Shoeless Joe Jackson the Lit/RPG
Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman (2020): 9 out of 10: is a LitRPG novel set in a reality where Earth has been converted into a giant dungeon as part of a sadistic game conducted by alien beings.
The story’s protagonist, Carl, is a typical guy whose world is completely upended by this catastrophic event. With the entire planet transformed into a colossal dungeon by extraterrestrial beings, humanity is thrown into chaos, and survival becomes a challenging game. The trials and tribulations that humans face in this dungeon are broadcast as entertainment to these alien audiences.
Left with no choice, Carl embraces his circumstances and fight back. Alongside him is his trusty sidekick, a sentient and quite sassy house cat named Princess Donut. Together, they venture into the treacherous depths of the dungeon, battling against a horde of terrifying creatures, appearing on talk shows, and navigating deadly traps.
Dungeon Crawler Carl excitedly combines various genres, including science fiction, fantasy, and gaming. It is a thrilling journey of survival, humor, and rebellion, set against the backdrop of an incredibly imaginative world.
The Good: Dungeon Crawler Carl is an excellent read. He is some of my play-by-play of the first couple of chapters.
I like the goblin fights and how the OP is somewhat skilled in a normal way (big guy former Coast Guard), but not overwhelming so and how he is totally unprepared. (He is wearing neither shoes nor pants.) So far a fun, easy read with a wonderful voice.
I can see why this book is so successful and beloved. It has a good pacing and escalation., The cat is a character in its own and still yet a cat. The danger is real. There is a guy with a gun and no hesitancy to kill fellow players in the dungeon. No stairs to level two have appeared on thier map. They have to figure out how to find those in the next 3 days.
Plus, they had a boss battle against a sixteen foot hoarder, which was delightful. I understand the appeal of Dungeon Crawler Carl and enjoy the item descriptions as well as the overall snarkiness and humor.
Well, the cat got injured. (It is healed now but I admit I am invested) There was a boss fight with the alien’s version of a gym rat in a fitness center. I was reminded of the boss fights in Dead Rising with thier over the top themes. The boss was well written with his valley speak and he was a realistic challenge. We seem to have lost sight of the elderly people from the last chapter. I have to confess I am a little lost geographically here.
Quick read last night, but Carl talks to the dungeon master (so to speak) to get the lay of the land. He tells him some cryptic things that are sure to pay dividends later and also that all bosses have weak spots (Hey that is just like the video game I was playing.) And if he finds the weak spot, he should be able to defeat the big boss guarding the set of stairs.
Well, I am in the middle of a boss fight and it is a boss made up of about forty small orcs in an orgy creating a ball that rolls over thier opponents. (More of a wet spot situation than a weak spot situation… I will see myself out). Carl has created some portable fortifications like in Fortnite to defeat them using his generous inventory system that has no encumbrance at all.
We have a Hunger Games style talk show and our cat or princess turns out to be the Queen of talk show quests like a Zsa Zsa Gabor or Pia Zadora. Really impressive character development and writing in the scenes also featuring great imagination. This is a very well-written book for the genre.
It also occurs to me that by having a TV show that highlights the fights in the universe, it allows the author to expand the word without leaving focus on the protagonists. Brilliant. Kind of reminds me a bit of Love and Monsters. (And not just because the Johnny Carson character was a lady disguised as a giant crab.)
The Bad: Not everything is explained perfectly. During the boss fight against the rolling orgy it is left unexplained how they prepared specific portable defences when Dungeon Crawler Carl goes out if its way to tell us that the characters do not know the nature of the boss till they enter the arena.
The Ugly: I like the fact the cat is included and love the fact he snuck into the dungeon master’s room through a crack in the door, very cat like. Unfortunately, the whole spilling the dungeon master’s mother’s ashes and going poop in them is borrowed a little to on the nose from Meet the Parents (2000) which I know realise was from twenty-three years ago so before when many of those reading this book would have been born. But still.
In Conclusion: I am definitely on board the Dungeon Crawler Carl train. Or at least the collection of shopping carts strung together carrying nursing home residences with at least one of them pissing on the wall that stands in for a train in this universe.
There are many deft and humorous touches in this book that make it a delight to read. But there are two standouts. One is the way Matt Dinniman mixes the horror of the genocide of the human race with his light touches and humor. The other is the relationship that grows between Carl and his girlfriend’s house cat named Princess Donut. Very well realized characters that grow during this faced paced adventure.
Dungeon Crawler Carl is a great place to start if you are Lit/RPG curious. Even if you have no interest in the genre as a whole, the humor and fun characters make this a very easy to get into and enjoyable read.