Friday, 20 March 2015

Blast From the Past: Mort by Terry Pratchett

Before I started reviewing books online I loved rereading my favourite SF/Fantasy books.  Since I don’t have time to do that anymore, this column is a trip down memory lane, where I’ll rave about books I love to read.  And then read again.  These aren’t reviews, as I won’t necessarily mention criticisms, they’re my chance to fan girl about books I love and hopefully garner some interest in some older titles.

Given the recent news of his passing, it seems appropriate to dedicate a column to Sir Terry Pratchett’s books.  

I was first introduced to the Discworld in high school when a friend gave me a copy of Interesting Times for my birthday.  While parts of the book were confusing (as it’s a direct sequel to the story told in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, which I hadn’t read) I really enjoyed the story and characters.  I loved that the book had a dry sense of humour that matched my own.  But more than anything, I loved that the book had pithy sayings and bits of wisdom hidden in the pages.  At the time I collected sayings in a book and Interesting Times gave me several, as did many other Pratchett titles.  Sayings like: “Adventure! People talked about the idea as if it was something worthwhile, rather than a mess of bad food, no sleep and strange people inexplicably trying to stick pointed objects into bits of you.”

Pratchett’s novels always make me think, and I like thinking.  They’ve made me look at the world in different ways.  

I have to admit, I haven’t read them all (though I’d like to), and I haven’t liked them all (you can’t like everything).  But so many of his books have stuck with me because he wrote so insightfully.

If you’re new to the Discworld there are a few main groups of people the books focus on: members of the Unseen University, predominately Rincewind, a failed wizzard; the witches, a traditional coven with some untraditional beliefs; the guards of Ankh-Morpork, the main city the books take place in; and the personification of death.  While some of these can be picked up and read irrespective of the other books in the world, some storylines continue and are better off read in order (I made the mistake of reading several of the witches books in reverse order and boy, was that ever confusing). 

When I worked at the bookstore I’d recommend that people start with Mort.  The books that focus around Death are, on the whole, my favourites. And Mort is short, punchy, hilarious, and gives a good idea of what you’re getting when you pick up these books.  It's about a boy named Mort who's uncoordinated and rather bad at farming.  With no idea what to do with the boy, his father brings him to a fair and tries to apprentice him to someone.  Death offers him a job, which has interesting consequences for everyone.

My other favourites include: Hogfather, Truth, Thief of Time, Going Postal, Monstrous Regiment, Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Lords & Ladies, Small Gods, Carpe Jugulum, and The Last Hero.  I also love his pseudo kids book, Where’s My Cow, that Sam Vimes reads to his son in the books (and was made into a real picture book). 

If you haven’t read any books by Terry Pratchett, he’s one of those authors you shouldn’t miss.  If a story about Death doesn’t interest you, Guards! Guards! and Going Postal are other great introductory books and Monstrous Regiment is independent of the other storylines.  If you want something a little more… apocalyptic, then Good Omens, the novel he wrote with Neil Gaiman, is quite fun too.

And if you're not a reader, then the TV adaptations of Hogfather (a kind of Christmas story) and Going Postal are wonderful.

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