Sunday, December 02, 2012

Margarent Atwood - Alias Grace

This is a book inspired by a murder more than 150 years old. This is a book where the main protagnist is a woman or lets say a girl who is accused of committing a cold blooded murder of not just her employer but also his suspected mistress. I have often claimed that life is like a jigsaw puzzle and Atwood agrees with this particular view of mine through the structure of her book. Each chapter begins with an actual quote from the period and in front of your eyes you see the quilt/jigsaw unfold. The chapters are named after a quilt pattern and the recurring image of Grace weaving a quilt  conveys the story she is weaving to the audience. Her story like the quilt she is weaving seems different from different angles.



The book tries to figure out if Grace was guilty or not.A question that is important to justice - for isnt true justice served only when the guilty or punished or should i say when the innocent are not? The question of guilt however, is not that important from a story telling perspective. Like the varying perspectives on Grace's quilt, being the judgmental creatures we all are, I am sure that every reader of the story had a pronounced view in mind seen from the fragments we decided to relate to. Grace tries to tell Jordan, the psychiatrist evaluating her guilt and trying to make her remember the day when the murders were commited what he wants to hear. By saying this, she makes the reader wonder if she is at all stating the truth ever. Her story at the same time seems too elaborate to be a lie. I was conflicted for quite a while on what to believe. I would not share what i surmised for i want anyone reading the book to be able to make that judgement. :)

The beauty of the book is not the pronouncement of the guilt but the view it provides of a century and a place where women were seen as the weaker creatures who were often betrayed by the men whose mercy they were under. Throw in the class and economic disparities in such an era, the notoriety of the crime and the youth of those involved especially Grace and you have a book which will appeal to different groups of people. The characterization is beautiful and a definite strong point in the book. Grace is the one who i loved, hated, mocked and the others were not as interesting to me.

Atwood has appealed to me partly because of the fact that she has very strong female characters. By having a very weak strong one, she had me hooked. Where Atwood's strength lies is in the fictional narration and the really honest attempt at not pronouncing a judgement. The various themes she explores around feminism, repression, dependency, individuality and of course class are all controversial and it is refreshing to see someone convey such a beautiful story with such difficult themes.

The book is a difficult read and definitely not for the weak hearted. If you do not like ambiguity, avoid the book. If you like to make your own judgements and want to see 19th century Canada through the eyes of a servant girl, go ahead.

Virtual Reality

I was reading a few old blog posts by jumping around in a very arbit fashion. I saw one about the social networking phenomenon and how it is changing the life of this very boring person who was writing about it. The article was more than two years old. And today, I thought i might as well take a stab at talking about it. As far as social networking sites go, I am pretty unsocial. I am not very active in them and even when i am i just check up on a few posts and reply to messages as i really dont like too many people being able to see the conversation i have with someone.  As i was thinking about this phenomenon which has changed the world so much so quickly, two major side effects that has influenced me stuck me.

1. The friendship expiry date approaches pretty fast. Let me explain the expiry date concept.I strongly believe that everything has an expiry date. I have ranted enough about the same in the past. Now, the expiry date for a few casual friendships varies depending on the level of maturity and growth of the individuals involved. I am not in touch with a few people i thought meant the world to me and I am in touch with a few who i did not care much for when i met.The latter is the second effect and the former has got to do with the expiry date concept.  I have actually lost touch with a few people as they assume that a facebook post in a wall the whole world can see and photographs are more than enough to keep in touch and convey to their "friends" about what is happening in their lives. I cannot talk in a public forum for too long as I have this paranoia that anything i say can be used against me anytime. But I am forced to in a way as gone are those personally impersonal emails which used to let you know about a thing or two. Gone are those mass emails or long phone conversations. For someone like me who does not actually network as much over the social sites, it has become pretty difficult to keep in touch with a few acquaintances. People usually move from one group to another in each of our lives. You have these bunch of friends who slowly become people who used to be your friends and finally move to mere acquaintances(the above mentioned expiry date). The process is gradual and you have a coping period where you can actually go ahead and expand your horizons. But thanks to the crazy networking, this cycle has become way too fast and at times I am left grappling for a few familiar faces. Maybe, the thin virtual link is more than what i would have had if it had not been there. Who knows?

2. There are just too many who can know whats happening to me. The other side of the coin is that I have a lot of people to whom i  unintentionally share details of my life that i otherwise would not have. Being a very private and paranoid person, this scares me at times. (The information shared is any way not much as apart from a few random photographs i actually dont network much, but remember i mentioned the word paranoid) I often see facebook "friends" somewhere and i realize that when the safety of the computer screen behind which i can think and post is not there, i dont know what to talk to them. I do love to talk to people and keep in touch but when we do not speak much to each other virtually, it is impossible to hold such conversations personally. I do not have the time or energy to organize people into groups and have posts just for certain groups. I think it is offensive in a way. Why have people you dont want to share things with in your list? Maybe i take the word friend a little too literally.

Maybe i am a few years late in talking about this phenomenon but this has affected me more in the recent past when i have in a way settled in life and as i take a few big steps in my life in the last few months, I slowly realise what i have lost in the last 4-5 years. There are just five, six people i speak about these changes and big mile stones in my life while the rest of the world who would have otherwise known about it is unaware. My college and some school friends have disappeared somewhere and i know where i can find them, but still they are not there and I dont know if it is a good or a bad thing. Time can only tell me.

This is in no way a  call for attention or a call from the long lost friends but just an observation about the virtual reality that is catching up so fast that it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to avoid it. :) The medium does seem to matter.

An average attempt - Colin Dexter's short story collection

I am a regular at this really quaint book store off Church street (rightly labelled the book worm) and the owner there recommends quite a few books to me frequently. He has usually been spot on but somehow this time, the book failed to impress me. It is a collection of short stories some of which feature the detective called "Morse" who tries too hard to be a combination of Sherlock and Poirot and a lot of other detectives i used to love.

The stories are seriously ok. But they cannot make me revisit and reread them. Some of them are so difficult to follow. Not because they require you to actually think but because they have not been etched properly. Considering it is a short story, such loose ends make the story a pretty shoddy read.The language is also very strange and i really dont know why it happens to be so unreadable in places. Maybe i am not updated to follow it but yes, like i mentioned earlier, it has lost me as a reader.

A decent read but for crime fiction, especially short stories, i would any day prefer Jeffrey Archer or Agatha Christie.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Existential crisis??

Sometimes life makes me wonder if its worth it all. No I am not a suicide case and I love my life and my awesome self too much to even harbour those thoughts. I am talking about the means we take to an end. I had come home from work and as wondering what to do rather than watch television when it stuck me. I haven't read a full book (apart from emoticons - the book in which my short story has come in) in the last two weeks. Travel and work and my recent obsession with getting three stars in angry birds had kept me occupied. I was so ashamed. Don't ask me why, I can't explain. I picked up a Colin dexter I am going to review soon so that's a good thing which happened out of the introspection.

Not the only thing though as my thoughts have a way of catching up even if I distract them. We all have some dreams or goals which we hold really close to our heart. Sometimes what we do reflects the dream and sometimes it is as far from it as anything can be. Sometimes we air sure what we want and we keep trying different things to figure it all out. In my case, I don't know at times on how to categorise myself. I love my work and I love my hobby which I hope to turn into a career. Club this with my other loves like cooking and I often don't have time to do anything justice. At times, I wonder if it is worth it all. At times I know it is and that this is preventing me from decaying. I wonder how long I can sustain the interest I have and if being interested in so many things that are wildly different from each other is sane in the first place. Of course I become difficult to stereotype as career woman or housewife or crazy eccentric writer nut and that's good but the society has been built to cater to stereotypes and not being one might make fitting in difficult in a few instances.

Anyway after rambling to random and not so random strangers who hopefully frequent my blog, I am feeling a little better as I know that as popular as stereotypes are, not everyone is one and there might be someone who will summarise the entire post in a sentence and say,she wants the world and is eating everyone's head as getting it is difficult.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The drama called life

In this beautiful drama
that unfolds all around me
I try to stand aside
and be a silent spectator
silence the one trait i never could master
betrays me all over again

Here i am once again stepping in
and interacting with the amazing actors

Oh! What roles they play
How many masks they don
I try to see through
I try to interpret
and mask after mask greets me

Here i stand strangely naked
and the wave of life
comes crashing into me

The hawks around
come flying by
ready to peck out the exposed skin

There aint no mask to guard me
There aint no paint to save
The shield of truth rises up
Trying so hard to protect
radiating the light of truth

I wonder if
in a world of mirrors
a single ray of bright light
can wreck complete havoc

The survival instincts of a lost world
kick in and my survival is questioned
Will the shield of truth of suffice?
Will a mask pop in?

I know not
I just root for changelessness

The chimes

In the stars up above
I see a dream
I see a sliver of beautiful hope
I see the seed of harmony slowly take root

The sound of chimes wake me up
And reality gives me a warm kiss
Sending shivers down my spine

In the ceiling up above
I see a bright light
I see the barriers raised and ready to prevent even hope
I choose to see no more

I cant help but wonder
about the chimes that warn me
every waking moment of all my days

The dreams i keep chasing
through the long dead routes
Routes full of things keeping me awake
for the dreams that laugh at me
Mock my process mock my means

All i can do is block the sound
and just keep running

The paradox of choice

For all the roads that stretch ahead
for all the modes that stand around
for all the destinations that welcome me
i wonder what to choose

I wonder why and i hope
Limitless possibilities, Limitless destinations
Limited life to live those in
Limited time to dance in the rain

I wonder if for all these somewhere
Limitless lives i have to lead
Limitless universes i can exist in
I can only hope and dream
and sincerely wish that lose out I do not

Someday somewhere ill reach the stars

Someday somewhere ill reach the stars
Someday somewhere ill pass them by
Someday somewhere ill kiss them goodbye

Someday somewhere I know will come
For each today and here i see
New stars popping up just for me
The present so alive beckons
The past newly buried sighs
For dreams and desires so easily morph
For hope and love so easily inspire

There I can visualise tomorrows star
Tomorrows star yet to be born
Tomorrows star made for me

Here today I remember the older stars
The ones forgotten long past
The ones slowly slipping away

Someday somewhere ill greet the stars again
Someday somewhere ill pause to watch

Till then ill chase the elusive dreams
Till then ill breathe the cold air
Till then ill survive remembering
Someday somewhere I met them before
Someday somewhere ill meet them again


Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rebel without a cause

As I stand by waiting for my emotions to subside
I look in the mirror hoping to see the truth
All I see there is just another rebel
All I see there is just another life

I hope against hope that it ain't true
I wish with all my heart that time would prove it false too
I want to fight, I want to stand my ground
But I want not to be just another rebel without a cause
I want not to be just another lost soul seeking non existent solace

I watch time fly by and I travel all the way back
I look into your eyes and see the truth that was
I wake up and find it gone far away
I know not what to do
I know not where to go
I know not whom to trust
I want not to be just another rebel
A lost rebel without a cause

The anger creeps up refusing to be controlled
The sorrow breaks out cracking open self imposed dams
I become an impassioned observer and watch spell bound
As a look alike moves forward to battle
As she weaves through crowds and faces certain emotional death
As she holds her ground juggling her shields around

And I hope against hope
That I ain't just another rebel without a cause
That I ain't fighting a battle I know nothing about
That I ain't just another lost soul

But know I do that hoped I have in vain
And in its typical fashion life has come back one full circle
And it's my turn now to face newly found music
That its my turn now to be the misunderstood villain
That its my turn now to rebel
I watch and wait to pass on the baton someday
To the one looking me in the eye now
And looming larger than life.



Sent from my iPad

The wait

Here I stand waiting for the candle

In the darkness around that envelops me

Hoping for sight in the land of blind men

Here I stand straining to hear

The sound of a match being lit somewhere far away

By some familiar stranger

Here I stand hoping for the glimpse of a dim light

That would travel across miles to reach me

If only to give me a glimmer of hope

No matter how feeble

 

Here I stand not knowing what else to do

Too used to the helplessness to be embarrassed

Too used to the darkness to be scared

Here I stand knowing just that things will change

For the only thing permanent is that lady, my friend

Whose every breath morphs the world around leaving it familiarly unfamiliar

 

Here I stand waiting for her to do something

Hoping this aint the part of the world

Forgotten and untouched even by her

For then ill have to greet doomed familiarity

With contempt and maybe joy

Then ill greet the bleak changelessness

With maybe no emotion – for none will be left by then.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Festivities galore

I loved festivals as a kid as I got to buy new clothes. However Diwali is something I have a very soft if mushy corner for. The lights, crackers, new clothes, food and the overall awesome atmosphere is something to enjoy and live in.

I had come down to my home from bangalore and we went to a lesser known picnic spot yesterday. While I was going around the town and nearby villages yesterday I saw the contagious atmosphere. Everyone was wearing new clothes and was bustling around. Unsurprisingly a lot of men were drunk! I still cannot understand celebrating joy or happiness or drowning ones sorrow in drinking. For someone who is high on life, that just doesn't make sense.

I was thinking for the nth time as to how festivals help spread the wealth around. A lot of industries and people dependent on them make good during this time. Automobiles, textiles, jewelry making etc etc are just a few items on the top of the funnel. To the few I know who call all this a waste of money I'd just like to point out how what one spends becomes the income for another. A lot of our social and cultural celebrations work for the larger good that way. Despite the commercialisation I'd say to some extent it still does.

Now that I have tried to put a coherent paragraph together let me go eat sweets. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Making money

The second book in the moist von Lipwig series after going postal. I enjoyed reading going postal again and was wondering as to why I did not like the series so much last time. Well, this book is the reason. The last two or three chapters rather. Let me give a review rather than jump around.

The plot begins with Moist von Lipwig running the post office effortlessly. He is bored and tries to break into his own office. When he is wondering about the whole point of his clean existence especially when his sweetheart is not around, The Patrician tasks him with meeting the old lady who is the current chairman of the royal bank of Ankh Morpork. She takes a liking to him and leaves her wealth to her dog and the dog mr.fusspot to Lipwig. She dies peacefully in her sleep and by her will and the conditions in it Lipwig takes over his new role. He is now the chairman of the almost bankrupt bank.

He begins his duties with a bang and loads of opposition. He comes up with interesting ideas and a trusting public eats out of his hand. He tries to juggle his duties in the bank with spending time with his sweetheart ms.dearheart who has been on a secret mission to get hold of a few golems and has just returned. Add to this the crazy antics of the lavishes to whom the bank belongs and the plot is pretty racy and well etched. But the finale is way too slow in coming. The book fizzes out and he is not able to sell the sizzle there.

The characterisation of Lipwig is interesting and I think I've started liking his cheek and confidence a lot. Cosmo Lavish as the man obsessed with being like the Patrician gives room for a few laughs if nothing else. Ms.Dearheart aka spike is adorable and her interactions with Lipwig are in a strange way romantic and funny. Mr.bent and Hubert, Gladys the golem are a few interesting characters I'd like to see in some more books. The watch and the patrician are around and are so typical that reading about them has now become like discussing with a friend the characteristics and eccentricities of another favourite friend. :)

But overall despite being a decent read, the slow plot put me off a bit and I wouldn't recommend this to someone wanting to start Pratchett though to a mature fan, this would be an enjoyable affair.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Thud!

A mystery and a discworld story with Pratchetts trade mark style. I would not have missed rereading it especially with my new found liking for Vimes.

The plot begins with the murder of a hamcrusher a dwarf higher up ( a deep downer you see) who has been spreading discontent among dwarves and the murderer is suspected to be a troll. It doesn't help things that the death occurs on the eve of the battle of koom valley the place where a war was fought thousands of years ago by dwarves and trolls. A day that has a lot of cultural significance to both. It doesn't help that there is already enough discontent without this event. It doesn't help that the dwarves decide to hush it up. It doesn't help that they refuse to cooperate once the issue comes to the light.

You have an angry Vimes trying to get down to the bottom of the mines to investigate, disturbed occasionally by an inspector auditing the department, by his personal commitment to read to his son and a city ready to become a battle ground. He manages to tackle all this in his typical style and it is so beautiful to read. While Vimes is battling his inner demons a vampire joins the watch and unwittingly uncovers a deadly secret buried in the depths of the city with Angua. The revelation clubbed with the summoning dark, a dwarf symbol meant to invoke dread and a force a few million years old leads Vimes on a wild goose chase across countries to the very place it all began.

There you have it a decent plot. Racial discrimination and prejudice is one of the strongest themes in the book and I applaud Pratchett's ability to create characters shrouded in grey whose depth just astounds you. Vimes as the loving father, the hen pecked husband, the serious cop and the commanding commander is a good study. You root for his cynicism and you can't help liking a guy who hates everyone equally and is a straight arrow though not the sharpest knife. The vampire Sally is a new character in this book and the way she is able to handle herself in a world not too ready for her is also well portrayed. The best part is of course the numerous dwarves and trolls and the way the author can bring out their similarities and differences. Be it the deep downers or the normal cops just wanting to live their lives or brick the lost troll or detritus or Mr.Shine or the Grag, or hemcleveer all of them have something interesting.

That is the magic of the book. The ability to show that despite the differences, there are some similarities. The ability to use humour to speak not necessarily to preach. The ability to convert a thought into a coherent story with numerous sub plots.

The portrayal in Thud of the two groups is similar to a lot of situations we see in the real world. The Israel crisis, England's colonial past of course the racism there was in the us. When I think about all that I just hope that there is a solution somewhere. Then the realist in me wakes up and asks me to go back to my dreams. For that is where there is going to be equality. That is where there is going to be peace. But here is where I will tell you to go read the book.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Going Postal

This is the first Moist von Lipwig story and I think this was made into a tv series as well. I read this just last year but so many other books have been consumed in the mean while that I was able to savour it this time around too.

Moist von Lipwig is a con man who meets a just end as Albert Spangler in Ankh Morpork. The patrician pulls off an angel act and revives Moist and offers him the job of a post master general of Ankh Morpork. After his attempted escape is foiled by his parole officer, the golem Mr.Pump, Moist slowly settles into the old and decrepit post office full of undelivered letters and unsolved mysteries. The previous generals had their careers cut short by untimely death and Lipwig tries really hard to not join the long list. He is aided in his quest to revive the post office by a bunch of old men, a crazy collector and his own desire to impress a certain smoking woman who handles the golem trust. He revives the place and unwittingly and sometimes knowingly ruffles the feathers of a lot of powerful men in the city especially the ones who run the clacks or the mechanisms for transmitting a lot of information really fast. How he pulls off the biggest con in his life forms the rest of the plot.

The characterisation of Lipwig is splendid. You can't help liking an honest trickster so full of life and so ready for a show. I enjoyed his various theatrics like the golden suit, his public proposals, his false bravado and of course his penchant for identifying what makes a man tick. He is an amazing read and so shallow and so deep. The gods blessing him was the best trick of the lot and brought out the deeper shades in his character. Adora belle dear heart as his lady love is another interesting study. Her cynicism and the way she refuses to be impressed are commendable. Her love for the golems and the philosophy I found there was something that will stay with me for a bit. The gullible men in the post office and their attempts to stick to the regulations are hilarious.

Reacher gilt, as the brain behind the clacks company, despite being a bit one dimensional is still a good opponent who finds new lows to stoop to every other day. I was so able to visualise the conversation between him and Lipwig. There are a few more characters and apart from the Patrician none of them linger much in my mind. Maybe cos they are so typical.

There are a few other things I enjoyed in the book. The collectors, the small changes in the stamp, the pigeon eater, the smoking gnu and of course the golems. The hammer cannot be blamed for what the hand does.The book has some elements of mystic and mystery but the former is not touched upon much except in a few bits like where Lipwig is initiated and also where he is able to see the office come live. It gives way and is lost in the drama of life. Maybe because I love dreams so much I wanted to see more of the mysticism. But yeah, I can't have everything now, can I?

An entertaining read which is sometimes a wee bit too real. It reminded me of the gilts and the parks of the world and made me wonder why we root for Lipwigs. There is no ideal so we stick to something. Anything that we can cling on to.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Monstrous regiment

This is one of the first Pratchetts I read and it was instrumental in me going ahead and reading a lot more. Now that I have said it when i am reading it in the right order I have to admit I wasn't as impressed. True it's better than a lot of books out there but it's nowhere in my top ten books by Pratchett.

Countries are at war and Polly, a native of borgovia, a country ruled by the whims and fancies of a crazy god, cuts her hair off and joins the army to find her lost brother. She walks the walk, spits, swears and belches loudly and manages to pass off as a man aided by a pair of socks a silent mystery man gives her. Over a period of time she realises that her entire squad, all that's left of the ins and outs led by an inept captain and a strange sergeant comprises of women. All of them have hidden agendas of their own and are unwittingly placed in the limelight. How they fight not just the enemies but also their inner battles and serve the 'Duchess' forms the rest of the plot.

The book has numerous themes - religion, war, belief, duty and of course the main theme is the battle of the sexes. As with most Discworld books they are explored well but not in too much detail except for the battle of sexes and it is hilarious. The religious theme with the crazy god who declares abominations all the time is thought provoking. Unfortunately Practchett does not delve too deep into it. I guess after the treatment of war in Jingo he decided not to focus on that aspect much and he restricts himself to touching upon the futility of the same through the smaller sub plots that show as to how loyalty cannot feed a man and just a plain sense of duty cannot save your life and finally how at the end of the day, the enemy is just a tired soldier like you.

The book has a lot of new characters and hence though I was not looking forward to them, I enjoyed the unbiased story telling. Polly perks as a cheeky recruit is a very good study and her observations are so spot on! Wazzer, tonker and the other recruits did not catch my fancy much and I loved Polly and stuck to her. The sergeant was an interesting personality as well but he is no way comparable to some of the other characters like Vimes. Vimes, Angua and a few other characters feature as well but though they play an important role in the plot, they do not get enough limelight. It's Polly and Pratchett's book through and through.

In a world where the glass ceiling exists and people just pretend it is not there, this book is still relevant. In a world where women have to be better than men to be even given a nod of acknowledgment in a few places, this book is relevant. In a world where stupidity dictates a person and sometimes a countries life, this book is relevant. In a world where there is no Nuggan declaring abominations but just plain normal human beings sitting and calling them out, this book is relevant. But in a world ruled by Pratchett's humour this unfortunately to me is not. Read it for the philosophy, wit and plot but not for Pratchett. There are other books for that like Small Gods, Hogfather, Guards! Guards! Etc.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Night watch

A watch book without carrot. So obviously I did not like it much when I read it two years ago. But with life having taught me a few bitter lessons, this time around, I enjoyed it a lot.

The plot begins with Sam Vimes chasing a murderous assailant through the streets of Ankh Morpork on 25th of May (ha ha ) a day made famous for the conspiracy that changed the city years ago. He catches up with Carcer in the high energy magic building and thanks to the history monks experiment lands back 30 years in time with Carcer.

He is right in the middle of action impersonating a certain John Keel who was the hero of the revolution as his entry in the past ended up ending Keels life. He has to ensure that he saves people from the crazy despot ruling the city. Especially a young copper called Sam Vimes. He races against crazy guards of the day watch, his own policemen who are unsure of their loyalties and a bunch of seamstresses who are not sure as to what he is to just live through a few days and go back to his future. How he manages all that and not change history is the rest of the story. The book is fast and the plot finale well executed.

Vimes is awesome. His anger, confusion, sorrow and surprise are very human and I connected so well with his John Keel. His standing up to the unmentionables, his education of the younger Sam and just his presence was awe inspiring. I often wondered as to how someone like this is not at all like the lost and irritated Vimes seen in Guards! guards! But then, John Keel is the Duke Vimes and not the copper who was living with this mother. You still saw the righteous anger and his ability to stand up against anyone who tried to destroy peace. So it is ok.

The night watch cops were so real. Their cowardice, malice and plain humanness reminded me of a few people I think I know and I was really happy to see Pratchett bring out traits so beautifully well. Nobby and Reg's antics were a treat to read as well and since i knew how they turned out i enjoyed it all the more so. Pratchett's mockery of the dictators and the conviction he essays through Vimes in stating that one would be just like another was a sentiment I applauded. The political drama in India and my reaction to the same is just like Vimes. But the I ain't no copper so I wonder if I should even comment.

Vetinari makes an appearance as a tricky little assassin and I enjoyed reading his bits. His composure, calm and confident arrogance were right there and I could see the Patrician I so love in the making. The history monks, Mrs.Palm, Dibbler and a Dr.Lawn are a few characters who don't have much screen space. But are essential to the plot. I did not like Carcer's portrayal much. He was a little one dimensional for my taste.

Then they say, you can't win them all. So I'd just say, read the book for it is very very real and very very beautiful. Definitely the best Vimes book after Guards! Guards!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pratchett marathon - The last hero

I stumbled upon the illustrated version of this book in a sale in Madurai and I just grabbed it. Since I was going through the Pratchett marathon I thought I'd get to it in the right time. I finally did.

Like I've mentioned numerous times before, Rincewind is one of my least favourite characters and Carrot just the opposite. This book has both plus awesome illustrations. Sadly I enjoyed the illustrations more than the book.

We last saw Cohen and the silver horde becoming the rulers of the counterweight continent. However, settling down does not agree with them and they decide to go on one last mission. That of returning the celestial fire back to the Gods. They 'convince' a reluctant bard to accompany them to write a saga in their name. Ankh Morpork by virtue of having the right kind of people with the right kind of attitude is requested by nations of the world to stop this mission as once the barbarians ( the silver horde are a bunch of barbarians btw) blast the device they are carrying around in the abode of the gods, it would spell the end of the universe as most of them know it. Be it trolls,humans or dwarves all of them want to hang on to their dear lives.

The solution is proposed by the ever reliable Leonard de Quirm ( the inventor of the gonne) as magic cannot work near the Cori Celesti( the abode of gods). He builds a machine which can fly with the propelling power of swamp dragons and he sets out with Carrot and Rincewind. Whether they manage to save the world is the rest of the plot.

Like I said, the illustrations were Awesome. Despite the sheer number of dragons involved the book lacked a certain fire which most discworld books have. Rincewind has become too boring and why Pratchett prefers the eternal coward over DEATH I don't understand. The silver hordes antics are very much like what we saw in Interesting times and I did not enjoy reading it as much this time around. Still they do have a charm and since the book is about true bravery and the cruelty of age, I could relate to some parts of it.

An ok read but definitely not the book you want to describe your discworld experience by.

Pratchett marathon -The truth

Truth is a strange thing. Truth is stranger than fiction. Truth sometimes has to be protected by a body of lies. Etc etc. we've all heard one or the other thing like this. This book by Pratchett is beautiful not because it gives lines like this but because it shows by example. It is scary as it is so god damn real. It is hopeful for just the same reason.

The plot is about Ankhs first official newspaper started by the right minded William de worde, the son of a capitalist father trying to earn his own living. He is a very strange creature for another reason and that is that he believes in the truth. After his success in monthly newsletters to distant places, a happy accident with the movable type inspires him to begin a newspaper for the public. As luck would have it, Vertinari is also in trouble over a minor misunderstanding involving oodles of cash, a knife and an almost dead secretary. William with the help of Sacharissa, Otto the vampire and a bunch of dwarves tries to get to the bottom of it all. Life teaches him a few things along the way including but not limited to the publics off handed treatment of the truth, the interest in strangely shaped vegetables and of course about assassins who are not always polit and who have something more than mere Death in mind.

The characters are nicely etched. I loved William and his sidekicks were ok. However, the evil ones did not scare me. The crazy firm trying to help the committee to overthrow the Patrician, the mysterious lawyer paying them in jewels, they were all too stereotypical and thankfully did not get much screen space. What got to me was the common man and his flippant attitude towards everything. Still, it was balanced by people like William who remind me there is still some hope in this mad world. ( why am I talking about earth here? Is it cos its eerily similar to recent this happening or is it because I am talking about the discworld and not earth? You'll never know and I hope neither will I)

Gaspode and the beggars make a reappearance in the book and they provide enough light moments to make you forget the gravity of the situation. The plots there, the humours there and of course the satire and philosophy is too damn evident to even the most thick headed. But what's missing is the fantasy. A vampire and a zombie and even the werewolf cannot make up for it. So though I'd call this an awesome book, I'd say don't think of discworld when reading this. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - Thief of Time

The last DEATH book and i of course wanted to savor it. I dont know why Pratchett has not come up with other DEATH books.

This is a slightly different book (as different as a discworld can get) and I have to say i experienced it rather than read it. The plot has the auditors of reality once again and with them, humanity's existence is obviously going to be threatened. After their attempts with the Hogfather episode, they lie low for a while and come back in this book. Their new attempt - build a clock which is so accurate that it can stop time itself. As with everything crazy and sane, they find a taker to help them in their crazy venture in the form of a clock maker Jeremy in Ankh Morpork. The two other story lines follow Susan who is a successful (comparatively) school teacher now trying to find what is going on with the world and the history monks Lu Tse and Lobsang who are trying to do the same thing themselves. The three story lines finally converge and lead up to an interesting and exciting finish.

The plot in some ways is secondary as with a lot of Pratchett's books. The fact that this one has makes it slightly better. There are some usual themes treated differently in the book - humility, genius, dedication and of course education. Lu Tse, the most popular history monk being a mere sweeper was a nice touch. Susan's methods of teaching and their actual success is a good wake up call which reminds of all that can be done with children who have so much intelligence and potential that is usually not. Lobsang's attitude, evolution and his relationship with Lu Tse was one of the things i will definitely remember fondly about this book. Coming to Jeremy and Lady Myria LeJean - the auditor in the guise of a human being - let me just say that the two characters could have had some more screen space. I loved the eccentric genius in Jeremy and the lost Igor who was confused all the time. Myria's exposure to being human and the shift in her attitude and her rebellion were really beautiful. She reminded me of the fact that actually walking in someone's shoes is going to change your perspective a lot. This made me feel a little about about the issues i have with a few people. Maybe, if i am in their shoes, I might behave the same way!

The auditors deserve a seperate paragraph ( i know mine are pretty small but as much as my limited attention span goes) - I have to call Pratchett a genius for conceiving and portraying the Auditors so well. Creatures which have no form and think of themselves as just an entity and nothing more. They are a collective conscience who dont believe in individuality. But once they receive the human form that they so hate, all of them change. They try to comprehend organs. They try to understand taste. They try to measure and document every single thing - like the number of atoms in a pavement, the exact molecular change that can make a painting beautiful and another not so much. They are so rational and they serve to constantly make me wonder how important is being rational?! If there is no emotion, if there is no empathy, no amount of logic or rational reasoning can help you. This is simply because the rest of the world you are trying to observe has it in one form or the other. Maybe, if there was no emotion at all, things would be different. Maybe, that is something worth exploring. But not the Auditors way - maybe the Susan way. For despite all her logic she has emotions and as a human being i would want someone like that to hold the power. Not an Auditor as i want to survive and live my life.

DEATH - he rocks. His attempts to round up the five horsemen of the apocalypse are hilarious. His dedication to his duty and his emotions towards human beings are commendably portrayed. He reminds me of a few people i know. Maybe not completely but in terms of a few of their characteristics.

A very well written book that definitely deserves a read. Maybe the best discworld one. I would recommend reading it in the following order to get a full understanding of the characters and to enjoy it much better - Mort, Soul Music, Hog Father and then Thief of time. You can definitely miss Reaper Man if you dont have the time. But DEATH's stint as a mortal (in Reaper man) would maybe make you like him more. :)

Joy comes in different forms

And this time around, it is in the form of my short story in a book!!! I know i have not been putting up too many short stories in the blog. My Pratchett obsession is changing the tune of the blog and making it into a book review one. But now let me take a small break and share the link. Grab a copy today and ready my short story - No needs, none at all.

http://www.flipkart.com/emoticons-9382572007/p/itmdepnquajsu6vp?pid=9789382572008&ref=32dc91c6-2530-4c46-ac25-f982560ca006&srno=m_2_1&otracker=from-search

Flying without wings as i have finally seen my name in a book. A small baby step. Hopefully i should start walking faster soon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pratchett marathon -Carpe Jugulum

I remember the first time I read this book I did not enjoy it much. I had read it much before some of the other witches books and hence the characterisation did not stick with me. This time around I forced myself to read the first few pages and then it was smooth sailing.
The plot begins with the birth of a daughter to Magrat and Verence (yeah the jester who became the king). They make granny her god mother but Granny Weatherwax does not turn up for the naming ceremony. Who turns up instead are a bunch of modern vampires who have been invited by the gullible Verence who doesn't realise that vampires are as dangerous as they seem to be. Everyone is enthralled by them as they have the power to control people's minds. Everyone except Agnes Nitt and the Omnian priest who has come for the naming. Both have their alter egos and they are able to resist. Agnes brings Nanny and Magrat to their senses and the three try to rope in granny who wants to lead a hermits life. Whether the witches succeed in saving their land from the vampires or not forms the rest of the story.

The witches had nothing much to do except try to save the world but Perdita and Agnes's struggles with each other was beautiful. I loved the concept of duality and wondered how much of that in me I actually acknowledge. The vampire family with the modern dad, the suffering mom, the reckless daughter and the love lorn son was picture perfect and a tad bit too usual for me. Pratchett could have done a little more justice to their roles and also to the whole plot around them. It gets a little confusing when their modern methods are mentioned. Agreed its funny but it left me wanting to know more. Verence as usual does not get enough lime light and is still pivotal to the plot as it is his well meaning intention that causes the world of trouble. I really wonder why Pratchett doesn't give him enough screen space. The transformation of Magrat is almost magical and the explanation for the same seems rational to me. But overall some bits of the plot left me wanting for more.

The parodies in the book are amazing. It was a very entertaining read once I got the context right. I did get to know a lot about the vampire myths this time around. I wondered how it would be to love in a world where you are always afraid of your blood being sucked out and I was scared. Still that's not a story for here. Maybe a separate post.

Overall a decent read but not something I would ask you to not miss. :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - The last continent

My last review was a little hurried and also written much after i finished the book. So this time around, i hope i do justice to the review as someone has asked me to write this properly. :)

This book has Rincewind again and though familiarity does not help reduce my contempt or dislike for this incompetent wizard, Pratchett more than makes up for it with his digs at humanity in general. This book is not about down under - or so he claims. The plot has two parallel tracks. The first one picks off where the last Rincewind book ended in XXXX where Rincewind is transported magically after saving a country from the crazy Hong. He is able to survive in a savage country thanks to an able watcher taking care of him. Rincewind comes face to face with Scrappy the Kangaroo who tasks him with setting things right in the new continent.As usual Rincewind tries to run away from responsibility and ends up doing a lot of crazy things. He gets to be branded a sheep thief who is admired all around the continent, he creates new dishes, he makes strange friends, he gets back with Luggage now known as Trunkie and he of course runs. The Austrailian comparisons are hilarious and i was reminded of Down Under by Bill Bryson. Two amazing authors. :)

While Rincewind settles down in a dry continent and learns to dig for water and consume anything to sustain himself, the Unseen University is in shambles. The librarian has fallen sick and since nobody is able to manage the magical library books apart from him, the wizards try to magically cure him. The wizards are not able to do that as they do not know the librarian's name. The only person who does is Rincewind and hence they decide to find him. The only clue they have about his whereabouts is that he is in XXXX but they have no clue as to where the continent is. They try to consult the Geography professor and find out that he has disappeared into a magical land which can be accessed from his room. They enter the place and when they are served breakfast by Mrs.Whitlow, they are unwittingly cut off from the University. They realise they have travelled back in time and space and try to head back home. The time travel puns here are hilarious. The supposed sexual undercurrents that come out due to Mrs.Whitlow in some of the wizards is very funny. The two parallel tracks finally merge in an ok climax.

The characterization is decent but the Rincewind portions were not as nice as the wizard ones. I loved Ponder and Ridicully and their starkly different ways of looking a the world. I was reminded of a few people i know and i wondered for the nth time as to how different view points are actually essential to sustain. The Creator was a really funny guy and his crowning creation was a marvel to behold. I think that human beings are over rated at times and his obsession with all possible varieties of beetles was a refreshingly new point of view.

The book is a decent read but definitely not one of his best. The puns on academia and Austrailia would make it worth a read and maybe a re-read (i did it right?)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - Jingo

The next Watch book after Feet of Clay. I do not remember liking it much when i read it for the first time two years ago.However, this time around I was able to appreciate it much better.

An island pops up between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch and as fate would have it, when the island comes up, fishermen from both the countries manage to land on it. The atmosphere in Ankh-Morpork is tense with multiple groups wanting war for their own advantage and a few opposed to the idea. Vimes and the watchmen are unwittingly drawn into the centre stage when a murder is attempted on the Prince from Klatch. Refusing to be a part of the war efforts, the patrician has also stepped down (reminded me of his imprisonment in "Guards! Guards!" ). Vimes refuses to be a part of the war efforts and walks out of a meeting room full of nobles and a lot of his loyal watchmen walk out too. However, Vimes is pulled into the war efforts and he creates his own private army (as being a knight, he is entitled to one) and sets out to save the world. Carrot is in the army too and he with his typical Carrotisms inspires a lot of people and also ends up saving a few lives with the bladder he carries around. There are a lot of thought provoking scenes especially the ones where the Klatchians in Ankh-Morpork know Morporkian better than Klatchian and have started looking at Ankh-Morpork as their own land. It reminded me of some global events a lot of us have been witness too. The flimsy nature of brotherly love and patriotism is also brought out pretty well.

While this is happening, the Patrician ropes in Nobby and Colon to help him in a seperate and slightly complicated task with the geeky Leonard de Quirm. The two going on a reconnaissance mission to find the king of Klatch is hilarious and when Nobby gets in touch with his softer side, you cannot help guffawing away. The magic carpets, the sunk weathercock, the camels and of course the dis-organizer all add awesome charm to a well written story.

I really dont know how Pratchett can weave in such complex ideas in a simple fashion. When he talks about war, human nature, patriotism and of course life and death, i somehow relate to it and he really helps me in accepting that there are a few others out there seeing the world the way i do and who can put it into such a beautiful work of art. He inspires me to bring out the best in the sarcasm that i have. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Hogfather

It's hogswatch time and the most important man of the hour,the Hog father goes missing. DEATH decides to take up his role to defy the auditors and also to give the discworld a hogswatch they'll never forget in a hurry. The book can stand by itself but I would definitely recommend reading the last two books in the DEATH series ie, reaper man( for the auditors) and soul music( for Susan) where the two major characters are introduced. It will also serve to acquaint oneself with DEATH, the best discworld character ever.

The auditors of reality want to do away with the hog father. Rather than do it themselves, they hire an assassin to complete this task. Downey, the head of the Assassins guild tasks the unstable Mr.Teatime to complete the task for him. Teatime, a very imbalanced assassin has already devised a plan as he had spent a lot of his spare time plotting the death of the hog father among other people. He is assisted by a bunch of small time crooks including a simpleton killing machine, Banjo. He succeeds and the hogfather is absent when the world needs him. DEATH decides to substitute for him with the help of the loyal Albert. Sanity takes a back seat as DEATH takes his role too seriously and starts doing things like giving away merchandise for free in a shop, saving little match girls, irking kings etc. Susan is shocked and angry to see DEATH in the house where she is a governess and decides to take matters into her own hand.

The only voice of reason( relatively) our dear Susan Sto Helit, DEATHs grand daughter is back in this one and she tries her best to figure out what has happened to the Hogfather. Joining her for the crazy ride are the Death of rats, the raven from soul music and a god of hang overs. While in the reaper man, the excess life force building up causes things to get a life of their one, in this one, the absence of the hog father brings a lot of new fairies and pixies into the world. Some of the memorable ones are the god of hangovers, the indigestion god, the cheerful fairy and of course the pencil eater.

The Unseen University, where the distinction between the real and unreal is already thin, becomes the place where all these archaic gods turn up. Ponder Stibbons and his HEX try to solve the puzzle leading to a few hilarious scenes. Though we could have done without the wizards in this book, I loved hex too much to complain. The concept of long term storage and the red lever were hilarious and awesome proof for Pratchetts timeless humour.

Calling the book funny would be an understatement and even the word satire does not do it justice. There are a lot of brilliant scenes. I loved the hogswatch spirit conversation between DEATH and Albert, the beggars feast, DEATHs stint in the toy shop, the tooth fairy and of course the multiple instances of Susan's common sense is another beauty. The multiple conversations and scenes which touch on the unfair nature of the world, the constant absence of logic, the importance of magic and the monsters which a poker can kill are a few things that made the book stand out. I learnt a lot about traditions as well for it was only then that a lot of the parodies and analogies in the book made sense. A definite read. My favourite discworld book of all times.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Feet of clay

A watch story with Carrot and Vimes at their best trying to understand what happened to Vertinari. What more could I ask for?

Strange things are happening in Ankh-Morpork for one thing there are two murders in a matter of days and the clues if anything are misleading. A golem admits to the crime but Carrot is able to spot the lie. He however is unable to understand who the golem was trying to cover for. Vertinari has fallen seriously sick and Vimes tries to uncover who wants the Patrician dead. The family of a palace maid die as well and Vimes suspects poisoning. Changing the Patricians food doesn't make him better and the commander of the watch hits a dead end.

While this is happening, Nobby is found to be the Earl of Ankh and a group of the most powerful men in the city want him to take over to manipulate. The scenes where he hob jobs with the rich and mighty is hilarious.

The two major plots and the multiple sub plots come together in an action filled climax. There are a few brilliant characterisations in this book. Carrots relationship with Angua and his deceptively simple outlook towards life is portrayed well in multiple places. Like Angua says, "One has to be really complex to be as simple as Carrot". Through him Terry talks about a lot of themes like honor, duty and of course trust.

Angua's conflict with herself gets to you and though it is not a very strong story line in the book, it helps the reader relate to her better. Cheery, the new dwarf joining the force and her transformation is another interesting sub plot. Dorfl the golem and Vimes steal the show as far as I am concerned for they represent a few ideologies I've been trying to come to terms with myself. Freedom does come at a high price and Dorfl who is somehow alive and yet still not kept reminding me of that fact. Vimes dedication to his duty is heartening to see and his complete and transparent hatred for the upper class is really refreshing.

The book is a very good read and is perhaps one of the better Watch books. There are a lot of brilliant scenes including the ones with Wee Mad Arthur and Fred Colon who otherwise don't feature much in the book. The only thing I did not like much was the suspense as there was a little something missing there. The book should be read for the flow and the humour more than the mystery.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Maskerade

This is the next witches story after lords and ladies. Though it can function pretty well as a standalone, some background on why Agnes tries to find her fortune in Ankh-Morpork and on nanny and granny might help.

The plot begins with Agnes alias Perdita X Nitt moving to Ankh-Morpork to seek her fortune. She ends up in an opera house where a friendly ghost does crazy things. Though blessed with a natural talent for singing, she is relegated to the chorus and Christine, a girl with a beautiful figure is given the centre stage. Agnes becomes her voice. The ghost which influences Christine becoming a lead singer is also leaving notes around the bodies of dead people and this freaks out everyone in the already operatic place. Being one of the few stable people around, Agnes begins to see some patterns which almost endanger her life. She makes new friends, has a few admirers, gets to understand the world and herself a wee bit better and as an icing on the cake is trained by a mysterious tutor. While this is happening, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg ( the two Lancre witches whom Agnes has gone to great lengths to avoid) end up in Ankh-Morpork to collect money from a publisher who has printed Nanny's cookery book. They make a strange friend en route and by virtue of his gift, come to the opera house.

The plot picks up from then and is very beautifully executed. The three witches personalities are portrayed well. The deep understanding and friendship between Nanny and Granny, Agnes's attempts to find herself only to be termed a girl with a nice personality and beautiful hair and of course Greebo's antics make you dig deeper into the book. The opera house cast like Mr.Bucket, Mr.salzella, Christine,Andre,Walter engross you. You want to know what happens to them. Be it the theatric dialogues or the prima donna faints, or the underlying worry for each of them, there is something about each character that makes you want to know them better.

The characters speaking in exclamation marks when they are excited is a nice touch. It makes you realise how well Pratchett has understood fellow humans. The Henry story is a bit of an over kill, but it serves to speed up the plot and connect random dots. The climax is predictable to an avid mystery reader like me, but like in most Pratchett books, the pull is in the ride not so much the ending. The dialogues are funny and one of my favourite ones is," Never give yourself a name you can't scrub floors with".

I enjoyed phantom of the opera and in that context enjoyed the read. Probably the second best book in the witches series and it was as enjoyable the second time around.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Interesting times

The next Rincewind book after Eric. I was happy to be rid of him and here he is after a while. It is better to have read the first two books (color of magic and the light fantastic) as a few characters are repeated and the story is in a way influenced by the happenings from them.

The book begins with the counter weight continent asking for a great wizzard and Hex ( the computer equivalent there built by the geeky Mr.Stibbons) identifies that it is Rincewind. In a way it's right as the wizard the continent wants is the same one who helped their citizen Twoflower when he was in Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind is sent there amidst much pomp and splendour and he lands right in the middle of the revolution. The emperor is about to die and everyone is eyeing his throne. What they don't know is that they are also unwittingly the pawns in the game of Gods. Fate and luck decide to intervene and they bring in the most inept wizard into the picture. The political situation is anything but simple and it is kept so by the manipulative Lord Hong.

Lord Hong is the great vizier who wants the throne. It's his master plan which had bought Rincewind in to support the rebels. He has a major coup planned which would help him get not just the throne of his country but also Ankh-Morpork itself. He's one of the better etched characters in the book. Speaking about characters the book features, Cohen's silver horde definitely deserves a mention. They are old barbarian heroes led by Cohen and a Teacher who are after a great treasure. When you get to understand what their new teacher had his eyes on for his pupils you can't help laughing your guts out. The silver horde's story line happens simultaneously with that of the red army who are a group of revolutionaries that are trying to over throw the empire. The story lines meet and ultimately influence the fate of the empire with luck.

The two similar yet different group of people offered me a lot of scope for contemplation. The concepts of freedom, government, belief, trust and of course rebellion and punishment is explored beautifully and I loved the book for that.

The plot is tight and well crafted and the book is definitely worth a read. Not the best disc world book though.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Soul music

The first Susan book in the series. Susan is DEATHs grand daughter and as he disappears from his realm in an attempt to forget everything she inherits his duties. Susan's parents tried to get her to forget her strange ancestry and fought it by educating her. The death of rats and a raven initially have the hard task of getting her to a job she refuses to accept exists. Once she does, she tries to execute it with flair.

While this is happening, Imp y celyn a boy with musical dreams finds his way to Ankh-Morpork. He tries to play his harp but due to a twist of unfortunate events it is broken and he finds a guitar. Rather than him playing it, it plays him and the world is introduced to music with rocks in. Pratchett seriously rocks in the parts where the music is introduced to the discworld. The music has serious unforeseen side effects and the world reacts to it in strange ways. Susan and Mustrum Ridicully ( the arch chancellor of the unseen university) are the two voices of reason in a world gone crazy over an elvish look alike, a troll, a dwarf and a strange guitar. Susan tries to save imp's life ( he calls himself buddy now) from not just his fans and the musicians guild but from the music itself. The rock music analogies are amazing and calling Pratchett a genius with words will be an understatement here.

The characterisation is tight. Susan as a logical person who finally gets to see the unreasonable side of things and still clings to logic is so well portrayed. I could relate to her in a few instances. DEATHs attempts to forget the past, present and future is heartening. His constant trials in getting to understand human beings is poignant. Albert's loyalty is touching but I seriously had a sense of déjà vu as he tries to find DEATH. Buddy, Glod and cliff strike a chord as individuals trying to find themselves and willing to take any path possible for the same. The elvish comment, cliffs teeth working as payment method and of course Susan's logic are a few interesting running gags. Dibbler reappears spotting the opportunity to make money and the dig at rock memorabilia is so hilarious. I loved it all the more as I have always found the fact that people pay to advertise something damn silly. The side characters also complete the book and I especially have to mention the guys from the musicians guild, the wizards and of course the other rock bands and the strength they lent to the central plot.

A definite good read that will set you laughing, thinking and living at the same time. Applause.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Men at arms

This is the second watch story after Guards!Guards! Though it is not essential to read the first, a little context helps especially because you get to know dear Carrot ( not the vegetable).
The book is set in Ankh-Morpork and begins with a slightly deranged assassin wanting to restore the glory of kings in the city. He takes the help of a device kept safe in the assassins guild to further his purpose. For those of you unfamiliar with the way things are in ankh, let me update you by mentioning they have guilds for everything including assassins and nobody is killed without money being involved.

Captain Vimes is about to retire from the watch in the view of his impending wedding to Cybil Ramkin and he wants to solve the strange murders where the victims have holes in their bodies. He faces a lot of pressure to look the other way and that's when Carrot steps in. Armed with the new recruits, ( a troll, a dwarf and a were wolf) he tries to solve the crimes in a city on the brink of a major civil unrest.

The characterisation is brilliant. Carrot is one of the most simple and complex characters and you can't help liking his portrayal. His relationship with Angua blossoms in this book and Gaspode's conversations with Angua around the same are hilarious. This is Carrot's book through and through. Vimes conflict with himself as he tries to mingle in his new social circle is interesting though I would have loved to see more of it. The Patrician and Leornardo de Quirm make a brief appearance and I really want some book about the latter.

Overall a very entertaining read that captures a lot of beautiful ideas on life, politics and of course duty.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In search of the ideal

In an ideal world, it should be about being rewarded for a job well done. In the same ideal world there should be a do good, be good, be happy policy. But then over time the one thing I have learnt and still find impossible to accept is that the ideal is nonexistent. In the real world, when you do something, someone else is angry either because you did it first or you did it better or because you just did it and he/she is unable to. Those things I can actually understand. There is some amount of logic in that kind of an emotion. Jealousy that is logical is still manageable.

There is however, another type of anger or jealousy. Where someone is too lazy to work and still wants the benefits which hard work begets. Either they take it away from someone else or they keep wailing about it. I don't understand this at all. I am no saint and I am jealous ( at least at times) but I try to work to get what I want as i know that nothing else is going to help me out in the long run.

I work on my relationships,I work on my fitness, I work on my lifestyle and of course I work on improving my knowledge. I somehow think everyone does this. But how can there be people who don't do this and expect to rule the world just because they have been around longer? How can they so easily discount the role of work and constantly think just about the rewards and the show?

Arm twisting is effortlessly successful in the short run for then people just want their hands to be freed. They aint thinking of anything else.

Everyone knows in some forgotten part of their conscious that if they are going to get into a destructive spiral, nothing can save them. I believe that completely. Still, in the short run, things are horrible as short cuts usually work.It's the long run i need to wait for. If i can stick along long enough.

Or should I instead look at it like this - people like this, they are working on the show and ignoring the substance. If it works, it's because of the work they put in there. To a lot of people around them, mediocrity is comforting for all they need to do is tolerate it. They don't have to work to be better than it. So they are also happy. I wish I could just let things be. I know I can't. I just have to try harder.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pratchett marathon - lords and ladies

The next witches book which takes off where the previous one ended. It is better if read after wyrd sisters and witches abroad for it involves the happenings from both books. 
The plot begins when Magrat is back from her long trip and is greeted with news of her impending marriage. After being irritated by granny Weatherwax, she moves into the castle of the king ( yeah shes gonna marry the king! and no they are not staying in the same room) and gives up witching. She tries to adjust to being a queen and does crazy unmagrat-like stuff like measuring windows for curtains, waving tapestry etc. (closet feminist doing all this think). While her attention is occupied, there are a bunch of young girls trying to be witches. They are awakening a strange power. Someone is trying to enter the mortal realm through them - the lords and the ladies. Granny is able to prevent them from coming in initially and a girl is hurt in the process.  Magrats castle houses a hurt creature and the girl wounded by him. All hell breaks lose when enough people believe and the dormant power comes back with all its pent up energy.  The climax was good fun to read. 

This book is all about the witches and all of them get their due.Considering that the book is set in midsummer eve and has a Shakespearean influence, there is a lot of romance in the air and of course, glamour( wink). Surprisingly,the book doesn't allow for much between the groom and the bride and of all people, Esme Weatherwax has an old flame who resurfaces. Nanny runs around with Casanunda and their dinner date was a joy to read. Magrat gets her screen space towards the end and I really liked the spit fire lady she was for a while at least. 

The plot is strengthened by the prose. I always have loved Pratchetts way of throwing in a little philosophy that is witty and humorous and this book is no exception. One brilliant case in point, "The reason that Granny Weatherwax was a better witch than Magrat was that she knew that in witchcraft it didn't matter a damn which one it was, or even if it was a piece of grass.

The reason that Magrat was a better doctor than Granny was that she thought it did."


The best philosophy in the book though were these two bits of Grannys mind and I think I am going to dedicate a post by itself inspired by these lines. "What don't die can't live. What don't live can't change. What don't change can't learn." "The price for being the best is always having to be the best" 

Overall a decent read but not in the same league as small gods or mort. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Living in the present

I often hear people stating that they miss something from their past or saying something like, "those were the best days of my life" and I wonder ( maybe I should think of a different word) - how can your past be the best thing about your life? Maybe if its been a bad day or let's say even a bad week, you can excuse yourself for thinking this. But otherwise, how can you let the past win over your present? What are you doing right now that is worse than your past? What is it now you'd rather not be doing?

Or is it that you are missing a few people? Distance I can understand. But technology helps you a lot as you can sit in india and can speak for hours with someone in Singapore. Maybe you just won't find people like that again. Even that's understandable. Staying in touch is the solution right there.

However if you hate your job or the company you keep, you shouldn't be doing it or talking to idiots who make you miserable. You cannot ever ever give your past more beauty than your present for that shows that you are just giving up.

I subscribe to the school of thought that says that the best is yet to come. I miss a few people but I try to make new friends and if they are big mistakes, I just move on. I love my present and though I had my share of fun ( and funny mistakes) I don't think the best days of my life are done. I enjoy my responsibilities, I enjoy my current shortcomings ( though I don't enjoy them in others) and as I was telling someone today, I can always start afresh if things go wrong for I believe and I hope. Maybe I am too optimistic, but I somehow think that realistically, this optimism is all that will work.

Comparison living

Comparison shopping whether on the Internet or in a retail store is a lot of fun. You have some time in your hand and you walk around or browse around looking for things that will help you save money. It's a different thing that you might end up saving much less than the time you invested but that doesn't matter, you supposedly had fun. I have been doing a lot of comparison shopping with a very valid reason for the last few weeks and as I was finalising things, I was wondering about this concept of comparison living.

How would it be if we can compare and choose a life for ourselves? Pick a ready made one thats the easiest? As I was thinking about it I realised that we actually do, well in a way. Every single day, we make a thousand choices. Through them we build our own life with the very mind that is making those choices. We often compare our lives to that of others. Whether it is done as a full time activity or whether it is done once in a while depends completely on what time we have at hand. If we could take the lessons from other lives and build it into ours wouldn't it be so amazing?the problem with that approach is that in most cases we only see one part of the picture and want that while there are a million other parts that are there that we have no idea about. It is far more easier to see what we like and want it. Unlike things, people are complex. Lives, even worse. I often feel that the easiest option we have is to be content and stay put. I guess evolution wouldn't have happened if the monkey had decided to remain one.

But then, I think it's different ( the monkey evolving and the human wishing I mean) . The monkey aspired for a nonexistent ideal ( unless it saw an alien and decided to evolve) while we aspire for a flawed real one, that too a fragmented image as we perceive. The former is beautiful as you create something unique out of nothing while the latter is dangerous as in an attempt to mimic you might end up like the crow that wanted to be an eagle. I aspire to be awesome ( i loved the line so putting it in here) and I am wondering if I should be more rounded and grounded on what I want. I know the work involved. I know the struggle and though I have chosen, I know that I might have to change sometime later and with that idea I am going ahead. Let me see what happens. I guess my idea of comparison living involves a lot of work. I just have to embrace it for I can't see the point in short cuts and in choosing the easy, normal way out.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The unchangeable truth?

"There is no point in believing in things that exist. If they exist, they just are. You don't have to believe in them" says Didactylos in Small gods and I've been thinking about it a lot.

I know the sun exists as it shines down on me every single day. I know the floor is right there under me for I am standing on it and if its not there I'll be in that apartment under me where that smoker uncle lives. But am I imaginative enough to create and believe in this universe and it is that very delusion that I believe in and it is not real? Was it created by enough number of people with delusions? if so, then i cn atleast be a proud member of a group of imaginative creatures and be happy in assuming that the reality as i see it is real enough. In a way, i can say that since i exist within that delusion it is real enough and I can base my reality on that rather than worry about a bunch of existential questions.

That makes me wonder, how do you quantify a trait that exists? Will the perception of it by a few people actually alter it? I am not talking about interpretation by the future here. It is created by the historians perception. History might be calling an average middle aged woman as the face that launched a thousand ships, because there some amount of romanticisation comes in. Its easier to think about things and marvel at them when it happens to extraordinary people when most of us are average. It gives something to dream about. You don't have to worry if the man who woke you up after a hundred years of sleep is going to respect you or not. He woke you up and there it is, a beautiful romance.

I am talking about the present. Is it enough if the trait exists or should it constantly exhibited with an intention to make another understand? Will a good singer not be good if no one states it? Will a good singer be condemned if there are enough foul mouthed critics around? Maybe negative criticism is a bad example to quote, but can negative energy be strong enough to destroy another when there is enough of it around? Is it good to be in such a place? i can only wonder.

What actually happens in the long run in the limited lifetime a person has? Does the truth about a trait always remain unchangeable even to the person that has the trait?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Evolution

As I sit up and think so late in the night, it is only fitting that I blog about something apart from book reviews. I finished small gods a while ago and I reread one of my earlier reviews about it. I realised then as to how much I have evolved as a writer. True, I am not active in the blog world as I used to be, nor do I have that fire I had in me a few years ago to just write whenever I had a minute. But constant evaluation and well meaning criticism ( which was not always met with a nice smile ) has helped me evolve. Even reading all of Practhetts books in the order in which they were written has helped me realise how much we always keep growing. It has also helped me confront my one short coming I have never had the guts to face, my fear of failure.

One of my biggest fears is that of failure. That is why I work so hard in everything I do. I do not want to make the same mistakes people made, I do not want to fall down and sometimes I do not even want to trip. Life my friend has different plans always and I have come to accept that being good is never enough and that I won't always get my due. As courageous as this sounds on paper, this is one of the hardest lessons I continue to learn as I somehow don't want to accept it. I want to believe in happy endings though I know pretty well that happiness is a state I choose to be in, not one somebody can create for me. I know that sometimes things and people that are not as nice also get their due. That's what life is all about, the ups and the numerous downs.

Today as I try to get ready for a few new beginnings I just try to promise myself that the best is yet to come. It is not going to be possible for me to win always but I am not going to give up. I am going to try and keep growing for I deserve it from myself. The chance to be a better, evolved human being. I don't want to stop trying. I don't want to give up. I just hope that I get the right chances. I just hope I have the same resolve.

Pratchett marathon - Small gods

This is the thirteenth disc world novel and to me one of the deepest. I had read it way back in July 2010 and it touched me in a really profound manner.

The book is about Brutha, an Omnian novice who gets to see the God he believes in. So what if the God is now a one eyed tortoise as very few people believe in him? ( not few actually, just one and that's Brutha).As he tries to accept the omnipotent God in his current form, Brutha meets Vorbis( the most powerful man in the church) who sees the formers eidetic memory as a means to satisfy a gory end. As Brutha travels to a distant land with Vorbis, he gets to see the world in a different light and begins to reevaluate his belief system and the strength of the perceived truth. He meets Dydactylos the ephebean philosopher, whose book 'the turtle moves' has enraged Vorbis enough to want to conquer Ephebe. A changing Brutha chooses to help him and tries to save him as Vorbis is trying to destroy the entire city. By a strange twist of fate Om, (Bruthas god) Brutha and Vorbis are faced with the prospect of crossing the unforgiving desert and what happens from then on forms the rest of the plot.

Brutha initially shown as a one dimensional character ( in the initial pages ) grows throughout the book and you start rooting for him as you realise how important his constant evaluation and introspection are. Another character that evolves alongside Brutha is Om. You wouldn't think there is much for a God to grow but when people look at you as something with a lot of eating on it (a running gag in the book mentioned by almost everyone who sees Om), you tend to evolve really fast. Vorbis was a little too stereotypical but he was also damn scary. I thought about what would happen if there was even one person in power like him and I shuddered. The world feels a lot safer without people like him. The other characters aren't as memorable as these three take up a lot of your thoughts.

The constant questions that nag you as you read the book are - Who are gods? What is freedom? What is belief at the end of the day? what is it all about really? This book states that Gods are created by people and they are as strong as the belief in them is. This is one of the underlying themes in this work of art where Pratchett portrays how more often than not the belief in the structure around an idea is stronger than the idea by itself. I loved that thought and I hoped that someday I am able to come up with things like that can touch hearts.

My review till now has been largely serious and philosophicalas thats how i. Interpreted the book. However, it is very funny and I can not begin to applaud the humour and the sarcasm in it.

"Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave," said Vorbis. "So I understand," said the Tyrant. "I imagine that fish have no word for water" this is one classic conversation between Vorbis and the ruler of Ephebe.

Another one on philosophers was also beautiful : Give anyone a lever long enough and they can change the world. It's unreliable levers that are the problem.

A very good read which makes you think about not just religion but also about philosophy, science and the dangers as well as the joy in just existing and maybe, believing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Witches abroad

I remember very vividly reading this two years ago and laughing my head off. I did it again this time too!
This is the next book in the witches series (after wyrd sisters) and it has Granny, Nanny and Magrat as the central characters. What is more pivotal is the whole theme which hinges on the role stories play.

Witches abroad is a very different story. It starts with a fairy god mother trying to prevent her god daughter from marrying a prince. But since DEATH has other plans she leaves her wand to the inept Magrat ( who is trying to find herself ) and asks her to do her duty without interference from Granny and Nanny. They insist on helping despite nor knowing how to use a wand or what to do because as put succinctly by Nanny "But the point is... the point is... the point is we've not been experienced for a lot longer than you."

They have a few interesting adventures enroute to Genua ( the bull race and the green drink are awesome parts!! ). Pratchett makes a parody of numerous well known fairy tales like the sleeping beauty, Hansel and Gretel, little red riding hood, three little pigs and of course the wizard of Oz and it is hilarious. Magrat meets her charge, Emberella who is guarded by two sisters. Things re way different from your normal story here. For starters the god daughter,(living in a country where inn keepers are penalised for not being round faced and toy makers are jailed for not being jolly) does not want to marry the prince. Being a closet feminist herself Magrat tries to help the girl out. The other two witches along with a voodoo witch join forces with her. I don't want to give away anything more o let me stop here.

The characters are well etched. Magrat has been one of those strangely ignored characters and though she gets a wee bit more screen space, I wished we could have seen her evolve. Granny's dialogues and arguments with her reminded me a lot of the Tiffany Aching stories I read recently and I have to admit that the ones in this book are way better.
I loved Lilith and Granny's views on life. The part where Granny talks about the importance of knowing what is real what is not and the difference between the two set me thinking. Magrats confusion and clarity on the Lilith attitude towards life was also interesting. Real life is strange too and I derived a sense of peace from the book.
A definite read that will set you laughing and thinking if you are in the right frame of mind.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Reaper man

Another DEATH book in the series and as always it was amazing and poignant in more ways than one.
The plot starts with the auditors of reality ( who make their first appearance in this one ) convincing Azrael to get rid of DEATH as he has evolved a personality. DEATH is given a golden timer and sent out into the discworld. At around the same time, Windle poons ( yes the same guy in moving pictures in the wheel chair ) is looking forward to a quiet end after a nice going away party. ( he's a wizard and wizards know when they are going to die. ) Unfortunately with DEATH gone his end is delAyed and he comes back as a zombie ( or something like it). The wizards attempts to kill him off are hilarious and I could not stop laughing in the guessing game bits. Nothing works and after he is buried at cross roads ( with celery instead of stake hilarious again) he discovers a card leading him to meet a bunch of undead people. Meanwhile all the life force is accumulating and everything is flying around. The wizards are summoned by the patrician and they use their usual rite to invoke DEATH and are instead greeted by the auditors. Dibbler unwittingly sells souvenirs which are more than what they seem to be and this sets into motion things pretty unimaginable and it's left to Poons and Bill door ( that's what DEATH calls himself as a man ) to try to make sense of all this.
As with all his books, the characterisation is brilliant. Bill door of course takes the cake and the part i loved best was his dreaming sequence which shows how much humans are controlled by hopes and desires. Miss Flintworth and her lessons on life told in a completely matter of fact manner are poignant. Bill's new role as the reaper and his improved understanding of human beings and life ( where DEATH gets to experience and feel and not just observe ) is amazing to read through and of course funny as well. When one remembers Mort and DEATH's attempts to be human, one can happily say he got what he wanted finally. :) The undead are funny alright but they got a bit boring after a while. The mall life form counts for an interesting read but some portions were a wee bit long for my taste.
Overall a great read that I'd definitely recommend. Read it after Mort and enjoy it better

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pratchett marathon - moving pictures

I have been looking forward to re-reading one of the best discworld novels ever. I had an amazing time in the process.
The book is about human dreams and about the silver screen. The last gate keeper in Holy Wood ( yes I got the spelling right ) dies without passing on the ritual knowledge to a suitable successor. An idea takes root in the mind of an alchemist miles away in ankh morpork and moving pictures are born. Victor a student wizard ( who has been in the university for years exploiting a clause in his uncle's will ), ginger an almost milk maid, CMOT dibbler and a host of other characters are drawn to the place to make their fortune in the clicks. By a strange turn of fate, there are talking animals who sense something strange. The humans are a little slower on the uptake and what happens when reality becomes thin and the world outside ( the dungeon dimensions) gets ready to step in forms for an interesting read.
The characters are amazing. This is the first book where Ridicully the arch chancellor makes an appearance and he has some funny lines. As for those living in holy wood, I don't know where to begin. Victor and ginger are spunky and lost at the same time. The stars in their eyes part is hilarious and you can't help but admire Pratchett for his characterisation. Dibbler's attempt at marketing is so real and I loved the conversations that comparatively sane people had with him. Gaspode and Laddie make a good comic pair and they form an amazing example of how a real wonder is often ignored for something that seems so. Presentation is after all very important even in the discworld. Gaspode's sarcasm and lines were etched together very beautifully in the plot. The trolls especially detritus have 'solid' roles and make you want some more.
I would love to recount funny lines but there were so many that I would just continue on and on. There are many movie puns in the book that a movie lover would constantly keep guessing all through. The annotated Pratchett file as always makes it easier and more enjoyable.
A very well written witty book which is a must read. I loved this as much as Mort ( probably a little lesser as DEATH did not have a major role to play in it )

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pratchett marathon -Eric

I think I mentioned this a while ago - I don't like rincewind too much and he's back in this book.

Eric is a young demonology hacker in ankh. He tries to summon a demon from the dungeon dimensions and ends up with Rincewind instead. He wants three wishes. To live forever, to meet the most beautiful woman in the planet and to be the king of the world. Here is where Pratchett tries to convey that getting what you want is not always what you wanted in the first place. Though the instances are funny and there are a lot of interesting comparisons if is nowhere close to any of the other books I read in the last ten days and I am damn disappointed cos of what it could have been. I was reading my earlier review for Eric and I realised it would have been different and so here is the new one.
Eric lacks depth. Rincewind is also only strictly ok and I really don't want to talk about him. The king of hell is portrayed differently as a memo munching soul gutting guy and I liked that comparison. Boredom being hell is a feeling I can identify with and I loved Pratchett for that. The other interesting characters associated with all three wishes disappear in a jiffy and here is where I cursed the book for being so tiny! After Guards! Guards where I just enjoyed living as a character in the book I felt a bit let down.
But taken stand alone it is a good read. Not his best and maybe his worst. I'd still recommend it if you want something light and funny and quick. Definitely quick.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The perils of just eating

A lot has been said about healthy lifestyle and as I suffer from a bad food poisoning I wonder if it is worth the trouble to eat anything out at all! Daily bread, one of the best places for a pastry in Bangalore was selling old stuff and I am too shocked to even think about the implications of what I am seeing. ( or feeling for that matter)
In a city where there is a huge floating population that gets by by munching in joints, how do you ascertain the quality of food served? For those that cook meals at home and try out a snack it is still perilous for constantly monitoring the bakeries is a pain. The road side shops are not very hygienic or healthy. Sustaining on fruits everyday ain't done as well as one needs some variety in life.
Pricy places no longer seem to be safe as by creating a formula of franchises they have compromised on quality. If you want to eat out for say a dinner multiple reviews have to be checked as things are deteriorating everywhere.
Even the restaurants ( I mean the expensive ones) no longer serve fresh food. As for the nominally priced ones they think that customers have given away the right to expect good food by just stepping into their precincts. Maharaja in koramangala and Madurai idly Kadai are just a few cases that come to my mind.
When and where are we going to get decent food? What can I do as a consumer to question them? I can only wonder as I am too busy working to take up the case and fight it out.

Pratchett marathon - Guards! Guards!

Finally I came to it. The first watch book and man has it been worth the wait! Carrot is another favourite of mine ( after DEATH of course) and so is Vimes. Before I continue rambling to those out there that don't read Pratchett let me do a quickie review.

Guards! Guards is the story about the coming of age of the city watch in ankh-morpork. The plot begins with carrot a 6 foot dwarf (of course he was adopted) getting to know that he is biologically human. His parents send him to join the watch to make a man out of him and he comes with lofty dreams to a city where a thieves guild ( and one for assasins also) is legal. Then the fun begins. On his very first day he arrests the head of the thieves guild and finds lodgings in the shakiest part of town where his special armour scares people away. After a few hilarious hiccups he settles down to the watch. While this is happening a group of illuminated idiots bring a dragon into the city in the hopes of reviving monarchy while the actual intention of the mastermind is different. Vimes the city watch captain realises that there is something afoot and tries to dig in deeper and finds a few surprising things!

The characters are brilliant. Be it Carrot's naïveté or the dutiful Vimes attempts to change the world or Colons unique lifestyle or nobby's attitude towards life. They somehow strike a chord. Lady Ramkin deserves a mention and her dragon rearing makes for a few beautiful instances in the book. My grandmom loved cows and she reminded me of her in more ways than one. ;) the patrician and Wonse add a few interesting scenes but in places the librarian steals the show! The lspace was a good add and I thoroughly enjoyed small but interesting additions like that and the dragon's conversation with the supreme grand master. That made the book far more amazing.

A very good read which I am sure I will read again. I remembered a lot from two years ago and it was as much fun reading it all over again. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pratchett marathon - pyramids

 
This is a stand alone DiscWorld book with little relation to the others before it. The plot starts with Teppic the heir apparent to a kingdom full of Pyramids joining the Assasin's guild to make a living. The first chapter of the book (which is composed of 4 parts) is hilarious and beautifully crafted. lspace (the pratchett annotated file) states that this was Terry's favorite part in the book and it really seems so. Teppic's father dies ahead of his time and Teppic goes back to the kingdom to build the largest pyramid in his honor. Teppic slowly realizes that being a king was not as easy as he thought it ought to be. Especially with a villainous chief priest calling the shots. As the pyramid construction progresses, a lot of things come to light and some of them are not so glorious.

The characters are interesting and thought provoking. Teppic especially is one of the nicely crafted ones in the book. His feeling of being a stranger in a familiar land and him trying to figure out what to do and how to do good is heartening to see. I don't know what got into Pratchett while he wrote this and Wyrd sisters with all the ghosts floating around. It was funny (i agree) but the ghosts doing a little more than pass funny comments got a bit boring after a while. I loved the spunky hand maiden and wished she had a bit more screen time. There are a few minor characters who were interesting as well including the two embalmers and the architect and his sons. The "doppelgangs" theory used in such a fashion just sealed the deal as far as i was concerned. The best character in the book was of course our mathematician. I loved those parts and just somehow it felt really logical to me. The Ephebe philosophers and the Zeno paradox was artfully woven in and I had to read it twice or thrice to make sure i got it (Of course i could always cross check with the annotated pratchett file)

The book is really philosophical and also humorous. However, there is something missing in it. It could be that there were too many characters that became too stereotypical like the ghost king whose whining got boring after a bit or Dios who was just too silly and lacked the depths of grey to be called a proper villain. Overall a decent read - ill give it a 4 on 5.  A definite good read.