The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Review by KM

I walked into yesterday with a huge grin on my face. There was no containing my excitement. “Guild Wars 2: Game of Thorns has a release date,” I said to my coworker with glee, “October 23. It’s right before my birthday. I’m pumped!”

None of my coworkers are geeks, but they all know I am. I’ve never been mocked for it and I wave my geek flag proudly. It’s really no surprise that I leaped on a book like The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss. With a d20 on the cover and a summary that referenced some of my favorite videos and shows, I was elated to get approved for the eARC. I couldn’t wait to bust in and poor SA had to listen to be ramble on about how much I loved the beginning.

 Summary

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.

Musings

I had to take a full day off to review this book. I spent the last day reviewing my own expectations, analyzing what exactly I liked and what exactly I didn’t. I polled others, both geeks and non-geeks, to get a reference for this review. So, here it goes:
My unfortunate decision was assuming that since they mentioned my favorite shows, they were going to cater to the geek market. They did, somewhat.I felt vaguely insulted and primarily let down. It was like Diet Geek, similar to how the Big Bang Theory makes fun of the geekiness.

I think I felt this way because Dahlia Moss was always offended when people assumed she was a geek. She didn’t want to be labeled as such and tried to pretend she wasn’t. And while this felt annoying by itself, the way people determined her geekiness were so friggin’ fake. The two examples that came up multiple times: Star Wars and Pokemon. Pretty much everyone you encounter in life is going to know where the line, “Use the Force, Luke,”  came from. They’re going to be able to identify Pikachu and, yes, most of them can identify Jigglypuff. This is even more so since the 90s generation that spent their childhoods with Pokemon are now adults.

I do think there is a legitimate language barrier between geeks and non-geeks (in this specific case: gamer geeks. There are like 1 million different species of geek, but for the sake of the book, let’s stick to the gamers). I don’t expect everyone to know what I mean when I say, “Yeah, I was peeved when the Queensdale zerg was nerfed in the last patch.”  It’s slang, a dialect specific to the internet. This book did use some terms that it kindly defined for those unfamiliar, like AFK (away from keyboard) and Vent (short for Ventrillo, a voice chat software). But then it’d go back to Star Wars and Pokemon.

I can’t tell you how many times the same examples of Pokemon and Star Wars were used. I can tell you there was *one* reference to Magic the Gathering (despite the d20 on the cover and the chapter notices, which are used in tabletop and MtG, neither of which were featured in this book). I can tell you that I didn’t notice any Doctor Who references. There may have been one superhero one, but if there was, I missed it. There was a DOTA reference around page 50, which was the first remark of Dahlia doing anything that could be considered geeky on her own.

Then came the question: Am I being an elitist geek? How does one define geek? And, no, I don’t think I am. Because I think you’re a geek if *you* consider yourself to be a geek. But if you don’t consider yourself to be a geek and the only two things that could identify you are Star Wars and Pokemon, I’m really thinking you’re just an average 90s kid.
I think I would’ve been satisfied with this book back in 2010 before I watched The Guild or Scott Pilgrim. I think this book could be entirely satisfying for someone unfamiliar with the gaming world, which I don’t believe is a bad choice. For marketing, this book is easily consumed by the masses. But for the niche that it appealed to in that first sentence of the summary? Nah. It took the top layer of our world and ignored anything deeper than that.
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