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 →

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Hero Worship – The Last Hero

The-last-heroIt’s what ordin’ry people remember that matters. It’s songs and sayin’s. It doesn’t matter how you live and die, it’s how the bards wrote it down.

This took me completely by surprise. As I mentioned when I was exploring The Truth a few weeks back, we are in something of a second Pratchett golden age, with excellent books stretching back as far as The Fifth Elephant. No one can keep this level of consistency up for long, which is why when I first picked up The Last Hero, I was not expecting much of it. It’s a mere 150 pages long and illustrated so I expected something akin to Faust, Eric. It was an enjoyable read, albeit slight, and I got the impression it was a cool idea he wanted to get down somewhere. A bit of fun.

But The Last Hero is not a palate cleanser before we hit Pratchett’s first young adult novel and then the wildly applauded Night Watch. It’s a fantastic romp through Pratchett’s Greatest Hits, a wonderful throwback to the early Discworld novels and themes, an appreciation of art and science and a sideswipe against religion. It is splendid, really surprisingly brilliant and a book that can easily sit alongside the few that preceded it. Continue reading →

Tick of the Clock – Thief of Time

185px-Thief-of-timeYou had to hand it to human beings. They had one of the strangest powers in the universe. Even her grandfather had remarked upon it. No other species anywhere in the world had invented boredom. Perhaps it was boredom, not intelligence, that had propelled them up the evolutionary ladder. Trolls and dwarfs had it, too, that strange ability to look at the universe and think ‘Oh, the same as yesterday, how dull. I wonder what happens if I bang this rock on that head?’

And along with this had come an associated power, to make things normal. The world changed mightily, and within a few days humans considered it was normal.They had the most amazing ability to shut out and forget what didn’t fit. They told themselves little stories to explain away the inexplicable, to make things normal.

I finished Thief of Time 10 minutes ago and had to get down the feeling I have after closing the book. I am somewhat overwhelmed. Given how Night Watch is in two books’ time, the one that many Pratchett fans rate that as his best, I genuinely wonder how he will top this. Continue reading →

The Modern Age – The Fifth Elephant

the-fifth-elephant-2‘When people say “We must move with the times,” they really mean “You must do it my way.” And there are some who would say Ankh-Morpork is…a kind of vampire. It bites, and what it bites it turns into copies of itself. It sucks, too. It seems all our best go to Ankh-Morpork, where they live in squalor. You leave us dry.’

Ever since Twoflower stepped off a boat at Ankh-Morpork dock, becoming the Discworld’s first ever tourist at the beginning of The Colour of Magic, there has been a thread of modernity and progress running through each Discworld novel. I haven’t really touched on it so far, even though we have seen gonnes, submarines, political attempts to increase the racial diversity of the Ankh-Morpork, arcane computers, progressive monarchs and women not being bound by class or gender. To be quite honest, when I start thinking about what I *haven’t* had a chance to look at, I feel like doing a mass delete of every post, sticking the books up on eBay, taking my ball and going home.

Then I wise up. Continue reading →