K. J. Parker
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 & 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 & 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.
money, more than my poor old father made in a year fair-copying writs and title deeds in a law office. That was just the start. My fifteenth icon was commissioned at one thousand angels. I’ll write that again, so there’s no mistake. One thousand angels. Ridiculous. At that point, I realised it was time to quit. I was still living in the squalid dump in the Tanneries, with three angels left out of the proceeds of selling the textbooks, plus the eighteen hundred-odd I’d made from my fifteen sales.
what you get for sleeping right under the eaves. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t sleep alone (and, compared with some of the characters I’ve shared a bed with, the fleas were no bother. At least they didn’t keep pulling all the bedclothes off me). But I slept, which surprised me. I think the six scruples of vis somnis I mixed in with the dregs of my beer helped a bit; but a man who’s just watched his wife die in convulsions on the floor has no right to sleep, no matter what. Nor did
slightest chance it could be, we have to do something about it. Now.” “I’m sorry,” the young man said. “I’ve never heard of it.” The Precentor smiled. “Of course you haven’t.” He half-filled two of his notoriously small glasses with wine and handed one to the young man, who took it as if the stem was red-hot. “For one thing, it doesn’t exist.” The young man looked at him unhappily. “Ah,” he said. “At least,” the Precentor went on, “we believe it doesn’t exist. We hope like hell it doesn’t
his study so that, viewed from the visitor’s seat, his head was framed by those glorious wings, imparting the subconscious impression of a halo? Wouldn’t put it past him, Framea decided. “I guess I panicked, the first time I fought him. I’m new at this sort of thing, after all.” “You did exceedingly well,” the Precentor said. “We’re all very pleased with how you handled the matter. I myself am particularly gratified, since you were chosen on my personal recommendation.” Not long ago, that
as make a mistake, and it’ll all be over, and you’ll still be Gorgias professor. For now, though, play along. Pretend to be enthusiastic. There’s still time for him to give you money. “Of course,” said the duke, “you’ll have a copy of Carchedonius. We’ll go and look it up right now.” So we did that; and, as was only to be expected, my enemy betrayed me. Not only was the arbitrary intersection a feasible destination, it was also, on the admittedly limited evidence available, a strong contender.