A brief word on the need for heroes in your life (and a book review).

(This past Thursday, March 12, Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in his sleep. I’m sure you’re wondering “Well… who the fuck was that and why should I care?” 

Terry Pratchett was a prolific fantasy author (he maintained a writing pace of producing two books a year for the past 20 years!) that I had happened upon when I was really getting into Neil Gaiman. Mr. Gaiman, having worked with Sir Pratchett and had been a close friend, mentioned his relationship with Pratchett in interviews from time to time. 

My interest in Pratchett’s work was further piqued when I learned that he was suffering from a type of Alzheimer’s, PCA, if I am not mistaken. Ailment aside, he still kept up the pace that he had set with his writing. 

As I am a slut for writing and a slut for reading books, learning that he basically gave the finger to PCA and kept working made Sir Pratchett my new hero. 

If there is one thing that I have learned throughout the course of my life it is that you need to have a hero, an example to look to throughout the course of your life. There are going to be times when you are at your lowest of lows, having that person (or group of people) will help you pull through. 

As such, I have decided that this week I will share my thoughts on some of Pratchett’s work. I say ‘some’ because the amount of books that he has written in his lifetime is somewhere in the 70’s. I hope you enjoy what’s to come.

Thanks for reading,

Matt)

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There’s a thing about literature that’s written by an Englishman, when they are being clever, or funny, the point is sometimes lost to anyone who’s not an Englishman (or Englishwoman).

Unseen Academicals is no exception to this (somewhat lame) theory of mine.

Through an oversight in the executions of college traditions, the wizards at the Unseen University have been delivered an ultimatum by the universe: they need to form a football team or else they will be taken down a peg or two by the Patrician of their city.

As with all things written by Terry Pratchett, the story is not that simple. However that is the main theme running throughout.

To be perfectly honest, I ended up putting it down the first time that I tried to read it. The business with the Megapode within the first handful of pages was a bit of a turn off for me.

After some time had passed, I soldiered on past the silliness (which was actually a rather coy set-up for a satire that I completely missed on the first go around) and I was completely blown away.

Unseen Academicals is pure Pratchett. Love, the importance of family, social tolerance, sportsmanship… All of these themes written into the rich tapestry that Pratchett has created with the birth of Discworld nearly 30 years ago.

If you are unfamiliar with Discworld, you will be at a loss if you were to start with this book. I would suggest starting with one of the early books like “The Colour or Magic” or any of the first handful of novels, they generally have a good explanation of things (and if memory serves correctly, they should have a basic glossary of characters, as well.).

Unseen Academicals, as well as most stories* written by Terry Pratchett, is well worth your monetary investment.

(*I say “most” because I have not read “ALL” of the stories written by Sir Pratchett.)

pic courtesy of: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91F0L5Md8UL._SL1500_.jpg

The 5th Elephant by Terry Pratchett

To conclude Terry Pratchett week, we have “The 5th Elephant”.

Sure, some of his stuff starts off a little too silly and sure, most British humor would go right of most Yanks heads, but there’s just something about his style and his ability to take fantastical elements and apply them to current day issues that is positively unparalleled.

The 5th Elephant, a “Night Watch” novel, finds Sir Samuel Vimes and his faithful Watchmen in the thick of things once more. As Ankh Morpork jogs to keep up with the times (the installation of a traffic imp, female dwarves declaring that they are in fact, female) crime is still a common place activity.

On the eve of the coronation of a new dwarf king, dissent becomes more voluminous in the dwarf community as this “new king” is deemed too progressive. In a nefarious attempt to sabotage said coronation, a key component in the ceremony has been stolen. As such, Sir Vimes has been (reluctantly) appointed diplomat for Ankh Morpork (aka he has to go to the the coronation in Uberwald, land of the Fifth Elephant, to find out what in the hell is going on).

The story goes that in the beginning, there were five elephants. The fifth lost it’s footing and fell to the Disc landing in Uberwald.

By all accounts this is another Discworld title that is irreverant, topical and action packed. What makes things better (aside from the plot twist) is the fact that this book is another reason on top of a mountain of reasons that demonstrate that Pratchett is a true master of his craft.

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

I am a Terry Pratchett fan. This is not uncommon knowledge. How can you not be a fan of an author who kicked out two novels a year AND had motherfucking Alzheimer’s disease? That alone ought to peek your interest.

A brief word on Sir Terry: Pratchett is typically referred to as a science fiction writer. That is a bit of a misnomer. Way back in the day, Sir Terry got the idea to create Discworld (this is where the sci-fi piece comes in)  a flat planet that exists on the backs of some elephants that are in turn, on the back of a turtle. It’s heady, I know. But it’s one of those things that pay off when you hang in there.

Discworld is the main “setting” of the majority of his novels. There, vampires, werewolves, humans, trolls, dwarves, golems… They all exist amongst each other. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but given the caliber of Pratchett’s writing as well as the scope of his stories, there is something for everybody.

The story begins with a couple of murders that have happened in Discworld’s capital city, Ankh-Morpork. Given the normal operating state of Discworld, this really isn’t news. That is, until its discovered that the murders are at the hand of a golem. A golem who was created to be the King of the Golems. From there, Pratchett very ably shows us that things are much more tangled than that.

As with all of Pratchett’s work, there’s so much more waiting for you beneath the surface. Do yourself a favor and pick Feet of Clay up!pic courtesy of: https://civilservant.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/feet-of-clay-cover.jpg

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.

Admittedly, and I’m not ashamed of throwing this out there, the only reason I picked up Reaper Man was due to the fact that it was blurbed on the front cover by The Cleveland Plain Dealer (I am from Cleveland). At any rate, I had reached a literary impasse between two books and I needed something that would initiate a tie breaker and that was it.

In Reaper Man, the Grim Reaper finally gets a little time in the spotlight.

In this story, Death is essentially retired by the Auditors of Reality because he was beginning to develop a personality. However, since Death’s “untimely” dismissal from his superiors, Death realizes that he finally gets a chance to enjoy the thing that he has taken people away from for long: that’s right Death enjoy’s life.

There’s a problem though, the Auditors completely lack imagination and as such, they are unable to replace Death with a “new death”. Only the given species can do that. So while humankind drags it’s heels creating a new death, the collected spirits of the recently deceased build up because they don’t have anyone to usher them to the great beyond.

Nonetheless, this like any other book by Pratchett, is well worth the read.

 pic courtesy of: http://s836.photobucket.com/user/NoCoolUserName/media/LookoutMountainBookstore/ReaperManUSPbk.jpg.html