Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Discworld”

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #50 Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

I really wish I could find more Discworld books with the Dungeons & Dragons, pulp sci fi inspired artwork on them.  As much as people say don’t judge a book by its cover, a book cover can influence how you read it.  The weird artwork on the old school Discworld books really articulates the satire and homage to sci fi/fantasy tropes inherent in all of Pratchett’s Discworld stories.  My copy of Men At Arms has a steam punk-ish looking gun (um, spoiler alert, graphic designer) with wolf heads dancing around the spine.  Anyways, that’s the end of my gripe.

Men At Arms takes place not long after the events in Guards! Guards!.  (I recommend reading that one first; there are some details there that will influence the plot in this book.)  Captain Vimes is on his way out the door to an early retirement; his impending marriage to Lady Sybil will make him a gentleman of leisure.  The City Watch, part of the Patrician’s diversity program, has hired on three new cadets, just as inept as the current Night Watch, so they fit in quite well, although one’s a dwarf, one’s a troll and one’s a woman.  Actually Angua, the woman, was hired to fit the diversity quota of being a supernatural (she’s a werewolf), but the guards don’t realize this until much later.  Carrot still is the best watchman Ahnk-Morpork has ever seen.

An assassin, Edward d’Eath, gets a silly notion that the city would work better if the monarchy could be restored.   This will interlock with the back story for Carrot already revealed in Guards! Guards!.  D’Eath steals an artifact from the assassins guild (I’ll give you a hint, the cover artist really liked it and it’s had to assassinate someone with a wolf head.)  This artifact seems to have a mind of its own, though, and, like all Discworld novels, hijinks ensue.

Much like Lords and Ladies, this Disworld novel is darker than the previous ones.  Pratchett is beginning to use Discworld to reveal the darker sides of human nature (and heroic sides as well).  A somewhat major character even dies, and not in a I-saw-this-coming-all-along kind of way.

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TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 20 #Snuff by #Terry Pratchett

Snuff is the latest Discworld novel, (#39 in the series) and the first since Thud to focus on Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh Morpork City Watch. I’ve been a life long fan of the Disc, but my favorite stories are always the ones that center on the Watch. I consider Jingo and Night Watch to not only be two of the best Discworld books, but two of my favorite books in any genre. So when I rank Snuff as 4 stars its not that Snuff is bad, its that the bar is incredibly high and I can’t give all of PTerry’s books 5 stars. It wouldn’t be fair to the truly exceptional ones like the above mentioned titles, as well as Hogfather, Guards! Guards!, Thief of Time, etc.

Snuff finds Commander Sam Vimes taking a holiday with his family to the country to visit the ancestral estate of his wife, Lady Sybil Ramkin Vimes. While there, as usually happens to Sam, a murder occurs and all manner of nefarious dealings begin to make themselves known. While Sam tries to track down the culprit and unravel a conspiracy with his trusty – and deadly – gentleman servant, Willikins, the City Watch has problems of their own. While out for his daily gratuity, Officer Fred Colon managed to get infected with a goblin soul that was residing in a cigar he received gratis. Cheery, Carrot, Angua, Nobby, and Wee Mad Arthur all get involved and soon enough both Sam’s case and the others are crashing in to each other for a blockbuster conclusion.

That’s sort of what happens. There are details of the book that are a bit difficult to grasp, especially if you didn’t read Thud, like the fact Sam is possessed (sort of) by a vengeance demon that helps him see in the dark and helps him with the case. While the narrative does get a bit muddy, the classic Pratchett satire is razor sharp and serves as an allegory against the mistreatment for any marginalized people. He does a great job of making you care about the victims and feel Sam’s righteous rage at the injustice that must be corrected at all cost.

For a Watch novel it is all standard stuff, but taking Sam out of the City does make for a new setting for him to get in to scrapes. The book moves fast and, as happens in nearly all Discworld novels, around the half way point the momentum picks up considerably and maintains a breakneck speed all the way to the end.

If you’re a fan of Discworld, then definitely read Snuff. If you are new to the series, start with Guards! Guards! to get a feel for who the characters of the Watch are. The books are stand alone, but it helps to know the backgrounds of the characters and how they got to where they are by this point in the chronology.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #33: Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Those of you who’ve read Pratchett don’t need me to tell you that this was a wonderful book. Those of you who haven’t yet discovered Pratchett’s wonderful books, go get started immediately. Don’t start with this one (well, you can, but you’ll miss a little bit of why Commander Vimes is so intense), but Vimes and the City Watch are definitely a good place to dive into Discworld.

Sam Vimes, the commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, is taken somewhat against his will on vacation with his wife and six-year-old son. They go to the countryside, where city-born Vimes is instructed to relax and stop being a policeman for a bit. Vimes, of course, finds this impossible. He quickly finds the few townsfolk who are a little too obviously nervous around him and goes on the hunt for crime.

The crime he finds isn’t exactly considered a crime by the folks in town, which makes it worse in Vimes’ eyes. A goblin girl was murdered in an attempt to frame Vimes (the perpetrators hoped to use her blood to cast suspicion about the disappearance of a local). The problem is, people see goblins as vermin, and the killing of one not a crime. Vimes, however, talks to the local goblins, meets the murdered girl’s husband, and quickly whips himself  into a frenzy at the unfairness of it all.

Pratchett has focused before on the idea of personhood, putting the City Watch up against speciesism in Ankh-Morpork with dwarves, trolls, vampires, and even zombies. The lesson is always the same: if you’re sapient, people aren’t allowed to kill you (unless you’re trying to kill them first, of course). But the way the lesson is taught is always a wonderful ride, filled with great characters old and new, exciting adventures (including a chase scene on a riverboat this time), and Commander Vimes himself, who is one of my favorite Discworld denizens.

Quorren #CBR4 Review #41 Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

As soon as I read one Discworld book, I think to myself, “all right, that was it, that was the best one, the rest will all be downhill from here”, because I’m a pessimist.  At least I am okay with being proven wrong again and again.  Pratchett has lampooned almost everything up to this point and this time, he picks on The Bard.  Lords and Ladies riffs on A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

Lords and Ladies picks up where Witches Abroad ended.  The witches have returned to find a few things have gotten out of hand in their absence.  The King of Lancre has been planning his marriage to Magret, much to her surprise as she wasn’t aware they were engaged.  Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have their hands full with a ground of village girls taken with the idea that they’re witches, including dancing at the forbidden stones.  The different realities of the world have found a thin spot at the dancing stones, where the Elves are awaiting their return to the world.  Elves aren’t the fun creatures that fairy tales have made them into – rather, they delight in destruction and killing.

One of my favorite things about Pratchett’s writing is his ability to write female characters.  Granny Weatherwax is one of my favorite literary characters.  Pratchett can write a head-strong, stubborn female that not once will the word “bitch” be used to describe her.  As for Magret, I had pretty much dismissed her early on; she’s the very definition of mousy.  Which isn’t to say, she’s a poorly written character, but if she was a person, I would probably avoid her and talk about her behind her back.  Pratchett was able to transform Magret in this book, putting her into a position to find her inner strength.  It was just plain well done character development.

But seriously, the next will surely suck.

KatSings’ #CBR4 Review #25 – Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

An entertaining read

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #25 Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

If there was a quintessential Discworld book, Small Gods would for it.  Pratchett’s satire is at its peak.  While it is the 13th book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand alone book.

The story follows the (formerly) great god Om as he makes his not so triumphant return to the Omnians.  Every so often he checks in with his followers, picks a prophet to kick it with for a week or so and goes back to smiting from on high.  At least, that’s how it’s suppose to go.  Om winds up in the inglorious form or a tortoise and it turns out that no one in Omnia is a true believer anymore.  Well, there is one – novice named Brutha with a photographic memory that crowds out any hint of a personality in his brain.  For everyone else, though, religion is now just a force of habit.  Or in the case of Vorbis and his Quisition staff, an outlet for sadistic tendencies.

The books has several parallels between the Old and New Testament God from Christianity.  Om was the great and terrible back in his beginning, taking a more active role in the lives of his followers, smitings and such.  When he gets transformed into a tortoise, he get in touch with the mortals once again, as his our mortality is threatened by the lack of faith in the Omnians.  However, the focus of the book is really lampooning religion is general.  It’s no surprise that Om’s one believer left if someone that learned religion by rote and has never had one original thought of his own.

Gabe3886’s #CBR4 review 7 The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's The colour of magicThis is the first story in the Discworld series of tales by Terry Pratchett.  The story revolves around a board game played by the gods Luck and Fate, amongst others, in which their moves play out in the Discworld – A world supported on the back of four elephants who are standing on the back of a giant turtle who is flying through space.

The Colour of Magic – also the 8th colour in the light spectrum on Discworld – hinges around a wizard called Rincewind who acts as a tour guide to a visitor to his city, Ankh-Morpork, and the situations they find themselves in.

To read more about the story and what I think of it, visit the post on my website.

Akhirnya’s Continued Adventures in the Discworld Series: Maskerade, Feet of Clay, and Hogfather, CBR4 # 12-14

Discworld:  20 down, 19 to go!  I’ve just added a whole slew of other things to my kindle from library loans, though, so there probably won’t be an update to this for a while.

Maskerade:

This is part of the witches series and features Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at their wackiest:  Nanny Ogg, after publishing a particularly racy ‘cookbook’, finds herself rolling in dough after collecting her earnings in Ankh-Moorpork at the behest of Weatherwax.  While the two witches are in the city, they track down a Lancre native named Agnes who is embroiled in a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ situation at the local opera house.

Reading Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg grousing at each other is always enjoyable, but this isn’t the best of the books in the witches series.  My middle school students have been griping about having to watch the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ for one of their classes, and I have to concur with them: it’s not exactly thrilling stuff to begin with, so a satire of it isn’t really going to be that great, either.  Opera jokes can only be made so many times.  This was okay, but not great, and if I wasn’t already invested in the characters and the series, I probably wouldn’t have read it.  2/5

Note: It’s come to my attention that he also wrote the cookbook/almanac from Nanny Ogg’s POV.   I love cookbooks, even fantasy ones, and love Nanny Ogg, so that’s going on the list.

Feet of Clay:

This book centers on the Night Watch in Ankh-Morpork and, as is typical of the Night Watch books, has a hell of a lot going on. Seemingly unrelated murders are spreading across the city and a panic against golems is rising.  While all of this is going on, there is a plot against the Patrician and Vimes is still dealing with accepting his new status and wealth.  Pratchett manages to juggle these together much more smoothly than in Maskerade, with all the story lines finally weaving into one by the end.

Pratchett also has a whole lot more to chew on over the course of Feet of Clay.  His books tend to do best when he has philosophies to tear apart and he gives himself amble opportunities here.  What it means to be free is central to Feet of Clay, as is religious affiliation.  While the Night Watch struggles to embrace diversity, members are forced to deal with stereotypes and discrimination, with certain watch members learning what it means to be comfortable in their own skin(s).  Pratchett is able to deal with these themes while keeping the story along, although he occasionally gets caught up expounding upon this that or the other before continuing with the story.  2/5

Hogfather:

I’ve come to this a bit backwards, as I’ve watched the two-part BBC series of this some time ago on Netflix (featuring a young Mary Crawley as Susan!).  I haven’t seen it in some time, but it’s my recollection that it’s a bit more streamlined than the book, which is probably a fair assessment of most book-to-TV adaptations.

The Hog Father, or the Discworld’s incarnation of Santa Claus, has gone missing and is presumed dead.  Death, in an effort to sustain the Hog Father’s life through the power of children’s belief, takes over his role for the day, with Albert assisting him.  While Death brings toys to all the little girls and boys of the Discworld, he manipulates his granddaughter Susan into helping to save the Hog Father and thus the world.

I adore the Death stories.  Death tackles the saving of the holiday with his usual hidden sentiment twisted by deep misunderstandings of mortal logic.  Death’s struggles, along with Susan’s inability to be comfortable with her own family history, and the very idea of what it means to have ‘faith’ give Pratchett enough material to dig into without over philosophizing.  The book’s take on Christmas, with all of its secular trappings, makes it familiar enough to relate to.  He’s hit a balance here that was lacking in the previous two books, with opera not being interesting enough to sustain Maskerade and being a little two heavy handed with philosophy in Feet of Clay.   Definitely the best of the three and a good read overall.  4/5.

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #15 Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

While I’m not completely out from under the weather, I’m a bit more lucid, so hopefully I can write a better review than the last two have been.

Witches Abroad occurs in Pratchett’s Discworld, which I’ve waxed on about before.  (The link should give you a basic gist of Discworld.)  One of Discworld’s reoccurring characters is Granny Weatherwax and her “coven”, but don’t tell her I called it that.  Granny is a no-nonsense witch.  She believes all a witch really needs is a good black peaked hat.  A wart or two on the face helps, but the hat is where the real “magic” is.  Granny doesn’t believe in using magic for most things in life; instead, she relies on what she calls “headology”, which is her version of psychology.  She usually passes out colored water for those that are ill that seek her help; just knowing a witch gave them a remedy is enough to convince people to get well again.    She hangs with Nanny Ogg and Magrat (nope, not a typo, much to Magrat’s chagrin).  Nanny Ogg’s is a grandma that you could go down to the bar with on a Saturday night and pick up men.  She’s the supreme matriarch of her family, but loves a good amount of alcohol and a bawdy song.  She also has a rapscallion cat, named Greebo, who plays a small part in this story.  Magrat can be seen as the traditional white witch of the bunch; she’s a hopeless optimist that believes magic can solve everything.

When a fairy godmother in the area dies, she sends her wand and her final instructions in the god mothering business to Magrat.  She tells Magrat to get to the kingdom and stop the girl from marrying the prince.  She also tells Magrat not to bring those other two old biddies (using “headology”, of course, because she knew it was the only way she could convince Granny and Nanny to go would be to tell them that they can’t).  The three witches set out for their trip, arguing all along the way, of course.  They find that they must stop the other fairy godmother who believes that all life should be a fairy tale.  She currently ruling over the kingdom and has strict laws about how the citizens in fairy tales should behave.  The castle cook must be fat and constantly covered in flour, for example.

The book dovetailed perfectly with my on-again-off-again book, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a modern collection of short stories with a fairy tale vibe.  Fairy tales have been having a comeback lately, with two Snow White movies due out soon and two TV shows.  I love being an armchair sociologist, so I’ve been fascinated by the past recent years trying to figure out why something in our collective subconscious was drawn to superhero movies.  And what is now pulling us towards fairy tales?  The two genres do have their similarities, namely being a conflict between good vs. evil, but what has changed that makes us favor magic, which underlines most fairy tales, instead of strength, with physical strength underling most superhero movies?  Or is the attraction because the two genres have been blending recently?  Stills from the Kristen Stewart Snow White show the fairest of them all comes in armor.  Thor in the new Avengers movie, while having the strength of a god and the body, still has a mythology background (yes, I think mythology can fit into the fairy tale genre quite easily). So far my only theory has been that those of us raised on Disney’s white-washed fairy tales are entering into that Holy Grail of demographics, the 18-34 age range, are meshing with the nostalgia trend (can we, collectively, all agree to let the 80’s lie in peace already?) to create a perfect storm for a fairy tale resurgence.

trib’s #CBR4 review #7 – I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

A big, fat 5/5 for this, the final Tiffany Aching book, from me.

As she does for my friends, Nathan and Courtney, the young Miss Aching appeals no end; she is moral, caring, a thinker and understands that while she has a place in the world, it is often complicated by difficult or potentially unpopular decisions.

Though Pratchett originally wrote this subset of the Discworld novels for a younger audience, there’s absolutely no reason they ought not be on the reading list of any Discworld fan. Nay, any fantasy fan.

With the Tiffany Aching books, Pratchett has moved beyond the (very excellent, mind you) silliness and satire present in many of his earlier pieces to a more profound, gentle humor laced with more than a condiment level of humanity.

It’s a great read, no matter whether you’re a fan of the author or genre or not.

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