, is this LIT, close to it, or not at all? Well, without much suspense I’m going to say not even close. While it was a fun and interesting story with great characters the only part that made it even have a whiff of lit was the way in which he leveled up his abilities and even that part to me was sketchy for a lit book. It was more about practice and control than it was about fighting or gaining exp. I have to admit that I was really disappointed by this assessment, because I was really hoping going in to this that it would be a lot closer than it was. Alack and alas it is not even close in my book. Still, it is a fun ride and I suggest it if you are looking for something close to lit as you might find it interesting. No score on this, as I am only looking to find out if it is lit or not. Still, great book, don’t miss it.
Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video. I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.
For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!
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