The Hammer


K. J. Parker


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

March 13, 2011

he Hammer is a novel by K. J. Parker, apparently a stand alone book set in a fictional world. It is the story of a young man named Gignomai, the youngest son of a exiled noble family called the met'Oc. They live on a distant island, the only aristocrats in a small colony at the edge of the empire. The met'Oc have been in their exile for seventy years, growing progressively poorer and less relevant, though the patriarch of the clan, Gignomai's father,

Gignomai's two older brothers are well drawn - Luso the ruthless swordsman who leads raids on the helpless colonists, and Stheno, a huge powerful man who manages to keep the family farm going despite the fact almost everything is falling into disrepair after 70 years of hard use. His father is a tyrant, the absolute ruler of the met'Oc enclave - his word is law and he is unyielding in all matters.

I liked Gignomai. He reminded me of the characters in Jack Vance's novels - resolute, undaunted by huge odds, direct in his speech, yet also deceptive in his schemes. Though K. J. Parker's prose is not as stylistic as Vance's, her writing does include similar touches, such as the elaborate titles of the books in the library, or in the outlandish costumes worn by Cousin Pasi and Cousin Boulomai, or in the descriptions of the wedding ceremony.

Another fun part of the novel is the culture of the aborgines that exist on the island. They are the original inhabitants, pushed aside when the colony was established on one corner of the continent, and mostly forgotten. Parker constructs a believable culture and a world for them to inhabit.

The colony and the met'Oc have existed in statis for 70 years, with almost no interaction between the two except for the occasional raid on the farms led by Luso. But young Gignomai is bored, so he figures out away to escape from the met'Oc compound and sneak down into the town. In the town he meets Furio, the son of the shopkeeper. Despite their different backgrounds, and despite coming from either side of the aristocrat / townpeople divide, Gignomai and Furio become best friends.

The only part I didn't like about this novel is the ending. Gignomai is a clever planner and thinker, yet when his plan is ultimately revealed, it struck me as absurd. It was unnecessary complex, I was expecting much more.