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.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Pratchett marathon - Wyrd sisters

This is the second witches book. If I consider equal rites the first that is.
The plot is a mix of multiple themes and Shakespeare and theatre are some of them. The book begins with a coven of witches meeting for the first time. But unlike in Macbeth these are funny ones who don't even agree on what they ought to do. A man in a horse hands over a baby to them and dies. The baby is the crown prince of the country and to protect him they hand him over to a theatre group. The duke who had actually killed the king ascends the throne and tries to make life hell for the witches while the actual crown prince falls in love with acting. The ghost of the original king and the land ( the kingdom has a soul you see) are unhappy with the dukes rule and it's left to the witches to change this.
Granny Weatherwax reappears and we also have Nanny and Magrat. Granny's character has a few amazing scenes in the beginning especially when she goes to see a play for the first time. Nanny with her entrouge of kids and crazy cat also has a few funny scenes. But in this book I liked the simple Magrat the best. Maybe it is her wish to see the world as it ought to be or maybe it's her simple affection for the fool but overall it's a decent character sketch. The Fool is one of the better characters in the book with a ' there's more than meets the eye ' aura around him. The duke and duchess are too sillily villainous for me to even talk about. I prefer characters with shades of grey.
The book was a decent read but definitely got a bit boring towards the end. ( I was sick when I read it so that could have contributed.) I'd say give it a 3.5 on 5 especially for the literary allusions and for the humour.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - Sourcery

This is another book in the Rincewind series in disc world. I did not remember it in as much detail as I did Mort and I am not surprised. Before I start throwing my opinion around ( which I'll do in a bit) let me give a quick plot summary.
The plot follows the eighth son of a wizard who was an eighth son himself and hence his a sourcerer. He can create magic from the world and does not need anything. His power is limitless and to top it there are no sourcerers in the disc. He is on his way to the university to claim the arch-chancellors hat. Nobody has a hint on what is happening ( no human anyway) but the animals sense it.
Rincewind who is unsettled by all the lowly inhabitants ( cockroaches,ants and the like) of the university leaving it runs away to a pub to think clearly about everything and escapes from witnessing the sourcerer's entry to the university. The arch-chancellors hat along with a sexy barbarian lands with Rincewind. What happens after that forms for a decent read.
However it's not as interesting as his other books. The characters lack soul. Coin who could have been infinitely more interesting is hardly given much screen space. Instead we see more new characters popping up all over the place. Conina the sexy barbarian daughter of Cohen is an interesting character and of the multiple scenes I loved her fight in the ship and her desire to be a hair dresser. The luggage being love struck is funny but it could have been given some more screen time. I missed that part. Rincewind is not my most favourite character but I read his books mainly for the luggage. :) Death has a few good lines but the other three horsemen remain vastly ignored.
Pratchett has brought out a lot of interesting undercurrents and subplots. His observations of the human nature are pretty accurate and hence the book is definitely funny. Creosote and Nigel make for a lot of humorous scenes.
Overall an ok read by what I've come to expect off him. I could re-read it after two years and still enjoy it. I'll give it 3.5 on 5.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - Mort

For the uninitiated, this is the first DiscWorld book where DEATH my most favorite character makes a full time appearance. It is about him and his questions about humanity and what happens when he takes an interest in human affairs.

The plot begins with DEATH taking in an apprentice "Mort" to help him do his duty. The conversation between Mort, his dad and DEATH is hilarious and is a very good indicator of how the rest of the book is going to be. Mort is taken to DEATH's realm where he meets Ysabell, his adopted daughter (she appeared briefly in The light fantastic). They do not get along together partly fuelled by her calling him boy and not by his name. Albert, DEATH's valet is another person who inhabits the realm and everything is strange there. Mort begins his duties as an apprentice by first cleaning up the accumulated horse shit. He witnesses the assasination of a king and is educated by DEATH as to how there is no justice, just "US", indicating that one cannot judge something as right or wrong and they can only do their duty. Mort is soon sent out alone as DEATH wants to experience being human. And, he makes the mistake of not killing the princess , the daughter of the king whose assasination he witnessed. He decides to spare her. There it begins - the race against time to face the consequences of his decision. On a parallel track, you watch DEATH trying to be human and a few secrets about Albert are revealed. What happens after this forms a really interesting read.

Like i said before, DEATH is probably one of the best character sketches written. You watch spell bound as he tries dancing, fishing, eating, gambling etc to understand how one is human. The portrayal in these scenes of him and those around him is hilarious and I just loved the insights which Pratchett threw in without sounding preachy. Mort and Ysabell's relationship was beautifully crafted and her crying over the books was one of the best scenes I will remember. Too bad that both of them do not figure much in the later books. But Susan is more spunky than them so it is alright. Albert's reappearance on earth and the side effects are funny too!

There are a few characters who make a short reappearance in this book like Rincewind, the librarian, the king from the counter weight continent and the Vizier. Overall a very good read, but not his best DEATH book. :)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Mugamoodi - a hopeful trend setter

I love super hero movies - I have made this fact evident from my crazy reviews for a few of them. One in Tamil though, was a novelty i wanted to checkout and be one of the few to rubbish it first. THis was my attitude as i went to watch the movie and man, did it change a lot!!

The plot is decent - Jiiva (man i dont like these multiple iis in his name) is Bruce Lee aka Anand a kung fu fighter. He is a wastrel (meaning an idiot without a job) and spends his time learning kung fu and picking up fights with arbit goons in the street. Everything changes when he meets the heroine and since she takes a deep dislike for him, he decides to woo her as a masked man. Accidentally, he ends up catching a couple of criminals and irking the criminal boss. What continues after that is a hide and seek game with him trying to outwit the villain and everyone trying to just survive.

The plot like i said is decent and the chase scenes and the background music in the same is brilliant. The director has not tried to include too many songs unnecessarily(except for the first one) and he does not show blood anywhere. There is an elegance in most of the movie (Except when the dumbo heroine comes on screen. She has zero screen presence and looks really average)

Jiiva looks believable as a kung fu fighter though his master does not. The silent and merciless attacks by the criminal gang is well portrayed and most characters have done a decent job. Narain could have made this in to the role of his life time if he had not acted like an idiot in the climax. It screwed up the movie experience totally. For a director who seems to have thought through the entire movie, the climax is a let down. It could have been filmed much better and Narain could have done a more mature performance.

But overall Mugamoodi impresses as a good attempt at super hero fiction and the background score is commendable. A definite one time watch. 3.5/5

Monday, September 03, 2012

Pratchett Marathon - Equal Rites

One thing you should know about the Discworld wizards - When a wizard dies, Death himself comes to collect his soul. Another thing - A wizard knows when he is going to die. Not like in a car crash you know for sure you are dead types but like I can see this part of my future types. Another thing again - the eighth son of an eighth son is said to possess a natural magical ability.

Drum Billet was a wizard who knew his time was up. He was also a very powerful wizard who lands up in the door steps of a smithy where an eighth son of an eighth son was about to be born. He hands his staff over to the new born baby and is buried in the backyard of the Smithy. What he realises after he is dead is that, it was not a son but a daughter! Eskarina Smith is not aware of the magic passed on to her and is a normal girl (by most standards). Granny Weatherwax (one of my favorite discworld characters) takes her under her wing after she accidentally scares away a pack of wolves and starts training her to be a witch. Granny thinks wizard magic is no good and that Esk is placing herself in danger if she uses it. But Esk is brilliant in multiple ways and she learns a few tricks of being a witch including borrowing.

While being a witch is about knowing herbs and headology and making do with what is rather than creating what is not, being a wizard is all about geometry and complicated spells aspiring to create what is not. The wizard magic continues to seep out of Esk and after she converts her brother into a pig, her father agrees to send her to the unseen university. Granny accompanies her in a hilarious journey where a lot of interesting characters turn up. (Hilta the witch, Treatle and Cutangle from the previous books, Simon the genius and of course Mrs.Whitlow of the University)

I liked Esk's characterization and her metamorphosis from the naive girl to the one slightly more aware of the world around her. Granny's character was well portrayed but she was still not as great as in Wyrd Sisters (man am i waiting to read that one). Simon, Treatle and Cutangle could have been explored a little more and I wanted them to have a little more screen (?) time

There were a few brilliant lines in the book, one of my favorite being the discussion between Treatle and Cutangle after listening to Simon's lectures- "They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things." The other one was where Granny was describing animal minds - "For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks."

This is also not one of his best but as I see Pratchett's evolution as a Writer, I am happy to think about the chances that someone like me who wants to write has - The best is yet to come.
I am waiting to dig into Mort, the first book in the death series and also Guards Guards which are two of my favorite books. :)