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Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike – SPFBO #4 Finals Review

Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike – SPFBO #4 Finals Review
4.5
Book Name: Orconomics
Author: J. Zachary Pike
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Humor
Release Date: November 22, 2014

*Disclaimer*

Writing and reading is a subjective art. What some folks will absolutely love, others will dislike. It is a bit like Marmite in the UK—normal people dislike it intensely, but some weird folks actually enjoy the taste of warm road surface and fresh roadkill upon their tongue. To each their own, I suppose.

Orconomics is the ninth and final book we are reviewing for our final round, and our First-Place Winner! We had nine books to read and review, chosen by blogs all over the fantasy-sphere, each with their own idiosyncratic taste in fiction. We read them, noting our thoughts, and scoring them. We then took an average of individual judges scores as our final rating.

Summary

Brimming with swords, sorcery, and wit, Orconomics: A Satire introduces Arth, a world much like our own but with more magic and fewer vowels. For the licensed wizards and warriors of Arth, slaying and looting the forces of evil is just a job. The Heroes’ Guild has turned adventuring into a career, selling the rights to monsters’ hoards of treasure as investment opportunities. Corporations spend immense sums sponsoring heroes to undertake quests, betting they’ll reap the profits in plundered funds when the loot is divvied up.

Questing was all business for famous Dwarven berserker Gorm Ingerson, until a botched expedition wiped out his party, disgraced his name, and reduced him to a thieving vagabond. Twenty years later, a chance encounter sees Gorm forcibly recruited by a priest of a mad goddess to undertake a quest that has a reputation for getting heroes killed. But there’s more to Gorm’s new job than an insane prophecy; powerful corporations and governments have shown an unusual interest in the job. Gorm might be able to turn a bad deal into a golden opportunity and win back the fame and fortune he lost so long ago.

Thoughts

This is a very clever book. It might not seem it when you start out. It might seem, I don’t know, a little childish, a little too fond of its own humour, an author enamoured of his own creation, but you’d be wrong to think so. Though if the author is enamoured of it, they are justified.

It would also be fair to say this one split the judges a little—just as the disclaimer says. Three of the five scored it 9.5 to 10, and two scored it a 7. I suppose what this means is, if you love this book you really love it, if you don’t it is an okay read.

Where to start? The world the characters inhabit is one of monsters, orcs, goblins and finance—of which the latter is the most dangerous. The entire economy is based on the profits of adventuring. Whole accounting houses, auction rooms, and royalty depend upon the treasure brought back—it is the major form of income for the entire nation. Already you’re seeing the problem, aren’t you? Who makes the treasure in the first place and what happens when you’ve recovered it all?

Take it a step further, as the author does every time you come to a realisation about the world. What if the monsters stop plundering farmsteads and temples, what if they become the workforce of a new industry? Just like our own world, we exploit the poor nations for their raw materials, food, and labour. We need them to stay poor for us to be rich (to a degree). Well, if the orcs go into business for themselves and start to build their own wealth legally, who do the adventurers slay to get the treasure? When the treasure dries up, drastic measures must be taken.

We follow a hastily and seemingly clumsily put together adventuring party. They must complete a quest, fulfil a prophecy that has led to the death of every party that has ever attempted it. Behind them stands the might of a temple, though one, it must be said, that is not as mighty as it once was. With them is a priest who speaks to their god, and a god which speaks back. They seem doomed to failure.

The main protagonist is a disgraced dwarf who makes a living, if such it can be called, by robbing adventurers. For reasons he doesn’t fully grasps, Gorm Ingerson saves a goblin from an adventurer and at that point his life changes. It becomes a story of redemption, of political machinations, of finance schemes, and a fair amount of battles.

It is satire and its targets are wide-ranging. The current economic systems of our world are sliced apart, the exploitation of workers is skewered, the fat cats in their ivory towers to be toppled, and the crop of RPGs is a rich field to harvest from. There is tongue in cheek mockery, there are subtle plays on tropes, and quasi-real-world life to laugh over.

The characters each have their part to play in this, with the goblin taking centre stage through much of the byplay. Each is well drawn, distinct and carries their own pathos around in a glass jar just waiting for it to be shattered to provide a moment of edification and realisation for us, the reader. One in particular is a real moment of sadness to counter-point the humour.

All of that praise is not to say it is perfect. For one of our judges the humour just didn’t work. For another the story was too light, subsumed by the comedy and the LitRPG elements. It also commits the cardinal sin of fantasy books (in my mind anyway) by having three pages of info-dumping on how magic works (I’ve no idea how it does…I skipped those pages). And, not to give spoilers away, the ending of this book (book one it must be said) does not resolve the arc of any of the villains.

There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and by the end the humour has been honed to a sharp edge, almost M*A*S*H like in its juxtaposition of anger and sadness. It is a bitter-sweet, but funny book.

– – –

Congratulations to J. Zachary Pike for winning our final round of the SPFBO! You can see our scores below and visit Mark Lawrence’s website for the total scores from all participating sites.

  • Aching God by Mike Shel = 6
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward = 3
  • The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss = 8
  • Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike = 9 (our pick for winner!)
  • Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc = 4
  • Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe = 8.5
  • Sowing by Angie Grigaliunas = 4
  • Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer = 6
  • Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon = 6
  • We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson = 9

Again, it is important to note that these are just the judges’ opinions on the samples we read. Others may view the books differently, that’s what makes writing and reading so much fun (and so infuriating).

Our judges are: G R Matthews, Julia Sarene, David Zampa, Jessica Juby, Rachel McCoy, Rakib Khan, and J C Kang. You can read more about each of them here.

Any queries should be directed to G R Matthews (me), via DM (Facebook/Twitter) or via the Fantasy-Faction website.

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