The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker
Also by this author: The Last Witness
Published by Orbit on 2010-02-22
Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man. He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he's only ever made one mistake.One mistake, though, can be enough.
The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker is so spectacularly different; I can’t help but love it. But, unfortunately, I am certain that this is not a book everyone will love. K. J. Parker delves into the intricacies of war and economics in detail that will lose some readers. As much as I enjoyed the book, I have to admit it could get almost a bit dry at points. Almost, but not quite. It could have very easily been dry if done by a different author, but Parker managed to balance all the information, made it interesting, and also inserted a sardonic sense of humor that really gave the book an edge. Honestly, I think that detail is part of the reason why I loved the book. To me, this story is so much closer to reality than any other fiction or fantasy book I have read. Yes, Basso and his world do not exist, but the concepts and the way they were presented were so relatable to our world you’d have to actively make an effort to stay blind to it.
“I’m corrupt and ruthless and I change the world for my own personal gain. Which is why it’s so good to be on my side.”
The Folding Knife is the story of Basso, his rise to power, and his ambitions (or perhaps obsessions) to raise that power even higher. It is the story of him juggling currency, national debt, people, land and resources all to achieve some goal. How much of his strategy is actually planned and how much of it is happenstance may not be clear, but what is certainly obvious is Basso’s desire to always advance another step even when it may seem he is already on top. His quest to earn himself a name in history is riddled with murder, assassination attempts, obsessions, vendettas, robbery, war, gambling. All of these things get to make an appearance, though, some occur more than others and some more successful.
“Basso did like a little mischief, now and again. He made laws and invaded countries and adjusted the currency because it’d annoy someone.”
And while war, politics and economic policies all feature heavily in this book, they are not the whole of it either. The main character, Basso is fascinating. And a bit humorous, although I’m not certain that is intentional on his part. He seems to be blessed with splendid luck, turning disasters to unseen advantages.
“Maybe it’s your lucky day.”
He is destined to do great things. Or so he thinks. But, despite the luck he seems to have, does it benefit Basso and his life in ways that truly matter? Are the risks he takes worth the potential gain? Every decision made or not made, every action taken or not taken will have ramifications.
“You may be reckless to the point of insanity, but at least you’re properly informed.”
And if Basso is not intriguing enough on his own, the relationships he has with those around him are also unusual. Most people I think are below Basso’s need for acknowledgement. The relationships within his family are … let’s just say, not typical or ideal. While he maintains his distance from most people, staying remarkable detached, there is a couple of people for which he cares greatly.
“Two sides of the same coin; and there’s no such thing as good or bad luck. Things just happen.“
So, I started out by saying I don’t think everyone will not enjoy this book. But who do I think should read it? Pretty much everyone. Like I said before, this is a book that ties in so easily with the modern-day political and economic issues, crises, war. I’m not going to preach politics, or even try to sway people. But what I do firmly believe is that people need to be aware and informed. People need to think for themselves. Even if there are small sections that some might find a little dry here and there, I really think this book is an excellent chance to not just enjoy the story of Basso, but perhaps think just a bit about the real world we live in. The world outside of the books.