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The Hammer by K. J. Parker

The Hammer (original 2011; edition 2011)

by K. J. Parker (Author)

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215999,870 (3.53)2
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)
Title:The Hammer
Authors:K. J. Parker (Author)
Info:Orbit (2011), Edition: 1, 425 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Hammer by K. J. Parker (2011)


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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I'm finding it hard to review this book in terms other than comparisons to the rest of Parker's work. I feel as though, really, Parker has been whittling away at the extraneous requirements writing "fantasy" puts on the story - forget about magic, or creatures, or strange psychological/temporal phenomena, let's get back to the essence of story, which is one man hitting another man with a stick thus causing that man to go away and build a better stick. (Do I miss the unexpected world and system creativity of the Fencer trilogy? Heck yes. Are the stories still fascinating? Also heck yes.)

This feels, to me, like both the most emotionally complex Parker, in terms of the characters' internal compromises and contradictions. The hard line of the story (if you're at all familiar with Parker's work, you know exactly what I'm talking about) is no less hard, but it's more open to discussion within the narrative, which leaves it a lot spongier to the reader (or at least to this reader).

On the other hand, it's sort of the most simplistic Parker. The story's really quite small, and straightforward (I anticipated most of it; or maybe I'm just getting used to this), and there's an almost bedtime-story-esque quality to the way everything wraps up.

There's no world-shaking kick to the brain, but perhaps there's a more insidious sapping of grim certainties. Is it more effective? Perhaps. Is it as fun to read? Not really. ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
When I was attending The British Council back in the day in Lisbon, in the summer, the best students usually went to the Linguistic Mother Land to brush up on their English. On our first visit I stayed in a posh hotel. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when we I found out no bidet in the loo! Good God! Had I returned to the middle ages? I went down to the reception and politely tried asking the concierge whether there was another room with that particular feature. Can you imagine the dialog? Cutting the story short, I couldn't make the concierge understand what a bidet was!!! I went there two years ago (to another hotel), and I found out the same thing: no bidet! Good grief. Now I understand why the Brexit. The Natives don't want to install bidets in hotels. I heard from some Londoners that the bidet is also absent from the common home...I can't understand this aversion to the bidet. For starters, we're not sitting on the nozzle... it doesn't make contact. It sprays from several inches below the action area and at an angle. On top of that, we wash away the stuff that gets lifted off your bits without thinking. With a bidet, the bog roll is bought maybe twice a year in small batches... for guests from abroad. My arsehole smells clean after a shit. Yours? Sorry to be blunt but this is a disease... Some Europeans have known the truth for over a century.

The idea that being cleaner is something to be worried about is... weird. This is a case of pure stubbornness on the part of some Lands. I'm of the opinion that the invention of the bidet was a great service to humanity. I feel really dirty if I haven't had a good rinse post bowel movement. Also it doesn't negate the need for paper. I use just as much as I would when using a non-bidet toilet. It sometimes amazes me how little some folk know about something so fundamental. I'm all for cleanliness. Same can't be said for some my local boozer's bogs and some of the men who use them. I have a particular loathing for those who 'shake and stuff' whilst texting. But maybe that's just me. I might also add that the absence of the bidet also happens in Europe (so that my Anglo-Saxon readers don't think I'm targeting them...lmao). A central country in Europe which I won’t name, has also got an even stranger thing. Anyone who's been there will know that bidets are not in fact widespread, and that there is a distressing trend for that country’s hotel rooms to include a complete transparent bathroom cubicle, which means that should you be sharing a room with someone, you can look each other in the eye when one of you is going... There are also numerous hotels in resorts popular with folk coming from that central European country that have also adopted this horrifying approach to bathroom construction. Why the strange fascination with the bidet when reviewing “The Hammer”? It's all about stubbornness, and the Gignomai character has plenty of it.

The main character, Gignomai met'Oc, is as memorable as was Bassianus Severus. Gignomai is the youngest member of a sentenced family of exiles on account of the political betrayal of an aristocratic family and he's clearly different from his relatives - he does not enjoy the birth privileges due to his birth, and he willingly spends time with the colonists, and with the passage of years he foments a revolt against hypocrisy and the game of appearances. From here on it is only a few steps away from initiating a political revolution and industrial revolution, and the reader is fortunate to be a witness to the whole process, described in the smallest details. It is worth paying special attention to the image of the world presented; K.J. Parker avoids the mistake of many other fantasy writers, i.e., not boring the reader with the history of past ages, dozens of geographical names, and complex genealogy. Parker is much smarter than that. He goes in a completely different direction, smuggling further information in dialogues or skimping data in descriptions, thanks to which he constantly keeps the reader's attention. We construct the subtle details in our minds.

Parker’s very unusual prose is also present. Minimalist for lack of a better word. Very sparingly administered information. I like the way Parker sets up the characters of his novels as pawns on the chessboard and then plays the narrative game. Thanks to this, his prose is so intimate, theatrical. It has its undoubted charm. Reading "The Hammer" I had the impression that this book is asking for filming in the style of "Dogville" by Lars von Trier. The plot is a simple story about revenge and stubbornness, but Parker is good at outlining different types of character streaks, playing with the fantasy world along the way.

The downside lies on the fact that Parker does not really engage the characters in moral dilemmas; on top of that, Parker indulges in an over-the-top plot and we also need some suspension-of-disbelief to apply (e.g., could a land like the one depicted be left virtually untouched?). Despite all that, the book will make you ponder stuff. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but with so much SF crap being published nowadays...

Bottom-Line: A tale of obsession, stubbornness and technological revolution. While reading it I had ambivalent feelings for most of the time, but when everything was clear, it turned out to be good and engaging. ( )
  antao | May 21, 2018 |
I preferred The Company & The Folded knife to this, the main character Gig was sympathetic to start with but by the time I discovered what had happened to his sister, I didn't really care about him any more, and found it an unconvincing reason for his actions. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
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.
( )
2 vote BMorrisAllen | May 14, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Parker, K. J.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Panepinto, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.

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