Pike attacks tropes by either exploiting them to absurdity or subverting and destroying them altogether.
Despite giving J. Zachary Pike’s Orconomics a high rating, there was one part of my review that has been stuck in my head. I expressed that until the very end, the story was secondary to the many clever and humorous attacks on capitalism, the housing market crash, immigration, racism, and countless other social fallacies that modern Americans face. While the focus of the story wasn’t always centered on character and plot development, the satire was so damn funny and sharp that it overshadowed the book’s shortcomings. So, did Pike improve some of these story aspects in his sequel, Son of the Liche? Not only did the overarching plot significantly improve, but my love for the characters grew exponentially throughout the story. Son of a Liche manages to one-up its predecessor by weaving an epic fantasy tale with a relentless stream of humor and a surprising amount of heart. Overall, it is one of the most genuinely entertaining books I’ve read.
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In the same vein, desperation is the father of compromise, panic is the sister of slapdash improvisation, and despair is the second cousin of quiet apathy. By that reckoning, dinner was a dismal family reunion.
Once again, Pike sets its sights on taking down modern-day capitalism. Like Orconomics, most of the business leaders in the story demonstrate that the only motivation to do good is for financial gain. But this time the satire casts a much wider net, lampooning targets that include pop culture, marketing tactics (when informing your victims via a flyer that an undead army is about to raze your town, make sure you use a clear call-to-action!), a scrutiny pool that shares many similarities with the Patriot Act, the use of focus groups (one of the biggest laughs of the book), drug rehab, charity events, another homage to “Arrested Development” (there’s always gold in the banana stand), role-playing games (fans of Gelatinous Cubes and NPCs will enjoy some clever wordplay), and a legitimately spit-take-inducing bit that involves a famous television Collie. I’m only barely scratching the surface here. Pike also attacks tropes by either exploiting them to absurdity or subverting and destroying them altogether. He is fully aware of what the reader might expect, so he stays a step ahead and toys with our expectations before turning them sideways. The results are often as insightful as they are hilarious.
The key to managing failure was to make it sound like success. “Our forecasts predicted this particular demographic, especially given their geographic location and particular needs, would be very reluctant to embrace our message. So I’m happy to report that we’ve confirmed our forecasting model to be accurate.” It also helped to make everything sound as complicated and technical as possible.*
(*If only I had read this book and watched old episodes of Frisky Dingo, I might have saved a hundred grand on a marketing degree.)
I could go on to discuss how this sequel benefits from feeling like two full books packed into one volume, or the various reasons why the characters felt more fully developed this time around. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Pike’s standout prose. There is a palpable rhythm to the story, achieving the ideal blend of dialogue and description that moves the narrative along like a steady thrum of a heartbeat. One of the reasons why this stood out to me is Pike’s complete commitment to building clever transitions between scenes. There are dozens upon dozens of scene changes throughout the book, and every single one of them carries a theme over from the end of one scene to the beginning of the next. Sometimes it is through similar dialogue, and other times the next scene answers the question that the previous scene asks. It all adds up to an incredibly smooth narrative that never feels jilted while we bounce between the many character POV’s.
“Well, I know where I’m not wanted.”
“I suspect that makes you an expert on geography,” snapped Poldo.
While this story worked for me on pretty much every level, I can see how some of the humor might not land for everyone. I found Pike’s relentless assault on such a wide range of topics to be refreshing, though I can also see how others might think it unfocused. Regardless of your views on its humor, it is commendable to see a book so dedicated towards establishing its viewpoints in such an entertaining fashion. The fact that the story and characters are also so well-developed helps elevate this series into rare territory. While Orconomics made me a fan of J. Zachary Pike, Son of a Liche has solidified me as someone who will seek out Pike’s entire body of work. Read this series.
Review by Adam Weller
1 positive reader review(s) for Son of a Liche
Jakery from USA
I heartily agree with Mr. Weller’s review. I really enjoyed Orconomics, and doubly so this book.
9.1/10 from 2 reviews