Author: K.J. Parker
Title: The Devil You Know
Series: Saloninus #2
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: 124 pages
The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.
But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus–the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.
He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?
The Devil You Know tells the Faustian story of Saloninus. He is a famous, published philosopher approaching the end of his natural lifespan. The trouble is he wants more time, and is prepared to make the ultimate deal to get it: a deal with the devil. I didn’t realize that this novella is the second story in the Saloninus series. This book was fine as a standalone story, but now I want to read the earlier tale: Blue and Gold which was published back in 2010.
We experience this story from two viewpoints: Saloninus and the demon assigned to his case. The narrative switches between the two main characters and you need to pay attention to keep track of whose side of the story we are hearing. Parker also limits the amount of information revealed, making for an intriguing tale that keeps you guessing as to what Saloninus’s plan actually is. Is he attempting to trick the Father of Lies? But that is impossible, right?..
“Right.” He was smiling. “First the rejuvenation, and then do you think I could trouble you to show me all the kingdoms of the Earth?”
“No bother at all,” I said, and rejuvenated him. His back straightened. His face sort of bubbled for a moment, as the surplus under his chin flowed upward to fill the sunken cheeks and the hollows under his eyes, stretching and smoothing the skin. Involuntarily he flexed his fingers as the arthritis and rheumatism dissipated: they lost that clawlike look, and the knuckles seemed to subside.-K.J. PARKER
It’s funny but I found myself sympathising more with the demon than with the philosopher. He respects Saloninus’s writings, has a noted appreciation for the arts, and appears genuinely happy to grant each of the philosopher’s wishes. The more I got to know him, the more I liked him as a character. I’m sure this was intentional by Parker; a sign of his skill as a writer. Saloninus is a complicated character. It’s obvious he has some kind of plan but he keeps his cards very close to his chest. We experience the demon’s growing frustration with Saloninus and can only speculate where the next twist in the story will lead. Great stuff!
This is the second novella by K.J. Parker that I’ve read. The first was Mightier than the Sword which I reviewed here. I enjoyed them both very much and was left wondering why I waited so long to revisit Parker’s writings. There’s something about his writing style that I love. It is intelligent, filled with great ideas, witty and thought-provoking. It’s also very readable. Recommended!
Thanks for reading.