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Barker, M A R

Entry updated 31 August 2018. Tagged: Author, Game.

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





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