Death Trip – Snuff

Snuff_cover_low“And now the world is a better place, commander. You have no understanding, Vimes, no understanding at all of the deals, stratagems and unseen expedients by which some of us make shift to see that it remains that way. Do not seek perfection. None exists.”

Since we first found him in the gutter, Samuel Vimes has been as important to the Discworld as one of the four elephants that supports it. Through him, Pratchett has taken us through the changing face of Ankh-Morpork, how it has dealt with race, power, rule of law and sexuality. The early days of the city facing a threat from a dragon are long ago. Now Ankh-Morpork has a working telegram and financial system, with its mixed species police force a paragon of harmony for the wider Disc. Continue reading →

Moon Witch Cartridge – I Shall Wear Midnight

I_Shall_Wear_Midnight“It’s like a disease,” Miss Proust said. “It sort of creeps up. It’s in the wind, as if it goes from person to person. Poison goes where poison’s welcome. And there’s always an excuse, isn’t there, to throw a stone at the old lady who looks funny. It’s always easier to blame somebody. And once you’ve called someone a witch, then you’d be amazed how many things you can blame her for.”

Terry Pratchett’s young adult fiction doesn’t spare the reader. His first, Amazing Maurice, was a maelstrom of horror, with cannibalism among that thrown at the reader. It was completely unflinching and quite brilliant for it. I Shall Wear Midnight opens with something equally horrific; a young girl has been beaten so severely by her father that she miscarries. Tiffany has to step in and save Mr Petty from brutal mob justice, before saving him a second time from hanging himself. Continue reading →

Taxman – Making Money

Making_Money_Paul_Kidby‘You use words, and I’m told you do it well, but words are soft and can be pummelled into different meanings by a skilled tongue. Numbers are hard. Oh, you can cheat with them but you cannot change their nature. Three is three. You cannot persuade it to be four, even if you give it a great big kiss.’

When I wrote about Going Postal a few weeks back, I was taken by how remarkably prescient it was in anticipating the financial crisis of 2008. To its credit, the novel wasn’t a strict ‘public = good, private = bad’ treatise. Under the auspices of Moist Von Lipwig, ‘confidence capitalism’, as I am dubbing any enterprise being led by a trickster, was the most responsible way of reinvigorating decrepit businesses.

The groundwork for Making Money was laid quite heavily in Going Postal, with the novel ending with the Patrician in dire need of someone to run Ankh-Morpork’s mint. That someone is Moist, whose ability to attract trouble is almost Rincewindian. Continue reading →

Listen, The Snow Is Falling – Wintersmith

WintersmithA witch didn’t do things because they seemed a good idea at the time! That was practically cackling! You had to deal every day with people who were foolish and lazy and untruthful and downright unpleasant, and you could certainly end up thinking that the world would be considerably improved if you gave them a slap. But you didn’t because, as Miss Tick had once explained: a) it would only make the world a better place for a very short time; b) it would then make the world a slightly worse place; and c) you’re not supposed to be as stupid as they are.

The Tiffany Aching novels have been an unexpected delight. Not for any idiotic snobbery about grown-ups reading YA fiction, as one of the Discworld’s endearing strengths is that of a deeply accessible series. I love how it is open and can be loved by anyone – comedy fans, fantasy fans, satire fans or, dare I say it, people who like those three genres and more. However, I felt this meant it was somewhat unnecessary for Pratchett to write a dedicated YA series.

I’m glad my unspoken, irrelevant old opinion was never listened to. Where recent “grown-up” Discworld books like Monstrous Regiment or Thud! have lacked that lightness of touch that features in Pratchett’s best, the morality tales of the Aching novels are a throwback to those early Discworld books that danced in the light fantastic. Continue reading →

Don’t Fight It, Feel It – Thud!

Terry_Pratchett_-_Thud_0385608675“To win you must play both sides. You must, in fact, be able to think like your ancient enemy…To study the enemy you have to get under his skin. When you’re under his skin you start to see the world through his eyes…And thus we wear down mountains. Water dripping on a stone, dissolving and removing. Changing the shape of the world, one drop at a time. Water dripping on a stone, commander. Water flowing underground, bubbling up in unexpected places.”

One unfair criticism of Terry Pratchett is that he can lay his social commentary rather thickly. I found this particularly strange during my rereading because I had trouble finding any real evidence for it. The only thing that was hammered home repeatedly was the importance of thinking. This gave us the likes of Small Gods, where Pratchett angrily argued against fundamentalism while also examining the benefits of belief, or Men at Arms, which attacked racism but shone a light on all of our prejudices. Continue reading →

Letter from an Occupant – Going Postal

Going Postal BIt was the face, that was what it was. He had an honest face. And he loved these people who looked him firmly in the eye to see his inner self, because he had a whole set of inner selves, one for every occasion. As for firm handshakes, practice had given him one to which you could moor boats. It was people skills, that’s what it was. Special people skills. Before you could sell glass as diamonds you had to make people really want to see diamonds. That was the trick, the trick of all tricks. You changed the way people saw the world. You let them see it the way they wanted it to be…

Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Recreation is the best ever minor character in sitcom comedy, with Frank Costanza from Seinfeld a close second. The reason why is that he is used sparingly. If he appeared every week, his irritant sex-pest playa character would grow tired quicker than you can say ‘Poochie’. But he’s hardly in the show so his hilarious schtick never gets old.

Havelock Vetinari is my favourite Discworld character. The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork has never been the main character of a novel. He’s always at arm’s length, so when he is used, you are excited to see what the despotic tyrant of the city is scheming. That’s part of the character’s power; he is always behind the scenes, messing around with something to his ends. But (probably wrong speculation about the intentions of an author alert!) you could imagine Pratchett getting frustrated. He has created a brilliant character but has to use him sparingly in order to make the most of him. Continue reading →