BooksOfTheMoon

The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Riffing off the story of the Pied Piper, here Pratchett has more animals become intelligent after hanging around Unseen University too long. First it’s the rats, and then Maurice, a cat. The rats may be clever, but Maurice is streetwise. They band together, along with a stupid-looking-kid™ to do the old plague of rats trick on unsuspecting towns, but in Bad Blintz, they find something very unexpected, and very dark.

Maurice is a fun character. While I’m not their biggest fan, Pratchett really gets cats and he writes a good one. The rat Dangerous Beans, on the other hand, is at least partially well named. As Darktan realises, he makes maps of the earth, while Dangerous Beans makes maps for the mind. He thinks the thoughts that the others don’t. He’s an idealist, and a visionary and a naive young thing. He’s a wonderful creation.

In the character of Malicia, Pratchett takes another swipe at those who get too carried away by stories and storytelling. This was a central theme of Witches Abroad and while it’s somewhat less subtle here than it was in that book, the point is well made, and the character is very fun to read.

I think this was the first Discworld novel “for younger readers”, preceding the Tiffany Aching books. I’ve put ‘for younger readers’ in quotes since at times this book can feel very dark, covering, as it does, topics including faith, its gaining and loss, ageing, hate and man’s inhumanity to anything it considers ‘other’. Despite this, it retains Pratchett’s trademark lightness of touch and humour. An older (or less sensitive younger) child will devour this, as will adults.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552546935
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year of publication: 2001

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Another world is colliding with this one and nobody can or will do anything about it. Nobody, that is, except Tiffany Aching. Tiffany Aching who makes good cheese; who hits monsters in the face with a frying pan; and who has the First Sight and the Second Thoughts (much more useful than the other way around). With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle and a book on sheep diseases, Tiffany ventures into the other world to stop the Queen and to save her baby brother.

It’s been years since I first read this book and I had forgotten just how ‘witchy’ that Tiffany is right from the start of the series that begins with this book. A sensible girl who does what needs doing and who stands up to Granny Weatherwax.

For me, the Feegle are as much stars of this book as Tiffany. They could be a parody but in Pratchett’s hands they become more than that. They’re a wonderful creation (especially the swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers) and a lot of fun.

There’s one line in particular that stands out as totemic of what Pratchett tries to invoke in all of us and which brought a lump to my throat: “Them as can do, has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” Pratchett reminds us with this single line what we’re like when we’re at our best and what we should strive to be.

Book details

Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2003

Jingo (Discworld, #21)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 5 stars

There’s xenophobia in the air in Ankh-Morpork, and the old warmongers are dusting down their swords; it’s up to Commander Vimes of the Watch to sort things out. It’s been many years since I last read Jingo, and, to be honest, it’s depressing just how relevant it still feels. PTerry was far too prescient with this one, his Ankh-Morpork of this period feels very much like post-brexit Britain, but alas, we don’t have a Sir Samuel or a Lord Vetinari to swoop to our aid.

However, despite all that, PTerry never forgets the story, first and foremost. This is a great fun book, overflowing with wit and humour. It’s really the first time we get to spend some time with Lord Vetinari, and, I think, our introduction to Leonard of Quirm. Vimes is filled with the righteous anger that, well, makes him Vimes and Death makes his obligatory cameo. There’s also the Disorganizer, the Disc’s answer to a smartphone, with added confusion about universes, which I sort of love. It’s the constant cheerfulness of the thing, just trying to do its best in a world where people just don’t read the manual!.

I guess the constant freshness of the book is a reminder that war will probably always be with us. As long as there are people like Prince Cadram and Lord Rust and people willing to line up behind them and march for a nebulous thing like a flag, we’ll have conflict and ignorance. But I hope there will also be the Vetinaris, working quietly in the background to smooth things over and correct misunderstandings before they turn into something bigger.

Book details

Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1997

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

I haven’t read this book since the first time round, but a friend has been re-reading the Discworld books and suggested I give it another go. Re-reading it has reminded me what I disliked the first time round – Colon’s field-promotion and the Carrot/Angua angst – but also reminded me how good Sam Vimes is when he’s at his best.

There’s a new Low King of the Dwarves being crowned in Uberwald and the Patrician sends his Grace, the Duke of Ankh, aka Sam Vimes of the Watch, as his ambassador. But being Sam Vimes, he can’t keep his nose out of a crime, even when it’s as far off his turf as this. Soon he’s being sucked into politics that could have ramifications throughout the continent, and old, stale ideas are being brought kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.

As I say, that’s good bit, Vimes getting stuck into a crime, failing to be diplomatic and generally being a clever bugger. The less good bits are much smaller in number, but obviously stuck with me. The idea of putting Colon in charge of the Watch has comedy gold written all over it, but it doesn’t feel that way, it just feels sad. It’s a perfect example of the Peter Principle, as acting-captain Colon relies on clamping down on the minutiae to cover his own incompetence. While the story moves back to the city more infrequently as the book goes on, it was enough to keep me away from it for years.

There were several of the little things that Pratchett is always so good at that I missed from before, from the name of Leonard’s deciphering machine to Vetinari’s desire for a code that is merely fiendishly difficult, not impossible, to crack.

The stuff with the dwarves and their lack of recognition of genders other than ‘dwarf’ felt a lot more smoothly handled here than it did in Raising Steam, and it was nice to see Cheery back, and the idea that freedom includes the freedom to not wear a dress resonates even more today.

So all in all, a better book than I remember. 3 1/2 from me, rounded up (Vimes’d go spare if I rounded down…)

Book details

ISBN: 9780552146166
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1999

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

The railway has come to the Discworld, and Lord Vetinari is determined to make it work for Ankh-Morpork, so he puts Moist von Lipwig in charge, and you don’t want to upset the Patrician, do you? One important thing to note is that this book has major callbacks to both Thud! and Snuff; which is a problem for me because it’s been many years since I read the former, and I’ve not read the latter at all. Still, with the help of the Internet I was able to paper over the cracks and make a decent stab at this.

Also, the politics are hardly subtle, really. Pratchett really gets out the mallet to hammer home the idea that no matter our size, shape and colour, we’re all just people, and those who think otherwise are deluding themselves. The message is a good one, but I feel it could have been delivered better. The plot thread with the deep dwarves also only felt tangentially related to the one about the trains, with the railway to Uberwald having to be completed in time to get the Low King home. Beyond that, the two strands were pretty separate.

The idea of the railway coming to the Disc also felt underused and almost crowbarred in. It didn’t feel as natural as the Post Office, or even the Royal Mint (although I did like the callback to Reaper Man, which is one of my favourite Discworld books). Moist was mostly around to deal with problems that the railway faced, without really being able to do much of his famous fast talking and double dealing. And I felt that Adora Belle Dearheart was criminally underused. Dick Simnel, the engineer with the Great Idea, is quite two-dimensional. We don’t get into his head much and his greatest attribute seems to be being from t’Yorkshire.

I was somewhat confused by the scene between Archchancellor Ridcully and Lu Tze. It seemed to be there, just to get in a couple of well-liked characters. I don’t feel that the scene added anything to the story that we didn’t also get elsewhere in the book.

I started reading Discworld in the early to mid period, when there were sparkling ideas on every page, and belly laughs as often. I don’t think this book made me laugh (well, snort) out loud until after page 100. I know that the style of the books changed as Pratchett got older (not to mention, the embuggerance) but humour has always been a hallmark of the Discworld, and these later books have done little for me because of its lack.

So a Worthy book with a good heart, but muddled and a bit preachy.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552170468
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2013

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

It’s been ages since I read a Discworld novel and the urge came upon me recently to reread this, which I’ve not read in years. It’s got a number of firsts: it’s the first “Wizards” book, in that Ridcully is now Archchancellor and the faculty that we go on to know and love make their first appearance; and it’s the first appearance of Gaspode the Wonder Dog who would go on to pop up again a number of times.

The story is a pastiche on both the film industry in Hollywood and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, as terrible things awake at Holy Wood Hill, when the last guardian dies and try to worm their way into our reality, via the medium of the clicks. It’s a lot of fun, and as funny as early period Pratchett should be, with more fun to be had playing spot-the-reference to both film and Lovecraft. It’s perhaps not the most memorable of Discworld novels, but there’s still a lot to enjoy, especially for more long-standing fans, who can see see favourite characters, including Detritus, in early roles.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552134637
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1990

Witches Abroad (Discworld, #12)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any classic-period Discworld and going back to this was absolute joy. Although the witches aren’t my favourite characters, they’re still a lot of fun here. Pratchett often plays with narrative and the idea of stories in his novels and this one is the epitome of that. In the far-off city of Genua a servant girl will marry a prince. Well, she would if it wasn’t for the witches of Lancre, including her newly installed fairy godmother. Who says you can’t fight a Happy Ending?

The first half of the book is hilarious travelogue, as the witches make their way across the Disc to Genua, leaving chaos in their wake. Pratchett uses Granny Weatherwax to slyly poke fun at the British abroad but you’re so busy laughing that you almost don’t notice. The pace changes when we get to our destination. Then the idea of story comes much more to the fore, as Granny and co are trying to fight the idea of a Happy Ending, or, at least, someone’s idea of a Happy Ending.

I always loved mid-period Pratchett the most, before he started going for nuance and depth of character. Here, the witches are archetypes, but so cleverly drawn and placed in such a setting that it’s not important. And it’s still laugh out loud funny, rather than the odd chuckle or wry smile here and there. That’s always a key marker of a good Discworld novel for me – how much it makes me laugh, as well as think. These few years are the sweet spot when Pratchett was, as far as I’m concerned, at the height of his powers.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552134651
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1991

The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

After rereading The Colour of Magic after a very long interval, I moved straight on to The Light Fantastic and what struck me very quickly was how marked the difference between the two books is. TCoM is an amusing lightweight fantasy pastiche; TLF is a Discworld novel. It’s astonishing to me just how much the three short years between the two novels has done to hone Pratchett’s art. This book made me laugh out loud several times, started the regulars towards their more familiar characterisations and introduced Pratchett’s famous footnotes.

I had re-read The Colour of Magic out of curiosity and, to be honest, at times it did feel like a bit of a slog. I just picked up this one out of a sense of duty as the two books have always been very connected in my head, and I hate not finishing a book, but devoured the whole thing quickly. The writing, humour and style all felt much lighter, much more like the Pratchett I remember and love.

There’ll always be sadness, however, in opening a Discworld book and seeing the first line of the bio: “Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 and is still not dead.” :-(.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552128483
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1986

The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

Despite Julie Andrews’ opinion, sometimes the very beginning isn’t the best place to start, with Exhibit A being the Discworld. Despite it being the first novel about a flat world carried through space on the back of four giant elephants standing on the shell of a turtle, I wouldn’t exactly call The Colour of Magic the first Discworld novel. So much of the tropes, language and humour that I associate with the Discworld are missing from this book that it would be better to call it a prototype, at most.

That’s not to say that it’s a bad book, but at this point in his career, Terry Pratchett is still a journeyman and the book feels like that. It’s been many years since I had last read it, and I must admit that I enjoyed it more this time round than previously. That’s because The Colour of Magic is very much a pastiche of classic fantasy, and I hadn’t actually read much classic fantasy at that point. I hadn’t read Fritz leiber’s Lankhmar stories, Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, H. P. Lovecraft’s horror or even Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, all of which are lovingly represented and gently pastiched here. Now that I have read all those authors and more I can appreciate what Pratchett was doing much more than I could when I read this as a callow youth.

In some ways, it’s impressive how much of the Disc is already formed in this early novel, with Ankh-Morpork (complete with [a, if not the] Patrician), the countries of the Circle Sea, Rincewind and the counterweight continent all present, ready to be fleshed out more fully in later books. But the book does very much lack the laugh out loud humour that characterised Pratchett’s golden age for me, and the writing is yet to gain the confidence and sparkle that would make Pratchett one of the most admired writers in Britain and beyond.

So an interesting book for its place as the book that started it all, but I still wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point for Discworld newbies.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552124751
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1983

Making Money (Discworld, #36)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

I avoided the latter adventures of Moist von Lipwig for a long time after I read Going Postal because I didn’t think that there were more stories to be told about Lipwig. However, I’m currently filling in the gaps in my Pratchett collection at the moment and when I found it in a charity shop, the friend I was with said it “wasn’t bad”.

The book did little to change my original opinion: after sorting out the Post Office, Lipwig is, by hook and by crook, put in charge of the Royal Mint. Rinse and repeat. In saying that, there’s a lot to enjoy in this book. Unlike a lot of New Pratchett (a period that, for me, starts around The Fifth Elephant or The Truth) there are actual laugh out loud moments, and I find Lipwig a sympathetic character. In this book he sometimes comes across as a little, not stupid, but slow, and this is something that he recognises in himself: the respectable life at the Post Office has taken his edge. But despite everything, he retains enough to, as you’d expect, come out the other end without losing the shine on his golden suit.

So not classic Pratchett, but better than the ones on either side of it. It’s got me interested enough in Lipwig to possibly prioritise getting Raising Steam earlier than I would otherwise have done.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552154901
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year of publication: 2007

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