Audiobook Review: Awaken Online ‘Catharsis’

For the audio version of this review, narrated by Moi, check out Christian Geek Central’s podcast, episode 496, timestamp 12:54.

This was my very first LitRPG novel, and as such it was a great jumping-on point to this fairly new branch of the scifi & fantasy tree. LitRPG literally stands for ‘literature Role Playing Game‘. In other words, a story version of an RPG. The bestfantasybooks website states: “Truth be told the genre has busted out of its pure gaming roots and has started to define an identity. What it will be in a few years might not be what it is now.” And I have to say, if this is what all LitRPG tastes like, I’d like another helping please.

Awaken Online: Catharsis is written by Travis Bagwell, narrated by David Stifel. Length: 16 hours, 1 minute.

Publisher’s Summary

Jason logs into Awaken Online fed-up with reality. He’s in desperate need of an escape, and this game is his ticket to finally feeling the type of power and freedom that are so sorely lacking in his real life.

Awaken Online is a brand new virtual reality game that just hit the market, promising an unprecedented level of immersion. Yet Jason quickly finds himself pushed down a path he didn’t expect. In this game, he isn’t the hero. There are no damsels to save. There are no bad guys to vanquish.

In fact, he might just be the villain.

©2016 Travis Bagwell (P)2016 Travis Bagwell

My thoughts: “Fun LitRPG – even for a non-gamer like me”

AO:Catharsis probably is a YA novel if I’m honest – for which I am definitely not the target audience – but in this case I actually enjoyed it.

I am not a gamer, I have never played an RPG in my life. I have watched some gameplay footage on Youtube though, not often but enough to have some small idea of RPG tropes like game stats, ‘levelling’, looting, character classes, and the like.
Plus, I like scifi & fantasy.

All of which to say that the little bit that I know about gaming was definitely enough to fully understand this story. In fact, it even gave me a sense of enjoying an RPG without having to have the skills (nor input of time and effort). That alone was a big plus for me and earned it its four stars Overall.

Once I got through the first few chapters, which were too much of a high school setting and presented unrealistic events in the MC’s life vs. too little in-game time, the story panned out into a fun, entertaining and even thrilling adventure.

There were some issues. The aforementioned IRL part of the story demanded more suspension of my disbelieve than the actual fantasy part, strangely enough. The way the MC’s parents behave, for instance. Also, the over the top bullying by the typical and not too original highschool jock. Or maybe it’s simply that that part of the story is too two-dimensional and contains too many quickfixes, because when I think about Ender’s Game, the bullying is actually more over the top but that didn’t bother me at all. The difference between an okay YA and a high quality adult book, I suppose.

But, fortunately, those chapters are few and relatively far between. The rest is a fun ride into a game world that someone like me will probably never enter herself.

Narration was great, imho. I do not concur with some of the negative reviews about the narration. And I was glad he narrated the sequel as well.

Recommendation: I immediately purchased part 2 “Precipice” after having finished this one!

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