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The Escapement by K. J. Parker

The Escapement

by K. J. Parker

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Orbit,fall07 ( )
  lencicki | Aug 28, 2013 |
  orbitbooks | May 9, 2013 |
I really loved this series, but I almost think it would be better to just stop with the first one. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |

I just finished "The Escapement", the third and last book in the Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker.

Now- if you like feel-good books, this is not the series for you. Damn near all of the characters behave despicably in one way or another, usually saying "they had no choice".

I also doubt that things in real life could work out as neatly as they do here.

Still- wow.

I think one of the things I appreciate about it is the focus on "I had no choice". Personally, I am getting heartily sick of that as a plot device in novels; urban fantasy seems particularly prone to this.

And yeah- you DO have a choice. The choices may not be very attractive ones... but disclaiming responsibility for the choices you have made is also a Bad Thing. I am really tired of it as a plot device, and the exaggerated presence of it in this series kinda rubs one's nose in it.

There's also something of the flavor of a classical tragedy, where the results are inevitable. It's not quite as DOOMed as "The Wreck of the River of Stars"- where I doubt anyone could offer any intervention that would have changed things- but it's close- AND it has the plus over the other in that the characters were NOT doing their very best, but were in fact sacrificing others busily for their own priorities.

So- I would not want to read it again, but I'm glad I read it. And especially in this last volume, as things spiral together, there's a lot of good questions asked (and not answered) about culpability and decisions one makes, and priorities, and the results of such.

It's a challenging series, or I found it such. However, I AM glad I read it. ( )
  cissa | May 6, 2011 |
I've finished the trilogy and the final verdict is...I still don't know.

I'm pretty sure I hated all the female characters by the end, especially Veatriz. The male characters fared much much better; I was quite fond of Duke Valens in particular. All in all, I came away with the feeling that I was reading a treatise, a philosophical debate or some such, on the nature of evil, all set within a plot based upon a complex machine model which, in turn, seems to be implying a depressing connection between people and machines. I think if you enjoy books in which love is a destructive force, duty is a hollow construct, people are inherently evil and -- because evil is necessary -- no one has any real choice but to sometimes do evil things, then you'll probably love the complexity of the story as it explores this theme in various ways. If, however, you think people aren't totally hopeless and that love can be a positive and rewarding experience, you might feel a bit frustrated at the end.

Lots to love about the series: masterful writing; flawed, larger-than-life characters; visceral battle scenes; an incredible fantasy world that has nothing to do with typical fantasy tropes, and a gripping, if grim, plot that chugs along with a relentless mechanical perfection to its conclusion. The humor is dry, witty, and often had me laughing out loud (I hadn't expected that much humor.) Loved the feudal, renaissance, and byzantine feel of the settings. More literary in scope than the usual epic fantasy, it's a challenging and difficult series that will stick in my mind even as I continue to debate with myself whether I liked it or not.

Obviously, I had some quibbles. There is a LOT of detail about machines, warfare, hunting, etc., and it sometimes slows down the story. The characters, who all sound pretty much alike, are prone to think everything to death, and those lengthy inner monologues can be a bit much. There is a coldness to the characters, especially the female ones, and the author never managed to convince me that what they called love was really love and not, as I saw it, infatuation, obsession, a fantasy, or unhealthy co-dependency. Everybody is always yawning! I was glad Daurenja got what he deserved, but I was a bit squirmy at having to deal with how a murderer and a rapist could do good. Not used to that, so maybe that's not really a quibble and more a positive than a negative. (Come to think of it, I had a similarly ambivalent reaction to the bird guy in Perdido Street Station.)

I'd recommend the trilogy, mainly because it was so unusual, it made me think, and it definitely engaged my emotions, if not always in a comfortable or positive way. Also, those who've enjoyed books by Dorothy Dunnett and Mary Gentle, and who liked the manga series Death Note, might want to check out the trilogy.
  meleada | Sep 5, 2010 |
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Book description
Condemned to death, the engineer Ziani Vaatzes escaped from Mezentia. His implacable determination to return home led him to contrive an intricate plan to bring down the Republic, a plan which require a war. He regrets the deaths. But he had no choice. Duke Valens dragged his people into the war to save the life of one woman. Then he killed her husband. Now, allied to the nomadic barbarians who have the manpower to defeat Mezentia, the Duke regrets the evil he's done. But he had no choice. Secretary Psellus never wanted to rule the Republic, or fight a desperate siege for its survival. Trying to make sense of how it all happened, he finds himself compelled to investigate the circumstances of Vaatzes' crime. He is terrified of what he might find out, but he has no choice. The machine has been built. All that remains is to set it in motion.
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The Engineer Ziani Vaatzes remains narrowly obsessed as he comprehends that his actions will leave thousands-- maybe millions--dead. Secretary Psellus never wanted to rule the Republic or fight a desperate siege for its survival --but he too steadfastly stays the course. Duke Valens regrets the evil he has done but he equally has no choice but to stay the course. The machine has been built. All that remains is to set in in motion.… (more)

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