cover image The Father of Lies

The Father of Lies

K.J. Parker. Subterranean, $40 (544p) ISBN 978-1-59606-852-0

Now that reclusive grimdark fantasy author Parker has been revealed to be the alter ego of humorous fantasist Tom Holt, he’s free to deliver this large reprint collection that shows off his entire very wide range, from the funny and even absurd works usually produced as Holt to the sharp and sly stories associated with the Parker name. Unlike his longer Parker novels, which tend to focus on economics and human conflict, these tales often feature classic genre tropes such as magic and gods. The centerpiece (literally and figuratively), “The Devil You Know,” features the con artist and philosopher Saloninus (familiar from Parker’s novella “Blue and Gold”) negotiating with a devil for an extended life span. It’s an old concept—each knows the other’s trying to pull a fast one—but the two characters play so well off each other that the story works as an updated and entertaining Socratic dialogue. “Downfall of the Gods,” in which a goddess is forced to assign a task to a mortal she doesn’t want to forgive, borders on Holt-style goofiness at times (“when you gotterdammerung, you gotterdammerung”). Parker’s wit shines in the shortest tale, “Told by an Idiot,” in which an array of peculiar artifacts and entities—a demon in a bottle, a thinly disguised Shakespeare, the first copy of the Book of Job (written in Job’s own handwriting)—shape yet another story of a man finding a way to get his wish. Fans of both Parker and Holt will enjoy this fine collection. (Feb.)