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Academic Exercises by K. J. Parker

Academic Exercises

by K.J. Parker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
I’m not sure if I want to call K. J. Parker (pseudonym of Tom Holt) a new favourite author.

On the one hand, I loved many of these stories and novellas. For instance, I did not know I needed a novella in my life in which a scholar of history has his conjectures proven right by a rival privately, forges a manuscript that proves him right publicly, finds that someone uses that forgery to decode directions to a lost continent, gets roped into sailing off on a voyage of discovery, and wanders around a dead civilization. But it turns out I did need that rollercoaster in my life, and now I’m thankful that Parker wrote it. Moreover, I liked Parker’s heroes in general: middling scholars, fond of illuminating manuscripts, whose preferred path to victory is a blend of academic research, underhanded shortcuts and reluctant realpolitik. I really like that combination of interests! The plotting of the stories, too, is uniformly tight, with endings that are pitch-perfect, despite the unexpected swerves that may have occurred on the way there.

There are a number of drawbacks, though. Most obviously, Parker’s main characters read like they might almost be the same person: they are all scholarly types who love to read, they publish highly specialist papers in journals, they illuminate manuscripts as a hobby, they force confessions by showing prospective victims their torture implements rather than using them, and they share the opinion that people who want to be in power should never be allowed to be in power (which leaves them to do the job, against their will). Parker also recycles his jokes too often for comfort.

That said, I still enjoyed these stories immensely, probably more than I’m comfortable admitting -- apparently they scratched a few itches simultaneously, several of which I did not know I had. So yeah: maybe Parker is my new guilty pleasure? ( )
  Petroglyph | Jan 27, 2019 |
A great collection of superbly-written fantasy stories interleaved with fascinating treatises on various aspects of warfare throughout history ( )
  evilTak | Oct 14, 2018 |
4.5 stars
“Academic Exercises” compiles some of K. J. Paker’s most popular short stories and novellas. If you’re already a fan of K. J. Parker, as it was my case before reading this book, you’ll probably know most of these pieces, but that’s not a reason for not reading this collection, as most of the stories are so brilliant that you’ll enjoy them as much as the first time. If you’re new to this author, this is the perfect starting place as you’ll find here most of his best, most awarded and representative short fiction.
K. J. Parker’s stories are a pleasure to read. They’re intelligent, witty, funny, sometimes even hilarious, and deeper than what they may seem at first sight, as they abound in incisive remarks about plenty of crucial issues (power, politics, religion, art… among many others). My only drawback is that as most of the stories have a similar setting, tone, narrator’s voice and style, so they may seem a bit too similar if read at a single sitting. They’re definitely better enjoyed reading one at a time.
I’d also like to highlight the three historical essays about swords, sieges and armors, which are as enjoyable as any of the fiction pieces.
This is without any doubt the best collection (and one of the best books of any genre) I’ve read so far this year. Highly recommended. ( )
  cuentosalgernon | Jul 17, 2017 |
Writing from the Gray Zone: "Academic Exercises" by K. J. Parker

Published 2014.

“A man will betray his honour, his country and his friend, but the bond between two people who share a common devotion to hardcore porn is unbreakable.”
(From the story “Purple and Black”)

This anthology shows that a true storyteller succeeds no matter what the length of the story is. Each of the works of fiction is a Lehrstunde of the art of the narrative.
What have we got here? Just some of the most fantastic pieces of fiction written in 2014 (at the moment I’m flogging myself. Without any rocks to hit myself in the head with, I plan to run headlong into the nearest wall... for not having read this collection in 2014):

“A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong”
“A Rich, Full Week”
“Amor Vincit Omnia”
“On Sieges”
“Let Maps to Others”
“A Room with a View”
“Cutting Edge Technology”
“Purple & Black”
“Rich Men’s Skins”
“The Sun and I”
“One Little Room an Everywhere”
“Blue & Gold”

J. Parker, as I stated previously (cf. in several reviews on my blog), is one of my top authors.

Why? Read on the rest on my blog. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
I love K. J. Parker's writing. It's full intelligence directed towards entertainment. These are the sort of short stories I'd like to write myself -- mine would be underlaid more by Anglo-Saxon than Classical history. ( )
  annesadleir | May 6, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Parker, K.J.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chong, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
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.”
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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.--provided by publisher.… (more)

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