LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 041 - Apocalypse Special

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 041 - Apocalypse Special

“Hello, and welcome to the Litrpg audiobook podcast, my name is Ray and today I’ll be reviewing some current and classic audiobooks for you.  As George Fisher once told me I have a face for radio, a voice for silent films, the mentality of a five year old, and a personality similar to lifebuoy soap.  I might be paraphrasing that a little bit but you get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Today we are exploring the apocalypse!!!  So, welcome to the end of the world special.  I just hope we have enough time to get this finished before the end! I’ll begin with: ”

Life in the North: An Apocalyptic LitRPG

Score: 8.6 out of 10

Gearing Up - Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 3

Score: 7.8 out of 10

Survivors: Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 2

Score: 8.6 out of 10

Towers of Heaven: Book 1

Score: 7.9 out of 10

The Great Filter: A Post-Apocalyptic Gamelit Novel - Great Filter Series, Book 1

Score: 7 out of 10

Viridian Gate Online: Doom Forge -The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen - LitRPG Adventure Series, Book 1

Score: 7 out of 10


Life in the North: An Apocalyptic LitRPG

By: Tao Wong

Narrated by: Nick Podehl

Series: The System Apocalypse, Book 1

Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins


This book makes me regret a lot of things.  First of all, I’m going to come clean and say that I have alluded to there being an author that I would not listen to due to their style of writing.  Tao Wong was that author. I’m sure some of you probably thought it was another writer for completely different reasons. I think that, in my case, it is the narrator that made the difference.  The first book that I read of Tao’s was a first person present tense book, and the narrator did not bring it to life. Not like he should have, not like Pohdel does here. Seriously. The first book was like having Mozart played by first graders, while this was like having Beyonce produced by Mozart.  Complete difference.

So, since the narration was such a factor for me I’m going to talk about Pohdel first.  He brings this story to life. He is animated, emotional, and builds suspense and a sense of danger like nobody’s business.  I often list Pohdel among some of the best narrators out there, because I recognize the talent, but for me he’s always been the low guy out of the big 5.  Good, but not a heavy weight like Daniels, Parsenau, or Hays. There’s never been a book of his that I didn’t enjoy, but I don’t know he really seems to go crazy here and just adds so much that it really made me fall in love with the word and the characters.  More importantly, it made me recognize just how good Wong is

Wong starts the book the right way.  He goes for the jugular, and he has no mercy.  He gets right to the Apocalypse, making earth a sort of alien gaming get away as a dungeon world.  John, the MC wakes up in one of the highest rated danger zones he can find himself in, and because of it gets a lot of perks, but is also imperiled beyond belief.  He slowly makes his way back home and pulls off some feats due to his quick thinking so that by the time he makes it back to civilization he’s earned a pretty number of titles and a rep even though he isn’t as powerful as he could be.

That is the book in a nutshell.  Interesting MC, fantastic world building, great gaming sections as he builds his stats, levels, and gains a class.  The book will feel familiar and yet be amazingly new to you as you read this. I loved every second that I was listening to this book.  I don’t think there was a slow section in it and I was completely engaged the entire time.

I love apocalypses, hell I’m writing an apocalypse book, and I wish that I had time to crank out a few thousand words to submit to Wong’s call for short stories for a possible anthology in this series.  Deadline is end of June, so get cracking guys because I think this is an amazing opportunity. I have such a cool story in my head for it too, but no time means no time.

Either way, the story is simply amazing, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.  I’ll be honest again. The only reason I got this book was because I wanted to do an Apocalypse show and I completely regret not getting this so much sooner.  I was a complete idiot. The book is intense, tender, full of action, plotting, politics, monsters, mutants, mayhem, and more. I could not ask for more from this book, and I extend a deep apology to Tao Wong for taking so long to get to his material and acknowledging how good it is.

Final score 8.6 stars


Gearing Up

Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut, Book 3

By: Daniel Schinhofen

Narrated by: Tess Irondale

Series: Apocalypse Gates Author's Cut Series, Book 3

Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins

OK Cats and kiddies, confession time.  I have to think that I’ve been a little hard on poor Daniel Schinhofen.  This series was one of the earlier books that I’d reviewed and I’d just gotten into the pool, so to speak,  and I had no life guard to pull me out of the deep water. Now, I have enjoyed his Apoc novels so far, but my biggest complaints were that it was more of a slice of life book, which I really hated at the time, and the fact that he kinda switched gears on the gameplay.  Now I can say that my mind has sort of drifted into new territory regarding Slice of life stuff, and I am trying really hard to adjust to the gameplay adjustments.

This book is being judged on its own merits.  Now I do have a disclaimer, the narrator for this series, Andrea Parsenau, voluntarily left due to some of the more graphic content that occurs in the book.  That is fine, there was no rift, and Daniel didn’t give her the boot. He has the right to pen whatever he likes, and Andrea also has the right to avoid things that she feels aren’t in her wheelhouse.  So, as much as I hate it when a series switches narrators I am not going to penalize this book at all since this is a no fault separation. Not a divorce, but the two could not continue on together. So on that note let me talk about Tess IRONDALE.

Tess does a good job stepping into Andrea’s ruby slippers.  Honestly, I think she keeps the tone of the first two books and does her best to give the book her own style while keeping to the original feel.  It’s a tough job, and a real balancing act that I think few people could pull off but she comes out swinging and looks to be batting about .400.

Now, as for the story this is one of those books that I could have put in my naughty episode.  It is chalk full of sex, and has some BDSM bits and pieces and so before I go any further I have to say that my safe word is MOIST.  Got it?

Ok.  Again there are changes to the game system, with the addition of runes which allow upgrades.  The story itself doesn't really do much progression story wise but we get to learn about why Alvin got the gig, have some other players pop up like daisies out of the snow, and we get to see more of the elves.  The elves sort of lead in to a disturbing section with certain concepts that I don’t want to mention here out of respect because I know no matter how I word the subject matter it will make some people angry but it has to do with binding.

My biggest beef, heh, I should have saved that for the upcoming naughty show is that I came into the book accepting that the plotline wasn’t going to go very far since the first two books were slice of life, but what I hadn’t expected was just how much the book was swallowed up by the incessant sex.  Again, I’m no prude but for people who are surviving an apocalypse and death lurks around every corner it seems like they are pounding one another more than they are fighting abominations, other players, or npcs.

Don’t get me wrong, the action is great, and the best thing about the series is Alvin and Gothy’s relationship, but Alvin has to be taking intravenous shots of Viagra, and Gothy has to be sorer than Nancy Kerrigan when she got laid out by that guy’s huge pipe (MOIST).  

Overall the book is well written, has great characterizations, and has a cool concept, but I think it seems to be tranisitioning from a hardcore action/adventure book into a cinemax sci-fi film.  That’s fine, because the writing is top notch, but I would like some sort of warning or notification if it is going to go that direction.

Final Score: 7.8 stars.  Tess does a great job, and Gothy is the greatest, but I just felt like the story took a backseat to the sex, which is ironic because that is where most sex happens.


Survivors: Dark Elf Chronicles, Book 2

By: Dave Willmarth

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Laurie Catherine Winkel, Jeff Hays

Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins


Do the Rock Spider song

Whelp, I have been waiting for this book for some time and I was not disappointed.  Willmarth is an intense and yet, introspective writer. He cooks up some amazing stuff, but still makes you ponder things long after you’ve finished the story.  There is a character I believe named Evan, and his personality and portrayal make you wish horrible things upon him, even though he does nothing really wrong 90% of the time he shows up.  It is just the way that he acts and the little things he does, and you have to ask does my anger and frustration for this man come from somewhere else? Because being a dick doesn’t justify wanting to see someone die.  Then, when things happen you have to wonder if what occurred happened because he was a d-bag or because of the way he was treated/or perceived himself being treated? Lotsa thinky stuff there. So, yeah, we do get a few more new characters, and Damn Willmarth hit me with a Where the Red Fern grows/ Old Yeller moment that makes me wanna give him a swift kick somewhere south of the border.  There are reasons I don’t watch movies like that.

Anyhow, we pick up with Mace and his lady trying to make the best of a bad situation, and actually doing pretty well.  They locate another survivor, and then it steam rolls into more people being out there than they realized, even though they  don’t get into face to face contact with many of them.

I will reiterate that I don’t know which parts of the book I like more, the real world exploits or the in game adventures.  It is impossible to call, generally most litrpg books provide you with a cursory glance at what is devastating the outside world and then once they get in game it never comes up again.  Not DM, nope he constructs a real world counterpart to the game that is terrifying and keeps your attention when you should be wanting in the game. It is litrpg after all. All I know is that when I was in the “real world” I looked forward to the game, and when we were in the game I wanted to know what was happening IRL.  It was a vicious cycle that was unrelenting.

For me, the most compelling and emotionally charged bits came during the part that I cannot speak of. (Please put up the red fern book cover here)  I really don’t want to spoil anything, so if you don’t recognize my references don’t look them up until after you’ve listened to the book. DM also gives out a few nods to Daniel Schinhofen and MountainDale’s Master Krout.  I always appreciate shout outs in books. Narrators never get mentioned, though, so all you writers out there keep that in mind next time you set to writing. Even I mentioned Anniliese Rennie and Andrea Parsenau in a short story I did in an anthology that is out, cause narrators are the bomb.

Speaking of narrators, SBT’s Bonnie and Clyde, Justin Thomas James, the man with three first names, and Laurie Catherine Winkle’s performances just kill ya.  There is some sincerely heartbreaking events that occur and you can just feel the emotion pouring out of them. One thing I would like to see would just be an uncredited walk through by one of the other SBT narrators from time to time.  Like Jeff hays just pops in to give out a blood curdling scream as someone is killed, or Annie makes some sort of monster noises. It would be like Brad Pitt showing up for three seconds in Deadpool 2. Unexpected and Awesome. These two work well together and play well off one another.  It is a treat to get to listen to them.

Final score 8.6


Towers of Heaven: Book 1

By: Cameron Milan

Narrated by: Steve Campbell

Series: Towers of Heaven, Book 1

Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins


I have been with Cameron Milan since he first released his Desire series.  My biggest problem with him has always been that every protagonist that he has is either instantly OP or rapidly becomes OP.  Hell, the bad guy in Desire 2 was so OP that everytime he was beaten he popped up another power that meant that he was even more indestructible than before.  The pattern has repeated itself over and over again, and while I do think his writing has improved since his Zombie Apocalypse novel and the Adventure Island book he had continued with the overpowered characers.  Some people love OP MC’s and USMC’s for that matter, but I don’t find them all that fun or exciting. I need to see the struggle, that was why I think I fell asleep on the Captain Marvel Movie. Danvers was never in trouble and was always stronger or a better fighter than whomever she faced.

So, Milan puts out a book in which all but one human is destroyed and he ties to resurrect the humans killed in the Towerocalpse.  Backtracking. Six mysterious towers appear in various countries around the world and while separated spatially they are all connected via upper floors.  Lower floors are “in country” and the upper floors of each tower are all the same place. By defeating the final boss of the last floor a hero is granted a wish, and he tries to bring back the human race, but for plot reasons it can’t be done.  So, the MC is sent back in time in the hopes of averting the disasters that struck before.

Now, the funny thing is that while I KNOW other people found the MC to be overpowered I didn’t.  Not for a Milan book. I actually found Jason the cockroach to be somewhat less juiced than I was expecting.  Granted he is strong, but compared to other Milan MC’s not so much. In fact, a lot of his success comes from his knowledge of how to beat monsters he’s already fought and his fighting skills that he honed over years of practice.  As he goes on he does get stronger, but not in an exponential way like I thought he would. To me he was pretty toned down, and that was nice. That isn’t to say that the book is perfect. The book does have flaws, but nothing I couldn’t overlook.  There were a few sections that I felt dragged a bit, like when the MC became a golem but they weren’t bad bits of writing. I have to say this is probably the best book Milan has written. I just hope that he actually continues the series because he does have a tendency to just jump from one book to another with no follow-up, Desire being the exception.  Another issue, I understand why Jason takes Roy under his wing, but it suddenly goes from I have to become ultra-powerful to I have to train Roy. All we needed was a montage scene.

To be clear, this isn’t the second coming in book form, but I was impressed by Milan’s growth and advancement.  I enjoyed the book and felt that it had decent fight scenes and several characters that kept my interest. One thing that threw me off was how so many levels were easily skipped or provided no danger to the characters.  There is enough leveling and class building to qualify this as Litrpg.

Steve Campbell has really slipped into the role as Milan’s narrator, and I think that is a good thing.  I like Campbell’s style and voice, and he really does elevate the story. It is very clear that he shares Milan’s vison, as the pair mesh very well.  I look forward to more from him in the future.

Final score 7.9 stars.


The Great Filter: A Post-Apocalyptic Gamelit Novel

Great Filter Series, Book 1

By: Russell Wilbinski

Narrated by: Neil Hellegers

Length: 8 hrs and 15 mins


Here is a book that I simultaneously enjoyed and got really pissed at at the same time.  I have very few rules when it comes to things like enjoying a book. For example if a book is good, it is good regardless as to whether it is a write to market novel or not.  This isn’t a write to market book, BTW. I just wanted to point out that if a story is good I let it stand. However, there are only one or two things that you can do in a story that will earn my enmity, and Wilbinski pulls off one of the big ones.  All I’m going to say is that the book should have a shift from one POV to another, and doesn’t and it is a major cheat. I completely felt ripped off and my trust was shattered. There are unreliable narrators, and then there is what happens in this book.  The book should have gone from Third person to first or First person to third at some point and by failing to do so scorches some serious earth with me. I’m telling you right up front I took a full point off for the Shenanigans that occurred.

Other than that I actually felt that the story had some real merit and did some things I hadn’t seen before.  In this tale you come to find out that all of humanity and our world is nothing more than a digital construct that was used to run simulations on our worthiness.  Turns out we really suck, but rather than just pulling the plug on the sim the Devs decide to run humans through an new kind of wringer just to see what we are made of.  Thus, the world ends and zombies, mutants, and other terrors are added in making the lives of the survivors even harder. In fact they world restarts about 100 years after a nuclear war has wiped out most people, and the ones who do survive now must struggle to stay safe.

The game mechanics work pretty well and the story is fairly fun and interesting.  The story has nice humorous parts, has well developed characters, and deals out action like we were in a Jason Statham vs Arnold Swartzenegger flick.  The MC is engaging and interesting. Best of all the characters are for the most part, intelligent, and feel logical and real. You never think to yourself that they should have done something in a different way.

The narration by Hellegers works right up to the last chapter, and then, for no fault of his own, doesn’t fit.  We have a different character give their interpretation of what happens at the end of the book, and his voice and tone don’t really match up.  His voice, for example, is great for a grizzled veteran who has smoked a pack a day, or someone who drinks a lot. In other words it is deep, and a little dangerous sounding; so having say a 10 year old girl tell you her side of things (just an example, not what happens in the book) would not fit.  Clearly it would be a little jarring and feel very disjointed from the prior parts of the story. That is what happens here.

It makes me sad, because this really should be an 8 star book.  It hits all the checkmarks of what a good story needs, but the flip at the end was a bad call, and completely unfair.  Think of it like this, if the story is being told by someone then that someone should be able to tell the tale. I always think of the original Alien film.  In it Sigourney Weaver was supposed to narrate over what happens, and in the end you pan over to find her dead and the Alien telling you what occurred in her voice.  That is a total scam, and if they’d done that then we would not have thirty seven alien movies out today, and after seeing Alien 3 I kinda wish that’d been the case. Eh, part 2 really overrides anything 3 did.  So, you get the idea? A rug gets pulled, and you are standing on it. Not fun.

Final Score 7 stars.


Viridian Gate Online: Doom Forge

The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

By: James Hunter

Narrated by: Armen Taylor

Series: The Viridian Gate Archives, Book 6

Length: 14 hrs and 8 mins

I can say without bias that this is unquestionably the best VGO novel to date.  It packs in a hell of a lot of material and continues to advance the story at the same time.  That is a problem with a lot of series. In order to keep a set of books alive the series treads lot of water and goes no where fast, and the whole point to a series is to complete on large overarching storyline that can’t be done in one or three books.  As much as it pains me I am going to use my least favorite series to illustrate this point. Harry Potter does it the right way, to be sure there are plot holes the size of buses, and some really weak transitions, but the over all story is told and we did not need the epilogue.  Hunter keeps things on course, and wisely does keep Ozmark out of the way in this novel. Lex Luthor does not need to be in every Superman comic, nor does Ozmark belong in each VGO iteration.

Now there was one thing that did repeat, and that was the use of the Death’s head quest again.  That is something that should have been a one time deal, or for use by one of the characters in the sidequest novels.  This was the only point that we seemed to revisit something that occurred in the not so distant past. I liked it the first time, but this time it didn’t carry the same impact and was less shocking.  I just wish another plot device had been used. A death’s head quest should be all but impossible and to survive one should display not only incredible skill, but also a lot of luck. Completing two is pushing the boundries a wee bit and takes away from the first achievement.

Other than that this book was really refreshing.  I don’t know what to gush about; the new gear, the new races, the amazing ability that Jack gets . . .as you can see there is a metric crapload of amazingness in this book.  If the first book didn’t set the bar so high I would say that hands down this is the best book in the series. It resounds with some crunch to keep the gamers happy and is still smooth and flows like a river for the fantasy fiends.

This series is one of the reasons that I read Litrpg, it sucked me in and pulled me under, and this book is a riptide.  I didn’t come up for air once I started it, no, no, I couldn’t come up for air. I am digging Cutters poofing out of thin air ability, and seeing the others growing in power too, but I was happy that jack was the main focus of the book.  Hunter could craft a solo Jack book and keep us glued to the pages.

Armen Taylor is, as always just amazing.  He is the voice of VGO and the first person that I think of after Hunter.  While James crafts one hell of a story it is Armen who steals the show. I almost feel bad for James because Taylor gets to live out the characters and give us HIS interpretation.

Score: 8.5


Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen

LitRPG Adventure Series, Book 1

By: Jakob Tanner

Narrated by: Ryan Burke

Series: Arcane Kingdom Online Series, Book 1

Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins


Next up is Arcane Kingdom which has the world ending via the zero virus.  The MC, comes down with the illness and has but days to live. Fortunately for him his brother is a bigshot with conections that will allow him to be downloaded into the game.  To be honest, this is nothing I haven’t heard of or seen a dozen times over.

On the upside, the writing is actually well done and is solid work.  I think that Tanner has some chops, but it feels like he’s hitting the audience with a kung fu chop like Hong kong phooey.  The book is all right, but that is all that it is. It lacks a wow factor, but it does go all out at the end. Some real promise does pop up at the end of everything, and shows some promise for the next book.

The real low point here is the narration.  For some reason, the narrator Burke, does not know how to use the gaming terms like HUD was pronounced H-U-D.  He clearly had no idea of what he was talking about. It was both upsetting and distracting. Burke lost me a few times and it threw me out of the story.

The story itself centers on a 0 virus that is killing humanity.  The MC contracts it, and goes into a gameworld in which there are a ton of glitches.  He also is not guaranteed to exist until he is completely downloaded and not everyone makes it in.  There are a few too many times they go to the character sheet well. It seemed like it was done in order to fill in a word count.  A positive is that there is some gore and horror elements, so if you like darker stuff this will work for you.

Now, this does qualify as an apocalypse book, but I don’t want to give too much away.  So just take my word for it. I know this is short, the book has some problems, but it isn’t bad.  I will listen to the next book when it hits audible, I want to see what comes next.

Final score 7 stars.  


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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