Series Review: Dungeon Crawler Carl (#1 – #4) by Matt Dinniman


RATING: 9.0/10

SYNOPSIS

It’s the most-watched game show in the galaxy!

Only a few dare venture inside. But once you’re in, you can’t get out. And what’s worse, each level has a time limit. You have but days to find a staircase to the next level down, or it’s game over. In this game, it’s not about your strength or your dexterity. It’s about your views and your followers. It’s about building an audience and killing those goblins with style.

You can’t just survive here. You gotta survive big.

You gotta fight with vigor, with excitement. You gotta make them stand up and cheer. And if you do have that “it” factor, you may just find yourself with a following. That’s the only way to truly survive in this game, with the help of the loot boxes dropped upon you by the generous benefactors watching from across the galaxy.

They call it Dungeon Crawler World. But for Carl, it’s anything but a game.

REVIEW

This review is for below books currently published in series:

#1 – Dungeon Crawler Carl
#2 – Dungeon Crawler Carl: Carl’s Doomsday Scenario
#3 – Dungeon Crawler Carl: The Dungeon Anarchist’s Cookbook
#4 – Dungeon Crawler Carl: The Gate of the Feral Gods
More to be published..

NOTE: Personally, I classify LitRPG into two broad categories, one is a pure game based plot and other is macro plot which has some game elements. I find the former boring and prefer the later for obvious reasons, not wanting to get stuck into pages of stat tables and character trees that have little to no relevance in the plot progress. Obviously this book falls into the later segment. Though this series has it’s share of those elements, it is kept to a level where I can just skim read them. Bonus points as author gives a short descriptor when those elements actually come into play (like an item being used) so we are not lost. Very delicate balance, but done to perfection in this series!

What happens if you find a guy with no pants, a self-obsessed diva of a cat and a sarcastic evil AI with a foot fetish in a post-apocalyptic world? Oh, what a fun ride this was! I binge read all 4 books in 3 days and no wonder this went from a new series to rocketing up to the top of my Top reads in no time!

Have to start this review with the best aspect of the book, the humor filled prose.  Now, I’d say hands down this book has the best prose I’ve read in this genre (and across others too!). It’s simple, intelligent and filled with cracking humor all through. I was constantly chucking either because of the sarcasm or the excellently done cheesy prose all through. The interactions between Carl (the MC) and Donut (the Diva Cat) were so much fun to read. Throw in the evil AI which has unhealthy obsession with Carl’s feet and its own sarcastic take in its interactions and we get a non-stop fun filled pages from start to finish.

The plot starts off similar to other books but author manages to carve out his own niche path within first few pages.  Earth and most its occupants have been flash destroyed by Aliens who have terraformed it into a huge dungeon with 18 levels. Humans have been given choices to enter the dungeon and play (crawl) and earn the rights back to Earth if they complete the levels or try to survive in the harsh post-apocalyptic surface. Those who enter the dungeon are called crawlers and they are forced into a series of quests and tests of survival which is broadcast across space and watched with gazillion of different alien species and civilizations. Apart from just entertainment, the events in the dungeon are also a microcosm or larger inter-galactic politics and rivalries. The author blends the events in the dungeon and the macro politics smoothly and the fallout from this makes up the larger plot. So we have some species wanting to help certain crawlers (by giving benefit boxes and special items) and their opponents plot to kill them, using similar means. A key factor is the popularity of the crawlers. If they have style and panache when surviving the dungeon they can attract more sponsors who will in turn give them more items to enhance their survival. This mix up of a game show apocalypse is something new for me and I enjoyed it a lot!

Each level has its own theme and though they all are interconnected, it feels like brand new books. New world, new people, new powers, it keeps thing fresh. All the levels are new and unique and different from the sword/sorcery setups abundant in other books. The mobs (monsters) all are very unique and super fun to read about. I honestly haven’t read any book even remotely similar to this books setup.

Another aspect, I loved are the characters. The humans, aliens and NPC are portrayed very realistically and have genuine characters and not just role players. They each have their personalities, motivations and “real” lives that we can like and follow. The writing is nuanced that the layers in characters (esp in book 3) are subtle yet deep. The cruelty of this form of entertainment is a constant underlying theme amidst the humor filled writing. It sure is a testament to the author’s skills to be able to incorporate such contrasting emotions smoothly into the prose!  

Goes without saying, high recommended. A literal must read in this genre!

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