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)

***

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

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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.

The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

In The Wintersmith, Sir Pratchett reacquaints us to young Tiffany Aching, a new witch who has been “making her bones” on her side of Discworld.

Tiffany while under the care of the witch Miss Treason, has found herself in the middle of certain Goddesses and Elementals. The main elemental being the Wintersmith and as a result of Tiffany’s interference, she has gained the affections of said Elemental. This further results in your usual slew of Discworld shenanigans.

While I have only been introduced to Ms. Aching through this book (her previous books being A Hat Full of Sky and I Shall Wear Midnight) I still enjoyed the hell out of this book.

Terry Pratchett had that rare gift that most fantasy writers lack: He was able to write a book series that you can drop down right in the middle of and still be able to figure out what’s what and who’s who without having to consult Wikipedia. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know who half these “regular” characters were and I was still able to catch as catch can.

An added bonus of this book (at least for people who are new to Sir Pratchett and who either don’t like the mythology behind Discworld or else they just don’t get it) is that there is very little Discworld geography included in this book at all. In the previous books of his that I have read, I have found it a bit hard to understand all of the places and turn’s of phrases that he has created because they were originally brought up in other books of his that I haven’t read yet.

This isn’t the case with The Wintersmith. Pratchett doesn’t disappoint. If you are new or if you are a regular reader, do yourself a favor and go out and pick this up.

pic courtesy of: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51xVSytVdaL.jpg

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

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.

I have yet to find something of Sir Pratchett’s that I just can’t read. He’s the type of writer that has that uncanny ability to make anything sound interesting as long as he’s the person doing the writing.

Regardless, The Wee Free Men really isn’t really about The Wee Free Men. Rather it’s about a certain Ms. Tiffany Aching, young witch to be. I first came across Ms. Aching and The Wee Free Men by way of the book, The Wintersmith. My only problem with that was that that book (The Wintersmith) should have been the next book to read, not this one. At any rate, I wanted to learn more about the Wee Free Men so I picked this book up at my library and the rest is history.

If there was one thing that I truly don’t like about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld books is the fact that there is indeed so many of them that it’s hard to tell which one came first.Some of them are a part of a series, like the Tiffany Aching stories. Others, are indeed a new(er) story but they feature return characters (like any of the titles that have to do with The Watch). Book stores should have a separate Discworld directory to satisfy the shoppers.

I digress.

The Wee Free Men is the first book in which Tiffany Aching appears. A nine-year-old farm girl who has always had a keen sense of herself, Tiffany finds herself in the position of being the only person in her village who can rescue her toddler brother from The Queen of the Elves. Along the way, Tiffany discovers a clan of fairies that go by the name Nac Mac Feegles (aka The Wee Free Men). Together, they join forces in order to rescue Tiffany’s young brother and bring everyone home safely.

This book, like all of Pratchett’s books are well worth your time and investment. Go now, and find yourself lost in another well written story, ya wee scunner!

***At the time of this writing, Sir Pratchett had announced that he will be handing over Discworld to his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett.***

pic courtesy of: http://www.lspace.org/ftp/images/bookcovers/uk/the-wee-free-men-1.jpg