Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LitRPG Audiobook Review 1: Last Horizon by Daniel Schinhofen

As promised, here's my first LitRPG audiobook review. I'm going to try and keep these short - I'm generally prone to vomiting up far more than anyone's interested in reading, so I will make a conscious effort to be brief here.

Last Horizon, by Daniel Schinhofen. Narrated by Jonathan Yen.

Below is the review I posted to audible. I actually almost refrained from posting this entirely, as the first time I posted it a horribly sloppy blunder of mine caused me to post it on the wrong goddamn book's page. I got it sorted out quickly enough, but still felt awful about it. But that's a story for another day.
I'm wrestling with myself in writing this review, and there is a chance that I will not submit it. While I am certainly a bitter person, I'm not often publicly mean, and so posting negative reviews are not something I do lightly.
I did not enjoy this audiobook. The story was boring and uninteresting, the painfully cheesy attempts at humour regularly fell flat (and were throughly unaided by the narrator's exaggerated, forced delivery), and the use of language was exceptional in its repetition.
I will admit that I went into this knowing I did not like the narrator's work from other audiobooks, so I tried my best to separate my thoughts on his particular vocal style from the story itself. Despite this, there was nothing to enjoy. The characters were flat and uninteresting, their interactions were awkward and unrelatable, and nothing really ever happened. It wasn't much more than the author dictating his ideal personal romp through a virtual world.
The primary plot device were the quests themselves, which at no point felt like they carried any weight. They are, after all, meaningless even within the context of the story. Sometimes a reader can suspend their disbelief if the characters are deep enough for their own sentiments towards their in-game missions to carry over, but that certainly wasn't the case here.
There were some conflicts with other players within the world, but they felt more like afterthoughts, and failed to deepen the story.
Please, for the next book you write, remember that your job is to spin a tale with peaks and valleys, with bitter conflict and satisfying resolution. Not a trip to the grocery store.
...For the bananas.
 As I mention there, this book was boring. Nothing of note really happened - there were a few conflicts, but the bulk of the adventure was a bunch of friends for whom everything went (mostly) fine completing a quest chain within the game, and in so doing, exploring a world that never quite felt all that important. In writing this however, I've come to realize exactly what it was that was wrong with this book, in fairly simple terms. Strangely enough, it has nothing to do with the fact that the world was never properly developed, that the NPCs were flat and uninteresting, and that the conflicts were luke warm at best.

Listening to Last Horizon gave me the experience of being excluded. At no point am I made to feel any real attachment to any of the characters. Instead they feel like something of a closed circle, who function as the support system for how poorly each of them have been written. Inside joke falls flat? It's fine, the rest of the characters think it's hilarious. Expositional backstory fails to elicit an emotional response? Don't worry about it, all the friends are sobbing, hearts broken by your tale. As the reader, it never really felt like any attempt was being made to ensure that I was being entertained, as the fictitious audience always seemed to be enjoying themselves.

In that regard, Jonathan Yen's performance paired perfectly with that approach to storytelling - his vocal cues always made it clear when something was funny, whether you felt that way or not. I've listened to a few books narrated by him, and I've always felt myself to be a little hostile towards his style. It feels almost like an attempted hijacking of my emotional state. Doesn't do much good for one's suspension of disbelief.

So, in summary:

Will I indulge in anything by Daniel Schinhofen in the future?
I'd rather not. There's a new release out already, "Gamer for Life: Alpha World" and I feel no compulsion to bother. That said, I might in the future - people grow and improve, especially when it comes to this genre (rife with amateur authors as it is). I also have the habit of forgetting just how much I dislike something, so who knows.

Will I listen to anything else narrated by Jonathan Yen?
This is my third, so I think I can at least claim that I've given him a fair shake. He seems to continually be getting work despite his style not being to my taste, so I don't see it changing in the future. Absolutely not my cup of tea, so I'll steer clear from now on.

Overall Score: 2/5