LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 025 -  Conquest, Steam Whistle Alley, The Lost City

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 025 -  Conquest, Steam Whistle Alley, The Lost City

“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: ”

Conquest - The Dungeon Core Gambit, Book One (01:00)

Score: 6.5 out of 10

Steam Whistle Alley - An Adventure in Augmented Reality (18:45)

Score: 8 out of 10

The Lost City: An Epic LitRPG Adventure (34:04)

Score: 8.4 out of 10



The Dungeon Core Gambit, Book One

By: Antony W.F. Chow

Narrated by: Camille DuBois

Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins


Conquest is a book that feels like a dungeon core book, but then doesn’t feel like a dungeon core book.  It starts off with a guy being murdered in a pretty hardcore fashion. I think Chow is a big fan of Lorena Bobbitt, because his assassin sure as heck makes the MC live out a John Wayne Bobbitt scenario prior to his death.  The guy gets reborn as a dungeon core, and immediately starts making monster friends, absorbing people, and growing his territory.

The story flips between dungeon building and sex scenes, since the world has a dearth of viable males to support the population.  I’m not sure if this originally started out as a naughty book that evolved into a dungeon book, or a dungeon book that evolved into an erotic book but it is very hard to tell what the focus actually was on.  I have no problem with sex scenes, but I need a solid story behind it. I do read harem books, and I am no prude, but this was not my cup o tea sex wise.

My issues with the story are thus.  First, the book never really delivers a challenge to the MC.  He pretty much overcomes and outthinks any obstacle in his way.  There was never a threat or serious concern for his success. Secondly, the way that the story explains that dungeon cores need to keep themselves hidden and secret, but I never saw the protagonist do that ever.  Pretty much every person or thing that he encounters he tells. Third, he expands really quickly, most dungeon books take time building rooms, levels, etc. This dungeon expands its territory and range by incredible leaps and bounds.  Third, the core’s helper was either deliberately obtuse or was a savant, because she was constantly goofing things up, and then she was a master. It made no sense. Fourth, the cheat that the dungeon exploited, garnering limitless mana pretty much at will.  Fifth, there were literally no monsters in the dungeon. That is what is fun about the dungeon genre. New monsters. I wanted to see more with the nematode or queen ant, but no. Also, there is only one real party of adventurers who take on the dungeon, and they mostly quit halfway through.  What does it say when a band of adventurers don’t even want to do a dungeon run? Then I even had a grammar issue in the audiobook. This is me being picky, but I have to call it out when I hear something like this. The word Dwarfesses is used a lot, which comes across like dwarfesses. I would have rather that the terms she-dwarves, female dwarves, lady dwarves, or even just dwarves, as it was very clear that he was only referencing the female variety of dwarven folks.  It might have actually worked ok on the page, but when spoken out loud it was mildly silly.

Speaking of out loud, Dubois is clear and clean, but almost robotic in her speaking.  She had a very boring delivery style. I found her to be intently hard to listen too. She also had some mispronunciations, but I’ll just call out one.  Look, if you are entering a specific style of genre like Sci fi or fantasy, get used to technobabble or strange creatures being named. In other words, prepare yourself.  Dubois uses the pronunciation of Like in place of Lich. This was very irritating and coupled with her style every little error that she made stood out like the Eiffel Tower on Liberty Island.  I have said it before, and I will say this again. Narration is key to keeping your story interesting on Audible. Choosing a bad narrator is like shooting yourself in the foot. You might hobble along, but you aren’t going to win any races.  She crushed this story with her monotone flat reading. She is not, by far, the worst I have ever heard, but man, she is not even a middle of the pack narrator, unless you are talking about a pack of cigarettes.

I really struggled with this, I tried to figure out if it was a Litbook that wanted to be a dungeon core book or a dungeon core book that lost its way.  I really did not feel like this was a dungeon core book. It was missing too many elements for it to be that, it also strained my LITRPG perceptions since there was no real attempt at levelling or other standard fare things like stats abounding.  Taking it for just the story I was given I have to, coupled with the narration, give this 6.5 stars.


Steam Whistle Alley

An Adventure in Augmented Reality

By: Joshua Mason

Narrated by: Sena Bryer

Length: 11 hrs and 47 mins


Fans of Steampunk should enjoy this book, but so will people who are not steampunk fans.  I say it like that because I wasn’t overwhelmed with a ton of steamy punky stuff, and that is because the book fluctuates between plain everyday reality as well as the augmented reality of the game.  So the steam is there, but it isn’t super heavy. I really appreciated what Mason has done here, adding an element of real life to the game that is being played so that it isn’t a simple enter the VR realm by putting on a visor and laying in bed all day.  I loved how the goggles were used for that purpose. He also adds a hint of the Blade Runner tech, what with the synthetic monkey Banjo, who is a monkey in every way except for the actual matter of him not being a real monkey. I have to admit two things, I get a little leery of monkeys, and especially monkeys named Bingo, which is pretty close to Banjo, after watching Space Ghost Coast to Coast years ago.  I will never forget Brak’s admonishment to never trust a monkey. Never.

Our intrepid hero, Jakey, gets partnered with the gal of his dreams, and makes a new friend or two along the way.  This was one of the things that I didn’t like about the game play. The game creators chose your partner for you. I don’t care what algorithm you use, I don’t want my gaming partner chosen by Tinder.  Technically, I hate joining teams, and often played my games alone, which is really hard in an MMORPG. Getting to 60 in WOW by myself sucked, and I wished that they made gameplay work so that you could play in a group or individually.  Here, you aren’t given a choice. They pick a partner for you and you have to play together. One thing that actually bothered me was, again, how long it actually took to get into game. I understand set up, and the importance of building a the world, but I really believe that you should get your listeners/readers into the game as soon as possible.  We were a good while into the book before we actually got into Steam Whistle Alley.

 Truth be told, Sena See-na) Bryer’s narration really had to grow on me.  It was really annoying at first, and I don’t know why. It was like there was a nasally tone to everything, very hard for me to describe.  Bryer did pretty well, the narration itself was pretty clean and easy to understand. Different voices were used to varying effect, and the pacing was excellent, but it took me almost 2/3rds of the book before I could listen and not be driven crazy by whatever her voice was doing to my ears.  After that point I was fine, but it really took me some time to settle in on her voice and I could just listen. Like I say, she did great, but I had some issue with her voice for some reason. Had nothing to do with her style or ability, it just wasn’t musical to my ears, but upon acclimation I didn’t notice it anymore.

So here’s the rundown, Jacob gets a chance to Alpha test a new game that takes place in Augmented reality, that is it takes place in the actual world, which means it required you to get off your fat butt and actually walk, explore, and fight outside.  Considering I’m a misanthropic hermit who hates to leave the house I can already see that I’d be playing another game, but other people might actually like sunshine on their faces while they play. Once he’s is in game he learns that there are a couple of villainy type who are looking to take control of the game, and it comes down to Jake and his team to put the kibosh on them and their plans.  One of my favorite aspects of the story is that there was no power leveling, no cheats, no backdoors, just straight up gameplay, grinding, and honest leveling. The only real issue I had was the way the story ended. It is a cliffhanger, and I don’t mind those, however the way it ended had some actual implications that weren’t all that great. I can’t give them away, but it bothered me a little.  Either way, the book was fun, and I actually liked Banjo, even though I’d never trust him, and he was most importantly, not annoying. So, cool characters, sidekicks, and concept.

Final score a solid 8 stars.  I actually forgave the issues I had with the narration since I could find no flaws, other than one part that was repeated, and that came when they were watching gears within gears.  I look forward to the next book.


The Lost City: An Epic LitRPG Adventure

By: C.M. Carney

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Series: The Realms Series, Book 2

Length: 17 hrs and 57 mins


No sophomore slump here.  This book pretty much accelerates beyond the first book, which was excellent BTW, and only enhances the undercurrents from the first book.  I was really surprised to see the role that the Arboleth are beginning to play in the series, and how great a villain they actually are. They are, for all you Trek fans, akin to the Borg.  Nasties from the other side of the universe who plan on enslaving every sapient being in the realms.

Griff finds himself in an elven homeland and is given a quest to stop the Seal of the Dwarven King from being used, which is then promptly stolen from him, and he and the others are forced to chase after the thief in order to stop an ancient force of indescribable power (just think Hellboy’s Golden Army).  Along the way we are treated to some intense battles with ancient terrors, a hint that Chaos is also threatening the realms, and there is some tragedy that befalls the group. A tragedy that is actually very poignant, and sad, and completely unexpected. All I can say is, Chris Carney do not undo what you did.  Stuff like this is necessary, and shows the stakes that are being played for, not everyone should get away unscathed or alive.

Some of my favorite parts came from Zeg, the demonic imp, who may not be as impish as he seems.  The way things look, Zeg might actually be a lot more powerful than first expected. I did like the riff in which fire made Zeg bigger, and I don’t want to give anything away, but his relationship with the other demon in the party, Avernerius, isn’t what you might expect.  We also get to meet the realm’s deadliest muppet, Erat, who is a simple but powerful creature who defends the Dwarven city. My biggest issue comes with the super powerful army that was hidden away and made to sleep for six thousand years. When they finally got into battle they seemed to drop just as easily as any other race in spite of their mind numbing capabilities.  Either they were over hyped or they were under written. I really expected much more of a show of force from them.

Armen Taylor tells this tumultuous tale, and I must admit that I am always impressed by him.  I hate to say it, but he is like this amazing book that you put on your shelf, and you only remember how good it is after you rediscover it sitting there.  By that I mean, I love listening to him every single time I hear him, but I’ll be darned if he doesn’t go off my radar when someone asks me to rattle off some great narrators.  Invariably I immediately go to Hays, Pohdel, and Daniels to just name a few, and Taylor never seems to get mentioned by me; which is really sad and an oversight on my part because I love the guy’s style, voice, pacing, and the punch that he adds to his readings.  Needless to say, he nails this book down bare handedly, while making it look like he was using a nail gun. The guy is incredible.

I’ll say this for Carney, he isn’t afraid to go big.  You have the entire the pantheon is corrupted and I have to save my sister plot line, the Chaos is coming thread, and the impending invasion by the Prime.  It makes me think of my cousin Vinny when he’s freaking out on his girlfriend, as she piles her issues onto him and he freaks out talking about all the stuff on his shoulders.  Griff is facing a lot of huge things, and Carney does this impossible juggling act to make it seem like things aren’t quite as bad as they look. I love his writing style, his characters, and the direction of the series.

Final score, 8.4 stars.  If you have to ask why repeat view everything I just discussed.  This is a powerhouse of a series, and I am inclined to put it in the ranks of VGO, Ascend Online, War Aeternus, and others.  The books just keep getting better.


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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