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.

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.