It's incredibly hard for me to decide what the most important thing is about The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss. Do I first need to tell you that it's centered in and around a MMORPG? Do I need to tell you what a guild is, and what guild friendships and interactions are like? Should I mention that this is the pop culture, geeky version of Stephanie Plum (now with one less love triangle!)? Do I need to tell you that I know the author? I really have no idea.
So let's start with the summary, from Amazon:
For fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, or anyone who has ever geeked out about something.
The odds of Dahlia successfully navigating adulthood are 3,720 to 1. But never tell her the odds.
Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. Unemployed broke, and on her last bowl of ramen, she's not living her best life. But that's all about to change.
Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she's offered a job. A job that she's woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).
Turns out unfortunate decisions abound, and she's just the girl to deal with them.
That's actually a pretty good summary! The book has a fairly simple plot- someone is murdered and Dahlia is inexplicably hired to find out who did it- but still has a good deal of detail. It included every possible pop culture reference (perhaps too many? what will he include in the rest of the series? will there be a series??) and a ton of side characters. In fact, I stopped reading for a week or so and completely blurred two of them together in my mind and confused myself. That said, if you forget who a couple of them are, it's not really that big of a deal. Dahlia is far and away the central character, and carries the book just fine even if you forget which one is the lawyer and which is the mother and which is the giant tree.
Which brings me to the MMORPG itself-- I've mentioned this before, but Mike and I met playing an MMORPG and I was worried that either it'd be portrayed "wrong" or poked fun of in a way that also made fun of the players. Believe me, when you tell people that you met your husband playing an "online role playing game" where you all go out and spend hours killing dragons and trolls, you get a bit of laughter. Wirestone handles this perfectly. It's definitely not taken too seriously, while still allowing the Serious Geeks to be, well, serious. It feels like perhaps he's also played a MMORPG or two before, and therefore knows what it's like. I was completely tickled to see EverQuest mentioned in the first chapter as well. (Most people know World of Warcraft by name, but not so much EQ.)
Because the social aspect of the game was where it was at for me, I was particularly interested in the guild interactions. (I'd much rather play a low level character wearing pretty purple armor chatting it up with my friends, than spend all my time questing for good loot and killing the special mobs. I'd do the quests, for the loot, but only if I were in good company. I had no desire to do it for any other reason.) It seemed likely that some of that detail wouldn't jive with what I knew. I was guild leader of a very small guild on our server, and most of us are still friends on Facebook, despite not having played in a decade. Some of us are married to each other! I did find some of the in game interactions to feel pretty close to what I experienced, and the funeral scene had me laughing at the accuracy, but I also found it odd that they didn't know each other better given the size of the guild.
Lastly, I should disclose that I do know the author, at least slightly. If this entire post wasn't geeky enough, it turns out that we went to the same boarding school in high school and that we did know each other then, though not very well. Our circle of friends does overlap fairly closely, and while that isn't the reason I enjoyed the book, it is the reason that I heard about it in the first place.
Overall, a very fun, very light story about a dead guy that I'd definitely recommend to any of my geeky friends. I might hesitate to recommend to to anyone who isn't into some fandom or another (like say my coworker, who saw the first Dr. Who and that was enough, and has no interest in Supernatural, or Buffy, or Harry Potter. I'd definitely not recommend it to her!) I do think if you've dipped a toe into any type of geekery that you'd enjoy this one. If you read and enjoyed Ready Player One, you'd probably like this as well. I look forward to finding out if there will be more Dahlia Moss in the future.
My copy was provided by NetGalley.