BooksOfTheMoon

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

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Stories

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

These are stories written by Pratchett when he was a young man, working for his local paper. The Young Pratchett wrote a children’s story for them every week, which is what makes up this collection, and is, according to the foreword, mostly unaltered from that time. They’re very definitely written by an author still finding his way and don’t have the polish of later Pratchett. We do get a couple of stories set on the Carpet, which would go on to become The Carpet People (which I’ve read, but so long ago I don’t remember anything about it and was BG [Before GoodReads]) and some fun stories (my favourite being the one about the time-travelling bus), but I didn’t really get an awful lot out of this one. I think this may be passed to my sister as bedtime story material for my nephlings.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552572804
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2014

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Tiffany Aching is getting on with the job of being the witch of the Chalk, taking the responsibility for bringing people into the world, helping them leave and all the bits in between. For a young woman it’s a heavy load, so she really doesn’t need an ancient malevolent spirit being awoken and coming after her.

I enjoyed this book and feel that I should really have more to say about it, but I can’t really think of an awful lot. There were some small surprises for me, such as the character of the Duchess and how she evolved, along with her daughter, but I didn’t really feel an awful lot of fear for Tiffany herself. She seems to have reached the same sort of stage as Granny Weatherwax, where she’s pretty much indestructible so I felt sure that she’d be able to deal with the Cunning Man.

The Cunning Man, by the way, is a pretty excellent villain. His origin story is marvellously gruesome and the idea of this eyeless creature full of hate and malevolence is very evocative.

The other thing the surprised me was Preston and his story. I was sure that Pratchett was going to take Tiffany along the dutiful, lonely road, so it was a bit of a surprise (a pleasant one, mind) when he and Tiffany did actually sort of get together at the end of the book. It’s nice to get a happy ending for the person who spent her own time ensuring happy endings for others.

The humour in this book was the thoughtful, ‘wry smile’ variety rather than the belly laughs of Pratchett’s early work, although there were still some really laugh out loud moments. These were almost all provided care of the Nac Mac Feegle, who retain all the charm of their early days for me as they enthusiastically fight, steal and generally caper through life, but always protecting their Hag o’ the Hills. They’re a joy to read and, I imagine, to write. I can just imagine Pratchett sitting at his keyboard, chuckling to himself as he wrote them.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552166058
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2010

The Long Mars (The Long Earth, #3)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

The Long Earth series is a bit of an oddity in the oeuvres of both Pratchett and Baxter, and I struggle to see aspects of either author, although what there is is very definitely Baxter over Pratchett. In this book, there’s another voyage into the distant parts of the Long Earth, Joshua Valient√© goes in another quest at the behest of the strange AI known as Lobsang and Sally Lindsay finds herself on the Long Mars.

Like The Long War, the title is somewhat misleading. Although Mars does feature in one of the several parallel plot threads, it’s neither dominant nor the most interesting. In fact, one might say that it’s actually sort of pointless. They go to Mars, step along it, find the macguffin and come home. There were many possibilities for story along the way (not least the giant monolith that defies approach that they find on one) but they never really got a look in.

Back on Earth (or the Earths), there’s a new perceived threat from a number of superintelligent young people who call themselves the Next. I feel this was handled clumsily and that the idea of the military crapping themselves over a bunch of smart kids was hardly sensible (not that the kids helped themselves with their arrogance and unlikeability, but then they were teenagers, so maybe that’s not a huge stretch of the imagination).

The big thing though, as with the rest of this series, is that I’m not seeing anything connecting the different story strands. They’re all little vignettes of the Long Earth but there’s nothing coherent about the whole thing, nothing to grab me and make me want more. The characters who should have developed over the course of three books are still mostly ciphers.

The Yellowstone eruption of the previous book has changed (the Long) America in so many ways, and could result in so many interesting stories, but here it’s just sort of brushed under the carpet. It’s referenced every so often, but it doesn’t really feel like it’s made much of an impact on the Long Earth.

At this stage I’m ready to give up on the Long Earth series. It was chance that got me this book, and although it’s better than The Long War, it’s still not satisfying for fans of either author’s work. I’ll see what the reviews of the next one say before I think about whether or not to continue.

Book details

ISBN: 9780857521743
Publisher: Doubleday UK
Year of publication: 2014

Dodger

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Dodger is a tosher, someone who scavenges in the sewers beneath Victorian London to make a living, and he’s a good one. Not only is he a tosher, but he’s a geezer. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. His world changes entirely when he helps a young woman in need during a storm and gets involved in politics, intrigue and international espionage for his troubles.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel by Terry Pratchett, (although the author decries that title in the afterword, as he moved some historical figures around in time and space so that they would all encounter each other during the novel) and Dodger is as engaging a character as ever emerged from the Disc. His friend and mentor, Solomon Cohen is also fantastic. His dry wit and imagined conversations with God make him a joy to read (and I would have loved to read about the adventures that he had in his youth, before he settled in London).

I’m always fond of a book where someone uses brains to solve problems, rather than hitting people with sharp implements until the problems go away (it’s one reason I’m so fond of Doctor Who), and although Dodger is good in a scrap, it’s his wits that keep him alive in the depths of London’s less salubrious areas and also what he uses to ultimately solve the problem in front of him.

Coming up from the sewer, Dodger meets a number of historical figures, including Charles Dickens, who helps him throughout the book. Benjamin Disraeli, Joseph Bazalgette, Robert Peel and Charles Babbage all show up, even if some are just extended (or not so extended) cameos. There are also a couple of lesser known figures, including Henry Mayhew, who, like Dickens, tried to publicise the plight of the poor in London (although he did it through facts and figures, rather than prose) and Angela Burdett-Coutts, an heiress and philanthropist and one of the richest women in the world. None of these seemed forced into the novel and they add to the richness of the story by interweaving it with the real London of the time.

While this book doesn’t have the laugh out loud humour of Pratchett at what I regard his best, there’s a vein of humour running through it, even if it is at quite a low level. An entertaining and, at times educational (it didn’t occur to me to wonder about the dog’s name until it was brought up at the end of the book) book, definitely worth the time of a fan of Pratchett, Dickens or London.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552563147
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2012

Maskerade (Discworld, #18)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Granny Weatherwax is bored, and Nanny Ogg knows just what she needs: a third member of their coven to replace Magrat, who’s gone off to be a queen. But the perfect choice, Agnes Nitt, has gone off to Ankh-Morpork to join the opera. But there’s something odd going on there too, with ghosts, dead bodies and troublesome artistes all creating the sort of problem that Granny loves to get her teeth into.

I hadn’t read this book in years, until the sad death of Sir Terry put me in mind of the Discworld again. It reminded me just how funny the man could be. Despite the fact that I went off his later books, at this stage, he was still making me giggle like a schoolboy. Frequently. Out loud.

Twisting The Phantom of the Opera in the way that Pratchett did best and using it to observe and make cutting remarks about human nature. Agnes/Perdita is a very sympathetic character and Granny and Nanny make their usual incredibly readable double act. A marvellous book for anyone who loves music, opera, comedy and human nature.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552142366
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1995

The Long War (The Long Earth, #2)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

A generation or so after the Long Earth is opened to humanity, people are still trying to get used to the whole idea, and its implications and ramifications. The gentle trolls that span the worlds are retreating in the face of human advance and the strange creature known as Lobsang once again recruits Joshua Valiant√© to try and save these natives of the Long Earth, while colonists way down the Long Earth are getting restless with the Datum’s yoke.

A big problem problem in this book is the multitude of characters but without anyone to really root for. Joshua feels a bit passive, allowing things to happen to him without driving anything. (Fellow natural stepper) Sally is intensely unlikeable; Nelson and Agnes get hardly any screen time (feeling like they’re possibly being set up for a future book); Lobsang is an almost literal deux ex machina. Pulling strings behind the scenes but without enough personality to really be sympathetic or to strive for.

Once again, it feels like this is very much a Stephen Baxter book, without very much of Pratchett’s trademark humour. The American-centric nature of the book is odd as well, given that both the authors are British, but I guess that it’s the Americans that we think of as having the pioneer spirit to run out and colonise the Long Earth. But I’d still have liked more than just the brief hints that we had of how other Datum nations are coping with the implications of the Long Earth.

The main impression is that it was a bit confused (and confusing). There were too many different plotlines ongoing for its (not inconsiderable) running length and as a result, it felt muddy and disjointed. Perhaps all these separate strands will come together as the books go on, but reading them slowly, one at a time, makes for an unsatisfying experience.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552167758
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2013

The Dark Side of the Sun

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 stars

This early Pratchett is interesting and fun. It hints at themes and ideas that Pratchett would come back to in more detail later in his career, with free will versus predetermination being the big one. There are mentions of things like Hogwatchnight and Small Gods that are fleshed out further in the Discworld novels but mostly this is just a young Pratchett finding his feet and his authorial voice.

The story has the young Dom Salabos about to become chairman of the board of governors of his planet when an attempt is made on his life. One that probability maths says that he shouldn’t survive. It would be a short book if he didn’t, so he goes on a quest to find the homeworld of the Jokers, the ur-species that left behind vast and mysterious artefacts but which has vanished.

For an early book, it’s very good, and you can see flashes of the greatness that Pratchett would later achieve. The story is definitely entertaining and keeps the pages turning. Interesting for Discworld fans as an example of Pratchett’s early career but very much on its own merits for SF fans who like a good mystery.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552133265
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 1976

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress