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Awaken Online: Catharsis (Volume 1) by…

Awaken Online: Catharsis (Volume 1)

by Travis Bagwell

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525320,482 (3.93)3

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I loved this book like I have loved few others.

In addition to all the "normal" things I want from a book such as great characters, an original concept and a catchy introduction, this book combines fantasy with science fiction without the usual genre bending pitfalls.

Without too many spoilers, the concept of this book is an astoundingly advanced fully immersive online computer game (specifically a massively multiplayer online role playing game). Where it differs from others in the genre is in the richness of the player discovery of the game mechanics and the main character who recognizes the game as "not real" yet still feels guilt over wicked actions, but does not stop to mope.

Yes, that's right, our hero walks a dark path in the game, yet we still love him and root for him the whole time.

The characters (NPCs) within the game are detailed and fun. The book flows well from action to exposition to discovery with humor interspersed throughout. On top of all that, it's also just a great RPG story.

The main downside is the primary antagonist who is pretty cliche. On the other hand, his support characters are interesting enough and hint at possible depths there, though it's never delved in this first book. ( )
  ChuckMChuck | Oct 8, 2018 |
This was the author's first book and the technical errors are evident. I'm surprised given its success he hasn't gone back and corrected them, particularly the improper use of quotation marks, which does make it difficult to follow who's talking. That aside, it was a great read with a fairly simple but engaging story. This is my first true litRPG, and I can see the appeal an why the genre has such a solid fan base. I enjoyed watching the main character level up and seeing the new skills as he progresses. I'm glad I started my delve into litRPG with this book as I will certainly seek out more. ( )
  Brock883 | Mar 19, 2018 |
My original Awaken Online: Catharsis audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

“Awaken Online Catharsis” is the first of two books in the Awaken Online series written by Travis Bagwell. The audiobook edition is richly narrated by David Stifel who has voiced books in nearly every genre provided on Audible at the time of this review. The book is best classified in the Literary Role-Playing Game (LitRPG) subgenre. It is a rather large book compared to others in its class coming in at 526 pages for the Kindle edition and over sixteen hours for the audiobook version. So, what sets this book apart in a rather crowded space? With a plethora of books about heroes conquering the evils of the land, this book reverses that perception and instead tells the story mostly from evils point of view. Think of what “Lord of the Rings” would have been like if told from the perspective of the side of Mordor. If you are a gamer, enjoy fantasy, like coming of age stories, and enjoy playing a more chaotic focused character, I think you will enjoy the story Bagwell tells in this book. Be aware that the book can be quite graphic and rather dark at times, so I would not recommend it to very young readers.

I found it interesting looking up the word “catharsis”, it relates to: purification, cleansing, purging, or liberation. Each of these words are dealt with in this book. In short, the book is a coming of age story where the main character becomes a hero, an evil hero that is, within a virtual MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) created by a rather shady corporation. This company may have lost control over the game’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) system and must hide this fact from the authorities. All of this begins unraveling while the main character’s physical life is also in shambles with school, parents, and friends. His one true escape is in this newly created virtual world called Awaken Online or AO. The book takes place in the near future and is mostly written for the Young Adult (YA) audience. I say this because most of the adults in the book are stereotypical of ones found in Disney movies. Often idiots, seeking the child’s forgiveness, and ignorant to the events occurring. Adult characters are not frequently seen throughout the book. This aspect does not ruin the book, but I’m sure you will notice it by the end. When I was done listening to the book, it made me think of the “Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” movies set in a MMORPG.

As one would expect from a fantasy book setting, there are many of the standard tropes such as zombies, undead, skeletons, plenty of magic, weapons, crafting, drunk and bumbling guards, different types of magic, heroes, demi-gods, etc. These and many more are found within the pages of this story. Not only do you have such fantasy items, but you also have the inclusion of technology such as AI, corporations struggling to maintain their dominance and monetize their success. There were many message and dialogue boxes cluttering the screens for those who have previously played such types of games. I often found that when a new item was discovered, I could visualize the system providing me the details as they were read along with the extra audio beep letting me know it was a system message. I did laugh out loud as the author described the dreaded “Fog of War” often found on adventure game maps, I always was the one to have to clear every bit of it before finishing the game. The book brought back so many vivid game playing experiences for me. I also thought the author’s ability to describe a scene was quite good. I never felt lost for the events or scenery while listening. What worked less for me were the many times our main character had inner dialogue. As critical decisions needed to be made, we as the audience were able to listen in on his inner conversation. This is more a personal preference than an issue with the writing style.

The book’s narration was performed by David Stifel, who I’m happy to say also narrates the second book in the series. It is always good to have consistency in an audiobook series. I liked the narrator’s deep and rich voice which added some to the dark and ominous feel to the story. For a book of its size, there were only a few slight issues, but nothing that would prevent someone from listening and enjoying it fully. I came to like the added audio sound effects used when a new item was discovered or some other system event occurred. Often these minor subtle additions can make a story all that more interesting as long as they are not overused or take away from the story itself. The sound quality was on par with other professionally done audiobooks I have listened too. The only minor thing I will point out is that there were a few slightly noticeable volume inconsistencies; again, these can be expected for a book of its length and they were hardly noticeable.

For parents or younger readers, this book is rather dark at times and does contain some brutal and graphic violence found in many other fantasy books. The book also contains a fair amount of vulgar language usage. This surprised me for a fantasy series, however I believe the author was trying to write more toward the YA crowd then younger readers. The book also has a few references to sexual and/or crude humor. There are topics or subject matter that would not be appropriate for younger readers, and I would suggest this age group find a different book to read. Or, if you are easily offended by anything mentioned above, this book is not for you.

In summary, I overall enjoyed the book as I thought it added a few things not seen in other LitRPG books. The writing was not overly complex or deep, the focus on telling the story from the evil perspective was rather unique, and it fills one’s desire for a solidly written and narrated LitRPG book. The book has received a number of acclaimed reviews, so it seems like it has been well received. If it sounds interesting, I recommend you give it a listen.

Audiobook was purchased for review by ABR. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Jul 26, 2017 |
Catharsis (Awaken Online #1) by Travis Bagwell is an awesome lit RPG novel I had heard so much about so I got the audio and listened and I agree. I saw some reviews that said they read the first 10-20 pages and quit because it was boring. This is where the author is setting up who the characters are on the outside of the game which is super important later. There is a reason the author doesn't jump right into game mode. This is plotted very well and bleeds out little trickles of info just enough for the reader to get hints of what is going on. It keeps you guessing and wanting you to continue to read. The action is fast and furious. You think the main guy is evil, he is not. There is more to this guy then you think. There is a lot of depth to the characters and you really get to know them, even some of the NPCs. I already bought the next book and will read and review it too. Great book! ( )
  MontzaleeW | Jun 22, 2017 |
When MMOs become fantasy novels, stats and all, you get LitRPG. I never knew this sub-genre had it's own name. A quick Google search shows me that it's a fairly new thing, one I'm sure will gain popularity especially with virtual reality technology on the rise. Awaken Online: Catharsis came up several times in my Audible recommendations after finishing Ready Player One so I decided to download it and give it a try. Where RPO is a nostalgic adventure story set in a virtual world, AO is like actually playing a MMO.

Life has not been easy for Jason. From the outside things look pretty good. He's going to an exclusive private school on scholarship and his parents are lawyers so the family is reasonably well off. From the inside, though, things are quite different. His parents are never home, always traveling for work, and Jason's school is for the ultra wealthy so his scholarship means the staff and other students treat him like a charity case. One student in particular has made it his job to make Jason's school life as miserable as possible, even going so far as to set up an situation that ends up with Jason expelled from the school. Frustrated and alone, Jason logs into Awaken Online, a brand new virtual reality game that has just released to the public. The level of immersion and customization is unprecedented and unlike any other game Jason's ever played. Jason quickly finds himself going down a path he never expected, one where he isn't the hero. It may be that he's the villain.

Awaken Online: Cartharsis is the first in the Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell and is the author's first novel. The story is set in two time periods. Each chapter starts with a small section that is during the game's development period a couple years before the release and then jumps forward to present day and Jason's story. I found the game development sections fascinating as it talks about how they're testing out the artificial intelligence system the programmers created to run the game, how it is growing and learning, changing the game on its own, even scaring the creators with some of the things it's done. Jason's story starts off as a typical teen drama of going to school. Jason suffers several bad events so when he gets home he's ready to take out his frustrations on the new MMO game that just released. Upon entering the world Jason is taken through a highly customized introduction that helps define what his character's class will be. Completely unknown to Jason, the game's AI has picked up on his emotional state and uses it to craft Jason's game experience. It ends up being a unique experience indeed! He is lead through several morally ambiguous scenarios which set him on a dark path. It's these situations and Jason's actions that make the story so interesting, giving his character depth and letting us understand how it is to have a sympathetic bad guy. Or is he the bad guy? Nothing is quite as it seems.

This is definitely a book by a gamer for gamers. If you aren't into video games, I'm not sure you'll enjoy or completely understand the story. The author dives into the technical bits of the game, describing Jason's stats, level ups, skills, etc. and does a great job of working them into the story. Even the NPCs are interesting and fun. If real world gaming technology ever catches up to something like what's in this story I may have to become a gamer again.

The audio book is narrated by David Stifel. He does a great job and even uses sound effects to really sell the gaming experience.

This book ended up being a lot of fun. And then, after the big climax, it just ends on a fairly large bomb shell. I will definitely be picking up book 2 when it releases. ( )
  Narilka | Mar 2, 2017 |
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