Quar Book Review: Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K. J. Parker

A world-spanning empire that has lasted for centuries is falling to a singular barbarian invasion, and only a lowly engineer from the visibly-wrong race stands in their way. Will he work with the people who enslaved him against the wild barbarians he originally hails from? Can he win?

While I was taken in by that kind of summary, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one now that I’ve read it.

To start with, the biggest beef a lot of folks have with this book is the ending; the book doesn’t conclude so much as it just stops. Recognizing that Parker is trying to recreate the unreliable narrator common to the few histories we have from the real medieval era, many of which cut off before the to-us epochal events they were writing about actually wrapped up, I kinda… enjoyed the conceit.

The book is basically a riff on a siege of fake Constantinople where everything goes right for the besiegers and very little goes right for the besieged, except it always does, but at the very last minute. Make sense? Lotta deus ex machinas abounding, but they’re explained via the agency of the main guy, so it’s somehow not grossly egregious.

That’s what the book is about; effectively, an EXTREMELY thin scrum of fiction is overlaid a bunch of vastly-simplified Byzantine history and told via the viewpoint of this foreign defender of The City. Various examples from real history of specific military advances and surprises are woven into the story of the siege. A loose and ill-defined gathering of secondary characters help the protagonist, Orhan, move the plot along. There are a few musings about love and the nature of prejudice that aren’t worth interrogating at any length. The story doesn’t conclude so much as it just stops. I stopped reading a few times on my way through, because, while I’m a sucker for Byzantine(-ish) historical tales, it’s such a THINLY-drawn book. There’s no depth to anything.

And yet… I grabbed the loose sequel, which I’m taking is supposed to be somewhat like Procopius’ Secret History of Justinian? IE, the same series of events but told through a wildly different perspective? Not sure, but that seems to be the take from the jacket.

Honestly, I think folks familiar with Procopius’ thing will get the most out of this book; if you go in expecting a straight low-fantasy tale, you will probably be disappointed. If you take it as a modern-language early medieval history, with all the myth-making and twisting of facts to serve an image those chronicles entailed, I’m guessing you’ll like it more. Like I said, it never grabbed me fully like really good books do and I’ll probably never go back to it, but I did finish it, was engaged at the end, and am genuinely curious what Book Two’s take is going to be.

i will need the brands to, as the kids say, “knock it off”

i desperately need The Brands to cut this shit out. you’d think this would be from like my health care access provider or my work HR or something…

no.

it’s from the fucking place I order RAZOR BLADES and shaving cream online from.

how… how did it come to this? when I was a child, our laundry detergent never checked in on my mood. it was too busy making INSANELY RACIST commercials to get white people to buy it. the peanut butter we bought never ONCE told me it cared about me.

and i was okay with that. honestly, i vastly preferred it. i give you money for things i need, brands. you give me the thing. there is no emotional connection here. you are a capitalist creation and i, regardless of needing you In This Moment, wish for nothing more than your total and utter destruction at the earliest possible moment.

please. fuck off entirely with this.

Fuck Larry Ellison

Rich Dickhead Ends Everything Because He Isn’t Glorified Enough

Sigh. It’s almost like the American model of Capitalist Philanthropy is a grossly-inefficient way to allocate research dollars or even choose what gets research in the first place.

Yeah, sure, he’s going to relaunch a COVID-19-focused charity or some shit instead, what the fuck ever. Think of all the wasted money and effort that went into… whatever the fuck his foundation has achieved up to this point. Tons of small, on-the-ground operations that were actually achieving good things are now going to have to scramble to figure out their funding that used to come from this twat, but who’s now going to spend however long redoing his foundation from the ground up and with a different goal for whatever reason. Just… a colossal waste and huge, negative impact on people actually doing the work.

Why should one rich asshole (and, even by the standard of All Billionaires Are Sociopathic Fuckfaces, ol’ Larry here is a REMARKABLE piece of shit) get to decide what’s worth focusing on in the first place? “bUt iTs HIS mOnEy!!!!” I can hear the bootlicking Stockholm Syndrome-havers spittle out onto their chins already.

It shouldn’t BE his money. NO ONE IS WORTH A BILLION DOLLARS, MUCH LESS MANY MULTIPLES THEREOF.

And one of the putative “advantages” of capitalism is that it’s supposed to be efficient with the allocation of resources. How in the FUCK is it efficient to have every billionaire run his own charity foundation, aka tax dodge, each with its own grotesque layer of hangers-on sucking away admin dollars, than to just tax these cunts and allocate the money at a robust, federal level where it is needed? Where our democratically-elected representatives can listen to our will and we can therefore collectively decide where the money should go?

It isn’t. But we’ve decided that individual charity, sprayed about per the moment to moment whims and fancies of rich fucklords, is the best way to do this.

It’s clearly not. Tax these shitheads and distribute these funds at a federal level to maximize impact.