This was a tough book to review as I have liked the previous works produced by Jake Bible. As one of the main characters says early on in the book, “It’s complicated…” Mr. Bible’s writing style is often unique and each of his stories brings action, adventure, and excitement. However, that was not the case with his recent releases into the Literary Role Playing Game (LitRPG) genre with “EverRealm”. Even with a weak story, the audiobook edition is expertly narrated by Jeff Hays. It is the first book in what is to become the “Level Dead” series. Bible blends the lines with this book and it appears I’m not the only one confused as to the category the book belongs. It is part virtual game, part zombie apocalypse, along with a blending of Family Guy and South Park. Vulgar language flows freely and at times may even make a trucker or sailor blush; no offence to those two professions. There are few RPG element, too much slap-stick, and more undead than you can shake a stick at. For me, it is too much over the top humor and not enough focus on the core genre mechanics; something most who enjoy the LitRPG genre are looking for. It is difficult for me to recommend this book unless you are looking for more of a humorous zombie (or undead) survival story wrapped in a fantasy veneer.
Because the story revolves mostly around the undead, it has a bit darker than many of the other LitRPG books I have listened too. It is amazing the number of undead who appear to love their technology in this book. Not only do we have zombies, but the book includes trolls, orcs, dragons, and automatons; or robots. In this rather unique world of the undead taking over and people becoming fodder, our party of survivors set out to live in a new virtual world that does not have any undead. But wait, an event occurs releasing a hoard of zombies into this previously pristine fantasy world, and our party is now forced to fight to survive. I enjoyed a few of the humorous parts the author included such as Hollow the undead pet Schnauzer, Bubby the mythical aunt, along with the family of trolls. There is also a fair amount of banter between characters of the party. The author adds a decent amount of interesting and unique magical items found by the characters on their journeys. Who does not like a dragon with a slogan such as “fire fixes everything”, or a ranger character who doesn’t know how to track, forage, or understand the importance of a forest. However, the use of modern vulgar language and how much it gushed from all the characters ruined the fantasy world feel for me. The book included aspects of romance, but even this was minimized to the act of sex and did not really develop into what I would consider a deep loving relationship.
The book is exceptionally narrated by Jeff Hays and even though the material was lacking, the narration was top notch. For those accustom to his work, Jeff narrates the many different characters, including female ones, with ease. He gives the characters life by breathing in to them unique personalities making each easily distinguishable while listening. Jeff’s works always go above and beyond by including special sound effects for a few of the characters. I did not observe any issues with the quality of the audio itself. A professional narration even when the book’s story is a bit weaker than I would have liked it to be.
For parents and younger audiences, be aware this book contains heavy use of crude and vulgar language. It also contains topics involving sex along with multiple uses of sexual innuendos and crass humor. If you are not a fan of Family Guy type humor, I recommend you keep your distance from this book.
In summary, the book’s concept, setup and overall premise had such potential I was looking forward to listening to it. However, the light-hearted or comedic parts seemed to clog the stage where it should have been the story, the game, and the characters getting all the attention. It is not a bad book, but if you go into it thinking you are getting a great LitRPG, you may be disappointed; as I was. If you like zombie books containing a pile of vulgar words and crass humor, this may be the book for you.