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Fantasy Faction Book Clubs => 2013 Fantasy Book Club => Book Club Archives => Fantasy Faction Book Club => [SEP 2013] The Folding Knife => Topic started by: Arry on September 24, 2013, 05:52:34 PM

Title: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 24, 2013, 05:52:34 PM
I had quotes marked in between my comments for this section, decided to keep them in my comments. :)

Quote
“It all depends on this fucking war”

Well … there goes the country.


Quote
“the winning-side dead are heroes and the losing-side dead were just suckers who deserved it.”


I think my favorite part of this book were Bassano’s letter home (to Basso). Clear portraits of war. I’m a sucker for anti-war sentiment, so I may keep my commentary here brief so I don’t delve into actual politics in the real world. But I think regardless of who you are, what side you are on, Bassano’s simplification of war to “Sides” really sums it up. To me, that is what it comes down to. People fight on the side they happen to be on (much like they happen to follow the religion they happened to be born into), and kill the people on the other side, whose main difference is that they happened to be on an opposing side. People are people everywhere. What side they fight on is a matter of circumstance usually. Sad truth when they humanize the enemy (the “other” side).


Moving on … Basso really seemed to be falling apart this section. It was like he was turning into his father, relying on other people (like General Gnatho) to make really important, strategic decisions. He was asking questions of his advisors, looking to them to make decisions when at any other time he was issuing orders. What caused this change? Had he grown too dependent on Aelius and Antigonus?


Quote
Two sides of the same coin; and there’s no such thing as good or bad luck. Things just happen.


Melsuntha did end up being a spy. I was suspicious of her, mainly because Basso confided in her so much. Do you think Basso would have really not invaded Mavortis if she had spoken against it? I actually think he may have refrained. I think Melsuntha restored some level of humanity to him, perhaps he will find a way to retain it.

And the end? Another stroke of luck for Basso? What do you expect will happen once he starts working in Auxentine?

Quote
“Maybe it’s your lucky day.”

So ... overall, I really enjoyed this book. I don't know what I expected going in, but I do know it likely wasn't this. Great book, story, loved Basso and all his flaws. And I really enjoyed reading a book that seemed to mirror so many modern day conflicts/concerns.

Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: pornokitsch on September 24, 2013, 06:38:42 PM
So, what'd you think was the Big Mistake?

(Love the marked quotes.)
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: eclipse on September 24, 2013, 07:35:28 PM
You can see Basso climbing up the ladder again in Auxentine  :), are we sure his luck not magical?

Bit disappointed that Melsuntha was a spy as you could see it coming from early on unusual for me, would have been better if you thought she was a spy then found out near the end that she wasn't
 
mistake sending Bassano with the army? not banishing his sister from his life what a pain ;)

oh was sad to see Bassano die I thought he had Basso luck with what happened to him in the forest turning a disaster into a victory (funny with the colonel running back to find a higher rank officer)

I forgot which chapter but I think there was a mention of a book called "Adventures in Wonderland"anything to do with Alice or is it a completely different book

Really enjoyed this novel (apart from the later bits with his sister)






Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: DBASKLS on September 24, 2013, 08:21:13 PM
Although I found it a little slow in the middle when the chapters grew in length, I have really enjoyed this book. I really liked Basso, he had a great depth to his character and towards the end some of those letters to Bassano were quite moving.

I agree that Melsuntha turning out to be a spy afterall was a little disappointing and seemed a little weak.

THis was the first K. J. Parker I have read and I'd happily read more. Although I would still question whether it is fantasy it was still a good read!
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 24, 2013, 10:49:22 PM

So, what'd you think was the Big Mistake?

Oi! I still can't decide. For some reason, I often feel like it's early, really early in the story. I can't help but wonder if it is actually beating up the sentry for his sister back when he first met Aelius. That was soo early, but if not for that, Aelius may very likely have not been his close advisor. Also, perhaps that event gave him taught him that even if he loses his temper, lashes out violently, that he can still pretty much get away with it. Perhaps experiencing that made it easier somehow for him to murder his wife. Doubtful. I'm just in the mood to propose a long-shot possibility. Something other than murdering his wife or starting the war or using the Hus in Mavortis, sending his much beloved nephew and planned successor to war (this one really messed up his plans) or any of the other potential mistakes. Maybe his mistake was simply being born? *kidding*

Of the non-long shot possibilities, sending Bassano to war is the one I am inclined to pick. At least at the moment.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: AnneLyle on September 26, 2013, 06:51:37 PM
Melsuntha did end up being a spy. I was suspicious of her, mainly because Basso confided in her so much.

I really expected her to have been involved in the original robbery, back in Chapter 8 or 9, I think - I was surprised when she (apparently) wasn't. But I agree, it wasn't so much of a surprise that she turned out to be a spy after all. Have to say that KJP writes a lot of rather unlikeable female characters! (Based on my admittedly limited experience, i.e. 2 books).

As for Basso's mistake, I wonder if it was the paper money - it made him overconfident about what he could achieve with his accounting genius. I was rather glad his luck turned right at the end, as otherwise it was a pretty downbeat story.

Overall, really enjoyed it and will be putting more KJP on my TBR, though likely won't get around to reading any for a while. Too many other books guilt-tripping me already...
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Nighteyes on September 26, 2013, 07:57:35 PM
To be honest it all goes down hill for Basso when he stops being reactive and becomes proactive.  He is lucky but he pushes his luck too far.  I would say for plot reasons that trusting Melsuntha was his BIG MISTAKE, but there again he was pushing his luck as it was.  Yes, he would have got away with it if it hadn't been for that pesky spy of a wife, but for how long?  The Empire was stirring, and you would have thought he would have been caught out at some point.  It reminds me a bit of the film 'The Special Relationship.'  Blair is portrayed as a very dynamic Prime Minister, and then he meets Clinton, who convinces him he needs to think of his legacy.  Once he becomes obsessed with his legacy, then things unravel for Blair, and he starts getting Britain to interfere detrimentally on the foreign stage in first Afghanistan and then Iraq.  That really resonated with me, and I always wondered how close that was to the truth.  Same with Basso, once he becomes obsessed with his legacy, it all starts to unravel.  Maybe the obsession with his legacy is his BIG MISTAKE.

Another point is the ending.  One of the best endings I have ever read in any books.  We think we have been shown the ending at the beginning but really it's all a big tease.  Very, very clever.  Have read 4 KJ Parker books now (all stand alones) and so far this is her Masterpiece for me.   One of the very best books in the genre I have ever read.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 26, 2013, 11:54:55 PM
Same with Basso, once he becomes obsessed with his legacy, it all starts to unravel.  Maybe the obsession with his legacy is his BIG MISTAKE.
I love this theory! I had some thought to this effect while reading, think I even made note of it somewhere (though I did not draw the parallel with Blair), but didn't manage to connect the idea with the MISTAKE

So, scratch my earlier babble. This is what I think his mistake is. Or at least his biggest mistake, the one that is so critical. Now if Basso would recognize it and refer to it as his one mistake himself. Hmmm.... then I am not so sure. So then, I am guessing what his actual biggest mistake is, or what Basso would label as his biggest mistake.

Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: pornokitsch on September 27, 2013, 09:23:12 AM
So then, I am guessing what his actual biggest mistake is, or what Basso would label as his biggest mistake.

Really good point! I personally think that his big mistake is at the very end, when he runs away (I did a whole big waffle about this for the Tor reread, so I'll be lazy and link instead of repeating (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/07/the-folding-knife-reread-conclusion)).

But what would Basso think is his big mistake?... that's a really interesting question. Perhaps killing his wife? Sending Bassano to war? Trusting Melsuntha? I'm not sure I've ever wanted to interview a character in a book so much!
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Idlewilder on September 29, 2013, 08:19:42 PM
Just finished, and my head is reeling. Such a phenomenal book. I think the chapter that started with Bassano's final letter and ended with: "When Basso's messenger arrived at the camp, three-quarters of the army was already dead, including the commanding officer, Bassianus Licinius." was not only the best of the book, but one of the most perfectly constructed single chapters I've ever read. Incredible.

I'd say his BIG MISTAKE was in choosing Melsuntha over the noble woman as his second wife. Ultimately proved his downfall.

Here's a question from something which cropped up a while back in the book; we're told of how Bassano is essentially like the weapon at the centre of Basso and his sister's struggle, with each struggling to keep hold of him, trying to use him to their advantage. I was just wondering if, metaphorically: is Bassano the folding knife of the title?
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Nighteyes on September 29, 2013, 08:24:16 PM
Just finished, and my head is reeling. Such a phenomenal book. I think the chapter that started with Bassano's final letter and ended with: "When Basso's messenger arrived at the camp, three-quarters of the army was already dead, including the commanding officer, Bassianus Licinius." was not only the best of the book, but one of the most perfectly constructed single chapters I've ever read. Incredible.

I'd say his BIG MISTAKE was in choosing Melsuntha over the noble woman as his second wife. Ultimately proved his downfall.

Here's a question from something which cropped up a while back in the book; we're told of how Bassano is essentially like the weapon at the centre of Basso and his sister's struggle, with each struggling to keep hold of him, trying to use him to their advantage. I was just wondering if, metaphorically: is Bassano the folding knife of the title?

Very good point.  It seems an odd choice of title really since the Folding Knife only actually crops up a couple of times.  And definitely a phenomenal book.  Who else went back and reread the prologue after reading the ending?
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Idlewilder on September 29, 2013, 08:27:36 PM
Who else went back and reread the prologue after reading the ending?

Just have! Noticed a line which may pertain to the Bassano/Folding Knife idea:

"The folding knife has gone, as quickly, suddenly and irrecoverably as someone dying." - p.2
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Nighteyes on September 29, 2013, 08:32:25 PM
Who else went back and reread the prologue after reading the ending?

Just have! Noticed a line which may pertain to the Bassano/Folding Knife idea:

"The folding knife has gone, as quickly, suddenly and irrecoverably as someone dying." - p.2

Brilliant spot!
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 29, 2013, 09:46:30 PM
Who else went back and reread the prologue after reading the ending?

Just have! Noticed a line which may pertain to the Bassano/Folding Knife idea:

"The folding knife has gone, as quickly, suddenly and irrecoverably as someone dying." - p.2

I highlighted that line when I read it (but had forgotten about it by the end of the book). :)
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: AnneLyle on September 30, 2013, 09:24:24 AM
It seems an odd choice of title really since the Folding Knife only actually crops up a couple of times.

Maybe - but it was killing his wife and her lover with the folding knife that really kicked off Basso's troubles. It's no more odd a title than, say, The Blade Itself, which refers only obliquely to the theme of the book.

From memory:

"The blade itself incites to violence." (Homer)

I love titles that hint at the theme, rather that battering you round the head with fantasy buzzwords :)
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 30, 2013, 01:47:48 PM
It seems an odd choice of title really since the Folding Knife only actually crops up a couple of times.

It only crops up a couple of times, but they are critical points. When his mother murders the intruder, when he murders his wife (and Palo). When he loses it on the road after he has seemingly lost all else (his city, his legacy, his money, his wife, his nephew), losing the knife was losing the last part of his former life. At least that is how I took it when I read it.

Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Idlewilder on September 30, 2013, 01:57:30 PM
It seems an odd choice of title really since the Folding Knife only actually crops up a couple of times.

It only crops up a couple of times, but they are critical points. When his mother murders the intruder, when he murders his wife (and Palo). When he loses it on the road after he has seemingly lost all else (his city, his legacy, his money, his wife, his nephew), losing the knife was losing the last part of his former life. At least that is how I took it when I read it.

I think the fact it can be taken in so many ways just shows how unlike most fantasy Parker's writing is. Sharps (the title) was much the same in that it was fairly ambiguous in its meaning.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on September 30, 2013, 01:59:38 PM
I think the fact it can be taken in so many ways just shows how unlike most fantasy Parker's writing is. Sharps (the title) was much the same in that it was fairly ambiguous in its meaning.

I really enjoy ambiguity. I think it really encourages deeper thought/discussion on the text. It's fun hearing other people's theories/takes on things.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: pornokitsch on September 30, 2013, 03:33:54 PM
Who else went back and reread the prologue after reading the ending?

Just have! Noticed a line which may pertain to the Bassano/Folding Knife idea:

"The folding knife has gone, as quickly, suddenly and irrecoverably as someone dying." - p.2

Oh nice spot!

There's also a pattern where everyone in the book has a different knife - Basso's is gold, Antigonus' is silver and functional, Aelius carries a plain military one... it is a nice little trick.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Victoria Hooper on October 01, 2013, 12:45:50 PM
Really enjoyed this book, and loved the ending! Basso lost everything, but he's already finding his way back up - his luck really is amazing. I'm glad we still have this little bit of hope at the end.

I'm still not sure what the Big Mistake was. I think there are actually a lot of small mistakes that contributed to Basso's political downfall. But is the Big Mistake even about his politics or his money, or is it more personal? To history it might look like Basso's greatest loss was his political career and money, but for Basso, the biggest tragedy is losing Bassano, and losing the love of his sister a long time ago. I think the Big Mistake has to relate to what is actually the Big Loss for Basso, and so is more likely to be personal.

I still don't think the mistake was killing his wife or his sister's husband. It was killing his sister's husband that really affected his family relationships, but that was self defence and so wasn't really a choice. Perhaps the Mistake is something a bit more abstract, like putting too much faith and importance on Bassano, or using Bassano to try to win back his sister in the first place, or perhaps not being willing to let Bassano go once it becomes clear that his sister is fighting for control of her son.

I'm not sure, those all feel a little vague and unsatisfying. Maybe someone else can suggest something better. But I do feel like his Big Mistake is less about politics and more about family.

Idlewilder, I love the idea that Bassano might be the folding knife of the title.  :)
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Pablo on October 02, 2013, 02:31:01 AM
I found the book a little bit tedious until I passed the 150 pages milestone. I think it was mostly because I didn't like Basso's lack of feelings and that the story was very loose until that point (bits and pieces, here and there). It wasn't a waste of time, but it wasn't at all as good as Pornokitsch made me think it would be. Well, upon rereading  his promo-post I realize that his descriptions of the book are spot on, it was just that I had different expectations. Well, on to the extensive thinking on the book:

I don't really have a clear idea on what THE BIG MISTAKE was. Well, I found it kind of stupid to send your heir to the frontlines, but then again, how was he going to get the real "war-experience" (as in knowledge of what war entails) if he didn't watch it up close? But THE MISTAKE? Was it when he went and used imaginary money and made up paper money? That he didn't remove the threat his sister posed? Challenging The Empire?

Well, 'nuff of that since I don't have the answer.

I really like how the banking system is portrayed and how it reflects on what the federal banks did in the real world; how they gamble with their security (or whatever the name was), loaning money they don't have because they've already loaned it to someone else (or somesuch), dealing with imaginary money to create real money and giving paper a worth it doesn't have. (I saw a documentary on this just yesterday and thought to myself "Damn! That's exactly what happened in The Folding Knife!" Add omg-/wtf- and ahaaa-expressions*).

I really like the idea that Bassano/Basso's "past life" is the folding knife in the prologue, something that suddenly and irrevocably dissapears. Also that this is the theory that seems to make the most sense gives it a plus from me.  ;)

Well, thanks for bringing this book to my attention, bookclubbers!

/Pablo
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Nighteyes on October 02, 2013, 05:56:00 AM
Thanks for joining in Pablo! Great point about the comparisons with our our modern day wankers sorry meant bankers. Fat thumbs!
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: DBASKLS on October 02, 2013, 10:03:23 PM
Funny isn't it how none of us can decide what the big mistake is!

Although it could have been killing his wife and brother-in-law, sending Bassano to the front or relying on the paper money, I think his reliance on Melsuntha could be it - it lead to Bassano's death and Basso's ultimate fall.

She was painted very much as a background figure - was that to fool us into thinking she wasn't important? Although early on we all expressed our doubts about her as the book went on, I for one thought - oh she isn't bad after all. Were we lulled into a false sense of security with her? And so was Basso?
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Dan D Jones on January 24, 2014, 08:49:35 PM
I just finished this book and, after a bit of thought, I'd have to say that Basso's Big Mistake was when he became selfless instead of selfish.  Throughout the book, we're told over and over again how there are many reasons for his actions but that he is constantly acting in his own self-interest and benevolent results just sort of happen.  The invasion and all of the associated actions which lead to his downfall all occur when he decides that he wants Bassanno to succeed him.  Rather than work in his own best interest, he begins to scheme for Bassanno and disaster follows.  Thoughts?
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: Arry on January 24, 2014, 10:46:24 PM
I just finished this book and, after a bit of thought, I'd have to say that Basso's Big Mistake was when he became selfless instead of selfish.  Throughout the book, we're told over and over again how there are many reasons for his actions but that he is constantly acting in his own self-interest and benevolent results just sort of happen.  The invasion and all of the associated actions which lead to his downfall all occur when he decides that he wants Bassanno to succeed him.  Rather than work in his own best interest, he begins to scheme for Bassanno and disaster follows.  Thoughts?

I think the events you are talking about line up pretty well with Gariath's theory of being concerned about his legacy being his mistake. So then the question become the motivation of his actions. In your theory, you think he was making decisions out of interest in Bassano's future. In Gariath's the decisions are based on "his legacy" which would place himself and his own interests in the center of his decisions (how he is perceived after he is gone). Another interesting thing to think about. I think my gut tells me that his decisions where not selfless. I think he did genuinely care for his nephew on some level (as much as Basso is capable of caring), but I still feel like he likely had the interest of his name/reputation/legacy in mind when he made these decisions, preventing them from being selfless decisions.

I love this book. I love how many things like this can still come up to speculate over.
Title: Re: The Folding Knife Week 4: Finished!
Post by: eclipse on February 12, 2017, 11:01:19 PM
This brings back memories good times, shame this topic is hidden away just look at all the theories here.