K. J. Parker, Evil for Evil

I just finished the second book in K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, which is titled Evil for Evil. (Note: K. J. Parker is a pseudonym)

I have mixed feelings about this book. As a writer, Parker is pretty talented. He has some interesting descriptions, a pretty good sense of dialogue, though I noticed that he used some of the techniques to describe the characters’ actions. For one thing, he often has characters describe their own actions from the third person, as if they were surprised to find themselves acting. Something like, “Someone was talking, and he was surprised to find out it was himself.”

The plot itself is pretty interesting, and it revolves around a fair amount of diplomacy and treachery. I really do have to congratulate Parker on bringing a lot of seemingly unrelated actions together for a climactic and fairly surprising finish. Sometimes though, the coincidences that are required to get some things going are pretty improbable. That’s not a terrible flaw though.

My big problems are these. First, the world itself is not that interesting. There’s no map in the book, and the geography is pretty bland and vague. Further though, the various nations seem to be pretty similar to each other. Don’t think that you’re going to get sweeping descriptions of cave-cities, mountain keeps, fantastic races, or bizarre traditions. These are pretty normal people living, for the most part, like medieval europeans, just without the interesting stuff like religion. There’s a lot of hunting actually, and I have to admit, Parker knows his Goshawks from his Gyrefalcons, but after a while, it’s kind of a cheap stereotype of European life.

Also, the main character/bad guy kind of manipulates things a little too easily. I mean, it really started to piss me off how easily he used people to make ENORMOUS changes to the world through purely personal connections. I mean, the whole point of the series is that this one man, an engineer, sets out to put an elaborate “mechanism” in action that will remake the world. So far, he’s manipulated very large forces to very fine tuned effect. He’s brought down two kingdoms while at the same time tearing apart two lovers, casting aspersions on another, and baiting a technological powerhouse to mistakenly attack a band of barbarians, triggering yet another war. Everyone seems to do exactly what he wants, and we’re supposed to believe that he planned all this IN ADVANCE of these books. It’s just a little hard to swallow. It will be satisfying if this guy, Viani Vaatzes, has everything ruined in the last book.


1 Response to “K. J. Parker, Evil for Evil”

  1. 1 Joseph
    May 19, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I agreed with you on many levels. This trilogy happens to be made up of the three favorite novels I’ve read during my (admittedly) short reading kick. which is why my reactions differ from yours. It is merely a difference of preference. The character’s actions and reasons behind those actions are what propells the story as well as theme. It is because of this character driven story line that I felt it was appropriate to omit such details as a map. The surprise of the character’s own dialogue reminded me of driving somewhere and not fully remembering exactly what I was thinking during the drive; I could more comprehensively relate to that heavily drilled in skill which the characters had practiced so thoroughly.

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