Orconomics (The Dark Profit Saga #1) by J. Zachary Pike Book Review

Write on: Fri, 04 May 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 4755


The original DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS was a game which didn't stand up to much scrutiny. You were a group of adventurers who headed into a pre-created maze of tunnels, castles, and sewers to kill the monsters inside in order to steal their treasure. Sometimes, gamers noticed that they were the invaders and a few even made the joke that it was Hate Crimes: The RPG.

One of the earliest examples of this dissonance was a module called KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS where you went into a cave and the orcs, goblins, as wel as Kobolds had their children as well as spouses there. It presented quite the moral dilemma to many players over whether they were really the good guys or not (and whether to resist the sweet lure of EXP from killing them).

Eventually, more nuanced plots took off and the antagonists became more than just monsters who were evil because they were born that way. However, as video games have taken over the tabletop RPG role, there's still plenty of stories where you have jobs of going in to kill people in order to steal their loot. What if there was a story about how that started to feel apart because the "monsters" tried to assert their independence?

ORCONOMICS is an exceptionally dark take on a Terry Pratchett-esque plot. Basically, the invasion of dungeons and slaughter of monsters has been corporatized. Like happened in real life with the invasion of the New World, rich jackasses have started underwriting people to go out and murder for gold rather than doing it themselves. Unfortunately, for them, the law of diminishing returns is in effect with fewer monsters as well as hoards available. The book parodies the 2008 Housing Crisis, Goldman Sachs, and a number of financial institutions right beside classic fantasy conventions.

Much of the book has a very ridiculous set up with a literalism of many MMORPG (i.e. online computer games) rules. Monsters can buy "NPC" status or be adopted into it, so people don't kill them for the crime of existing. Other people are addicted to healing potions like they're smack and get themselves injured so they can take them. The Guilds are more concerned if you're signed up and they're getting a fragment of the payday than if you're actually doing any heroism.

It's in this environment that our protagonists are chosen by a priest to go on an "epic" quest. Gorm, an honorless dwarf, is driven by the desire to redeem himself with one epic quest. Gleebek, a Goblin he took pity on, is hanging around because he'll be murdered otherwise. Heralden is the Bard and thus useless. There's also a pair of mages who are tearing at each other for reasons which make no sense to anyone outside of the mage community. The party is the kind of oddball misfits which is in many books but the fact the quest is, ultimately, less important than the journey is a genuine surprise.

The ending of the book is surprisingly powerful and I have to say it caught me completely by surprise. The book manages to combine quirky and shocking elements in a way which works wonderfully. It was certainly something that made me want to pick up the next book in the series, Son of a Liche, which has just dropped. People looking for a fun, quirky, but occasionally poignant book will love this work.

Available here

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 November 2019 09:20
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.