Underground Reading: The Engineer Trilogy by KJ Parker
Friday, June 18, 2010
Over the past week, I've burned through K.J. Parker's exceptional Engineer Trilogy. First published between 2005 and 2007, this is Parker's most recent series.
It is, as hinted above, brilliant. Parker's infectious, stylish use of language combines with a distinctly philosophical approach to make one of the best series I've ever read.
The Engineer Trilogy is about a lot of things, and a lot of people, but, central to the action is Ziani Vaatzes. Vaatzes is an engineer from the Republic of Mezentia, a sort of Roman analogue that has a distinct technological advantage over its surrounding nations. Vaatzes is an impressive engineer at that - so when he's sentenced to death for a seemingly minor infraction of Mezentine law - his analytical mind clicks into action. Not only does Vaatzes escape from prison, but, once in exile, begins a series of military and political maneuvers will change the face of the world.
This is well beyond your typical stableboy/prophecy stuff, and, despite the importance of technology, this shouldn't be confused with steampunk either. Parker is past world-building or fantastical gimmickry.
The setting is an abstracted analogue of the real world and the cultures are deliberately streamlined archetypes. The characters are brilliant - empathetic, fascinating and absorbing - but even they're not the core of the book. This series is a deliberately provocative exploration of what makes people tick.
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