Orconomics: A Satire, by J Zachary Pike Rothdas book review RSS
2.0 Stars

A theoretically humorous fantasy novel that falls down due to some regrettable comedy choices and conflicting thematic elements.

The basic idea of the novel is to take what Venture Brothers did to super heroes and apply the same conceit to D&D. So you have a formalized Heroes Guild, with Quest contracts that members sign up for, membership cards you earn points on for killing monsters until you rank up, licensed vendors that only sell items to heroes with enough Heroes Guild ranks, etc. And then there are associated ideas like a Thugs Guilds (used to control/do violence to adventurers), Venture funds that buy options on unclaimed treasure hoards, NPC papers that monster races can get in order to be exempt from hero violence, etc. etc. more etc. The story follows a down-and-out group of heroes within this system as they are roped into a seemingly doomed quest on behalf of an eccentric religious prophet.

And now the complaining begins. The problems start from the first chapter, where the main character (a dwarven berzerker) mugs a low level hero and sells the hero's equipment to buy beer. And the economics of it don't work out at all: the hero had a ton of high quality magical gear, and yet selling it is only enough to fuel a single night of drinking beer. And ok, this seems like a *very* persnickety complaint, but it points to a repeated element in the story that things are extremely cartoony and that there is never any consistent idea of value, world-systems, or meaningful stakes/reality. This is a problem since so much of the book tries to be about money and economics, but due to the lack of specificity/consistency it instead just ends up gesturing at these ideas. And this narrative "floatyness" is even more of a problem later on in the book, where the author tries to make things more gritty and more serious. The cartoonishness of the world makes these later attempts at pathos and tragedy just fall flat on their metaphorical faces. Contrast this with _The Name of the Wind_, which consistently uses money and prices to ground the world and give an idea of how its systems/relations work. When done right, prices are a great and underused technique to convey a fantasy world to a plutocratic reader. Or contrast this with _Soon I Will be Invincible_, which takes super heroes and makes it serious, but can only do so because it is grounded from the very beginning of the novel (well, and also because it's writer has more skill).

And then there's the attempted comedy. The comedy is not all bad, but there are parts of it which should never have made it into the book. The worst offenders: cribbing off the Monty Python and the Holy Grail bit about the killer rabbit. Referencing Leeroy Jenkins. The name of the Orcish holy relics, which when pronounced phonetically are "oh my gerd". These are all terrible. There are many, many other parts which are not terrible, but aren't precisely funny either. On average it's a flabby comedy, and it should have been tightened up/edited. To be fair, there are several bits which I did genuinely enjoy: the dialog with the high level *redacted* which they fight in the tower, and the consistent annoyance of the 2 main schools of magic with the third gray school. I also liked bits of the world building, like how when different fantasy races interbreed they tend towards human, and how elves are immortal but their slowly shifting memories effectively turn them into different people over the decades and centuries.

So! That's the book. Its glowing reviews on Amazon are entirely wrong, and are more reflective of its low quality readership than any high quality writing.