My second SPFBO review! As a guest judge this year, and one of six, my task is to read and review five of Booknest's batch of thirty books (no ratings), and forward my pick of the lot as a semifinalist. This week I've read and am reviewing J. Zachary Pike's Orconomics: A Satire. I'm just going to come out and say it, without reservation, shame, or regret - I loved this book.
Orconomics is, for me, one of those rare reads that doesn't come along very often. Genuine, consistent, extremely well written, as well as fun and funny as hell. I loved this book as much as I did Nicholas Eames Kings of the Wyld, one of my very favorites of the last five years. It's every bit as well written and briskly paced, heartfelt, humorous, and authentic, and just as satisfying. I also bring up Kings because that book popped into my head a number of times while reading Orconomics. What Eames did with bands in Kings, and with much the same tone, Pike does for the economic machinations behind the hero's journey. Don't get me wrong, this is no Kings rip-off and is a very different book, but I'm pretty sure if you love one, you'll love the other.
Don't let your lingering fear from those micro and macro-economics courses in school turn you away, either. This is not an economics text. Think more along the lines of the mysterious "Bank" that lurks beneath the surface of Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series - only more overtly involved, with guilds and political shenanigans to boot - as a comedy. There's more than comedy and economics here, though. Much more. Orconomics has all the action, adventure, danger-fraught journeys and harrowing battles the best epic fantasy has to offer as well.
I couldn't help but think while reading, this book answers the question, "What might Middle-earth be like a few decades after the good guys won?" The gleeful nod to The Lord of the Rings is apparent throughout, as is the wink and nod to all things RPG. Other works that came to my mind were William Goldman's The Princess Bride and the Discworldnovels of Terry Pratchett.
Pike scribes with an assured and steady hand. He knows exactly what he wants to do with this story, where it's going to go, how it's going to get there, and he does it. I haven't looked up how many books Pike has written, but to my eyes this is the work of a seasoned, professional author with a great sense for characterization, plot and timing, and the wherewithal with prose to make them work. Pike has created a skillful mix of epic fantasy and modern language with a narrative that flows clear and strong, all through the fluid third person omniscient point of view of several characters, the thoughts and journey of Gorm the Dwarf (and Berserker) being the central focus.
I only have so much time to read in the evenings, but Orconomics kept me up well past my bedtime on more than a few occasions. It takes a lot to do that to me - like edge-of-your-seat as well as laugh-out-loud moments galore. And Orconomics has them. The next book in the saga, Son of a Liche, is out now, and is already near the top of my TBR. This is an exceptional work, and if you haven't read it yet, well, then, read it now.