‘Orconomics’ by J. Zachary Pike

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Genres: Fantasy, Humor, Comedy, Fiscal Fantasy, Political Fantasy, LitRPG, Grimdark(kinda), Sword and Sorcery, LitRPG

Similar books: Kings of the Wyld, Sufficiently Advanced Magic, The City Stained Red

Previous books in the series/by the author reviewed: None

Rating:  Recommended

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • Fun, tropey characters who are dealing with nonetheless serious problems.
    • A cheesy, well-thought-out setting. It’s like a video-game setting taken to it’s logical extreme. Orcs and goblins must have their noncombatant ‘NPC’ papers in order to integrate with society. Heroes must sign up with the ‘Heroes’ Guild’ in order to do heroic things.
    • The pacing was good throughout. I never got bored, but was instead carried along by the fun.
  • Mixed
    • This is the most game-y LitRPG I’ve ever read: the characters have levels, loot is manually divided up, healing potions are all over the place, quests must be acquired… If the concept of reading a book which is basically a game doesn’t appeal to you then this book is a no-go. Related-ly, if the concept of reading a book which is basically a game does appeal to you then chances are you’ll love this one.
  • Cons
    • I loved the first 80% of the book, and I loved the last 20% of the book. The trouble is that the mood of both parts of the book felt wildly different from one another. The first 80% was a cheery, humorous romp, while the last 20% was a depressing tale of evil’s victory over good. I had severe mood whiplash at the end of the book.

Spoiler-tastic Review

First of all, the audiobook of this novel is fantastic and really adds a ton of value to the product. If you wind up wanting to read this, consider the audiobook.

This book is almost an A+. Instead it’s either an A- or an A; in other words, this book is well worth reading if it’s concept strikes your fancy.

Imagine a world where the evil overlord has been defeated and now the races of evil must get jobs like everyone else. But before they can do that, the orcs and goblins of the world must get their NPC papers (the equivalent of a green card). And if they don’t have their papers… well, the Heroes Guild is still around, and the Heroes who work for it still have to kill evil monsters to make money, soo…

Imagine a world where the orcs and goblins and gnolls are systematically disadvantaged by a system which is out to get them. The ‘good’ races want to use the ‘evil’ races as a cheap source of labor at best, or as a free source of loot at worse.

Characterization: This book stars an (almost) traditional adventuring party, featuring an elven archer princess (who is also a drug addict), a dwarven barbarian (who also is a wanted war criminal), a smarmy bard (who is a burglar), an innocent cleric (who thinks he’s the chosen one), two quarreling mages from rival guilds (who totally aren’t in love with one another, promise), and a goblin squire (who has more friendliness than sense). The flaws of these characters (highlighted within parenthesis by me) bring these characters to light and allows them to live and breathe instead of being DnD/WoW wannabes.

As the story develops, the characters are forced to confront their weaknesses and preconceptions and (to some extent) grow as characters. Now I have to admit character development is a bit thin on the ground- I would have liked the characters to have grown even more by the end of the novel.

Plot: I liked the plot(s) of the novel. The A plot is a classic fetch quest, but turned on it’s head. The characters must retrieve the elf stones and return them to the human and elf alliance (or perhaps return them to the orcs, who have a rival claim on the artifacts). It was a boring-but-predictable plot. The B plot, on the other hand, totally inverts the A plot. Basically the heroes are being used as stooges, with the fetch-quest merely being pretext to set up a war by the humans and elves against the orcs.

Unfortunately the B-plot inversion of the A-plot is also my biggest problem with the novel. I don’t feel like the author foreshadowed it sufficiently. When it finally happened and the orcs were massacred, I was left with mood whiplash. The book started as a funny-yet-economically horrifying book, and became a dark-and-economically horrifying book. Both the A-plot and the B-plot were handled well, but the transition between the two was mediocre.

Pacing: Was satisfactory. It never slowed down, with the characters constantly having adventures and proactively doing things.

Style/Prose: The author’s narrative voice had a great, an almost Pratchett-esque dry/wicked humor to it (and no I’m not just throwing that accolade around willy-nilly). This is a world where video-game rules are the order of the day, but the characters are all world-weary and tired after lifetimes of being abused by the system. The setting doesn’t take itself seriously, and because it doesn’t it’s able to tackle big topics with massive effectiveness.

I’ll be reading more in the series in the months to come.

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