The Dungeon Slayer Series
Audible read by Austin Rising
The Dungeon Predator (2022) by Konrad Ryan: 2 out of 10: In The Dungeon Predator, Tad, a protagonist marked by his void nature and lack of skills following rebirth, faces an arduous journey to save his friends from the clutches of the nefarious creator known as the Defector. The Defector’s relentless pursuit of Tad stems from the fact he is the bad guy.
The plot intensifies when two corrupt creators, driven by malevolence, enter the scene. One of them successfully corrupts Liz, a close companion of Tad, immediately after she gives birth to twins. Torn between the duty to rescue his brother, liberate Liz from corruption, and reunite her with her newborns, Tad spends an awful lot of time looking at menu screens.
The world remains in dire straits, with the sky still shrouded in darkness, and the Defector’s sinister plots inching closer to fruition. As the warlord class trial looms ahead, Tad must confront the severity of the challenges that lie in wait. The narrative unfolds as a gripping exploration of Tad’s ability to find loopholes in the level up program.
The Good: Well, I use the term well written a few times in my notes. And the Dungeon Predator can be well written. The prologue is fairly well done and catches the reader up on the previous four entries. Some of the side characters are cliched but interesting.
There are occasional glimpses of action and character growth. Hell, in one scene, two characters interact in a way that may be mistaken for a romantic love scene if you squint.
The Bad: The best character in the book is named Fat Jack. Now in a normal book, I would be all over criticizing Fat Jack with the author over doing the fat descriptions to the point of ridiculousness. Kind of like how Greig Beck went overboard for his hatred of Greenpeace in Fathomless. The voice actor Austin Rising doesn’t help things either, making every utterance sound like Jack’s next words will be suffering succotash like Sylvester the cat somehow mixed with Foghorn Leghorn.
To make matters worse, Fat Jack is a Deus ex machina. He does that Han Solo last minute save not once but twice within a few chapters of each other. His 600lb life special move is to eat his opponents like a Scottish Kirby, which he does at the most opportune times. He dies and comes back so often he should have been called fat Jesus.
The problem is that Jack is the most well-rounded character in the Dungeon Predator. In comparison, we have our protagonist Tad. Tad is such a whiney dullard. I understand the idea behind an everyman protagonist but with so many chapters being just him and his stat screens; it is a deadening grey.
I cannot describe how painful it is to read (or listen) to entire chapters of Tad going over his stat screens finding loopholes in a rule set that has not been established. Reading weapon and item descriptions of objects that will never enter the plot.
Okay, that is not completely fair. I can describe it. In my notes, I compared it to the Bataan Death March.
Then there is the dialogue… Well, at one point the author tells on himself claiming the Creator sounded like a cartoon villain think Skeletor. Konrad Ryan should be so lucky. The dialogue rarely rises to the level of He-man. How bad is it? Do you remember the first ten minutes of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the conversation between Dracula and Richter? “What is a man?! A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk; have at you!” This would have been an improvement.
Reading The Dungeon Predator was like sitting through a contracts class. Seriously. Again, well written but good lord, even if you are invested in the characters and universe, this is boring. I feel bad for all the self-published books I criticize for a lack of world building. No, that is not right. This is not even world building. This is watching a character do a house closing and instead of it being a paragraph, it is an overlong chapter.
The Ugly: The term aptronym is sometimes used in to describe a name that fits a character’s aspect. For example, “Mr. Talkative” and “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” in The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
Author Konrad Ryan doesn’t quite do that. Instead, many of the characters have stock names, such as Adam and Eve and Gabriel. There has to be a term for such a cliche. I could not find it, alas.
Nothing seems real in the book. Tad breaks the game so he has no limits. But the earth has been moved to the middle of the sun. And his girlfriend Liz is now a powerful dragon. His baby was killed by Mike Pence. And yet here we are watching Tad trying to manipulate a multiplier on a menu screen. And after a chapter of moving things from column A to column B, the result of the battle is a wizard did it. (Or presumed dead Fat Jack appearing in the sky)
In Conclusion: The Dungeon Predator is the most painful reading experience I have had this year and is the worst book I have read since Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff by Sean Penn. I wanted to give it some benefit of the doubt. I was coming in to a series on the fifth book. And while I have enjoyed some LitRPG’s I have not read many of them. Perhaps I was not used to this subgenre.
But no. Hints of talented writing aside, this is pretty dire. The author tortures us with endless rules, arguments and secret loopholes that are mind-numbing. After finishing the book, I still have only the slightest concept of how any of this works. This is not a rule set based on something one might have knowledge of as far as I can tell.
The Dungeon Predator is a well-written book and when the characterization sneaks through. It can be interesting and compelling, but the endless rules, arguments and secret loopholes are mind-numbing. I have listened to almost the entire book, but I still have only the slightest concept of how any of this works. This is not a rule set based on something one might have knowledge of as far as I can tell. It is not like all the characters are using a Dungeons & Dragons rule set or something. As a result, the tension is broken with endless talk about made up rules.
It is the equivalent of reading someone working on an Excel worksheet where you only have the vaguest idea of the purpose of the numbers and no knowledge of the equations involved. What few things slip in are often horrible cliches piled upon horrible cliches.
The Dungeon Predator is really unpleasant. The experience is equally agonizing for the reader and the dumb as a bunch of rocks protagonist.
Random Notes from reading
The Dungeon Predator is the fifth book in a LitRPG series, so I am well aware I am going in blind. The Prologue does a good job introducing us to the characters and where they are now. Without a droning explanation, it gives us enough information to get a bit of the lay of the land. I am not ready to call Konrad Ryan a master, but it is a competent job and a competent job in a task that is not all that easy.
On the negative side, apparently our protagonist is an angsty Lion person (Like Beast from Beauty and the Beast) and his magic dream pixie girl who recently bore him twins and died in the last book has been reborn as a powerful and possible antagonist complete with hair color change from sister golden hair to Queen Grimhilde black. (And she also can turn into a dragon.)
Still just a prologue, so we shall see where the book takes us. But still a Lion guy????
Chapter One…. Oh, dear… This is a fight scene between lion guy and a God called a creator, which this being a LitRPG is invariably a 300 lb neck beard covered in Doritos dust. Anyway, the fight itself is okay. Lion guy apparently has a wolf guy inside of him or as part of his armour, so plenty of opportunity for the author to have a voice in the Lion Guy’s ear.
While the fight is okay. The dialogue… Well, at one point the author tells on himself claiming the Creator sounded like a cartoon villain think Skeletor. Konrad Ryan should be so lucky. The dialogue rarely rises to the level of He-man. How bad is it? Do you remember the first ten minutes of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the conversation between Dracula and Richter? “What is a man?! A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk; have at you!” This would have been an improvement.
Chapter 2… Oh dear, and the entire chapter to open two loot boxes. Yes, there is some other stuff, and it is well written. Just the nonsense the author is writing about overwhelms any skill. If this was my first LitRPG, it would have been my last. Still, I will continue. I hope this gets better.
Chapter 3: Decent boss arena fight that takes thirty minutes of reading time. Interesting bit at the end whether he can trust his former enemy, the wolf to which he is bonded to makes him stronger. It will be interesting to see when the author weaves back in the baby momma and babies as well. Well written and while not my cup of tea, I am not cowering in fear of listening to another chapter as I was after the first two.
Chapter 4: What the hell is this? Again, the writing is competent with decent analogies. But the poor writer is spending his time with nonsense upon nonsense and since every surface is jet black or darker than a soul etc, he is describing nothing. this is a preamble to a boss fight where our lion guy hears his wolf guy losing to the other lion guy he tried to capture and now the panther lady whom he also has captured is tricking him in strengthening her to save the wolf guy. This book is back to painful. Not much characterization outside of the fact our main lion guy is a bit of an idiot. I know LitRPGs are supposed to resemble a video game or RPG but I cannot imagine playing either with this scenario. Even with my LG OLED, I could not see anything, as everything is painted black. It is like some Rolling Stones’ RPG spin off.
Boss battle between Panther lady and Lion guy. Our guy is up against the ropes and all is hopeless. Will he lose and we get to spend the rest of the book with the nice evil panther lady? I don’t have high hopes. The wolf wins despite reports to the opposite and comes and saves Lion boy. This goes no forever and feels like dental surgery…partially because a large part of the fight is actual dental surgery.
Now we have a trial of pain. You know we are close to Hellraiser territory here and I mean that as a compliment and a wish. Alas, this is not Hellraiser, but a computer program as the book kindly reminds me, so nothing is real as far as I can tell. To make matters worse, everything is anticlimactic. Our lion hero is depressed because even though he went through the pain trial without too much issue, someone else did it even better. Not the best look for a protagonist unless we see some growth soon. (This being the fifth book in the series, I am not holding out hope.)
Another note in reality this story is moving like molasses. I don’t mind a book taking its time, but we have covered maybe a twenty-minute gaming session in a third of the book. Another note is I don’t hear the word void anytime soon. I will die a cheerful man.
Okay, it has gotten a little better. Lion King meets his Shadow whom he thought he defeated in a previous book. He realises that there is no way to rank up to the creator except merging with his shadow and abandoning/killing off Wolfie. He refuses to do so despite convincing arguments from his shadow self. This is a more boss argument than a boss fight, though the upcoming chapter eight appears to be a boss fight between the two and runs 46 minutes… yikes.
Either way, the writing is still solid. The major difference is we have actual character interaction rather than endless descriptions of the color black and weapons.
Well, I thought it was going to be a boss fight instead we get 45 minutes of seeing how we can do the merger. It was like sitting through a contracts class. Seriously. Again, well written but good lord, even if you are invested in the characters and universe, this is boring. I feel bad for all the self-published books I criticize for a lack of world building. No, that is not right. This is not even world building. This is watching a character do a house closing and instead of it being a paragraph, it is an overlong chapter.
Chapter nine and ten we have completed the merger successfully that no other creature has ever done. Now we are battling a room of nothingness. It is better done than you might expect, but the solution was what you think it would be and now we have successfully beaten nothingness and we are checking the bylaws again for the next crisis. Checking the bylaws is the feeling I am getting here. Meaningless fights at least have fighting much like meaningless sex, at least has sex. This is meaningless rules checking and manipulation, like a model UN weekend without the peach wine coolers and sex in the stairwells.
I won’t lie to you. Chapter eleven had me at the first half. I thought it was going to be twenty minutes of Tad tries to open door but forgot keys. But the second half comes alive as thoughts of a gentleman’s two star review danced in my head. (Still not outside the realm of possibility by any means) and during the boss fight, he realises he is fighting the mother of his children. He cannot figure out how she became so powerful in such a short time, apparently forgetting he lost track of the days, months and years in the nothingness. Tad is nothing but consistently dim. I may be bored to tears by the endless details, but apparently I was paying better attention than our protagonist experiencing them.
He and the girlfriend fight they make up there is some offscreen alluded to sex (There were like one again) Our sometimes dim protagonist finally realises he spent nine months in the nothingness. (He is told this) He is suspicious that his girlfriend is now a power hungry void (Understandable)
Could have used more sex, but I almost always say that and the intimacy comes through. Well written and for a change about something. Nine months or not, the explanation of how a newly formed void at the beginning of this book is now a boss makes little sense. I am holding judgement since this may be on purpose. And like I said, our protagonist is dim.
So we have a couple of chapters with Fat Jack. Now in a normal book, I would be all over criticizing Fat Jack with the author over doing the fat descriptions to the point of ridiculousness. Kind of like how Greig Beck went overboard for his hatred of Greenpeace in Fathomless. The voice actor doesn’t help things either, making every utterance sound like the next words will be suffering succotash.
But you know what Fat Jack like Liz before him is a breath of fresh air. A breath the book desperately needs. The biggest problem The Dungeon Predator’s biggest problem is that the protagonist is such a dullard. I understand the idea behind an everyman protagonist but with so many chapters being just him and his stat screens; it is a deadening grey.
Fat Jack maybe a poorly realised cartoon. But good lord, the book needed him badly. Plus, he eats his enemies, which is like Fat Bastard mixed with Kirby so extra points for that.
We have met two new characters. Well, new to this novel. They appear to have been in previous installments. Our hero has lost all his leveling but has a magic arm filed with eyes like some sort of Soulcalibur attachment that in reality works just as well. Good fight though I confess it was a bit of a macguffin victory, but at least it moved the story forward. Perhaps the rest of the book will have battles, character development and new people to meet. The first half was a Batann Death March, but I am glad I powered through. Well, glad is a strong term, but at least it is not as painful.
Our no longer lion and his brother see his mom and the twins, who are hiding out in another dimension, apparently the Thomas Kinkade dimension. Snark aside, though still a dumbass, our hero shows some character growth and maturity in this chapter. I know, character growth in this book, pass the smelling salts.
Pour one out for fat Jack he and the entire Nebraska shelter (Which contained a million people… really there was no indication in previous writing as far as I can tell and where the hell did rural Nebraska get a million people?) Anyhow we have a decent battle with The Defector, a broken creator who is not nearly as powerful as he was in thier first battle and keeps talking about Mother in a way that makes me think of former Vice president Mike Pence. All this Eve and Gabriel and mother talk really makes me want to hit something or someone (The author perhaps) upside the head. The chapter ends with the apparent revelation that the earth (Covered in a back force field) has been moved from its previous orbit to the center of the sun, which created a hell of a lot more questions than it answers.
Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water. Another chapter of Tad or whatever the fuck his name is playing with his fucking menus… Somehow, it is even more painful than before. After this seemingly endless if we do this than that would happen nonsense, the defector steals Tad’s baby to sacrifice to Eve and Tad and Wolfie go to the golden tower but the door is locked and the key forcing them to relive every memory and every possible future and Wolfie has angst and tad has angst and in reality very little happens over three chapters.
Well, it looks like Tad is finally defeated. Seems like his girlfriend is working for the other side still and he is holding back because he knows the real Liz is in thier somewhere. Fenrir (Wolfie) is having none of this so Tad loses control of his vessel and then something happens (too much dark energy, honestly, my eyes are past glazing over the details) and he is trapped forever somewhere. Of course, we still have at least half a dozen chapters to go, so unless we are about o have a very long funeral or this is now the tales of Fenrir I have a feeling he has an out. Looks like someone is going to be checking his menu.
I can’t do this. The Dungeon Predator is a well-written book and when the characterization sneaks through it can be interesting and compelling but the endless rules, arguments and secret loopholes are mind-numbing. I have listened to almost the entire book, but I still have only the slightest concept of how any of this works. This is not a rule set based on something one might have knowledge of as far as I can tell. It is not like all the characters are using a D and D rule set or something. As a result, the tension is broken with endless talk about made up rules.
Of course Fat Jack saves the day again and just from a writer’s point of view, I will overlook one of those Han Solo moments in a book, but I will not overlook a second one only a few chapters later.
Well, Tad, the moron, is feeling guilty because he didn’t remember he gives off death and only a coincidence saved him from killing his newborn son (But of course). He also finds a way to spam the level up program so he is as powerful as a god. Yawn. He takes forever to realise that the defector could be used as a source of dark energy. (Really?) And at this point I would much rather be reading about Fat Jack.
Look. The fact he is spamming the level up program than progressing through skill, cunning or intelligence. (None of which he seems to possess in any great quantity) makes me seriously wonder why we are following this walking moron to begin with. Personality of white paste, whiney and can only win by cheating. I am so rooting for the bad guys. No, that is not technically true. I am really rooting for the book to be over.
Hey, they killed the baby. I don’t have full confidence that this will not be undone through some sort of bullshit, but still. Thad now realises he is a loser, a moron, and this is all his fault. Good. He states he cannot stand the suffering anymore. Listing to this audiobook I agree. One hour to go. I expect a deus ex machina any minute now.
We are almost done. Yay. I could have powered through the end on this last walk with only twenty-eight minutes left by doing another lap, but there is only so much of this book I can take. Tad is a demon husk and is not talking at the moment, so that unsurprisingly improved the discourse ten fold. The baby is still dead. Liz has been absorbed by Eve. We are introduced to the voice of Adam, which is yet another eye roll in a book filled with them. The defector, otherwise known as Gabrial, is also dead despite getting a power boost by eve. Husk Tad basically ate him. Gabrial kept calling Eve mother and in the last two chapters before his demise he seemed to do it a hundred times and every time he does it I picture him as Mike Pence. Well, we are almost done. I am very behind in my book reviews, so I will have to throw this on the ever-increasing pile.
It’s over and it’s a cliffhanger of sorts. Though where do they go from here with everyone interesting dead is a serious question? We get a chat between Adam and Eve and honestly; I am between not following it and really not caring. This book drained me a long time ago. I made it through. On to Ready Player One.