LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 040 - Nora Hazard 2, The Merchant of Tiqpa 2, Soda Pop Soldier, The Curse of Hurlig Ridge, Unbound Deathlord 2
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 040 - Nora Hazard 2, The Merchant of Tiqpa 2, Soda Pop Soldier, The Curse of Hurlig Ridge, Unbound Deathlord 2
“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: 8.4 out of 10
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Soda Pop Soldier (35:18)
Score: 7.3 out of 10
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Obliteration - Unbound Deathlord, Book 2 (01:05:18)
Score: 8.1 out of 10
Nora Hazard Series, Book 2
By: Blaise Corvin
Narrated by: Emily Beresford
Series: Nora Hazard, Book 2
Length: 7 hrs and 45 mins
I have been wanting to get to this book for a while, but for some reason I did Asgard Awakening first and then never was able to get back to it. So, my deepest apologies to Blaise Corvin for taking so long, I was trying to be fair, but then I look at some people that output a lot of books and I do get to them quickly. So again. Apologies. Anyway, this is the second novel in the Nora Hazard series, and if you know Corvin you know he says he doesn’t write fast, but he is well worth the wait. Ludus is an amazing place to visit, even if it doesn’t star Jason and Henry, and he proves this with Nora.
Speaking of Whom, I have to say that Nora is actually one of the better built characters that you will find. I don’t mean she’s built like a brick house, but rather her character is believably defined and grows in a sensible manner. For example, Nora lived on the streets and so had a mindset that dealt with her surviving from one moment to the next. This instinct has both benefitted her and been a drawback as she developed. For example, it made her a great fighter who wasn’t worried about what was going to happen AFTER the fight, but rather what was going to happen DURING the fight. The drawback was the same thing. I don’t believe that she really thought all that far ahead in book one. She was basically stuck in the moment, mourning her friend for most of the book and struggling to survive one encounter after another.
In this book we see her shed this mentality. Partially because of her powers, but also because of the way her powers have allowed her to change. She has what one might call photographic reflexes, if you are a Marvel fan, in which you can learn to do something just by watching someone else do it. So kung fu, archery, gymnastics, even drawing are within her perview. This makes her much more dangerous than just another sword hand.
Secondly, she has hypervigilance, which allows her to speed up her consciousness so that things appear far slower than they are, which is another boon when in battle. So, her powers develop along with her character. She no longer feels like a street rat who got lucky, but rather someone who is about to grasp her destiny by the shorthairs and pull it along in the direction she wants it to go. I honestly don’t know if PewPew is a nod to Willmarth or not, but it is awesome nonetheless. Finally, Nora says some very powerful and poignant last words, not as in I’m dying last words, but as in the last thing she says, at the end.
The book has amazing pacing, believable dialogue, great action scenes, and some downright auspicious world building that really helps to flesh out the world of Ludus and its inhabitants. Corvin was one of my gateway LITRPG drugs. He’s a total red pill if ever there was one, because the once you’ve swallowed the little red bugger you find yourself in a world that you won’t want to leave. Five Delvers books are simply not enough. One more Nora to go? Only reason I want this trilogy completed is so that we can get back to the gang at Delvers, but I would be happy to get more Nora in the future. If you are getting this book I have to ask why? You are only hurting yourself.
As for the narration portion I have to say that Emily Beresford nails it. She is a total pro, and really gave life to the novel. I have to say that I find her voice were pleasant and soothing to listen to, but she knows how to elevate a menacing moment or interject actual danger into an action scene. She can get plain mean when she needs to or as menacing as a rabid vampire bat is to a naked man in room full of razor blades. She’s versatile.
My final score is 8.4 stars. This is a great book that is really building to something special, and I don’t really see anything wrong here. Side characters like Jessica were fun and the direction of the tale is on course for epic level story telling. Go get it now.
The Merchant of Tiqpa 2
The Bathrobe Knight, Book 5
By: Charles Dean
Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead
Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
All right, yet again I get to lament the end of this series. You may recall that in my review of the Bathrobe Knight 3 I sort of got all maudlin at the end and bemoaned that no more audiobooks were coming out in this series. A series that both I, and my family love. We listen to the BK series on roadtrips, and for my kids it is always a fight. They either want to listen to Larry Corriea’s Tom Stranger or Charles Dean’s Knight series. Thankfully, Dean has more BK novels, and so that is what we often listen to. This one was sad for all of us, since it really is the end. The Bearded one has confirmed that the series ends here. That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep begging him to just maybe write 500 words a day on a book that will tie up both Lock’s and Darwin’s stories. Do you hear me Charles? For just 500 words a day you can feed the starving ears of my family, and the families and fan’s of millions of other litrpg readers who need more. BK is one of the earliest LITRPG books out there. It seems a shame to just let it fade away. Sniffle sniffle.
Begging aside I really am sorry to see this series end. It has been one hell of a ride, and anyone who can flip Shakepeare on his ear and slip him into a gameworld is a master. This book out to be called Classical Litrpg, and you don’t even need an english degree to follow along. Now, if you really want to prove your chops go after Chaucer and make one of those Canterbury Tales into a gamelit masterpiece! I know you can do it. Anyway, this book is just as fun as the preceding four novels. In fact, I almost am wont to say that I actually enjoyed the last two books on their own more than I did the first three. Of course, no one is killed with a spoon so I think the Main story line wins.
I think for me that the highlight was having Shy shifting from being a humble merchant and crafter into someone akin to a mob enforcer. Also can I just say milk cannon? I’m not talking Dolly Parton after a pregnanc. . . . see Dean makes me say bad stuff. Oh, and the way that Shy guy is literally screwed in the end is sneaky. I likes the sneaky. Seriously, you couldn’t create a Iago type character for this book? How can you do the one true bard and not include Iago?
A bonus to you listening out there, this book almost feels like a standalone book. Yes, it has ties to the preceding books, but this novel changes things up, adds new characters, and feels like I could come in cold and still know what was going on. I dig Dean’s humor, and I gotta lotta laughs out of this book. It was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and I recall when it finished I said to myself that I couldn’t wait for the next book. So, I know new readers will enjoy this even if they haven’t read the first 4 novels, but they will go back and buy them after listening to this. So if you are unfamiliar with the Merchant or BK books check this one out. There are plenty of fights, funny stuff, funny fights, and oblique references to English Lit characters to keep you interested for the entire run time.
Matthew Broadhead, whom has hit homers with this and last MOT book does a great job. I think he “gets” Dean’s humor and style and the only other person I can say that about is Jeff Hays. Broadhead has in the past been hit or miss with me, but with Dean’s stuff he seems to be batting .500. He is fun to listen to, and his inflections can make me laugh heartily.
Final score 8.4. It’s fun and has great battles and I’m very sorry to see it end.
Soda Pop Soldier
By: Nick Cole
Narrated by: Guy Williams
Length: 12 hrs and 27 mins
So I found this book while reading a review that was talking about ready player one. I saw the movie, haven’t listened to the book even though I do have it in my digital library. Anyway. The writer of the review was talking about MMOpunk. I’d never heard the term before and from what I can tell it is basically was an alternative name for Litrpg for people living back in 2015. It is like a mash-up of Cyberpunk stories and MMORPG’s, i.e. litrpg/gamelit stuff. The novel mentioned two books by Nick Cole, and so I thought I’d check out the Soda Pop Soldier. I’m glad I did.
The book has some interesting concepts about corporate sponsorship and making a living via virtual games. Now, if you know me at all then you know that I hate when in-game currency is usable in the real world. I don’t care what the exchange rate would be I just don’t see it working, but this felt more like the kind of situation where people make money streaming or with a channel on You-tube. Here, the main goal of the players is to play well enough to earn advertising space for the company they play for. Failure means you are out, and the MC isn’t doing so well in that dept as of late. In fact, he takes to playing an illegal game just to get by, and this is where the real fun starts.
The MC, known to us as Perfectquestion, doesn’t seem to fit in the real world. In fact, he seems like he is more at home on line in a virtual reality in spite of the fact that he literally lives in a world where it seems that humans regularly leave the planet. I don’t believe we are ever given his real name, and so for the listener this plays out with us having an almost virtual protagonist. The illegal game, the Dark, is just that although his other game Warworld is pretty visceral and violent (how could it not be with a name like that?) and keeps you in the action enough that you keep focused. The book bounces between each game and the real world, but does so in a way that keeps you interested. I often get bored with “out of game” sequences in books. I Don’t care what the devs are up to or how the AI is slowly taking over the world or whatever happens IRL. I like to stay in the game. This book does a great job balancing everything and keeps you on the hook. You genuinely care about PQ, and it doesn’t matter if he is playing a soldier, a samurai, or a struggling to by average guy.
For me the real plus was the authentic feel the book had in regards to how the players of cola corp interacted over chat and interacted. It really felt like I was listening to some players from COD trying to get their crap together. That is what pushed this up a few notches for me. The Dark was a neat place to visit and learn about, and was different from other game worlds in that you pay to play per match. So there were some really neat concepts too.
My one issue I have with this book is the narration. While I found Guy Williams to have a grizzled soldier voice that worked for the Warworld character I don’t think his voice had a lot of range, and his cadence and rhythm barely ever changed. I wasn’t overly wowed by Williams. I don’t want to say he droned, because he does vary his voice and add emotion but he kept on a steady pace that never amped up when it should have.
My score would be much higher if it were not for the narration flaws. I liked this book, but have to say 7.3 stars because Williams didn’t do much to elevate the story. If this had been SBT, Pohdel, Daniels, Parsenau, Rennie, Taylor, or Adams I could see this book crushing in Lit, but I honestly think it is holding it back. Great concept, good writing, mediocre to fair narration.
The Curse of Hurlig Ridge: 1st Dive World Tree Online, Book 1
By: M. A. Carlson
Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie
Length: 21 hrs and 52 mins
I have been wanting to get this reviewed since before I got really sick, and am sorry it took me sooo long to get this out to you guys. This is one of those books you listen to and wonder why everyone isn’t talking about it. Personally, I think that Hurlig Ridge kind of got hit with a situation like a summer block buster smash. Sort of like how the Princess Bride came out right after Fatal Attraction. I don’t think that the amazingness of the fantasy film could compete with the hype of Glenn Close’s crazy rabbit boiling psycho. Hell, I even went to see Fatal Attraction instead of PB, and I can remember seeing the Bride advertised on the lobby walls. I think that happened here, several hyped books popped up at the same time as this and this book kinda got lost in the shuffle.
Now, you know I love getting into the game quickly. I tend to get bored or annoyed with books that take a tenth of the novel setting things up before the player actually gets inside. Not here. It was almost like we get to meet the MC and he’s already in the game. I loved it. That, my friends, is how you do it. The story is almost a slice of life, and I am not a huge fan of those, but lately I have been opening up to the concept and am enjoying them more and more. Still not my favorite thing, though. Thankfully, the book does have paths that it follows so it is not aimless. There are issues with PVP stuff and even a mystery that evolves and pulls the story in a direction that is both fun and exciting.
Another aspect that worked for me was that the entire gaming system is well thought out. The only thing that sort of bothered me was that the only way to really improve yourself is by training. No cheat points pop up when you level so you hafta hit the metaphorical gym. This would have been fine, and I actually enjoyed it at first, but it is a frequent thing. All I could think of was Rocky, when his trainer Mick yells and say “You’re gonna eat lightning and crap thunder! No go chase a chicken.” We level up and then ByeBye is drinking 6 dozen raw eggs and Syrio Forel is telling him to go chase cats. We don’t get a montage scene, but I would have appreciated one or four a few times. Now, obviously I jest but my sons did keep playing Eye of the Tiger the longer they heard me listening to the book.
If that is the worst thing about this then whoopity whoop. I loved the book. It is long, over 21 hours and so you get your money’s worth and you won’t mind the time investment. The MC is interesting, there is plenty of action and mystery. I also appreciated how we stay in one spot for the duration of the novel, but the world building was obvious. A lot of thought went into this land and its people; just like the game mechanics. Carlson has obviously put a TON of work into this book before he ever started writing. I look at it as the way Tolkien developed different languages, a whole geography, 10,000 years of back story and so on before he ever started the Hobbit. The hard work and effort pays off and it shows. As much as I ribbed it, I think I liked the concept of the slow build of a character over rapid point distribution as you level. It was different and stood out when compared to the way most systems are laid out.
Can I just say, first that I simply love Anneliese Rennie. She is an amazing narrator, and the work she has been doing is a real boon to the community. The last book I got to hear her in was Hummel’s Radiocative Evolution where she played a dragon. This is much better because narration-wise, so to speak, because she gets to play everyone! She’s one of the few people that I could listen to all day. I think she handles the characters with finesse and tells the story like she was living it. She rocks this book and I think that it is obvious how much she enjoyed narrating it.
Final score 8.4 stars. I believe that this will eventually become a much bigger series, and will get noticed by the community for the great work that it is. Good characters, cool game system, and a madcap narrator who takes you on a ride in her word mobile makes this all worthwhile.
Unbound Deathlord, Book 2
By: Edward Castle
Narrated by: Jeff Hays
Length: 16 hrs and 57 mins
I can remember finishing book one in this series and thinking Damn that was good. I’m only sorry we had to wait so long for this book to come out. The book pretty much picks up where the other ended, but for those of you with short memories we do get a recap. I’m not a fan of recaps, be they on tv or in a book, so that kinda ruffled my feathers. I’m of the go back and rewatch or reread so that you are familiar with what happened so far school of thought. Although, I must concede that readers just jumping in for this book probably loved the recap. I would normally skip such a thing, but when I review a book I don’t jump over any parts I listen to the whole book.
The novel does a good job of intermixing gameplay with the events in the real world. Normally I am not a fan of jumping between the two worlds. I can only think of a few books where the real world was just as interesting as the game world, or even more so maybe as in the case of Dave Willmarth’s Dark Elf Series. Castle succeeds in the balancing act and kept me hungry for more as I listened. Oddly, the parts of the book that felt a little slow were those in the game, not IRL portions.
Jack tries to deal with what he learned at the end of the first book and goes a little crazy in the process. He sort of becomes a mass murdering terrorist, and so you really have to empathize with him in order to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and who he’s doing it to. You sort of have to ask if Jack is a monster or if he is justified; maybe even wonder if it isn’t a little of both. I like books that make you think. Thankfully, you can think while Jack stomps the hell out of whatever comes after him.
Oddly, I think the MC becomes more of an A-hole in this book than he was in book one, but after all he’s learned and been through it fits and plays well with the story. For me, Daggers was the best part of the novel. I loved every moment that she was on the page. If she were a character in a movie then her actor would have gotten an academy award for best supporting actress, as it is I think Jeff Hays deserves the audio version. He has several characters that I simply love to hear him in the role of such as Miller from War Aeternus, Andrea for Super Sales, and especially the fast talking Quantum Hughes, and so on, but it isn’t his voice so much as his acting here that makes Daggers the star. He keeps her mysterious and deadly, trustworthy but suspicious, and an utter force to be reckoned with. Hays handles the rest of the tale with aplomb per his usual vocal swagger. He is always amazing.
In spite of Hay’s best efforts there were several parts that just seemed to go on forever. The final fight, for example drained my stamina. It was Jack versus an endless horde of unrelenting humanoids. It was like sitting on the beach and being hit with wave after wave of water and expecting your feeble kicks to turn away or utterly defeat the ocean. That isn’t to say the spots aren’t well written, but they are far longer than they need to be and it did tucker me out. Still the book is fun and the cliffhanger makes you hope that there is a recap at the start of the third book so you can remember what went on here when it finally comes out. So, again,it may sound like I didn’t appreciate or overly enjoy the book. I truly did, it just had a couple road bumps, but otherwise it was a great listen.
Final Score, 8.1 stars. I enjoyed it but it did feel a little long in spots, narration is mind-blowingly good, and the tale wraps up neatly leaving enough to make you want the next novel now.
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For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!
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