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The Hammer by K. J. Parker
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The Hammer (original 2011; edition 2011)

by K. J. Parker

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1156104,954 (3.52)2
Member:tribalwolf
Title:The Hammer
Authors:K. J. Parker
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Collections:Your library, ebook
Rating:****
Tags:Fantasy

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The Hammer by K. J. Parker (2011)

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The Hammer proved a tiresome and unexciting. Most of the main characters fell flat, especially in the first half of the book, and the plot swam in waters that ran both ridiculous and contrived.

After the first 150 pages, the major conflicts faced by the protagonist centered around a hole and crossing a river. Just terrible. By the 200 mark, the book found an opportunity to move into compelling territory but the author let it pass.

The protagonist engaged a convoluted plan, and did so inside bloated writing. The author often jammed pages with filler. The resulting text wandered into the superfluous and trivial, leaving the story near idle over large tracts, before trudging along, almost against its will, to an unsatisfying end.

The only reason I didn't rate this book even lower is that the writing isn't entirely bad. Good reading did surface, but its rare appearances couldn't outweigh the mind-numbing pages it rested in-between.

Disappointing. ( )
  Anarchium | Dec 21, 2013 |
The Hammer is formulaic. It's a very effective formula, and one that has made me a fan of KJ Parker's work, but it's a formula nonetheless. You'll find here the same characters and tropes that inhabit most of Parker's other work: good characters that turn bad, bad characters that turn good, a seemingly relentless logic that leads to extreme and brutal results, and, most of all, a metaphor hammered until it's paper thin, then folded and re-folded and hammered again.

You'll find, also, the common vocabulary and the usual tantalizing hints that all Parker's work occurs in the same world. There is a Company, a Republic, and Empire, a Colony. In this case, there is an explicit link to other books in mention of the Vesani Republic.

I like KJ Parker. I really do. I thought the first Parker book I read ([b:Colours in the Steel|338404|Colours in the Steel (Fencer Trilogy, #1)|K.J. Parker|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337636888s/338404.jpg|1661034]) was excellent - despite what was then unexpected savagery. I liked other series almost as much, but felt they weren't treading very far afield. Recent standalone books continued the trend, though [b:The Company|3599870|The Company|K.J. Parker|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348879699s/3599870.jpg|3642573] at least offered a different setting.

The story here is about an exiled noble family, rich in tradition and pride, poor in almost everything else. They live in the vicinity of a colony working for Home, but keep their distance. The 'savages' who inhabit the rest of the peninsula are mostly in the background. As always, good intentions lead to bad results.

The Hammer sticks very close to the approach Parker has perfected. So much so, in fact, that it feels like a book she (let's say) has written before. If you've read Parker's other work, you've pretty much read this one. You know what will happen. You know where it will end. Only the details are different, and in this case, they're just not that interesting. It feels like something off a production line. That's a shame, particularly from an author whose approach and tone are so different from those of most other fantasy authors.

I'd be very disappointed to find that Parker has only one string to her bow. I'd still read her books, much as I still read [a:Stephen Donaldson|6994600|Stephen Donaldson|http://www.goodreads.com/assets/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66-251a730d696018971ef4a443cdeaae05.jpg]'s books. But I'd hope for more.
( )
1 vote BMorrisAllen | May 14, 2013 |
Reasonably enjoyable but the central characters are a bit one-dimensional and the "big reveal" of Gig's motive and schemes is too far-fetched for me. ( )
1 vote SChant | Apr 26, 2013 |
First, I'd like to make a point of stating that the author clearly went through a lot of trouble to set up the world in which this book takes place. So very like our own world's history, there are enough similarities to make the setting familiar and enough differences to give it a fantastical feeling of being somewhere strange and new. It was clearly well thought through.

Perhaps, though, a little too much. The book occasionally gave us pieces of history that, while interesting, did little to add to the story at hand beyond giving some background information that we could have done just as well without. It felt at times like I was taken out of the story and handed one of the many books from the met'Oc library shelves and told to hurry up and understand the intricacies of what was going on.

Part mystery, part history, The Hammer mostly tells the story of Gignomai, part of the exhiled met'Oc family, unsatisfied at home for reasons that remain mysterious and nebulous until the last quarter of the novel. He runs away from the life of genteel poverty that he's known and takes up a place in town, where people aren't so fond of the met'Oc but are willing to tolerate Gig, especially once he presents to them an idea to build a factory to produce goods so that the town can become self-sufficient and stop relying on Home and its exorbitant taxes for all their supplies.

And while this is most certainly something that Gig intended, it's also a cover for something far more sinister, the plans of a man obsessed with justice and revenge for his family's wrongdoing years prior.

Gig's motives, reasons, and justifications for his actions leave him somewhere between protagonist and antagonist when it comes to classifications. He intends outright murder, and even he admits it, and he weaves convoluted set-ups to further his goals that endanger lives and livelihoods, and he shows an almost cheerful disregard for any consequence that isn't directly related to what he ultimately intends. He's a complex character, that's for certain, as are most of the characters in the book. But for all his complexities, his presenation felt rather flat to me.

This probably had a lot to do with the writing style. Parker wavered between third-person limited and third-person omniscient throughout the book, which left the peculiar impression of getting to know a character while still watching them from a distance, enough to keep yourself detached from the action. Entire scenes were set up as though someone was reading passages from a history textbook or reporting on local news, and then two paragraphs later we'd get snippets of the inner thoughts and workings of characters' minds. It was hard to know where I stood with this novel half the time. Characters had clear definitions but I couldn't get a feel for them. Motives were fascination, revelations intriguing, and yet I couldn't quite bring myself to care much. This was the book's biggest downfall, and it didn't leave the most favourable impression on me.

While the plot was interested and the characters complex and real, it still suffered a little too much in other areas for me to come away with a favourable impression. Shame, because clearly the author's got a sharp mind for detail. I suspect that this book is one for those who are already fans of the author's work, and not a good one to cut your teeth on. ( )
1 vote Bibliotropic | May 5, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Parker, K. J.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Panepinto, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316038563, Paperback)



Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc, a once-noble family exiled on an island for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war.

On this island, a colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally for the colonists to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any.

Now, an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists and the met'Oc. The met'Oc are tolerated, in spite of occasional cattle stealing raids, since they alone possess the weapons considered necessary protection against the island's savages.

Gignomai is about to discover exactly what it is expected of him, and what it means to defy his family. He is the hammer who will provide the spark that will ignite a brutal and bloody war.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:39 -0400)

The met'Oc people are trying to maintain their noble lifestyle on an isolated plateau while coexisting uneasily with a group of colonists. Gignomai met'Oc, the youngest son, decides to repudiate his inheritance and escape to the wilderness to start a factory. In the process, he triggers a series of events that will lead to an accounting for his family's secret and independence for the colony.… (more)

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