Almost five years ago (!), I wrote a beginner’s guide to K.J. Parker for this very site. “Starting with first principles” is still up, and, although 2015 feels like a distant and more innocent time, I’m still standing by every word.
Unlike 2015, however, I can’t pretend that Parker is ‘merely’ a cult author. Parker’s production of short stories, novellas, collections and novels has been matched only by his critical acclaim. Suffice to say that Parker’s brilliance is no longer a secret. But even if Parker hipsterism (Holtsterism) is passé, the author’s quality remains undiminished. The recent albums are just as good as the first one. But Parker’s prodigious output makes the dilemma of choosing one’s first Parker all the more difficult. So where to begin? Parker’s works cunningly defy any sort of simple classification—if I were the sort to ascribe authorial intent, I would shake my fist and declare the author was being deliberately difficult. But there are some themes and trends, or, perhaps better put: axes.