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Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike

Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike
5
Book Name: Orconomics: A Satire
Author: J. Zachary Pike
Publisher(s): Gnomish Press LLC
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Humor
Release Date: November 22, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons meets The Big Short.

As I have confessed in previous reviews, I am shallow in my book buying habits. All it takes for me to snap up an ebook is a shiny cover and discount price (and all it takes for me not to give up on a book is having spent more than $5 on it). While it didn’t have the most eye-catching cover, J. Zachary Pike’s Orconomics: A Satire, first book in The Dark Profit Saga, had one heck of a title and was on sale for under a buck. I one-click bought it.

And at the time, I had no idea what it was about.

I went in with no expectations, and as a recovering Dungeons & Dragons addict and former investment bank analyst, was pleasantly surprised by the intelligence underlying the story, disguised by impeccable comedic delivery. When I’d finished laughing and the dust had cleared, I came up with this easy way to characterize Orconomics:

1. An unabashed celebration of D&D character classes, races, magic, and terminology.
2. Subversion of common fantasy tropes.
3. A metaphorical lesson in Mortgage Backed Securities and other derivatives.
4. Hilariously witty prose.
5. One hell of a wonderfully crafted, insidious plot worthy of the Koch Brothers’ undermining of democracy.

Taking place on Arth (like Earth, without an E) Orconomics follows a band of misfits, led by Gorm Ingerson, a disgraced dwarven berserker with a soft heart. Joining him is a memorable cast: an adorable goblin squire, an inexperienced temple scribe, a pair of squabbling mages, a taciturn warrior, a garrulous bard, and a substance-abusing elf ranger.

Bribed, blackmailed, or otherwise shanghaied into the service of the Temple of the All Mother, they set out on a quest to find the Elven Marbles—which happen to be Orc-made. Along the way, they confront an equally colorful rogues’ gallery of friends and enemies, including a conniving gnome and his ogre enforcer, a two-faced paladin, a love struck troll, a purse kobold, and orcs using aggressive sales tactics.

Expect unlikely friendships and unlikelier romances and bromances as tropes get turned on their head, in a narrative that intentionally reads like a D&D session where the players talk in terms of game mechanics instead of playing a role. Snappy dialog, textured character interactions, and a unique take on RPG worldbuilding make for a fast paced, enjoyable ride through a beautifully crafted plot. Throw in an E, and behind that joy ride is a brilliant lampooning of modern Earth society. Themes include corporate interests subverting public policy, war profiteering, bureaucratic red tape, immigration, outsourcing and labor exploitation, and substance abuse.

As the title implies, economics plays a large part in the plot and backstory. Financing comes from such entities as Adventure Capital so that Heroes can defeat F.O.E.s (Forces of Evil, arbitrarily chosen, though these races can apply for Non-Combatant Papers, or NPCs) and recover their hoards. It’s a lesson in money velocity; and the way arbiters (the fantasy equivalent of rating agencies) evaluate plunder funds (mortgage-backed securities and other derivatives), I sat on the edge of my seat, waiting for the house of cards to tumble into a fantasy version of the Great Recession. (Recommended article: The End of Wall Street.)

For me, Orconomics was my first foray into LitRPG, which gave me the bravery to check out Andrew Rowe’s Sufficiently Advanced Magic.

With its witty prose, subversion of tropes, lovable characters, and ridiculously compelling plot line, I will rate it a 9.57 out of 10, or the equivalent of Moody’s bestowing a AAA rating on a subprime mortgage-backed security.

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2 Comments

  1. SwiffJustice says:

    Didn’t realize this puppy was LitRPG. I believe it’s in the SP4FFYBO, no?

    So many great entries this year…quality seems to improve each year

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