Every time I find someone raving about the character of Death from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I kind of want to roll my eyes at them and tell them about Death of the Discworld. He looks much like our Grim Reaper, clad in a black robe and carrying a scythe. He talks in CAPS with a voice which you hear directly in your head and which sounds like two concrete blocks rubbing together. Death of the Discworld rides a horse named Binky, rather preferring it to the usual fiery steed that keeps setting his robe on fire and lives in an endless all-black dimension called Death’s Domain in a black Victorian-looking house with a black garden.
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
(…) TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET, Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point-“
MY POINT EXACTLY.
3. Death will never get old (or, you know, irrelevant.)
Well, of course not. DEATH IS WHOEVER DOES DEATH’S JOB.
I loved this book. So did the cat, as you can see, who turned it first into a pillow and then a bedtime toy. Small Gods is one of the bests of the Discworld series. You can read it as a standalone (in fact, you can do that with most of the forty books.) If you do like the Discworld series, but haven’t read this, do yourself a favour and don’t wait any longer. If you haven’t read it, you should start with this book, and perhaps a bit of an introduction.
Philosophizing apart, the book is also engaging. Om is adorable as the poor little indignant tortoise who hates his fate, Brutha is a protagonist created to be loved and it’s fun to be inside his mind. Deacon Vorbis is frighteningly true to life. Every character you meet leaves an impression. And even though the plot basically runs on witty dialogue, it does have a beginning, a middle and fabulous fireworks-ey end. You know, when it comes to Discworld, I always feel my mind bubbling with things to say and when I sit down to write, no words seem enough. So, before my review takes on a defensive tone, I’ll take the easy way out, and let Pratchett’s writing speak for itself.
be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit,
and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere
quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that’d happen anyway if you were prepared to
wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of
vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn’t a thousand times more impressive
and happened all the time…”
(provided that he wasn’t poor, foreign, nor disqualified by reason of being
mad, frivolous, or a woman). Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant,
provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible, and
trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to
everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view
of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five
years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing
how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.”
and it is now. The way I see it is, after that, everything tends towards
could be wrong. Not being certain is what being a philosopher is all about.”
about things, and they weren’t sure. But he’d been sure, and Brother Nhumrod
had been sure, and Deacon Vorbis had a sureness you could bend horseshoes
around. Sureness was a rock.
was gray with hatred and his voice was tense as a wire. If there was no truth,
what was there left? And these bumbling old men spent their time kicking away
the pillars of the world, and they’d nothing to replace them with but
uncertainty. And they were proud of this?
I was so thrilled when I saw this at the library. As if it were not enough that it was a book by Terry Pratchett, it had an introduction by A. S. Byatt. I got it immediately and spent the next couple of weeks reading the many pleasing stories in it. I have to admit though, the introduction was a bit disappointing.
Lettice Earwig, asks Granny Weatherwax not to participate in the annual Lancre
Witch Trials, on account of her always winning. She agrees, becoming
disconcertingly nice. The sudden change in Granny’s usual stern unforgiving attitude hilariously terrified people. What follows goes on to show that you don’t have to be nice to be good. The story gets its title from an ancient Discworldian phrase: “The big sea does not care which way the little fishes swim.”
Death and What Comes Next was another favourite. It is the story of a conversation between Death and a dying philosopher. It’s short and not wanting to give anything away, I’ll just link you to it. Turntables of the Night was another story with Death; but a more Good Omens Death than the Discworld Death we all know and love.
Read it, if you are a Terry Pratchett fan! However, don’t let this be your introduction to the author. While awesome, this is certainly not Pratchett’s best work. I’d recommend starting with a Discworld novel and you have almost forty to choose from.
I’ve been on too long a break. This has been lying in my drafts, sad and unfinished for a while now. It is only fair to post it on my favourite author’s sixty-fifth birthday. Do I have to say it? Discworld is awesome and even if it seems impossible, this book is just as awesome. I am a big fan of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Quidditch Through the Ages and I didn’t think companion books could get any better. And then this came along in the mail. A little bit of Discworld was already spilling out from the middle of its delicious red cover. I couldn’t wait to dive straight into it.
The Folklore of Discworld: Its Legends, Magic and Customs
with Helpful Hints from Planet Earth has just what its title promises. Discworld, for those of you who haven’t read it (morons.) is a land somewhere in space – a turtle swimming idly through space carries on its back four elephants and on their heads rests the Disc; a world, which is quite like ours, but with magic. Accompanying the over thirty novels set in this world are a few other books, like the Science of Discworld and this book.
The Folklore of Discworld isn’t a non-fiction, quite unlike it, actually. It tells us about the uncanny similarities between the Earth’s legends and those of the Disc. About myths on the Earth that are actually real on the Disc and naturally, the other way around. You learn about the vampires, witches (and wizards, who are very different, of course) and zombies, the Luggage and the Feegles, the gods and Death. Our world and the Discworld do seem to have a lot in common and some of the reasons the author hypothesizes for this are: the constant drifting of particles of knowledge or through cosmic space, or the simple consideration that some or all of these creatures existed in all the worlds at some time or the other, and are now extinct. Read this book if you’ve read any books of the Discworld series, the fewer the better because a lot that is already in the books is repeated. But that doesn’t really matter as it is all very interesting and alo quite informative. For instance, I never knew that a story right out of Hindu mythology played with the idea of four elephants standing at the four ends of the world, holding it up, or something to that effect.
Pratchett’s writing is, as always, cheerful and witty. Good Omens told me that a collaboration isn’t really a bad thing and that Pratchett could really pull it off. The Folklore of Discworld doesn’t show any obvious there-are-two-authors-ey clumsiness, either. It is the kind of book that you can just open up to any page and start reading and before you know it, you’re buried nose-deep inside it.
As it has the word “folklore” in it’s title and everything, this book should qualify as my next read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. And because I found this book extra nice, I have quoted an entire two pages – the story of how Ankh-Morpork, only the most horribly great city on the Disc, came to be. Read and laugh.
“Any self-respecting city has to have a legend about
its foundation. Ankh-Morpork, as is right and proper for the oldest city on the
Disc, has two.
The first is the official one. According to this, there were once two orphaned
brothers, mere babies, who had been left on the shores of the Ankh to die.
There they were found by a she-hippopotamus, who suckled them. When they grew
up, they decided to build themselves a home, and so founded what must at the
time have been a very small city indeed. In memory of this, the shield on the
coat of arms of Ankh-Morpork has as its supports deux Hippopatames Royales
Baillant, un enchaine, un couronne au cou. Which, stripped of its aristocratic
herald-speak, means two royal hippos yawning, one wearing a chain and the other
with a crown round its neck. The conventions of heraldry do not permit the sex
of the beasts to be clearly indicated, but in view of the tale we can safely
state that at least one of them is female. The legend is also commemorated by
eight hippo statues on the city’s Brass Bridge, facing out to sea. It is said
that if danger ever threatens the city they will run away.
Some people have expressed doubts over this ancient and uplifting tradition.
Why and how, they ask, would a she-hippo suckle human babies? And how could
they thrive on this eccentric diet? Did they but know it, these doubters could
find a tale on Earth proving that such thing are perfectly possible. It tells
of twins, Romulus and Remus, who were the sons of Mars the God of War and a
human princess. Their evil great-uncle, having just usurped his brother’s
throne, seized the boys and threw them into the Tiber, for fear they might grow
up to challenge him.* But the river washed them safely to the bank, where a
she-wolf fed them with her milk until a kindly shepherd found them. Later they
built the city of Rome. Considering what wolves normally eat, this tale is even
more wondrous than that of the hippo, but the Romans had no difficulty in
believing it. And, naturally, making a statue about it.
The second legend is not told quite so often by the citizens
of Ankh-Morpork, but is surprisingly widespread in other towns. It is said that
way back in the fogs of time there was once a great flood sent by the gods, and
that a group of wise men survived by building a huge boat into which they
crammed two of every type of animal then existing on the Disc. After a few
weeks the combined manure was beginning to weigh the boat low in the water, so
– the story runs – they tipped it over the side and called the heap
Ankh-Morpork. Anybody who doubts the truth of this should go and stand on one
of the bridges over the Ankh, preferably on a warm day, and breathe deep.
Dickens in December (hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Delia at Postcards from Asia), considering how busy I have been this month, most regrettably turned into Dickens in the last week of December. Dickens, however, did also turn into quite an obsession. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I adored The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities. I am certain the year 2013 will see me read a lot more of Dickens, as much as I can fit into a year! This is the last day of the event and I don’t suppose I’d finish reading either of these two books tonight, so here’s what I think so far:
I’m about halfway through the book, which is saying something since I started reading it about an hour ago. This book by one of my favourite writers stars the Artful Dodger (right out of Oliver Twist) and Charles Dickens himself! The idea of an author meeting one of his own characters is charming and Pratchett has done justice to both. The book is written in a very quintessentially Terry Pratchett style and has at the same time a wonderfully Dickensian vibe about it – I mean, really, what’s not to like?
This massive biography of Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, began interestingly enough, with his death in 1870. The biographer describes in haunting detail the scene of his death and what a stir it caused in the world. Even the prologue talks about his writing style, his social commentary and his influence on the readers as well as his role in the literary history of the world. The author then begins the biography right from his birth, making it a point to mention every little detail. You don’t just read a book about Dickens, you witness his life.
It would probably be the end of February by the time I finish this book but I will definitely finish it. I have heard about Peter Ackroyd being a masterful biographer and this book, whatever I have read of it, justifies the praise.
Dickens in December has been a great event, a perfect ending, really, to the year. If it were to take place next year, I would certainly make it a point to participate!
It is time for yet another book review! The book in question is Good Omens (The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch) by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
The world is going to end soon; next Saturday, to be precise, right after tea! Anathema Device is a witch. Newton Pulsifer is a witch hunter. They team up to stop the Apocalypse that the seventeenth century prophetess, Agnes Nutter has predicted in her Nice and Accurate Prophecies (where nice means precise). And they aren’t the only ones.
Crowley the demon and Aziraphale the angel, are representatives of Good and Evil stationed on the earth. As the End-of-Times is nearing, they seem to be in a bit of a mess. Not only have the managed to develop a liking for the earth, but they have also lost the one who is supposed to bring about the Armageddon – the Antichrist (who is an entirely different 11 year old boy from the one they thought was the actual son of Satan!)
While a whole lot of people, including the Four Horsemen (Bikers) of the Apocalypse are out to track the Antichrist, somewhere an 11 year old boy is naively using powers he doesn’t know he possesses to change the world according to his will.
Before you know it, you are transported into a zany, faced-paced, indescribably awesome world, full of characters so surreal; they might as well walk right out of the book. Who knew the Apocalypse would be so funny!
Aziraphale stared out at the rushing hedgerows.
“It all seems so peaceful,” he said. “How do you think it will happen?”
“Well, thermonuclear extinction has always been very popular. Although I must say the big boys are being quite polite to each other at the moment.” said Crowley.
“Asteroid strike?” said Aziraphale. “Quite the fashion these days, I understand. Strike into the Indian Ocean, great big cloud of dust and vapor, goodbye all higher life forms.”
“Wow,” said Crowley.
“Doesn’t bear thinking about it, does it,” said Aziraphale gloomily.
“All the higher life forms scythed away, just like that.”
“Nothing but dust and fundamentalists.”
“That was nasty.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist it.”
The book is ‘ineffable’. That’s what it is.
It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.