Archive for the ‘Terry Pratchett’ Category

I just finished the last, the very last Terry Pratchett book, The Shepherd’s Crown. Not of course up to the in-his-prime books, not so wildly funny or so frantically silly. But, moving–had me in tears once or twice, partly I’m sure because of it being the last book. It is very much about death, and what is left when somebody dies. Several reviewers pointed out that it offers a way for us to deal with Pratchett’s own death.
So here we are on our last visit to magical Discworld, the dream twin to England, that country I love not only for my late husband’s sake, but for the many happy times I’ve had in that green and pleasant land.
In this book, Tiffany takes her place as a powerful and good person, and as we have seen her grow up, we are that proud of her! Look at our little girl now! It was odd, but that in itself brought tears to my eyes–I am so damn sentimental, really, I embarrass myself. And then there was a moment when Tiffany glimpsed her dear Granny Aching, just out of the corner of her eye–a figure walking with the 2 dogs in the shadowed woods. I am a SUCKER for glimpses of our beloved dead. I can weep just mentioning it.
Well, it was a fairly pedestrian book, just continuing the story–there was the newly invented train, there were the newly assimilated goblins, there were the wicked elves–we had met them all before, this story is just placing them in that world so as to make sure they all are in the correct relationship to one another. Perhaps if Terry had not been dying, if he had felt better, he would have fleshed it out more, given us some more fun. But what he did give us was so wonderful. On the back of the book are quotes from people who loved Terry Pratchett:  A. S. Byatt says, “No writer in my lifetime has given me as much pleasure and happiness.” George R. R. Martin adds that “Terry was one of our greatest fantasists, and beyond a doubt the funniest.” And Frank Cottrell Boyce explains that his Pratchett books are littered all over the house, “under the beds, in the bathrooms”. . .They have shopping lists, takeaway orders, and Scrabble scores scribbled on the fly leaves. They were part of life.”
How I miss him, and how I honor the astonishing world he created. What a man, what a mighty fine man.

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The Science of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett

This is a charming book discussing science from the viewpoint of Discworld–the wizards have made a little universe, and what do you know? In this universe, the WORLD IS ROUND–not a turtle in sight, let alone elephants! And, it ROTATES ABOUT THE SUN rather then the other way around! And other obviously unrealistic features. During the process of building the thing, all kinds of observations are made:

 “I mean, things fall down because they’re heavy, you see? The thing that causes them to fall down because they’re heavy is, in fact, the fact that they’re heavy. ‘Heavy’ means inclined to fall down. And, while you can call me Mr.Silly”– “Oh, I wouldn’t do that, sir” . . . “I somehow feel that a crust of rock floating around on a ball of red hot iron should not be thought of as ‘solid ground’ “.

Each part of the wizards’ experiment is followed by a chapter explaining the science, in clear and cheery language. Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, two men who are not only eminent scientists but also fine writers provided these interludes. This book, though perhaps somewhat dated–science always moving forward!–presents a fascinating account of the origins of the universe, the earth, mankind–and speculations about the future. In the introductions, the authors state that “We have, we are afraid, mentioned in the ensuing pages Schrödinger’s cat, the Twins Paradox, and the bit about shining a torch ahead of a spaceship traveling at the speed of light. This because, under the rules of the Guild of Science Writers, they have to be included.”  And of course, there is mention of that excellent answer to the traditional question involving infinite regression, “if the world is supported on a turtle, what supports the turtle?” Answer: “It’s turtles all the way down“. This was supposedly said by a sharp little old lady in response to some eminent and sarcastic scientist, though to whom and when is not clear).

Evolution Man: Or, How I Ate My Father, by Roy Lewis

Pratchett praised this book in The Science of Discworld, and I instantly purchased a copy.  I found it absolutely topping–elegantly written, and very witty to boot! Along the lines of Cosmicomix, but not nearly so precious. The cave family father (who speaks in the educated tones of a 19th century upper class Englishman) is determined that they shall advance the species—develop larger brains, learn how to make fire without actually having to visit a volcano (he accidentally causes a huge forest fire during his research) and develop the skills of the cuisine (=fishing the meat out of the fire before it becomes a cinder). His uplifting message is often gainsaid by Uncle Vanya, who makes occasional visits to the cave, always lamenting the day they ever climbed down from the trees. And this notion of eating meat!! Nuts and berries were good enough for HIM! However, he enthusiastically joins in the feasts, begging his nephew to pass another auroch haunch. Silly wonderful book! Unfortunately out of print, but still, I shall be giving it to family and friends for birthdays and Christmas.

Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel

I read The Clan of the Cave Bear long ago and dismissed it as Cosmo Cave Girl, which still fits actually–but rereading it I find again what I liked so many years ago–accurate and clear descriptions of flora and fauna. Lots of herb lore, combined with careful accounts of hunting–not only small rodents and deer, but even mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, aurochs–and how our ancestors used every single bit of the animals they killed, the hides for shelters and clothes, the bones for implements, the intestines for storing the rendered fat, the stomach for carrying water–fascinating stuff, really. Even if not very well written. But the author often steps back to describe the overwhelming beauty of the scenery, the plains and tundras, the blooming meadows in the spring, the glacial streams and lakes and high desolate peaks. And, after all, she can write a good story, if not very elegantly. There are several more books in the series, and while there is a certain amount of dubious social history, and a certain amount of sex, there is an underlying structure of actual history, so far as it is (or was, though I don’t think the theories she espoused have been proven wrong) known. Indeed, there has been modern scientific proof, using DNA research, that the Neanderthals did indeed interbreed with our ancient ancestors. We are ALL part Neanderthal!

A (fairly crappy, alas) movie was made of the Clan of the Cave Bear, which I haven’t seen. Though the beauteous Daryl Hannah plays the heroine, and she might be fun to watch, swathed in her furs.

See also this review-written on my other blog. Can’t shut up about this book!

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Having finished listening to my latest book and being at a loss as to a replacement, I selected a work by that ever dependable standby, Terry Pratchett–who can always make me smile. Silly stuff, but as Theseus points out in Midsummer Night’s Dream, the best in this kind are but shadows and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them. Even the second, or, as it might be, the third time through.
terry-pratchettThis is the one that starts with the meeting of the secret society, The Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night –who not only have mystic outfits of black with tall hoods shrouding their faces but also a most complicated password:
Supplicant: The significant owl hoots in the night.
Doorkeeper: Yet many grey lords go sadly to the masterless men.
S: Hooray, Hooray for the spinster’s sister’s daughter.
D: To the axeman, all supplicants are the same height.
S: Yet verily, the rose is within the thorn.
D: The caged whale knows nothing of the mighty deeps.
S: The ill-built tower trembles mightily at a butterfly’s passage.
Unfortunately, the first five lines are ALSO used by the Illuminated and Ancient Brethren of Ee, who meet meet three doors down. HAHAH!
I have quoted many lines of this grand stuff before, including descriptions of Lady Sybil Ramkin, who breeds little swamp dragons, and has a sign painted on the back of her coach: “Whinny if you love dragons!” She is a simply wonderful character, based the gallant British dames that once ornamented the land. Pratchett makes fun of her and yet also obviously loves her. She is a lady of a certain SIZE and no longer in the first flush of youth–but she has HEART. There is a wonderful scene when the lads are watching the enormous dragon called to the city by the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night–having suddenly discovered that it is a FEMALE, and that Eric, Lady Sybil’s little dragon, is obviously smitten.
“But it’s sodding enormous!” said Nobby.
Vimes coughed urgently. Nobby’s rodent eyes slideways to Sybil Ramkin, who blushed like a sunset.
“A fine figure of a dragon, I mean,” he said quickly.
“Er, Wide, egg-bearing hips”, said Sergeant Colon anxiously.
“Staueskew,” Nobby added fervently.
I love it. I shall now have to listen to Men at Arms, even as I diligently search for book more worthy of my serious attention. Or at least, that I haven’t read 3 or 4 times previously.

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This was the first Terry Pratchett I read, years ago now. I remember I gave it to all the kids for Christmas that year, whenever it was. Silly wonderful stuff! See, the dwarves have discovered how to make moveable type, and thus is born the first printing press in Ankh-Morpork, which instantly leads to the first newspaper in Ankh-Morpork , the Ankh-Morpork Times (“the Truth shall make ye Free/Fret/Fred” (depending on whim of typesetter). Which is furiously resented by the Engraver’s Guild, and just about everybody else. Otto Chriek, a vampire from Überwald (he has a splendid German accent), applies for the job of iconographer (“You know zat another term of an iconographer would be ‘photographer’? From the old word ‘photos’ in Latation, vhich means–”
“To prance about like a pillock ordering everyone about as if you owned the place,” said William. “Ah, you know it!”).

Otto ChriekOtto has Taken the Pledge (he is a Black Ribboner, sworn never to taste bl**d again) and nearly comes to grief when a young woman faints right in front of him—such temptation to a vampire! But, he stands firm, and “in a trembling voice sang: “Oh vill you come to zer mission, vill you come, come, come—Zer’s a nice cup of tea and a bun, and a bun” –all the while, clutching his little black ribbon. He succeeds in fighting off the dreadful temptation—he’s been going through “cold bat” for over three months, he says. The weekly sing-songs around the harmonium at the mission have kept him strong.

I don’t know, it just makes me smile. There is the strict but fair landlady at Mrs. Eucrasia Arcanum’s Lodging House for Respectable Working Men, whose meals may not be gourmet fare but at least are large and filling (and must be paid for whether eaten or not). And there is the King of the Golden River, who has made a great deal of money collecting garbage, muck, and buckets full of the stuff that people pay him to collect from bars, restaurants, and houses. Which golden flood has made him a millionaire many times over. And there is a cadre of wicked men—who not only employ two horrible hired killers, but also the ghastly zombie lawyer Mr. Slant. And of course, their vile schemes are eventually overcome—this is Disc World!

Terry Pratchett redeems a bad day, every time.

(Note: portrait of Otto by Lisa Pokropp, available here)

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Oh dear, one more quote–hard to resist, really: Death (actually, his granddaughter, it gets complicated) is on a battlefield, and hears mighty singing–mezzo soprano–and looks around to see a woman swooping out of the sky mounted on a magnificent horse. A LOT of woman. “She was as much woman as you could get in one place without getting two women. She was dressed in chain mail, a shiny 46-D cup breastplate and a helmet with horns on it.”. . “the horse cantered in for a landing. There were six other singing horsewomen plunging out of the sky behind it.
“Isn’t it always the same”, said the raven, flapping away. “you can wait hours without seeing one and then you get seven all at once.”

On Aug 03, Hope Hare wrote:

It is important to always have a book on hand, and so often Terry Pratchett fills the void with his witty and wonderful silliness. . .

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It is important to always have a book on hand, and so often Terry Pratchett fills the void with his witty and wonderful silliness. So many puns (which always reminds me of Death proudly announcing that he has made a PUNE, in the Hogfather book: “don’t know if you noticed, Albert, but that was a pune, or play on words”) and so many little throw away references and quotes.
I just finished Soul Music, which is a sort of compendium of rock and roll history (the motto is, Sex, Dwarves, and Rocks that Roll!) with a goodly batch of the Unseen University Academics thrown in, and Death in such a funk that he joins the Foreign Legion. Which is of course, an outpost of the country of Klatch. Often times someone will say something rude in a Disc World book, and hastily add, ‘Pardon my Klatchian’.
The force of the music is completely irresistible to all who hear it:
“This was music that had not only escaped but had robbed a bank on the way out, It was music with its sleeves rolled up and its top button undone, raising its hat and grinning and stealing the silver.
It was music that went down to the feet by way of the pelvis without paying a call on Mr. Brain. ”
“It made you want to kick down walls and ascend the sky on steps of fire. It made you want to pull all the switches and throw all the levers and stick your fingers in the electric socket of the Universe to see what happened next. It made you want to paint your bedroom wall black and cover it with posters.”
Ah yes, the black room with posters. We had one of those in the last house. I left the damn thing as is, pardon my Klatchian, for the next owners of the house to deal with.

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Dodger has a simple uncomplicated plot, with a good hearted author who wants all to be well. He has read Mayhew’s London Poor book, and had done his research–but still, this is more Angk MorPork than London, which is fine by me. The story of the magical boy who always succeeds is a pleasant one–I LIKE it when there are happy endings and the bad people are punished while the good people are rewarded–and plenty of entertainment in the process. Grim old Fagin has been transmogrified into the sophisticated and admirable Solomon, and we meet Dickens, Sir Robert Peel, Mayhew himself, and other notables of the time. I am puzzled that while Solomon teaches Dodger about right and wrong in all things, gem stealing is apparently regarded as a worthy undertaking, with no moral opprobrium attached. Why? Of course, the terrible underlying fact, that our beloved Pratchett is suffering from a horrible disease which is attacking his intellectuals makes one examine this book with particular attention. And yet, aside from the genial approval of jewel stealing, it seemed completely proficient, well put together. Simple, as I said–no fancy language–but fine plot, excellent characters, and fun to read.

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