Academic Exercises – K J Parker

A quick search on this site will show that I am a fan of Parker’s work. I keep my eyes out for new material, but was disappointed when I saw that Subterranean Press‘ new publication was actually a collection of previously published material. However, given that I am not a regular reader of short stories, this stuff was unsurprisingly all new to me and I was keen to read it. Broadly speaking, I was not disappointed.

The stories include two longish pieces “Purple and Black” and “Blue and Gold” which are the standouts. The strange thing is that, previously, Parker’s fantasy books were devoid of magic. But here magic makes an appearance. I wonder what that means we will see in future novels?

All of the fiction is of a similar style. There may not be any baddies, but the goodies are flawed and do terrible things. It’s all a matter of perspective.

The writing is chatty, entertaining, and sometimes deliberately misdirects you. If you like the style, you will hate it when the book is done. But for some the style may grate and I am unsure if the stories will in such cases be good enough to hold the reader’s attention. In short, I recognize that matters of taste may interfere.

While I enjoyed the collection, I sometimes felt that Parker’s style did not fit so well with the short story format. The stories worked and were good enough. But there was a feeling that behind the short story was a novel that would really do a better job. This may be bias because I remain largely unmoved by the short story format.

It’s worth highlighting that three of the best pieces are non fiction – about swords, sieges, and armor, respectively. They are excellent examples of well crafted writing that can educate, entertain, and give food for thought, all in the one creation.

If you are a Parker fan and have not read the short stories, grab this. If you have not yet experienced Parker, this is a good way to get a decent taste. But you may also want to browse the Wikipedia entry (here) for links to free short stories, and try them out first.

[Parker seems to have mastered the trick of keeping the real identity behind the name a secret. Is there any other modern author who has taken a similar approach?].