New Books (July-August)

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Featuring: Julia Bartz, Christopher Bollen, Ness Brown, John Brownlow, Ed Brubaker, Wesley Chu, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Frank Dikötter, Sean Doolittle, Erin M. Evans, Isaac Fellman, Denny Flowers, John French, Andrea Hairston, Thilde Kold Holdt, Jacqueline Holland, Vaseem Khan, Taylor Koekkoek, Fonda Lee, Scotto Moore, Annalee Newitz, Malka Older, K.J. Parker, Sean Phillips, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Richard Norton Smith, A. J. Tata, P. J. Tracy, Nghi Vo

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Quick Review: THE LONG GAME by K. J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-LongGameUSNo matter what we might believe, we are all pawns in a far larger, longer game than we can imagine

The unnamed narrator of The Long Game is an Adept, a member of an Ecclesiastical order charged, among other things, with opposing a race of immaterial demons, creatures capable of possessing and controlling human minds. Complicating the narrator’s life is the fact that, over time, he has developed a cordial “relationship” with one of the demons. Complicating matters further is the unexpected arrival of Amalasomtha, a young woman with impossible abilities who claims to have come from the remote — perhaps mythical — country of Idalia. She also claims that, for reasons she does not entirely understand, she has been tasked with capturing one such demon and returning with it to Idalia. The truth, it turns out, is considerably more complex.

Amalasomtha’s arrival sets in motion a chain of events encompassing murder, magic, deception, and an array of unintended consequences. By the story’s end, this consistently witty account of demonic possession, hidden agendas and Ecclesiastical politics has taken us to some unexpected places and given us a glimpse of a larger story still, the “long game” that lies at the heart of all human history.

This new novella from K. J. Parker seems to be set around the same demon mythology that the author introduced in Prosper’s Demon, and has appeared in a few other recent novellas. It’s a novella that displays all of Parker’s fantastic gifts for storytelling: a playful humour, intelligence, and a well-paced and -balanced narrative. As expected, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

New Books (October-November)

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Featuring: Tom Beckerlegge, William Brewer, Michael Connelly, Katie Cotugno, Eli Cranor, Scott Drakeford, Ren Hutchings, James Kestrel, Andrew Lipstein, Ellery Lloyd, H. M. Long, Cassidy Lucas, William Martin, T. R. Napper, Dan Ozzi, K. J. Parker, Kal Penn, Andrew Rice, Will Smith, Richard Swan, Gav Thorpe, Vanessa Veselka, Donald E. Westlake

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New Books (September-October)

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Featuring: Tariq Ashkanani, David Baldacci, James Breakwell, Aaron Philip Clark, Hillary Clinton, C.S.E. Cooney, Mark de Jager, Dave Grohl, Noah Hawley, Gish Jen, John le Carré, Grace D. Li, Emily St. John Mandel, Nick Offerman, K.J. Parker, Louise Penny, Jenny Pentland, Scottie Pippen, Katherine Ryan, Gaie Sebold, Chris Wraight

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New Books (June-July)

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Featuring: Charles Arthur, Anna Bailey, Mike Brooks, S. A. Cosby, Kate Elliott, Mirin Fader, Dan Fante, Alex Finlay, John Fletcher, Jeffrey Frank, Mike Gayle, J.T. Greenhouse, Ha Jin, Chris Hadfield, Cameron Johnston, Ward Larsen, Ben Mezrich, Alex Michaelides, Claire North, J.P. Oakes, K.J. Parker, Vince Passaro, Anna Pitoniak, Nita Prose, Catherine Steadman, Matt Sullivan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Lavie Tidhar

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New Books (November)

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Featuring: Robert Bickers, C. L. Clark, P. Djèlí Clark, Michael Connelly, Ben Counter, Aliette de Bodard, Sebastian Fitzek, Harald Gilbers, David Guymer, Guy Haley, Michael Holley, Joe Ide, Femi Kayode, Gary Kloster, Robert Littell, Arkady Martine, Barack Obama, Aimee Ogden, A. E. Osworth, K. J. Parker, Keith Rosson, Andrew Kelly Stewart, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Danie Ware

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Quick Review: THE BIG SCORE by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-BigScoreSaloninus returns, for possibly his most lucrative job yet…?

Welcome to the world of Saloninus, the most unlikely Renaissance Man you will ever encounter. A man of many and diverse talents, he is the hero and narrator of K.J. Parker’s witty, hugely entertaining novella, The Big Score.

Saloninus is a man with two distinct professions. In idle moments, he dashes off immortal masterpieces — philosophical treatises, musical compositions, dramas of Shakespearean range and depth — that never manage to turn a profit. His primary profession — that of thief, grifter and itinerant con man — is equally unprofitable, and he spends his life in constant flight from the encroaching forces of the law.

The story opens in the aftermath of Saloninus’s own funeral, an act of self-concealment he has staged many times before. Newly risen from the dead, he encounters an old flame — a sort of archetypal femme fatale — with whom he shares a colorful — and highly illegal — history. She has a plan in mind, one that involves both of Saloninus’s skill sets: criminality and literary genius. If successful, that plan will lead to the elusive “big score” that will set them free forever. Against his better judgment, and fully aware that failure and betrayal may await him, Saloninus agrees to participate. The result is this ingenious — and very funny — tale.

In K.J. Parker’s latest, he returns to the story of Saloninus. A gifted renaissance man, prone to falling on the wrong side of the law, he finds himself in a position to win the big one — one final con that could set him up for life, if only he can make it all the way through alive and not get cheated. Another fantastic, entertaining and brilliantly-written novella from the master of the form. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: Two New Novellas by K.J. Parker!

Each year, K. J. Parker seems to publish at least one novella with Subterranean Press and Tor.com. In 2021, the trend continues with two intriguing and, for me at least, highly-anticipated new novellas. Here are the details:

ParkerKJ-BigScoreTHE BIG SCORE (Subterranean Press) — March 2021

Welcome to the world of Saloninus, the most unlikely Renaissance Man you will ever encounter. A man of many and diverse talents, he is the hero and narrator of K.J. Parker’s witty, hugely entertaining novella, The Big Score.

Saloninus is a man with two distinct professions. In idle moments, he dashes off immortal masterpieces — philosophical treatises, musical compositions, dramas of Shakespearean range and depth — that never manage to turn a profit. His primary profession — that of thief, grifter and itinerant con man — is equally unprofitable, and he spends his life in constant flight from the encroaching forces of the law.

The story opens in the aftermath of Saloninus’s own funeral, an act of self-concealment he has staged many times before. Newly risen from the dead, he encounters an old flame — a sort of archetypal femme fatale — with whom he shares a colorful — and highly illegal — history. She has a plan in mind, one that involves both of Saloninus’s skill sets: criminality and literary genius. If successful, that plan will lead to the elusive “big score” that will set them free forever. Against his better judgment, and fully aware that failure and betrayal may await him, Saloninus agrees to participate. The result is this ingenious — and very funny — tale.

Described as “a comic gem”, the novella “also offers a heartfelt commentary on books, art, and the comforts they provide.” Saloninus is a great character, who also appears in the Blue and Gold (Subterranean Press) and The Devil You Know (Tor.com). The former is also included in the Academic Exercises collection, and the latter in The Father of Lies collection (both published by Subterranean Press).

The Big Score is due to be published by Subterranean Press, in March 2021.

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ParkerKJ-InsideManINSIDE MAN (Tor.com) — June 2021

K. J. Parker returns to the amoral world of Prosper’s Demon with a wry, sardonic novella that flips the eternal, rule-governed battle between men and demons on its head.

An anonymous representative of the Devil, once a high-ranking Duke of Hell and now a committed underachiever, has spent the last forever of an eternity leading a perfectly tedious existence distracting monks from their liturgical devotions. It’s interminable, but he prefers it that way, now that he’s been officially designated by Downstairs as “fragile.” No, he won’t elaborate.

All that changes when he finds himself ensnared, along with a sadistic exorcist, in a labyrinthine plot to subvert the very nature of Good and Evil. In such a circumstance, sympathy for the Devil is practically inevitable.

As the synopsis states, this novella is a sequel to the excellent Prosper’s Demon, which was one of my favourite reads of the year. Really looking forward to where Parker takes the story and setting.

Inside Man is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Devil You Know, The Last Witness, Downfall of the Gods, My Beautiful Life, Prosper’s Demon, and Academic Exercises

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New Books (June-July)

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Featuring: Dan Abnett, Sarah Andersen, Tiffani Angus, Robert Jackson Bennett, Charles Cumming, Aliette de Bodard, Mark de Jager, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Draper, Jackson Ford, Andrea Hairston, Katie Hill, Patrick Hoffman, Chuck Hogan, Thilde Kold Holdt, S.A. Hunt, Ken Kwapis, C.S. Malerich, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Brian Naslund, Megan E. O’Keefe, Christopher Paolini, Stan Parish, K.J. Parker, C.T. Rwizi, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Andrea Stewart, Jeremy Szal, Kimberly Unger, Michael Wood

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Quick Review: ACADEMIC EXERCISES by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-AcademicExercisesA superb collection of short fiction by one of the masters of the form

Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K. J. Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-winner, “Let Maps to Others”. The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of imaginative fiction.

The collection opens with the World Fantasy Award-winning “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” a story of music and murder set against a complex mentor/pupil relationship, and closes with the superb novella “Blue and Gold,” which features what may be the most beguiling opening lines in recent memory. In between, Parker has assembled a treasure house of narrative pleasures. In “A Rich, Full Week,” an itinerant “wizard” undergoes a transformative encounter with a member of the “restless dead.” “Purple and Black,” the longest story in the book, is an epistolary tale about a man who inherits the most hazardous position imaginable: Emperor. “Amor Vincit Omnia” recounts a confrontation with a mass murderer who may have mastered an impossible form of magic.

Rounding out the volume — and enriching it enormously — are three fascinating and illuminating essays that bear direct relevance to Parker’s unique brand of fiction: “On Sieges,” “Cutting Edge Technology,” and “Rich Men’s Skins.”

Taken singly, each of these thirteen pieces is a lovingly crafted gem. Together, they constitute a major and enduring achievement. Rich, varied, and constantly absorbing, Academic Exercises is, without a doubt, the fantasy collection of the year.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of K. J. Parker’s novellas and short stories. The novellas he’s published with Tor.com and Subterranean Press routinely are among my favourite reads of any given year. Academic Exercises is the author’s first big collection of shorter fiction, and it’s a fantastic one at that. I really enjoyed this, and it further cemented my opinion of Parker as one of the best authors of short fiction. Continue reading