Thumbs up for Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker. Fantasy.
There are two things you need to know about this book. First of all, it is a black comedy about siege logistics and engineering in a zero-magic pseudo-Roman empire. Yes, 10000% my thing. That said, even if that is also your thing, the way race relations are handled by the author are…I’ll say hmm and you can make up your own mind: the “milkface” unreliable narrator was previously enslaved by the “blueskin” Robur, whom he now works for (loyally…maybe); it does bear saying that absolutely no one comes out looking good. So I sighed and stuck around for the logistics jokes, which were excellent. Five stars if you can turn off your “hmm that was a questionable choice-o-meter.”
I was in Classis on business. I needed sixty miles of second-grade four-inch hemp rope–I build pontoon bridges–and all the military rope in the empire goes through Classis. What you’re supposed to do is put in a requisition to Divisional Supply, who send it on to Central Supply, who send it on to the Treasurer General, who approves it and sends it back to Divisional Supply, who send it on to Central Supply, who forward it to Classis, where the quartermaster says, sorry, we have no rope. Or you can hire a clever forger in Herennis to cut you an exact copy of the treasury seal, which you use to stamp your requisition, which you then take personally to the office of the deputy quartermaster in Classis, where there’s a senior clerk who’d have done time in the slate quarries if you hadn’t pulled certain documents out of the file a few years back. Of course, you burned the documents as soon as you took them, but he doesn’t know that. And that’s how you get sixty miles of rope in this man’s army.
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