Have you ever wished you could go back and reread a book for the first time again?
It was somewhere during middle school or high school that I first read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I loved the entire trilogy of four books from my very first read. At that time I already had a taste for dry British humor (humour?) and the entire series really resonated. I’ve since read the original four books through several times, listened to the original radio play, watched the movie, and played the Infocom game.
However, it wasn’t until a subsequent reading many years later that I finally ‘got’ the satirical elements of the books. Up until then, it had just been a very dry and funny science fiction series. I attribute my lack of appreciation on the first read to my young age and naivete. Possibly also because I’d never been forced to deal with the DMV or the IRS.
A few months ago, I finally picked up an ebook of Orconomics, by J. Zachary Pike. I’d seen recommendations for it several times, and you know how it goes, seven touches until conversion, right? I really wish I’d just pulled the trigger on this one from the word ‘go.’
Reading Orconomics is as close as I think I can get to rereading Hitchhiker’s for the first time again, but with a more mature perspective. Orconomics does for high fantasy and economics, what Hitchhiker’s does for science fiction and government bureaucracy. Which is to say it lovingly skewers both of them mercilessly.
Orconomics is high fantasy. If you’ve read any high fantasy before, then you’ve seen almost all of the elements at play here. What you haven’t seen (or at least, what I haven’t seen) before is the rigorous and hilarious application of modern day economics to the world of high fantasy.
All the usual high fantasy tropes are present (quests, dungeons, loot, raiding parties, heroes) but they’re set against a backdrop of how can I make some money off of this, and how can I make money from making money off of this (ie derivatives). Honestly, it’s fantastic, and a breath of fresh air in fantasy. It’s not as dark as some of the fantasy I’ve read recently, but also not as naïve and earnest as the fantasy I grew up on. It’s a nice sweet spot in the middle.
Orconomics also manages to turn almost every high fantasy element on its head in an entertaining way. No stone is left unturned, and Pike does an amazing job of making sure that literally everything in the book is pulling on the rope in the same direction.
And while the story is satirical, the characters are genuine, which makes the whole thing work. Just imagine what Hitchhiker’s would have been like if we didn’t have Arthur as the main character.
The main character in the Dark Profit Saga is Gorm, a down-on-his-luck dwarf who used to be a renowned adventurer until a bad turn of luck. At the start of Orconomics, he gets voluntold to lead a party on a dubious quest. The party is made up of some tired adventurers like himself, as well as some new faces he doesn’t know. Of course, they end up being the perfect mix to create just the right kind of chaos and reignite the fire in Gorm’s belly.
I tore through books one and two in a matter of days. I was literally reading both books in every spare moment I had. Luckily I was traveling at the time, so I had plenty of spare moments in airplanes and airports. I auto-clicked on the sequel as soon as I was done with book one, and I’m eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the series.
While I’m here, let me also vent a little because IF I had pulled the trigger on this earlier, I would have made my way through the books SOONER (I auto-clicked to get the second book, Son of a Liche) and then MAYBE I would have been in time to catch Pike’s Kickstarter for the finale of the series, Dragonfired, which included amazing hardcover editions of all three! (crying emoji)
— Oh, wait. I just went back to Pike’s website and saw that through Pledgebox I can still order a set of the signed hardcovers. (happy laughing emoji)
Look what I just ordered!
Seriously, if you like humorous high fantasy (Pratchett, Aspirin, et al) you gotta read these books!