Terry Pratchett passed away this morning. Thanks for the untold hours of entertainment, Terry. You'll be missed.
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and his wife Sybil take Young Sam and go on vacation to Sybil's ancestral lands in the country. Fortunately for the Commander, crime soon rears its ugly head and he soon finds himself ensnared in a web of lies, smuggling, and murder! Can Vimes get to the bottom of things before he finds himself at the bottom of the river known as Old Treachery?
I always forget how good Terry Pratchett is during the year or years between new books. To the outsider, it would be easy to dismiss the Discworld books as silly fantasy novels. While they are silly, the Discworld books always deal with real issues as well. In this case, slavery and drugs. Snuff raises questions of what it means to be sentient, human rights, and the evils of looking the other way when something bad happens.
Pratchett's writing reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse's more with each passing book. I lost count of the clever lines. I even noticed reference to Tombstone ("I don't think I'm going to let you arrest me today."), Deadwood, and Jane Austen.
The characters are what drive the Discworld stories. Good thing, because they could easily degenerate into mindless silliness otherwise. Sam Vimes and his relationships with his family and the people of Ramkim were what made the story. Vimes' pep-talks with Feenie about what it means to be a copper, his caring tolerance for his son's fascination with poo of all kinds, and his feelings toward the goblins showed why Pratchett is more than just a fantasy writer.
The plot itself was pretty good. A goblin is murdered while Sam Vimes is on vacation and he starts pulling at threads to find out why, leading him to discover smuggling and corruption. The disgusting religion of the goblins is explored and, by the end, society is changed. Goblins haven't been touched upon very much in the Discworld series so far and I'd say Pratchett did a great job developing them in Snuff.
I can't pretend this book was perfect, though. The last fifty pages dragged a bit. That's about the only gripe I have, actually. It's the best Discworld book in years.
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Things are hostile toward witches on The Chalk and Tiffany Aching aims to find out why. But how can she with the future mother-in-law of the new baron gunning for her? Can the Nac Mac Feegle help her clear her name and the name of witches everywhere?
Terry Pratchett has been one of my "buy everything" authors for years now and this book is a good example why. It would be easy for old Pratch to phone it in at this point. He's written something like 50 Discworld books and has been stricken with early onset Altzheimers. I'm proud to say there was no phoning in, or even texting in, in this one.
Like all of the Discworld books, this book is about something. It's about prejudice and mass hysteria, how seemingly rational people can be driven to do some pretty irrational things. It's funny how a lot of people dismiss the Discworld books as fantasy parody when they're so much more.
The Nac Mac Feegle, demented Scottish smurfs that they are, provide comic relief as always. Preston, the guard who's too smart to be a guard, provided a believable future love interest for Tiffany. Tiffany herself has come a long way since the Wee Free Men. Her grace The Duchess was such a foul villainess I couldn't wait to see her taken down a peg. The Cunning Man was pretty horrible as far as Pratchett villains go. And the cameos by Vimes, Nanny Ogg, and Granny Weatherwax were worth the price of admission.
Something that not many people mention, Terry Pratchett does a lot to advance the concept of the fantasy witch as more than juts a cackling hag. He portrays them more like shaman or jacks of all trades, doing whatever is necessary for the people in their steading.
So why a four? Why not five? I'll tell you, Arnold. For one thing, the ending was a little too easy. For another, too many plot threads were swept under the rug. Amber, the girl who's dad beat the hell out of her, was forgotten for most of the book after spending time with the kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle. The Duchess, likewise, was defused at the wedding near the end and it seemed out of character. The thread of Letitia being a witch came out of left field and also didn't go very far. It could be that old Pratch is planning another Tiffany Aching novel but I was under the impression that this one is the last.
All in all, this was a worthy addition to the Tiffany Aching saga and the Discworld series. Lots of laughs and also some thought provoking stuff.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Maurice, a talking cat, leads a group of talking mice and a stupid-looking kid into a town called Bad Blintz looking for one last score with their pied piper scam. Only Bad Blintz has troubles of its own...
Terry Pratchett really knows how to write a kids book. I would have devoured this thing when I was a lad. Maurice and the rats are good characters, as is Keith, the aforementioned stupid-looking kid. The origin of Maurice and the rats' intelligence was fairly well done. Hell, it's a fantasy story. How much explanation do you need? Pratchett took the classic story of the pied piper and Discworld-ed it up with questions of philosophy, destiny, and leadership. And rat-kings.
Why only a three? The rat king bit felt tacked on at the last minute, although I enjoy me a good rat-king. While the humor was good, I didn't feel it was as good as the adult Discworld novels, subtle sex jokes excluded. Being a Discworld novel, things didn't quite end up all hunky-dory at the end but it was still a good ending.
Pratchett crafted a good young adult novel here. If you have some YA's in your house, go ahead and nab this one for them.
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Football (soccer to Americans like myself) is all the rage in Ankh-Morpork and Vetinari, the Patrician, has given Unseen University the duty of refining it from a street game to an organized event. Only some people don't want it organized. Can the Unseen Academicals, with Trevor Likely and the mysterious Mister Nutt, overcome football's rowdiest hooligans?
The thing about Terry Pratchett is that while his stories take place in a fantasy world, they are about real world events and concepts. This one speaks about stereotypes, prejudices, the fashion industry, and sports as religion. The romance between Trevor and Juliet is an obvious sendup of Romeo and Juliet, except that they're fans of opposing football teams.
The story itself is pretty funny. Lots of one-liners and wordplay. I spotted a P.G. Wodehouse reference that I wouldn't have gotten the last time I read a Pratchett book. The wizards are a funny bunch. The story of Mr. Nutt was well done, as was the modelling subplot. I hate to admit it but slight goosebumps arose when Trever Likely stepped up.
While I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite Discworld book, it's definitely worth a read.
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