LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 043 - Histaff, Killing Time, Dan the Destroyer, Quest Accepted XP, Sentenced to Troll, Monster Hunt NYC
“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: 7.6 out of 10
Score: 8.3 out of 10
Dan the Destroyer (37:08)
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Sentenced to Troll (01:08:02)
Score: 8.2 out of 10
SOUND BOOTH SPOTLIGHT
Monster Hunt NYC (01:21:12)
Score: 9 out of 10
Histaff: A Sci-Fi LitRPG
Skeleton in Space, Book 1
By: Andries Louws
Narrated by: Michael Kramer
Length: 9 hrs
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! Well, actually, I’m pretty sure you can. I (silly me) had thought that this was going to be a book for the up and soon to be coming, no pun intended, Naughty Special. I mean you have a skeleton popping bones, the name of the book is Histaff, double entendre anyone?, and the lady on the front cover looks sort of like someone from one other Harem books out there. (Show the Ummmmmmm pic here, please) So, I kid. I knew it was none of that but I couldn’t help myself. I see an opening and I take it. See, another joke for the naughty special.
All jokes aside my fist impression of the book was that the first third felt a lot like a dungeon core building itself a dungeon. There is a lot of work that Douglas puts in to go from being a mindless skeleton to becoming an independent animate. A lot of time is spent focusing on him learning how to regrow his body and that had the feel of a dungeon growing its rooms.
He story centers on poor Douglas, a skeleton who is raised from the dead by a vengeance seeking necromancer. Somehow, against all odds, how can I just let you walk away, let you leave without a trace? When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh ooh; You're the only one who really knew me at all . . .
. . . Sorry, Phil Collins. Just be thankful it wasn’t Pseudeo. So, against all odds, he survives and gets booted into another universe that is sci fi based rather than magic. There, the biggest problem sentient beings have is the Histaff virus that pretty much melts you into goo and rebuilds you into an amalgamation of consisting of yourself and your neighbors. Think the Thing combined with the Blob in space. Dougie boy soon makes a friend. No, he literally makes a friend and they then do everything they can to escape the station they are trapped on.
The pros: I liked Douglas isn’t your typical MC. He is a barely sapient skeleton who pretty much gets by by the skin of his teeth. Sory, nother pun. The magic system is different, and I liked the options offered for classes and races. It actually fits in line with Neven Illiev’s Boxy who goes from being a lesser mimic to a greater mimic and then on to bigger and better monsters. Douglas has a lot of options that he can choose from and they were intriguing. Let’s just say the lesser skelly we start with aint the same guy we end with. Cool magic system, lots of use of stats and characters sheets and leveling. So you get your crunch. I loved the genre mash up of fantasy and sci fi, and I think it was really a fun thing to explore.
The Cons: A lot of stuff is repeated, whether it is healing himself or fighting we always seem to go back to square one. The XP given for some of the monsters is crazy high, but I guess it is needed in order to advance Doug’s leveling. His companion has literally no redeeming qualities. I kept waiting for there to come a part where she flips from being a whiny shrew brat to actually being Doulas’s friend but . . . . .no. I get why from the ending, but she was pretty grating. The story needs some big scenes. Something to feel epic, what we get is an MC who sort of goes where ever the wind blows and has no control over his own destiny. It seems like he has very little agency at all in his story.
Michael Kramer narrates, and the dude has done something in the ballpark of 75 fantasy or scifi novels so I’m not even going to try to critique his work. He knows what he’s doing and does it well. I enjoyed listening to him and am sure that you will too. He is one of those people you say Holy Cow, how did they get him?
Final score 7.6 stars the book does sort of plod along and has no real big moments that it needs. Still, it held my interest and makes me want to see what happens to Douglas next. I am totally on board for more, but if you are looking for epic battles this isn’t the place. This is more of a thinking man’s tale.
Time for you to go out go out of this world.
Put out the lights of everyone in the bar
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
You don't have to go home but you won’t live if you stay here.
So, as you may have guessed the next book to be reviewed is:
Killing Time: A Novel of the Realms
By: C. M. Carney
Narrated by: Armen Taylor
Length: 5 hrs and 3 mins
Last time I reviewed a Carney novel I was kinda hard on the humor part. It sort of felt forced and wasn’t spot on. I think the key to humor is not trying to make jokes, but have your characters placed into situations that allow them to do funny things. Man does Carney come through on the funny this time around. I found myself chuckling, laughing, and snorting throughout the story. So, this was a big plus for me. It felt natural and organic and it worked.
This short focuses on the Banner NPC, Lex, who was supposed to start out with the Main MC, Griff, but got punted into a separate location in the first book. Turns out poor Lex has been forced to live out a Groundhog’s Day scenario and is on a rinse, wash, repeat cycle that begins some time after he arrives at an inn and finds himself at the end of a long game of cards.
I know exactly what you are thinking, this sounds suspiciously like the Star trek the Next Generation episode Cause and effect that starts off with a poker game and ends up with the crew all dying horribly over and over again. Bet you thought I was going to reference Happy Death Day just because I’m a horror junkie. Actually, if I had to recommend a great time loop horror movie then I would tell you to check out Triangle. I can’t really suggest Death Day just because the lead actress looks like a fish throughout most of the film. Seriously, look at all of these pics where her mouth is open like she’s gasping for air. (Run all the pics of the lead with her mouth open.) That is terrifying.
Anyway, that is pretty much where the similarities stop, simply facile ones at best anyway. It is even different from Feedback Loop, so I think Carney does a great job balancing how to present the story’s time loop and moving the tale forward at the same time. Best of all, he checks off a lot of dots that fill in gaps in the main series. So, he tells a side tale but moves the main story along, and that is the best part of all this, 2 birds, one stone so to speak.
Carney also uses the time travel pretty effectively. In a wise move he manages to allow Lex to keep up with Griff level wise, because there should have been an imbalance, demonstrate some pretty cool cheats for playing a game in a time loop (as well as displaying the disadvantages) all while keeping you interested.
Plus, the narration is performed by Armen Taylor. He is one of my fave narrators, and he manages to keep it from sounding too much like his work over in VGO. Although there was one guy that does sounda bit like Cutter it was a small character and wasn’t overly pronounced. He simply nailed this book. I loved everything he does, because he does it with such style and energy.
Final score 8.3 stars. It keeps the main story in its crosshairs, but stands alone quite well. In fact you really don’t even need to read the main series to enjoy the book. Lotsa fun.
Dan the Destroyer
By: Hondo Jinx
Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau
Length: 9 hrs and 29 mins
Holy hellfire, is it time for another Dan the Barbarian book? Well, you lucky devils it most certainly is!!!! Whoot Whoot Whoot. Yeah, I threw in an extra whoot just because, and at no extra cost to you.
First I need to say that I am a huge fan of the series. He writing and the humor are spot on, the battles are bloody and the sex is hot and heavy. I debated putting this in my naughty special, but decided against it because while it does have naughty bits it has a lot going on besides that.
Hondo Jinx is a genius when it comes to maiming, mayhem, monsters, and magic. Dan’s story is an epic tale condensed into sweet sweet segments of fun. That is what I love the best about this series it feels fun. I get a tingle every time I think of starting a new chapter (i.e. novel). Dan is a well rounded and likable character who does the best he can at any given moment. I have to say there was one moment where the book jumps the shark, and that comes when Dan squares off against the giant purple worm (nice inclusion, BTW), and that is only because I know the audience and we have all seen somebody pull a Jonah and the Whale move numerous times in the past. Still, the harem building and continued exploration of the land is engrossing. He has so many ladies I don’t know how he finds the time even if he has the stamina.
I think that I have to ask if the main villain’s name comes from or is an homage to the old term Robber Baron. Because every time he said his name that is what I thought of, and it kind of fits. Any whay the big bad is a guy who has some giant’s blood in him and he is meaner than Leroy Brown with a tooth ache. He’s also one crafty SOB who manages to outwit Dan everytime Dan tries to deal with him. That dude is crafty like ice is cold. Dan, not so much. But then, Barbarians aren’t known for their genius, and Dan repeatedly shows this in his dealings with the old man.
The story just gets bigger and better with each novel. Jinx, I am jealous because this is so good.
What makes it so good? Well, Andrea Parsnau’s narration might just be a huge factor. I have to give her credit, because she has to voice something along the lines of thirty different women, plus Dan, other male warriors, and the old half giant coot and it never feels like she repeats herself. She makes the sex scenes steam and the battles bleed. Honestly, she really is amazing here, and her Robber Baron voice is worth about twenty grand, cause it’s pure gold pretty babies. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Andrea narrate a bad book. She is so top shelf I need an extendable ladder just to get to her awesome library of works. Thankfully, I can just listen to her on my phone.
Final score 8.4 stars. Amazing series, fantastic narration. This is real collaboration.
Quest Accepted XP: Unlocked, Book 1
By: J.S. Grulke
Narrated by: Kieran Flitton
Length: 9 hrs and 16 mins
Hey Pretty babies, here we go with a book that has a strong YA vibe. Now, as a father of five I have to say that the best sell for me is to get a book or series that I can listen to with my kids in the car on long road trips. Something that will keep them occupied so that I don’t have to talk to them. Quest Accepted is one of those rare books that I can safely listen to with my whole family, so I just want to thank Grulke for that. There are few books out there that we all can enjoy. Secondly, even though it is a YA book it doesn’t talk down to the adults who should be listening. This is a story that is easily stated to be fun for all ages.
Kieran Flitton narrates and does a decent job, but for some reason his reading didn’t seem to flow like I would expect. I’m going to totally blow this out of proportion, and make it sound worse than it is, but his reading almost comes across like he is reading the book one sentence at a time. Each sentence, if you listen to it, seems to be an island unto itself, there is like an exact half second pause between each line, and it sort of feels mechanical rather than organic. I’m not saying that the narration is horrible or unlistenable, but it definitely stood out to me as a listener and it took away a little from my enjoyment. I noticed it throughout the book. Flitton is fairly new as a narrator, and it might just be him trying to just put out the best product that he can and I appreciate that. He only has two other books out on Audible at the moment so some attention to what he is doing is appreciated. With that one exception I think he otherwise did a fine job.
A few more of the downside stuff. The story is a slice of life, and I have really been working on getting over my issue with those kinds of stories, and it is also a trapped in the game tale. I just wish there was a bit more focus on the MC’s getting things done rather than rambling round. I know if I was trapped in a game I would be laser focused on escaping. Secondly, some folks might feel the crunch is a little off. There are things to support the litrpg parts, but I don’t think I ever saw them take damage and receive notifications. I think that was just to keep things PG; I don’t believe I can have a family friendly book that is spouting gorey details of wounds being given and gotten, so I can over look that part of the tale. It has enough other stuff for me to know they are in a game and influencing their environment via other notifications. My real problem is that they didn’t get to chose their classes and so on, it is all done for them. Top that with a trapped in the game and it could be dicey if it were me playing for instance.
On the upside I believe Gulke does an amazing job in portraying a teenager of each gender, that can’t be easy at his age (i.e. not close to being a teen). They were very well defined and expertly described, their actions feeling genuine and like something a teenager would do. In other words they were believable, not unbelievable Oh the things you say! (sorry, EMF flashback, that happens to me periodically). There are some nice twisty turns that the story takes, and there is a set up for a sequel that works pretty well. Personally, I enjoyed the kids and how they dealt with their situation. Personally I think Grulke hit his targeted audience like a guided missile. Next road tip I will listen to this with my kids, I have teens and under tens and I think my teens will feel the ADD issues, and my unders will readily confirm that grown up do everything in their power to ruin their lives.
Final Score: 7.5 stars. Story has a lot more potential in future books, it just seemed a little predicatable in the end and was a slice of life story, and the odd tick in the narration pulled a few points off here and there. Still, a good listen for the family and I look forward to more in the future.
Sentenced to Troll
By: S.L. Rowland
Narrated by: Eric Martin
Length: 9 hrs and 28 mins
I’m gonna scare you all. This is not just your average Litrpg novel. While it is fun, full of fights and magic it is also something more. It is a very rare book, because this book makes you think. I don’t mean that in a bad way, and I want to let you know I actually discussed this with SL himself, and I never asked for an answer. Why? On account of the fact that I want to draw my own conclusions.
So what is there to think about? Well, the MC is a gamer with a couple of strikes against him for saying negative things to other players. His last offense lands him in court, where he is handed some jail time for Oh I don’t know, let’s call it hate speech. Wrongthink? Dunno, but it goes against community standards. So think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and any other social media that can have policies violated just by talking.
Point is, I can’t tell if Rowland is for or against such policies. He never lets HIS thoughts and feelings lean the story on way or another. He just sort of says this is where we can go. Not if he likes that direction or hates it. That is so smart, because he allows the audience to draw their own conclusions. Then, the rest of the book sort of rolls around the subject of racism and even genocide. Again, I can look at this and say this is a metaphor for race relations in the US or even an allegory for something like Isreal and its position in the Mideast. Here comes the tricky part. Ready? None of that is overt at all. You can glean it, but there is also an overlaying fun story on top of all that which means you are free to ignore all the other stuff. I just like a book that makes me think and draw my own conclusions. I’m not getting a message from either side of the political spectrum, and it is not layered on so thick that you’ll feel like you are reading Melville’s Billy Bud and being beaten over the head with Christian imagery.
The MC, Chad or Chod, not Chode is forced to play as a troll, a loathsome unliked race that is slowly being hunted to extinction. Chod then does everything he can to save the trolls in his thirty day window of playtime. This is a book that I enjoyed from start to finish. I liked the characters and and the setting. The adversary, trying not to say bad guy or villain too much, is a right and proper A-hole who really outdoes Chad in the Troll dept. That is as in Internet Troll, not racial troll like Chad. Chad ends up being very clever and not just a mouth piece spouting how great a gamer he is, he proves his skills. I loved following his exploits.
Eric Martin comes in swinging like a madman and makes like Babe Ruth pointing out where the ball was going to go. He’s done a few other LITRPG books like Way of the Clan and Adventures on Brad, so he’s no noobie. I enjoyed him and thought he was a good fit for Rowland’s material. He has a wide selection of voices and paces the story quite well.
Final score 8.2 stars. Fun and thought provoking.
SOUND BOOTH SPOTLIGHT
Monster Hunt NYC
By: Harmon Cooper
Narrated by: Jeff Hays, Annie Ellicott
Length: 7 hrs and 53 mins
Full disclosure, I got an advance copy of this book when I was in the hospital dying, no joke, and it really helped me get through the suffering I was going through. This is not like an audiobook you've ever encountered before, and it is a testimony as to the greatness of Harmon Cooper's brilliant writing and SBT's incredible talent. SBT completely reinterprets what you think an audible experience should be.
So, I am now and have always been a huge fan of Cooper's writing style. I just get him. His humor, his wit, his intense action scenes, he proclivity towards snark, and well just about everything he does on his computer's WORD program. No other author, with the exception of Terry Pratchett, has made me laugh so loud, so hard, and so frequently as Cooper. He can weave a story like he was using one of the Fate's looms. Monster Hunter is once again a part of his shared universe, and I love that fact, too. He goes out of his way to tell separate and complete stories but keeps them in a sandbox in which you are already familiar. Monster Hunter NYC is a top-notch tale that is classic Cooper, expertly crafted, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
What SBT does is something altogether different and new. They have managed to escalate the medium of audiobooks into something more than just a theater of the mind. They have molded an entire EXPERIENCE that I doubt you will have touched upon in your lifetime. SBT blends the spoken word with catchy tunes and songs throughout the book, and I do not mean that you get some music at the start of a chapter. No, this is fully fleshed and functional original music that has the heart of the book, but also a complete and utter life of its own. I can completely hear some acid jazz influence in Jeff's work, and Annie carries a haunting noirish vibe at times that resonates tones of the hipsters of the forties and fifties with modern sensibilities of today. My only regret is that they didn't include Justin Thomas James in to jam as well, because the man is a master musician himself.
I heard one reviewer say that this was all Annie, and I have to admit that Annie's singing and personification of the ladies is both intense and involving, but I have to give Jeff his due. He holds his own and gives his heart to this production. You can tell he went over and above, gave three pints of blood, and performed at one hundred and fifty percent capacity on this project. There are labors of love and passion projects and then there is Monster Hunter NYC. I mean there is dedication to a project and then there is the gusto displayed by Annie Wilkes of Stephen King's Misery. I'm not sure where Jeff lies on that spectrum, but wherever the needle falls it is going to be indicative of his heart and soul being contained in this body of work. Annie, is as I say, killer in her parts and she will have you bopping along to whatever Da,da,da, da, da dadda she lays down.
On a side note I do want to say that my favorite song was the one that was inspired by City of Angels with Nick Cage and Meg Ryan, I can’t see you but I know you’re there. Awesome sauce over ranch fries cooked in duck fat. (Ramon, please insert either the video clip or pic here, whichever is not going to cause problems)
The story, the voice work, and the music make a strange magic that will only be imitated by other companies from this point forth, if anyone else ever has the cajones to attempt something like this. All I can say is that this is not just an audiobook. It is not Theater of the mind. This is a freaking Rock Opera Concert on Broadway; and you do not want to miss it.
Final Score: 9 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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