Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Terry Pratchett”

loveallthis’s #cbr4 reviews 06, 07, 08: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Wee Free Men, The Dovekeepers

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(cross-posted from my blog.)

06 / The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

So, this was incredibly charming. I haven’t read much of Alexie’s fiction, though I enjoy the smart, snarky, understanding voice in his nonfiction and journalism.

The plot doesn’t much matter in this book: Junior lives on the Spokane Indian reservation, but he goes to school with a bunch of white kids. Hilarity, depression, struggle, heartbreak, and triumph ensue.

I’d gift this book to a kid about Junior’s age – it’s a funny, sweet, yet mature look at what it means to be a kid who seriously doesn’t fit the mold.

Four stars. Totally enjoyable.

07 / The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Hoo boy, I did not like this book. I’m all for fantasy, but give me some stakes. “I live in a world you don’t care about! Wait! Little people!” (For magical little people done weird but right, check my upcoming review of 1Q84.)

I felt terrible, since Pratchett’s supposed to be fantastic, and what kind of nerd am I, etc. etc. but I had to skim to finish this one.

One star. Not for me.

08 / The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I was so excited to read this book: my mom, an avid reader and total stacks-of-books-by-the-bed, weekly-library-trips inspiration, recommended it highly. I was taking an upcoming trip to Israel and knew I’d visit Masada. The stars were aligned.

Nope! This was so boring! What’s going on? Boooo, Alice Hoffman. Boo.

Lots of desert wandering, lots of sleeping with people you shouldn’t (and just in a sad way, not in a sexy way), lots of kids dying. Bad streak: had to skim to finish this one too.

Two stars for the doves. It’s not history class.

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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.

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.

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #29: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Target: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction

The Long Earth is easier to define by what it isn’t.  It isn’t the epic collaboration that Good Omens was.  It isn’t really sci-fi, or at least not sci-fi that most of us would recognize.  It definitely isn’t comedy.  And it isn’t bad.  I think a lot of readers went into the book expecting another Good Omens, and were disappointed, but the critical thought that went into crafting this off-beat novel is solid and the story is engaging and interesting.  Really, the book is an exercise in concepting; posing a scenario and extrapolating the consequences from as many angles as are relevant.  In that context, The Long Earth is a great success.

Read the rest of the review…

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #14: Snuff by Terry Pratchett

I’ve really come to like writing these reviews, getting into it and meandering verbosely through a book (whether many people manage to wade through my prolixity is another matter). However, this means that I tend to put off writing them till I’m in the right frame of mind and have enough time, and now the year is well more than half over and I’m very behind, so I’m going to try and do some very quick ones. Exposition, highlighting of a main theme, evaluation, quote, boom. Let’s see how that works out.

Terry Pratchett’s Snuff returns us to the inimitable Sam Vimes, reluctant Duke, loving husband, adoring father and experienced – perhaps too experienced for his own comfort – policeman. Forced to go on holiday by the subtly joined forces of his wife Lady Sybil and benevolent (or pragmatic) tyrant Vetinari (who have quite different motivations), Vimes nevertheless manages to find crime and oppression and wades into its midst, determined to stamp it out despite the fact that his trusty boots are far from his familiar streets. There is smuggling, murder, a secret world of goblins hidden in a hill, and the rural charms of beetroot ale and games of crockett.

It seems to me that as Pratchett gets older, Vimes’s pure blazing fury that blasts through shades of grey and lights the darkness in people’s hearts and deeds burns brighter, although it casts shadows of its own. Vimes will not see innocent (or rather no worse than human) beings trodden down and exploited; he will not allow anyone, regardless of class or wealth, get away with more than he can possibly help. This will sometimes comes into conflict with Vetinari, with the rest of the world, but here Vimes’s family provides much-needed comfort to him (and us?) amid the bleakness of his (and our) world, while the battle of interests provides great food for thought on morality and ethics and how not to treat sentient beings like things.

There are a couple of flaws in Snuff, to my mind; a subplot connecting the Ankh-Morpork force to events in the country and abroad could have perhaps been cut, and a family of daintily-dressed sisters on the marriage market could have cropped up more often after their introduction (like the Chekovian orchard ladies in The Fifth Elephant)  – I was disappointed when they disappeared. The great talent possessed by the oppressed beings is awfully convenient, but then again I think his point was the importance of looking beneath the exterior. Overall, however, Snuff is a gripping read; there are plots and chases and plenty of room for Vimes’s trademark speeches while accosting evildoers. There is lots of humour as well, bouncing in a typically Pratchettesque (Pratchettian?) fashion from arch literary references to mocking manners and mores to slapstick and wordplay to the frankly scatological – Young Sam takes great delight in exploring the world of poo. I very much enjoyed Snuff, continue to adore Vimes, and find the development of Vimes the Family Man an increasingly appealing layer in the novels set among the police force. I would not, perhaps, recommend Snuff as the starting place for discovering Pratchett, but it’s a great continuation of the wonder that is Discworld.

“Sam Vimes knew that the best thing he could say was nothing, and he sank back into the depths, thinking words like fiddler, sharp dealer, inserter of a crafty crowbar between what is right and wrong, and mine and thine, wide boy, financier, and untouchable

Gently drifting into a world where the good guys and the bad guys so often changed hats without warning, Vimes wrestled sleeplessness to the ground and made certain that it got eight hours.” (219)

Pratchett, Terry. Snuff. London: Transworld (Corgi), 2011.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #27: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

 

*Audiobook Review*

***It is apparently very difficult for me to write a review of a book that I love. I finished this book 3 weeks ago, but I can’t even get halfway through the review.   I can’t define the qualities that make me love a book.  I just do.  If I hate something, I am ridiculously articulate about why I hate it.  I have a 10 minute lecture on why Titanic was a terrible movie, or why Taylor Swift songs make the Baby Jesus cry.  But why I love something is far more ineffable.  My half-assed attempt at a review is below.***

Good Omens is very, very English.  It’s more English than Queen Elizabeth having tea and scones at a Jane Austen convention.  It’s very dry and droll, so obviously, I love it.  I have read this book at least four times now.  This is one of those books that you recommend to nearly everyone you meet.  I also realized that I’ve read a ton of apocalyptic literature for this Cannonball Read.  That’s a disturbing revelation.  The Hunger Games series, World War Z, and Robopocalypse immediately spring to mind.  This was definitely the most light-hearted and ridiculous.

Good Omens is the story of Armageddon.  Crowley is a demon who is enjoying the chaos he has wrought over the centuries until he is given the message from below that the Antichrist is about to be delivered to Earth.  Since he enjoys being on Earth he colludes with Aziraphale, an Angel, to make sure that the Antichrist is raised as impartially as possible.  The problem is that the Antichrist has been misplaced and is now a perfectly normal 11-year-old boy in a small town in England. Chaos ensues while the 4 motorcyclists of the Apocalypse race towards Armageddon.

What really sets this book apart isn’t the plot so much as the writing.  The small jokes are often the best.  Did you know that if you leave a cassette tape in a car for longer than two weeks it automatically becomes a tape of Queen’s Greatest Hits – which is awesome!

This book is a must-read for anyone who likes dry British humor.

5/5 Stars

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

ambern’s #CBR4 Review #21 Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I am still having a ridiculously hard time in school so I decided that a book about the apocalypse would provide the pick-me-up that I needed.  Damned if it didn’t help.  I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this has already read Good Omens, probably multiple times.  It’s just one of those books that is impossible not to like: smart, funny, and extremely British.

The story begins with an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, discussing the ineffable plan shortly after Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden.  The two continue this discussion throughout the next 6,000 years.  Things come to a head once the Antichrist is born, even though he is promptly misplaced and raised without influences from heaven or hell.

11 years later the Antichrist, Adam, is living an idyllic life for an English boy, he has his gang of friends and is unaware of his powers.  Despite this, the apocalypse is moving forward as planned and the world is destined to end on Saturday.  Aziraphale and Crowley, along with Witchfinders, professional descendants, Adam and his gang, and the four horsemen are all doing their part in fulfilling the predictions of Agnes Nutter, the only truly accurate prophet known to the world.

What is there to say?  I love this book and I wish everyone would read it.  It is smart and so funny that I scare people on the metro with my laughing.  I’m glad that I live in a world where writers like Pratchett and Gaiman exist and that I can get swept up into their ridiculous logic.

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