Mightier than the Sword, K.J. Parker
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 30th June 2017
I’ve enjoyed a couple of Parker’s novellas, even though I still haven’t got round to the novels I’ve been sitting on for, uh, a while. So I was pleased to be approved for the ARC of this from Subterranean Press. The ebook is a little bit of a mess — or mine was, anyway — but that’s presumably only going to be a problem for the Netgalley version, and it didn’t get in the way of the reading experience.
I’m also a big fan of books which play with manuscripts, and though that’s a minor part of this story, it was still pretty cool. The main character is fun, and the whole tone works really well to make it sound like a romp, even when there’s a certain amount of pillaging and violence going on. I called the twists, but getting there was still a fun ride. I think The Last Witness is still my favourite for sheer smarts, but this was definitely very enjoyable.
The Last Witness, K.J. Parker
I love the way this novella takes the idea — that someone could perhaps look into your mind and take away your memories, at the cost of having to keep them themselves if there was anything distressing in them — and then develops it, runs with it, deals with what a character who could do that would be like, what they would be willing to do, what they’d feel about it. How they could profit from it, and what that might cost them.
The narrator is, of course, unreliable. He’s unreliable even to himself, because he doesn’t know which memories are his, and which memories might be missing. Truth is a malleable thing in this world, because it depends on what you believe, and he can change that. (It never really addresses what happens when someone has some kind of record of what he’s going to wipe.) Identity is malleable too — and his changes all the time as he takes on the memories of murderers and victims. It’s definitely a fertile ground for a story, and K.J. Parker makes great use of it.
This novella has convinced me I really need to get round to reading more of K.J. Parker’s work. He does an amazing job here of creating a character and a complex story from a simple seed — without it ever getting too tortuous.
What did you recently finish reading?
Let’s see… mostly comics. The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells, was the last novel — read it for my SF/F class, though I discovered I hadn’t actually read it before anyway. Comics-wise, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Avengers vs X-men: VS., and Young Avengers Presents. All Marvel comics.
What are you currently reading?
Actively, P.G. Wodehouse’s The Small Bachelor, Molly Beth Griffin’s Silhouette of a Sparrow and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland; the latter, is once again, for my SF/F class.
What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to read Captain America: Winter Soldier, I think. Then maybe I’ll get round to the acclaimed Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie).
Last book before I came here was Nicola Griffith’s Hild, I think. Then there was a little shopping spree in Brussels and Leuven: Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation (Ruby Blondell), The Book of Barely Imagined Beings (Caspar Henderson), The Prisoner (Thomas M. Disch), The Song of Troy (Colleen McCullough), In Search of Shakespeare (Michael Wood), The Folding Knife (K.J. Parker) and Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia A. McKillip). Some bought for me by my partner, eee. Also I bought her Fly By Night (Frances Hardinge).
There was also a library trip. I have to report that the library in Leuven is pretty good for English-language books. So my haul from there was Mockingbird (Walter Tevis), The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, The Lover’s Dictionary (David Levithan), and White as Snow (Tanith Lee).