Alternating fantasy chapters with hard science chapters, this book talks about the role of narrative and story in science and life on our "Roundworld"...moreAlternating fantasy chapters with hard science chapters, this book talks about the role of narrative and story in science and life on our "Roundworld". On Discworld, Pratchett's alternative fantasy universe, things happen because stories say they should--narrativium is a real element and so seventh sons have magical abilities instead of simply being small and picked on.
On the surface, things don't work like that on our world. But the authors make a convincing case that it's not so simple as that. For example, we tell ourselves "if I do X, then Y" and so Y happens because of a story, the story we told ourselves in our heads. Along the way, the authors cover causality, extelligence, the Make-A-Human kit of childhood, and more.
Even if you don't like Pratchett's world (or even if you do--the fictional chapters don't work that well in my opinion) it's worth gritting your teeth through the fiction to get to the non-. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys that "wow, I hadn't thought of it like THAT" perspective shift.(less)
Loved it. Like all recent Pratchett (roughly speaking, those since "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents") this book isn't just a loosely-conn...moreLoved it. Like all recent Pratchett (roughly speaking, those since "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents") this book isn't just a loosely-connected set of sly references. Something happened around a decade ago, and his books began to be much more about life and people. In particular, "Unseen Academicals" tackles the question of social expectation, the mob, and being worthy of being.
This isn't as smooth a read as his other recent works, which might have something to do with this one being dictated (Pratchett's Alzheimers isn't far along, but just enough to affect his ability to type). Balancing this, though, is the new life given to the formerly-tired wizard characters -- they'd been plumbed out in previous novels, so he gives them a shakeup and the resulting characters are now more than pencil-sketched stereotypes.
But the best character is the strong female lead, Glenda. Pratchett does a fine line in women discovering their strengths, and Glenda is another angle on it. I found myself cheering for her as she takes control of her life.
Not as enjoyable and single-themed as "Science of Discworld II" (read the review, I loved it), it's still a good piece of science writing. In the stor...moreNot as enjoyable and single-themed as "Science of Discworld II" (read the review, I loved it), it's still a good piece of science writing. In the story chapters, the wizards have to set things up so that Darwin makes his voyage. They're battling the Auditors (my least-favourite Discworld characters) and along the way, courtesy of the non-fiction chapters that separate the fiction ones, we learn a lot about Darwin, the Many Worlds hypothesis, and the social construction of science. A good book for this anniversary of Darwin's trip (you'll remember a lot more than if you plod your way through a fat biography) but treat yourself and get Science of Discworld II while you're at the bookstore.(less)
I love Vimes, I love detective stories, and I love Pratchett ... and while I enjoy this book, I don't love it. It's not a bad book, in fact, it's a go...moreI love Vimes, I love detective stories, and I love Pratchett ... and while I enjoy this book, I don't love it. It's not a bad book, in fact, it's a good book, but it's just not *great*.
There's much to love: Vimes, of course--the irascible democrat in a world accustomed to privilege and the abuses of it; Vimes's son Sam, who becomes a little more of a character (and whose future career will follow eagerly); the trivia that Pratchett slips in (the white stuff on top of chicken poo is chicken wee); the glorious comedy set pieces that Pratchett excels in.
However, the pacing just doesn't seem right in this novel. Since he left behind the strained puns, Pratchett novels have been deftly crafted. He sets his characters in motion and then the action plays out before you without a hint of authorial messing around behind the scenes. In Snuff, however, I can sense the author's nudges. At times it felt like a disjointed series of escapades without a solid connection. More seriously, though, Vimes messes up the pacing. In times of great crisis and conflict, Pratchett allows Vimes to run off at the mouth. It's hack, slash, a life-and-death knife-fight, and then ... a page of what it is to be a copper and why the rule of law is so important. Vimes has always been moralistic, and that's one of the reasons I love him so, but in his old age he's being indulged and it just doesn't feel right.
And then there's the bit where Carrot is interrogating someone via an interpreter ... and then suddenly the other character speaks perfect English (excuse me, Ankh-Morporkian). It's obviously a continuity error, an editorial lapse, but a microcosm of the macrocosm that is this rough-edged star of a novel.
Still, the worst Pratchett is better than the best ... well, pretty much anything, and this is far from making the "worst of" list. It's a fun read, particularly if you like the characters, and especially if you're willing to overlook a few authorial lapses.(less)