Cover illustration by Vincent Chong.
The always unpredictable K. J. Parker has written some of the most original and compelling fantasy fiction of recent decades. In his latest novella, The Long Game, Parker has turned once again to the comic side of his multi-faceted talent, and the result is one of the most purely entertaining creations of a distinguished career.
The unnamed narrator of The Long Game is an Adept, a member of an Ecclesiastical order charged, among other things, with opposing a race of immaterial demons, creatures capable of possessing and controlling human minds. Complicating the narrator’s life is the fact that, over time, he has developed a cordial “relationship” with one of the demons. Complicating matters further is the unexpected arrival of Amalasomtha, a young woman with impossible abilities who claims to have come from the remote—perhaps mythical—country of Idalia. She also claims that, for reasons she does not entirely understand, she has been tasked with capturing one such demon and returning with it to Idalia. The truth, it turns out, is considerably more complex.
Amalasomtha’s arrival sets in motion a chain of events encompassing murder, magic, deception, and an array of unintended consequences. By the story’s end, this consistently witty account of demonic possession, hidden agendas and Ecclesiastical politics has taken us to some unexpected places and given us a glimpse of a larger story still, the “long game” that lies at the heart of all human history. The Long Game is funny, provocative, extravagantly imagined, and good for the soul. This is K. J. Parker at the top of his considerable form. What more needs to be said?
From Publishers Weekly:
“Despite the absurdity of the narrative and its surplus of loose ends, Parker pulls it all together into a surprisingly charming and playful novella that celebrates its own untidiness. Readers will be enchanted.”
“K.J. Parker may not have invented the idea of using an exasperated, put-upon narrator to undercut the implicit pretensions of a classic fantasy setting, but he’s certainly become its reigning virtuoso… As is often the case, the narrator’s various digressions and backstory anecdotes, along with the screwball banter with his demon pal (especially when they find themselves occupying the same hapless victim) are as spirited and entertaining as the main plot, and part of the continuing charm of this series is its ingratiatingly misanthropic tone. Like many of Parker’s narrators (most notably, perhaps, the Saloninus of last year’s The Big Score), this one veers between boasting of his talents and making excuses not only for his bad behavior, but for the fact that his vaunted skills have never really paid off in the way he believes he deserves. It’s no wonder a lot of fantasy readers find it easy to identify with these guys, as morally dubious and comically self-absorbed as they may be.”
From Civilian Reader:
“[The Long Game is] a novella that displays all of Parker’s fantastic gifts for storytelling: a playful humour, intelligence, and a well-paced and -balanced narrative… There are some twists, some nice reveals, engaging characters, and plenty of wry humour. As always: very highly recommended.”
The Long Game
People lie. It’s unfortunate, but there it is. Depressingly often, people lie to me; and that’s a mug’s game. No human being is capable of deceiving me, because I can read minds as easily as you’re reading this. So, if someone tells me something is true when I know it isn’t, and I believe them, one of two things has happened. Either I’ve made a mistake and I was wrong (happens rather more often than I’d like, but not that often), or alternatively, someone’s using estuans intrinsecus. Which is a real bitch of a Form, trust me. I can do it, but only because I practiced for hours and hours and had private coaching from the Precentor of the Studium. And estuans is self-defeating, because although it works (you use it and people believe anything you tell them), it leaves you drained and shaking, dripping with sweat and bleeding from the nose, which absolutely defeats the object of the exercise if whoever you’re lying to is one of us and knows what to look out for. She, on the other hand, looked like she’d never sweated a drop in her whole life.
In which case I was wrong. But I could smell it on her a hundred yards away.
I got this posting because of a stupid mistake; mine. I bet some brash, stupid young lout in the diocesan supervision office that I could do his job better than he could, for a whole month. And I did. In fact, I did it so well that Father Prior transferred me from my beautiful prebendary stall and research fellowship to operational field duties. A man like me, he said, with my talents, stuck behind a desk; it was a horrible, abominable waste.
That was six years ago and the brash, stupid young lout is now junior precentor at Lonjamen, and I’m stuck here, eating rye porridge and leathery bacon with the hair still on, in shitholes like the Flawless Diamonds. My arse spends more time in a saddle than on a library stool, and my breath stinks, as does the rest of me. Trouble is, I keep pulling off these spectacular coups of fieldwork, and every time I cover myself in glory, I practically guarantee myself another six months on the road. The horrible fact is, I’m good at this job and I can’t help being good at what I’m good at, if you follow me. I’m a better than average scholar and a tolerable lecturer, but when it comes to fieldwork I’m hotter than Army mustard. There’s a lot of people who reckon they’re my worst enemy, but you know the saying. If something’s worth doing, do it yourself.
- Vincent Chong
- K. J. Parker
- eBook Edition