Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Pratchett”

Shaman’s Cannonball Read #CBR4 review #24: The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Terry Pratchett has been so successful in writing the numerous Discworld novels that he finds himself in a predicament: people either expect him to be just as funny in his other novels, or they expect him to do something completely different. Unfortunately, in this collaboration with Stephen Baxter for the book ”The Long Earth” he falls somewhere between these two. Not funny in comparison with Discworld, too pratchett-y to be different.


The Long Earth is a fantasy/science fiction novel about parallel universes. One day people discover that they can ”step” between worlds using a strange potato-based contraption. This opens up a lot of possibilities, at the same time as it creates a lot of problems. The book explores all those issues through the eyes of Joshua, a saviour kind of guy who was raised by Harley-riding nuns, and who travels through these universes in the belly of a Zeppelin controlled by the robotic reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman.


I’ll give you a minute to re-read that last sentence, shall I?


See the pratchettness of it yet? The quirk? The philosophical questions it raises? But there is one pratchettian component missing: the humour. And that’s where I think Pratchett has dug a hole for himself. He’s so good at what he does best, ie the Discworld novels, that a lot of people – myself included- expect him to keep doing exactly that. As soon as he strays from the formula and aims for something more ”serious”, like he did with ”Nation”, for instance, he’s doomed. People will make comparisons, and his non-Discworld offerings will be lacking, because they’re not Discworld. Oh, and because they’re not as good. Pratchett is best when he’s funny.


But say that you somehow manage to put the comparisons aside, and judge the book as is. Pretend that it was written by an unknown author. The book is still lacking, despite the very promising premise. It drags on, until the last 50 pages or so when it suddenly picks up pace and becomes really, really interesting, only to leave you hanging. No, really. The end felt like a cliffhanger, and I don’t know if it was intentional and they are planning a sequel (probably) but it seemed like the book would have benefited by getting rid of maybe 200 or so pages about what came before and telling us what comes after instead.


Stephen Baxter, then? I mean, his name is on the book cover. Well, I wasn’t able to ”see” his contributions to this novel as much as sir Terry’s. But then again, I haven’t read that many of his books that I can easily recognise his voice, as I do with Pratchett’s.


In the end, I think the book has trouble finding its audience. It’s not kid-friendly (because of the swearing) but not adult, either (too….lightweight). Will I read the sequel? You bet. I’ll read whatever Pratchett throws at me. Even if he throws me crumbs. Don’t judge me! They taste a bit like the cake they came from.


More of my reviews and ramblings in my blog.

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.


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


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.

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