Dust jacket illustration by Vincent Chong.
-anyone who reads the right book has an ally
Here is the right book. Under My Skin, K.J. Parker’s superb new collection, includes almost 700 pages of novelettes and novellas, some appearing here for the first time anywhere, with one completely new novel-length tale, Relics.
These stories are everything readers have come to expect from Parker, populated by con men and kings, magicians who don’t do magic and messiahs who don’t offer redemption, by holy men and holy fools. But be warned, not only is all perhaps not what it seems, all can usually be counted on to not be what it seems. Parker’s unruly and unreliable narrators, who sometimes fool themselves even more than they fool us, stride along muddy paths through lonely hills or across marble floors in grand palaces, always finding trapdoors opening beneath them.
In “The Thought That Counts,” for example, a man who claims to have been magically granted the wisdom of the world finds that he’s not wise enough to recognize a figure from his past who may prove that wisdom isn’t enough in every situation. In My Beautiful Life, a man who starts life as the son of a village prostitute rises as high in his world as anyone can, only to find that tumbling from such a height makes for a long, long fall. And in the epistolary novel Relics, readers are offered not just one unreliable narrator but two, as an archduke and a relic hunter describe their highs and lows to one another in a series of missives that even the writers don’t necessarily fully believe, much less the recipients.
K.J. Parker first came to prominence with The Engineer Trilogy. Since then, the author has gone on to pen dozens of novels, novellas, and short stories, winning a couple of World Fantasy Awards along the way and earning legions of fans. Subterranean Press is proud to offer this third collection from a modern master, a true ally guiding us through an uncertain—but endlessly fascinating—world.
Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcover copies
From Publishers Weekly:
“Placing these pieces side by side creates a fascinating exercise in worldbuilding: the mythology feels vast and Parker’s characteristically unreliable narrators are even more untrustworthy as they contradict each other... The epistolary novella ‘Relics’ follows an archduke and the man he employs to acquire religious relics; their letters both reveal and obscure the broader political machinations at play in their lives. Parker strikes his signature cynical, pragmatic tone without ever losing sight of joy. It’s a treat.”
“The elaborate political maneuvering and masterfully sardonic tone will be familiar to readers of the earlier standalone novellas, each of which explore some aspect of Parker’s trademark alternate late-medieval to early renaissance Europe, with its scam culture of tricky sorcerers, fraudulent philosophers, magical artists, brutal but clumsy soldiers, and doughty peasants—as though the whole early Renaissance were somehow in the hands of the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
Table of Contents
- The Return of The Pig
- The Thought That Counts
- Mightier than the Sword
- All Love Excelling
- Many Mansions
- My Beautiful Life
- Portrait of the Artist
- Prosper’s Demon
- The Best Man Wins
- The Big Score
Excerpts from the Correspondence that Makes up Relics:
Oh dear. Off to the wars again.
I hate soldiering. It’s wrong at both ends of the scale. I sleep in a tent, for crying out loud, with the rain hammering down and nothing between me and the icy wind but the thickness of a sheet of waxed cloth; there are earwigs in my dinner and my back is killing me from sleeping on a bed consisting of bits of rope stretched tight in a wooden frame… But it’s also wrong because outside my tent there are twelve thousand men sleeping in mud on the ground, with the rain soaking into their clothes until they’re soaking wet, all the time, and they’d be really glad of earwigs in their food because they haven’t seen a shred of meat for days—And the smell, O Invincible Sun, the smell. Twelve thousand men, all with diarrhoea to a greater or lesser extent; sweat and rain-soaked wool and twenty-four thousand feet, and horses and blood and rust and boiled cabbage. I’ve got a little brazier in my tent and a kid comes in every hour on the hour to burn incense, which is supposed to mask the stench a little bit, but instead I’ve got frankincense in one nostril and shit in the other, which if you ask me is the worst of both worlds. I don’t like soldiering, and that’s a fact.
Well, I’m back. A certain amount of fun and games at this end—I don’t know if you remember me telling you about Theudemar, my second cousin on my mother’s side; I don’t think you ever met him, and now you’ll never get the chance, because his head is stuck up on a pike about forty yards from where I’m writing this; if I look out of the window I can see it plain as anything, cousin Teddy, with a great big crow perched on his forehead picking his eyes out.
It’s not an aspect of the job that I particularly relish, slaughtering my relatives, especially the ones I’ve always got on reasonably well with. If I wasn’t a complete halfwit I’d have seen it coming and taken steps to prevent it. I could’ve appointed him ambassador to Scheria—he’d have liked that, he enjoys, enjoyed, a warm climate—or had a quiet word in his ear or even thrown him in jail; he’d have been as mad as hell about it but at least he’d still be alive, and now he’s dead and I’ve got to watch the local wildlife slowly pecking him down to the bone.
- K. J. Parker
- Vincent Chong