Working name of Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, born Phillip Barker (1929-2012), US academic specializing in linguistics, game designer and author. His best-known genre creation is the enormously detailed Science Fantasy world of Tékumel (which see), the setting of his early Role Playing Game Empire of the Petal Throne (1975); further related RPGs followed.
Of Barker's five Tékumel novels, The Man of Gold (1984) – a bildungsroman full of political intrigue and mysterious artefacts – is perhaps the most successful despite a somewhat disjointed plot, though the exotic travelogue of Flamesong (1985) is also of interest. A later sequence comprises Lords of Tsámra (2003), Prince of Skulls (2002) – this second volume by internal chronology was published before the first – and A Death of Kings (2003), which follow the continuing adventures of the protagonists of the first two books in a variety of novel locations as they uncover some of Tékumel's ancient secrets. These last three works seem carelessly constructed, however, and suffer from a frustrating lack of narrative cohesion. Certainly Barker was more accomplished as a world-builder than as a novelist; on occasion he seems to struggle to convey the totality of his vision in a narrative form. [NT/DRL]
see also: Gamebook; Traveller.
Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker
born Spokane, Washington: 3 November 1929
died 16 March 2012
- The Man of Gold (New York: DAW Books, 1984) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Michael Whelan]
- Flamesong (New York: DAW Books, 1985) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Richard Hescox]
- Prince of Skulls (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2002) [tie to Tékumel: follows next title but published out of sequence: Tékumel: illus/pb/Giovanna Fregni]
- Lords of Tsámra (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2003) [tie to Tékumel: precedes previous title but published out of sequence: Tékumel: pb/Giovanna Fregni]
- A Death of Kings (no place given: Zottola Publishing, 2003) [tie to Tékumel: Tékumel: pb/Giovanna Fregni]
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