domingo, maio 20, 2018

Over-the-top World-Building: "The Hammer" by K. J. Parker

When I was attending The British Council back in the day in Lisbon, in the summer, the best students usually went to the Linguistic Mother Land to brush up on their English. On our first visit I stayed in a posh hotel. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when we I found out no bidet in the loo! Good God! Had I returned to the middle ages? I went down to the reception and politely tried asking the concierge whether there was another room with that particular feature. Can you imagine the dialog? Cutting the story short, I couldn't make the concierge understand what a bidet was!!! I went there two years ago (to another hotel), and I found out the same thing: no bidet! Good grief. Now I understand why the Brexit. The Natives don't want to install bidets in hotels. I heard from some Londoners that the bidet is also absent from the common home...I can't understand this aversion to the bidet. For starters, we're not sitting on the nozzle... it doesn't make contact. It sprays from several inches below the action area and at an angle. On top of that, we wash away the stuff that gets lifted off your bits without thinking. With a bidet, the bog roll is bought maybe twice a year in small batches... for guests from abroad. My arsehole smells clean after a shit. Yours? Sorry to be blunt but this is a disease... Some Europeans have known the truth for over a century.

The idea that being cleaner is something to be worried about is... weird. This is a case of pure stubbornness on the part of some Lands. I'm of the opinion that the invention of the bidet was a great service to humanity. I feel really dirty if I haven't had a good rinse post bowel movement. Also it doesn't negate the need for paper. I use just as much as I would when using a non-bidet toilet. It sometimes amazes me how little some folk know about something so fundamental. I'm all for cleanliness. Same can't be said for some my local boozer's bogs and some of the men who use them. I have a particular loathing for those who 'shake and stuff' whilst texting. But maybe that's just me. I might also add that the absence of the bidet also happens in Europe (so that my Anglo-Saxon readers don't think I'm targeting them...lmao). A central country in Europe which I won’t name, has also got an even stranger thing. Anyone who's been there will know that bidets are not in fact widespread, and that there is a distressing trend for that country’s hotel rooms to include a complete transparent bathroom cubicle, which means that should you be sharing a room with someone, you can look each other in the eye when one of you is going... There are also numerous hotels in resorts popular with folk coming from that central European country that have also adopted this horrifying approach to bathroom construction. Why the strange fascination with the bidet when reviewing “The Hammer”? It's all about stubbornness, and the Gignomai character has plenty of it.

The main character, Gignomai met'Oc, is as memorable as was Bassianus Severus. Gignomai is the youngest member of a sentenced family of exiles on account of the political betrayal of an aristocratic family and he's clearly different from his relatives - he does not enjoy the birth privileges due to his birth, and he willingly spends time with the colonists, and with the passage of years he foments a revolt against hypocrisy and the game of appearances. From here on it is only a few steps away from initiating a political revolution and industrial revolution, and the reader is fortunate to be a witness to the whole process, described in the smallest details. It is worth paying special attention to the image of the world presented; K.J. Parker avoids the mistake of many other fantasy writers, i.e., not boring the reader with the history of past ages, dozens of geographical names, and complex genealogy. Parker is much smarter than that. He goes in a completely different direction, smuggling further information in dialogues or skimping data in descriptions, thanks to which he constantly keeps the reader's attention. We construct the subtle details in our minds.

Parker’s very unusual prose is also present. Minimalist for lack of a better word. Very sparingly administered information. I like the way Parker sets up the characters of his novels as pawns on the chessboard and then plays the narrative game. Thanks to this, his prose is so intimate, theatrical. It has its undoubted charm. Reading "The Hammer" I had the impression that this book is asking for filming in the style of "Dogville" by Lars von Trier. The plot is a simple story about revenge and stubbornness, but Parker is good at outlining different types of character streaks, playing with the fantasy world along the way.

The downside lies on the fact that Parker does not really engage the characters in moral dilemmas; on top of that, Parker indulges in an over-the-top plot and we also need some suspension-of-disbelief to apply (e.g., could a land like the one depicted be left virtually untouched?). Despite all that, the book will make you ponder stuff. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but with so much SF crap being published nowadays...  

Bottom-Line: A tale of obsession, stubbornness and technological revolution. While reading it I had ambivalent feelings for most of the time, but when everything was clear, it turned out to be good and engaging.

2 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

This is why I keep following you, for reviews just like this.

Where else am I going to get a rant on bidets and invisible bathroom walls AND have it tied into a review?

Manuel Antão disse...

Yep, I was on a (bog) roll here...