All the trouble starts when a has-been adventure wakes up in a ditch and saves a helpless goblin from the clutches of an unlikable hero. Subverting tropes is a staple of this story and the author does it well over and over again. Once this core duo teams up, with the curmudgeonly dwarf griping the whole way, the story plays off the classic trope of assembling a team of heroes for a hopeless quest. To track down the Elven Marbles. Yes, they’ve lost their marbles. This and many more puns can all be yours, fans of dungeons and dragons and similar tabletop role-playing games will notice an added level of winks and nods aimed squarely in their direction.
The plot is well done, with a few threads woven together that dovetail nicely. The book is well paced and you get a good sense of progress that impels you through the story.
The characters are entertaining and diverse. Each of them has their own foibles, not to mention a unique adventuring skill set which they bring to the party. They are all colorful and all contribute to the narrative in their own entertaining way. It’s tough to get too deep with characters in a novel like this, full of jokes and whimsy, but Pike does a good job of feeding us a few emotional tidbits to keep us invested in his characters’ fates.
The setting is a lot like you imagine for most medieval fantasy, except that the adventuring world has been co-opted by the forces of capitalism. Every party of heroes are in it for economic incentives, underwritten by venture capitalists with ulterior motives. Without taking itself too seriously, the novel lightly critiques the world of high finance and the forces of economic exploitation.
Fans of Terry Pratchett and Nicholas Eames are likely to enjoy this novel. It has a lot of similarities to their work. All-in-all, Orconomics is a highly entertaining, easy read that I’d heartily recommend for anyone looking for a lighthearted escape from the grind. It’s easy to see why this book won the SPFBO top slot.