Sunday, August 01, 2010

Edi's Spotlight: The Company by K J Parker

Dear Readers,
the first review in August 2010 lays ahead of you. I did not tell you before which book I would review.
Anyway I promise I will not conjecture who is the man or the the woman behind K J Parker. From time to time I have a look at K J Parker's official site. That is getting more and more depressing because I don't know since when you read Coming Soon! But I still hope that one day.....

I read The Company (2008) [ISBN-13: 978-1841495101] by K J Parker and today you get my review. After three trilogies - Fencer, Scavenger, Engineer (more information) - is the first standalone novel by the author.
And to whom it may concern: The copy of The Company I read for this review has been bought by myself.
Now you would expect a blurb or a back cover text. Today I will disappoint you because The Company forced me to use my own words.

Before you start to be in doubt whether this is a fantasy novel or not, let me assure you The Company is a fantasy novel - but maybe not the one you expect.

What do soldiers do when war is over? A lot of them return home. Others stay in the army....

After seventeen years in the army general Teuche Kunessin retires and return to his homeland. He has a dream - to run a farm on the abandoned island Sphoe together with his four army comrades and friends (all from the same town) - and he has a plan how to make this dream come true.

The Company is the story of Teuche Kunessin and his four comrades. It is the story of their motives, their inner life, their relationships, their experiences. It is a story of trust, dependencies, friendship. It is the story of the impact of war on their lives.

All this is told in the very specific K J Parker style. That means detailed description of military actions, activities like herding cattle, building houses and a lot,lot more. Education is an important part of K J Parker novels. It also me. Don't get me wrong. The Company is far beyond to be an action paced novel.
Instead you get surprises on nearly every page. The resourcefulness is breath-taking. There is a level of complexity which takes the whole story to unfold. That is done by a story telling like one step forward two steps backwards. Except the first chapter, each following chapter starts with a flashback into the past.

War and women are two catchphrases which I would like to emphasize.
Yes, there are women included. They play their role but they are not the main subject. And yes, some of the women are strong - especially mentally strong. But they are described in a way you will not expect. And no, they are far beyond the epic fantasy female heroine.
The impact of war is a strong subject. But you will neither find out the casus belli nor the belligerent parties.

After eighteen numbered chapters the story closes with the word amen. It is the end of the story - unusual and unexpected - and the beginning of your thoughts. All layers of the story - to be honest who has more, an onion or The Company - have been revealed. And the revelation offered on the last pages leaves you with a taste which can't be stronger in its cynicism, darkness and bitterness. It is a story of life neither a guidebook for colonization nor stuffed with moralities like the bible. Dumbfounded you have to admire a story which is planned and executed with masterly skill in a drear and pessimistic tone.

I know there will be people who read this review with a shake of the head. You are right because you found out that The Company is no book for you.

My recommendation:
Read The Company: A bitter, dark, masterly planned and executed, not action-paced stand-alone novel with as much layers as an onion.

A last remark:
Maybe you know Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds musical and maybe you know the opening spoken by Richard Burton (mp3). This is the text:
"No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us." [Source]
Every time when I hear/read this text I must think of K J Parker .....

4 comments:

Seak (Bryce L.) said...

I've really got to start reading KJ Parker already. You've said nothing but good things about him/her. I gotta do it.

ediFanoB said...

I love to read K J Parker.
But be aware that K J parker books do not appeal to everyone.

Hope you will like it.

SARAH said...

I just discovered K.J. Parker last week. My first book from him/her was "The Folding Knife" which I wasn't expecting to love but ended up LOVING it. Now I'm reading "Devices and Desires." I can't get over how much I enjoy his/her writing style!! I fully plan on having a problem which forces me to devour everything K.J. Parker writes.

ediFanoB said...

Sarah,

I share your love for K J Parker books.
My first read has been The Colours in the Steel.

The Folding knife is on my list of books to read until end of 2010.

I still need to buy the Engineer trilogy :-)

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