Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Evil for Evil

Evil for Evil, by K.J. Parker
Paperback: 684 pages
Publisher: Orbit, ©2006
ISBN 10: 0-316-00339-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-316-00339-5
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back cover: CIVITAS VADANIS is in trouble. The Mezentines have declared war, and the Mezentines are very focused on their goals when it comes to killing.

DUKE VALENS, of Civitas Vadanis, has a dilemma. He knows that his city cannot withstand the invading army; yet its walls are his sole defense against the Mezentines. Perhaps the only way to save his people is to flee, but that will not be easy either.

ZIANI VAATZES, an engineer exiled by the Mezentines for his abominable creations, has already proven that he can defend a city. But Ziani Vaatzes has his own concerns, and the fate of Civitas Vadanis may not be one of them.

The war upon Civitas Eremiae, by Mezentia, is all but complete. The ultimate goal of which, however, has not been achieved. Several of the individuals marked for death, by Mezentia, have survived. As a result, Mezentia's eye turns to Civitas Vadanis and it's remarkable amount of native wealth, in the form of silver mines. It won't be long before Mezentia manufactures a pretext upon which to make Civitas Vadanis the next target of the war.

In fact, who can hope to be safe from Mezentia. Indeed, the only thing they seem to fear are the vast, innumerable hoard of Cure Hardy beyond the desert. The Aram Chantat tribe alone numbers over one million. The only solace for Mezentia is that there is no easy path across the desert. If there were, or one was discovered, Mezentia would be facing what would amount to certain annhiliation, a fact Ziani Vaatzes is poignantly aware of and hopes to exploit.

And then, a most unique political alliance is proposed. Among all these machinations, Ziani Vaatzes continues to poke, file, trim, shave, thread, calibrate and nudge events into an alignment most suited to his own ends. Indeed, Parker's core message is that, for love, a human being will do anything. It is the direct by-product of this dynamic that gives humanity it's notions of "good" and "evil." While I may not agree, you can certainly see that Parker has an extremely coherent and salient point.

The characters are much the same: the Eremian Duke Orsea and his wife, the Duchess Veratriz; the Eremian Duke's former chief of staff, Miel Ducas; the Vadanai Duke Valens; the exiled Mezentian engineer, Ziani Vaatzes; and the Mezentian bureaucrat Lucao Psellus, who is slowly unwinding, and understanding, several intricately laid webs. The only new character installment of note is the unusual and bizarre, Gace Daurenja. What Vaatzes does for the story, Daurenja does to Vaatzes. Daurenja is able to twist and mold Vaatzes to fit his own agenda. As each man vies to incorporate the other into their plan, which one will come to a complete understanding, thus mastering, the other first? It would seem the outcome is overwhelmingly dependent upon the answer.

The more I read this trilogy, the more difficulty I have in pinning down a definitive description of Parker's style. It reads like a hybridization of the third-person voice and narrative, interwoven with first-person thoughts cavalierly tossed onto the page. I really, really like it - with one minor exception.

With perhaps 150 pages to go in the book, I became mildly aware of an acute irritation I was developing toward some of the characters. In stopping to analyze precisely why and what, I realized it wasn't the characters, but a particular theme beginning to be espoused by multiple characters. It was the theme that concepts such as duty and love are the true motile power for other concepts - like good, evil, creativity and destruction. Apparently, love makes the world go round. Some of the characters began to bemoan their individual circumstances because love, duty, or both, had 'done them wrong.' The Self-Pitysburg Address was tolerable once, but after reading it from Orsea, Ducas, Veratriz and Valens, it went from being old to an irritant rather quickly.

All in all, however, this is the strongest 'middle book' to a trilogy that I have yet read. K.J. Parker has, with this book, lived up to the standards set for me in the previous one, and I now look forward to getting my hands on all-things-K.J. Parker that I can find.

Highly Recommended to Must Read


The Evil King said...

Great series. Enjoy the last book.

PeterWilliam said...

True indeed. I've finished the series some time ago, but have been composing and releasing posts on pre-scheduled dates in the future. I'm busy hunting up the remainder of Parker's bibliography now that I've gotten a bit of a taste for it.

Lynn said...

Just found your site and I'v found it very informative and easy to navigate. Keep up the great work.

I've just found K.J. Parker by way of The Folding Knife. Having only read about seven chapter it's already got me hooked. You might want to look at this book as well.

PeterWilliam said...

Thanks Lynn. From everything I've been reading about Parker, The Folding Knife will, in all likelihood, be my next stop.

Post a Comment