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Awaken Online: Precipice (Volume 2) by the…
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Awaken Online: Precipice (Volume 2)

by the dread pirate Travis Bagwell

More o't' same stuff: Catharsis (2)

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My original Awaken Online: Precipice audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

“Awaken Online: Precipice” is the second book in the Awake Online series of books. The series is written by Travis Bagwell and the audiobook edition is narrated by David Stifel. Because this is a continuation in a series of books, I highly recommend you first read or listen to book one and if you enjoyed that, book two is a single credit away. The second book picks up a few days after the first concluded. Here we are once again thrown into the life of Jason, a high school student who plays Awake Online to escape his real-world troubles. Not only does he have issues with his parents, but the boy who has been physically bullying him is now his arch nemesis in the virtual world as well. This book, like the first, is a Literary RPG coming of age story. It is not overly deep or complex, but satisfying non-the less. However, this book comes at the genre from a different perspective. This story follows our hero who is a chaotic evil player ruling a dark city called the Twilight Throne. If you are a series compleationist or enjoy unique and interesting LitRPG books, I think you will enjoy this one quite a bit.

As many others have stared, once I finished this book, I was ready to dive into the third one. However, it does not yet exist (at the time of this review) and I’m uncertain when it will be released. Due to the current two books being highly rated and well received, I would suspect book three is in the works. As with the first book, the view the reader is given is from our evil main character Jason and his band of companions. I was thankful the author provided a brief prologue allowing the reader to catchup or remember what occurred leading up to this book. Book one did a decent job of setting up the world and the number of characters involved. Book two takes the story to a whole new level by introducing us to new characters; some very powerful and controlling. We also are privy to many of the deep and dark secrets of the evil side and their attempt to overthrown the “good” players. Even though the story is told from a dark perspective, the actions and activities of the characters under Jason all make sense. There are very tight bonds between players of both sides and we see the struggles each face to become the victors. The story continues to push the boundaries where you will be rooting for the evil side to win instead of the regular heroes.

The book is bigger, badder, and darker than its predecessor while continuing to build upon great technology. We have newer virtual reality (VR) equipment, smarter artificial intelligence (AI), and even a company willing to pay players who give them permission to live stream their content. Think YouTube or Twitch on steroids. We are also granted a deeper view into this mysterious corporation who are the creators of this Awaken Online world and the AI that powers it. I found the details on how people reacted to Jason’s video stream quite interesting and such demonstrates what our current technology could be capable of in a few years. Maybe not to this level, but close. The battle between light and dark intensifies in this book as Jason continues to build his undead army to fight against the legion of light players. Although the word gets overused in many ways, I will say the battles in this book are on an epic or grand scale. As I stated in my review of book one, imaging Lord of the Rings told from the side of Mordor. Jason’s anti-friend Alex is even angrier because of the earlier outcome at the end of book one, and he is bent on getting revenge. All of this comes out clearly in this book and I believe this is why the book is titled “precipice”; defined as a: sheer drop, cliff face, steep decline.

David Stifel is a well-rounded audiobook narrator with over eighty-five books encompassing over eighteen different categories to his name on Audible. It is no surprise when I say that I was happy to hear he was the voice of book two in this series of books. I like consistency within a series, and David provides the deep and dark feeling this book so much needs. The audio was clear and clean of any artifacts or issues. As with book one, I think I can recall one or two places where I notices a slight volume change, but for a book of this size or length (over 18hrs), a few slight bumps are acceptable. He is able to narrate the many different characters, including female ones, without fail. All around, the narration is professional and high-quality. I like his use of inflection and emotion while reading the story. Not only does he read what is on the page, he does it with a passion.

For parents and younger readers, this book, like the first, contains some vulgar language. It is not overly used, but I find its use within a fantasy world jarring and unrealistic; not really in character. I understand it is people playing a game, but throwing in vulgar language where other words would work just seem like the easy way out. Additionally, the book has some rather dark and graphic scenes of violence which may be intense for some listeners. If any of the above offends you, I recommend you pick up a different series instead.

In summary, if you enjoyed the first book, picking up the second is not a question. Spend a credit, it is worth it. If you have not yet read the first book, I recommend you do that prior to diving into this one. If not, you will be lost coming into the middle of a series. It should be no surprise, if you did not enjoy the first book, do not pick up this one as it is simply a continuation of the story from book one.

Audiobook was purchased for review by ABR. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Aug 14, 2017 |
A few days have passed since Jason last logged into the game. Alfred, the game's AI, had approached him with a request he's not sure he should go along with. He's also been appointed Regent of the Twilight Throne and must take on all of the responsibilities that go with it. Not quite sure if he's ready or not, Jason logs back in to AO. Ruling a city of undead comes with an interesting challenge: How to preserve and grow the population when the city's people cannot procreate and do not respawn when they die? Meanwhile, Alex has not handled losing the battle for Lux very well. His desire to take revenge is so strong that it gains the attention of one of the game's gods, the Lady of Light. Can the Lady set Alex on a path to power and retribution?

Awaken Online: Precipice is the second in the Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell. No middle book syndrome here! Bagwell starts layering the story lines and does a great job of managing them all. Jason's in game story as evil overlord is progressing nicely. He has started to focus on gathering allies and comes up with creative solutions to answer his city's logistical problems. Jason also continues to grow his necromantic power, though the quest for this is rather vague. To that end two of Jason's real world friends join up to help out. It was great to have Frank and Riley added to the story. Each goes on a small arc of their own to grow both in game and out. Riley is still grappling with how to trust again after Alex's betrayal while Frank is determined to become more useful as a player. What fascinates me is how the game impacts all three characters in order to make them better people in the real world.

In contrast, we are also treated to some of Alex's backstory. The game's AI taps into Alex's memories, showing how his mother set him on the path to being a high-functioning sociopath. Instead of helping make Alex a better person, the game seems to enhance these sociopathic tendencies. It's also an interesting comparison how the game has put the generally good person Jason and friends in the villain's role while the real life monster is a representative for the Light, which is traditionally considered the "good" faction in most MMOs.

A new story thread is also introduced with the game's makers Virillian Entertainment. In some real world politics they have decided to hire Game Masters to help police the game. While a good idea in theory, things go sideways rather quickly as the Game Masters all go on a power trip and abuse their in game good skills in the name of helping out. While I could see the temptation it's also a little silly as if this actually happened those employees would have been fired immediately.

Seeing as the story is set in an online game world there is plenty of action to go around. Jason's solutions to encounters are always highly creative in how he uses the game mechanics. I almost wish a game like this existed so I could play it, though I imagine it would be a nightmare to code.

I listened to the audio book which narrated again by David Stifel. He gives the same performance as he does for book one creating a seamless transition between books.

And then we get to the end where we're given one hell of a cliff hanger. Write faster Mr. Bagwell! I need to know how Jason gets out of this latest situation. ( )
  Narilka | May 18, 2017 |
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