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Academic Exercises

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  445 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K.J. Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-Winner, “Let Maps to Others”. The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belong ...more
Hardcover, 529 pages
Published July 31st 2014 by Subterranean Press (first published July 27th 2014)
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4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  445 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Manuel Antão
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Writing from the Gray Zone: "Academic Exercises" by K. J. Parker

“A man will betray his honour, his country and his friend, but the bond between two people who share a common devotion to hardcore porn is unbreakable.”
(From the story “Purple and Black”)

This anthology shows that a true storyteller succeeds no matter what the length of the story is. Each of the works of fiction is a Lehrstunde of the art of the narrative.
What have we got h
Althea Ann
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
***** A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong
A re-read... when I first read it, I wrote: 'I believe this is the second story I've read by Parker, and I'm very impressed. The Renaissance-ish fantasy setting is rich and enjoyable, but the meat of the story is in the complex relationship between two renowned composers, as their fortunes shift. Definitely going to seek out more from this author. (Just ordered two more books!)'
Loved just as much if not more, the second time around!

***** A Rich, Full Week
Academic Exercises is a collection of mostly short stories & novelettes, all apparently set in the same alternate world (which seems quite like the Renaissance Italian city state era.) Many of the stories involve magic that is not magic, just science that isn't entirely understood yet. A couple of stories leave the magic out altogether. Most of them also involve a institution of study of learning known as the Studium, which can teach magic among other things. And there are also a couple of f ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
K.J. Parker is an author whose prose I’ve always enjoyed; on the other hand, nobody else ever seems to have read any of their work, and that is, frankly, a crime. As such, today we’re going to talk about Parker’s short fiction anthology, ‘Academic Exercises’ – which doesn’t require any knowledge of existing series to read through, and is, not to give the game away, really rather good.

The text collects a variety of Parker’s short fiction; some of it has been available before in the form of novell
not available to buy atm

A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong available via

A Rich, Full Week available via in print + audio I really enjoyed the audio version of this. ♥♥♥♥

Amor Vincit Omnia available via

On Sieges

Let Maps to Others via

Cutting Edge Technology via

Illuminated via ♥♥♥♥

Rich Mens Skins
Teresa Edgerton
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This collection includes ten pieces of short fiction and three essays. I found the quality of the stories uneven: some were exceptional ("Let Maps to Others,""The Sun and I," and the remarkable "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong"), others enjoyable enough but by themselves nothing special.

Except … well, except that in this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The characters in these stories face moral and ethical dilemmas, challenges to their artistic and academic integrity, reap
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2018-rev
Metaphorosis Reviews
3.5 stars

I've noted before that K.J. Parker is a formulaic writer. He approaches each story with almost exactly the same blend of irony, fatalism, and humor. All his stories and novels have the same general feel. He gets away with it because it's an effective formula, and because there's just enough that's new to maintain our interest. He also introduces substantial and thorough background information.

This collection contains the first non-fiction I've seen from Parker - deta
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing short fiction and nonfiction collection by one of my favorite fantasy writers. Unlike most short story collections this one isn't uneven at all; every story is engaging and challenging. The stories are mostly set in the vaguely shared Renaissance fantasy universe Parker has created, but without much reference to any specific events in other books, so everything stands alone nicely. As the title suggests, most of the main characters in these stories are scholars and academics, and the sto ...more
omnibus collection of almost all short stories, novellas and short novels (including Purple Black and Blue Gold) from the author; brilliant stuff sure, the only drawback being no original stories for this anthology and as I read everything here as originally published in various venues, all of the book's content was familiar; still nice having them under one cover

see also:
May 20, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-hold
Reading through this anthology by one of my favourite writers and I'll try to keep my thoughts on each story/essay up-to-date as I go. I've read a couple of the longer ones before, but I might reread them because, well...Parker. Duh.

(Should note that most of these stories are available for free on Subterranean Press' website, for those interested. I think Purple and Black and Blue and Gold are the only ones not...)

A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong

The first of two winners of the World Fantasy Aw
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't know anything about KJ Parker but he can really spin a good story. The humor is decidedly dry, with a good amount of tongue-in-cheek observations. I really enjoyed it. This collection of stories centers around people in academic situations (research, experiments, teaching, etc), but most of them seemed to be set in an alternate history where there is a type of "science" that really is a form of magic. Perhaps an alternate Byzantine period. There was also a really interesting section on t ...more
James Swenson
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection of short stories starts with the brilliant "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong." A young composer, a genius, comes to his professor, the narrator, a career academic whose music lacks "wings." In exchange for help escaping the police, he offers a symphony that the professor can represent as his own. It is a joy to watch the exchange shape both lives.

Each story in the collection is in some way memorable. Each features entirely different characters, but is recognizably set in the sam
Fantasy Literature
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
K.J. Parker is a relatively recent discovery of mine, and she (?) is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Known for her dry cynicism, understated humor, and intriguing explorations of morality, her stories are set in a historically informed world fleshed out with Parker’s rich historical knowledge.

Collected here in her first anthology, Academic Exercises, her short fiction has so far won two World Fantasy Awards for her novellas “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let Maps to Others
Kyle Muntz
Apr 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Definitely a solid collection, and I appreciate that almost all of it was novella length, but unfortunately Parker's stories are too similar for 500 pages, especially how they're all set in the same academic environment with relatively similar narrators. My favorites were "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong," "Let's Map to Others," and the three essays on the history, social politics, and technology of siege warfare, swords, and armor. This kind of fascination with detail and engineering is a big ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
I'd never read any KJ Parker before, but I will be after this. All the stories in this take place in the same world, but in different countries, all tied together with mention to the Studium - a university that studies everything from philosophy and history to alchemy and magic. The stories are all great, with realistic characters, and hints at the magic system of the Studium (just enough to give a flavour of how it works, not enough to make it predictable). There's also a few essays in here, wh ...more
James Taylor
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Academic Exercises is a collection of novellas by K.J. Parker. There's a range of topics featured in the book, dealing with various arts, religion, magic, war, and even some non-fiction work which covers siege warfare, swords and armour.

Although classified as a fantasy, it's not the typical worlds with imaginative creatures and magic spells. Instead, the humans which are gifted in magic don't see themselves as wizards, but as philosophers, specialising in mental energies. They often use these po
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Parker is one of my favorite authors, so this short story collection was a pleasure. Parker's short stories are a distillation of unique style involving brilliant machinations, magic, and clever plot twists. The three nonfiction essays included about siege warfare, swords, and armor were a surprise for me, since I didn't know the author wrote nonfiction. They add some important details to the realism of sword and sorcery fantasy. The fiction essays mostly seem to take place in the same world wit ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There's probably something wrong with you if you like KJ Parker's books. I'm sorry, but there it is.

Another fine example of how even the fictional history of a fantasy world is a series of blunders, lies, and crimes against humanity. In case you were having day with too much sunshine, a lottery win, or a fine time with friends, this collection of short stories and essays will depress you enough that you will no longer secretly feel something bad will happen to you, because it already has. Reall
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really liked every story in this collection (there are also three reasonably entertaining essays--on swords, armor, and sieges--included). Four stars rather than five mostly because Parker's story structure seems so consistent. Not predictable in the details, but ultimately fairly homogeneous on the whole.

Still, I enjoy the clockwork plots, clever, morally ambiguous (well, generally morally deficient to some extent) protagonists, and spare, sharp prose each time. I also enjoyed getting a bit mor
Jonathan Cassie
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fans of KJ Parker will love this collection of the author's shorter fiction. If you're not a fan of KJ Parker already, this will serve as a strong introduction to the author's style, tone, obsessions and techniques. For those of us who are fans, these 500 pages are full of what we've come to love. Acerbic wit, wildly interesting descriptions of magic systems, crackling dialogue, completely believable characters in settings that breathe with life.
Jared I.
A remarkable collection. All were good and some were great.

The opener, A Small Price for Birdsong, in particular was terrific and ably set the tone for the rest.

I also enjoyed the essays on Weapons and Armour. Informative as well as entertaining.

In addition, the stories provided some tantalizing glimpses of the shared history and mythology Parker has established. I would really like to see a map and a time line of all the novels and stories.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite a collection of scoundrels & scholars, often in the same man.

Can't get enough Parker lately. After this I'm very keen to get to some of his novels--I hope they're as funny, bleak, and human as his short stories.
Jun 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-fiction
Yeah, so, turns out my opinion on this book was already said far better by Foz Meadows. One star for Birdsong, and a big wet you're-a-giant-sexist-douche,-book raspberry for the rest.
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ahlak üzerine bir öykü derlemesi denebilir. Sihirli bir dünya değil ama fantastik. Güzel yanı her öykü iyi ile kötüyü sorguluyor. Çok başarılı.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not generally a fan of short fiction, but Parker's voice and sense of humour suit me perfectly. The few essays scattered through the collection are quite enjoyable as well.
A Humble Bundle purchase, another ebook that justified this excellent way of picking up interesting books!

This book is different from any that I have read before. As others have stated, accurately, it is a collection of short stories and novellas which all take place in a similar world, but also mixed in are three well constructed and argued treatises on aspects of medieval warfare (sieges, sword and armour technology).

Putting aside the non-fiction portions for the time being, the stories are a
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
“Academic Exercises” compiles some of K. J. Paker’s most popular short stories and novellas. If you’re already a fan of K. J. Parker, as it was my case before reading this book, you’ll probably know most of these pieces, but that’s not a reason for not reading this collection, as most of the stories are so brilliant that you’ll enjoy them as much as the first time. If you’re new to this author, this is the perfect starting place as you’ll find here most of his best, most awarded and rep
Apr 20, 2018 marked it as novellas-and-short-stories
I'm not very good with short stories. They're fun to read, and can certainly be impactful in much the same way as novels can, in a fraction of the reading time. But shortly after I read anything of novella length or shorter, just about everything is lost to me, including the author and title, and I'm left with fleeting impressions of imagery or tone and nothing else. (Also true of articles, too. At least google can help there, should I decide to refer back to one.)

I'm going to summarize my impre
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short stories and novellas, most of them centered around the magic/philosophy school, the Studium. The best of them is "Let Maps to Others," astory about a lost island, scholars' attempts to figure out where it is, and what happens when one particular scholar figures out how to get back there; as with most of Parker's work, it's full of venal motives and schemes that backfire on the schemer in memorable ways. Also striking is "Purple and Black," a correspondence between a reluctant provincial go ...more
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Sci-fi and Heroic...: Academic Exercises by K.J. Parker 52 71 Apr 21, 2015 06:41AM  
  • The Ape's Wife and Other Stories
  • Bleeding Shadows
  • The Top of the Volcano: The Award-Winning Stories of Harlan Ellison
  • The Jack Vance Treasury
  • Nobody's Home: An Anubis Gates Story
  • The Hunter from the Woods
  • The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales
  • The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings from Whatever, 2008-2012
  • Muse of Fire
  • Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium
  • The End of the Sentence
  • Jacaranda (The Clockwork Century, #6)
  • Inside Job
  • The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox (The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, #1-3)
  • The Sword & Sorcery Anthology
  • Fearsome Magics
  • The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
  • The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories
K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

According to the biographical notes in some of Parker's books, Parker has previously worked in law, journalism, and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal. It is also claimed that Parker is married to a solicitor and now lives in southern England. According to an autobiographical note, Parker was raised in rural Vermont, a lifest