Dungeons of Strata by G.D. Penman

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I picked this up because it was on sale during a mega event for the holidays. It’s been a while since I’ve read some LitRPG so why not delve back and read a few?

This started out pretty typical of the LitRPG genre. The MC is a guy who’s down on his luck, pretty broke, and not particularly happy with his life in general. Since he’s a loner who doesn’t like many people he ends up playing a lot of video games to pass the time. He has a clan he’s been with for a long time and they are looking for a new game after 100% completion of the last MMORPG they’ve been playing for the past few years. His richer friend buys him a new VR gaming rig and a brand new game that’s all the rage.

One of the first things Martin had to do when entering the game was pick a race to create his character. I enjoyed the non conventional races that he had to choose from (bird people, snake people, wolf people, rat people), and that he chose a rat character as his avatar. Orcs, elves, and all that are fun but it’s nice to get something a little different… especially if I’m going to be reading several LitRPGs in a row. The problem with being a rat-man is that the rest of the races hate you – they think you’re cowardly, you’re tiny, and it’s really unpleasant to have the whole world dump on you constantly. But, they have great night vision, can fit into small spaces where other races can’t, and being a smaller character means you’re a smaller target to hit which is advantageous in close quarters combat.

The plot is fairly loose in this, where most of the book dealt with building the world and laying down the foundation rules of the game… and not much else, honestly. There were hints here and there of something bigger going on in the background, but it took almost until the end of the book for the big reveal and that may or may not work depending on your taste. I kept waiting for things to “happen” because it felt like to me I was reading/watching a guy play a high tech VR game and listening to him navigate his way through it… and that’s it, lol. That probably has a fair amount of appeal given how many twitch streamers there are, but I generally want something more, and it took a while to get there. The goal of the game is to keep going deeper and deeper underground for different dungeon areas to raid, but in order to do so there are gates that need to be unlocked with keys that are scattered throughout the world. Martin and Lindsey are both determined to get to the deepest dungeon and conquer the boss first.

The characters were okay, but they did get on my nerves a little bit. Martin and his partner Lindsey work well together since they are natural opposites. He’s a cautious planner whereas she’s bold to the point where it’s somewhat suicidal since she charges in without always thinking. I wasn’t always a fan of the Martin since he tends to look down on everyone around him. He’s “the most productive” person at work, and everyone else he works with are morons etc. In most situations if there are other people around him, he thinks about how much better he is than they are, and that can be really grating. He also mentioned that people hate his smug smirk and he finds that amusing, again, not all that endearing.

There are a lot of stats for this book, and although I have an appreciation for how much thought and time must have gone into getting all of that right and consistent, it bogged things down for me. I tend to prefer lighter stats rather than heavy stats… but this will vary based on taste. There wasn’t anything wrong with the writing itself – which was for the most part very straight forward and not flowery at all.

The narration was pretty good, I’ve never listened to anything by Adam Sims before, but I felt like the voices were different but also light so it didn’t feel like an overexaggerating for each of the different characters. It’s tough to pull of distinctive but not grating, especially if you’re trying to voice a rat character that has a squeaky voice by description.

Overall I do think this has appeal to those who like watching Twitch streams, really love complicated magic systems and leveling up, and down on their luck characters. It’s a fun romp that you can read through in a day or so, and the audio is worth while.


  • Plot: 9/15
  • Characters: 10/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 10/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 5/10

Final Score: 59/100 or 3/5 on Goodreads