I enjoyed this, particularly the concept of the history monks. The Procrastinators are described well enough that the concept almost makes sense, simiI enjoyed this, particularly the concept of the history monks. The Procrastinators are described well enough that the concept almost makes sense, similar to when Douglas Adams described how to fly ("throw yourself at the ground and miss"): I obviously couldn't build one, but it feels logical while I'm reading the story.
This book also works as a bit of a housekeeping exercise for the series so far, addressing a few continuity issues. The early books were basically set in a medieval world, whereas the later books bear a much closer resemblance to the modern world. Taking an example from the text, Wyrd Sisters had some characters setting up "The Dysk" (equivalent to Shakespeare's Globe), while Maskerade features an opera house. I remember several discussions in the mid-1990s (on the alt.fan.pratchett newsgroup), where people tried to work out how different books fit together. This book essentially solves that problem by saying that time moves faster in some places than others.
Speaking of continuity, Lu Tze previously appeared in Small Gods, although his personality wasn't really established there. The idea of his Way (listening to what old ladies say) goes back much further, to a footnote in Witches Abroad.
There's also a sub-plot with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I liked it, although on re-reading the book I think it could have done with a bit of editing. (view spoiler)[Basically, Death goes around to recruit the others (War, Famine, and Pestilence) on the basis that it's their job to ride out at the end of the world. However, when they do all line up (on p372), they then reveal that they're actually opposing the Auditors rather than supporting them. That's a nice twist, but on p276 War asks Death: "The two of us, against the Auditors?" Maybe this was deliberate foreshadowing, but I think it would have been more effective to keep Death's real agenda hidden so that the reader learns the truth at the same time as the Auditors. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There's a good story here, and it's interesting that the initial mystery isn't really the main plot; it's just the "how" rather than the "who" or "whyThere's a good story here, and it's interesting that the initial mystery isn't really the main plot; it's just the "how" rather than the "who" or "why". In fact, I don't think the book ever explicitly states what happens: it's sufficiently obvious that the reader can fill in the blanks. (view spoiler)[Someone broke into the dwarf bread museum, and their plan was to make a rubber mould of the replica Scone and then put it back in the case so that nobody would ever know they'd been there. Things went wrong when they broke the glass and attracted attention, so they had to ditch the museum's replica in the street. They then killed Mr Sonky, presumably because he'd actually made the mould and their new copy and they didn't want to leave any witnesses behind. (hide spoiler)]
There's a lot more character development for Angua here, and a bit more detail about werewolf biology. Looking back at Reaper Man, Ludmilla was a werewolf but even when she was covered in hair she still walked upright, wore clothing, and spoke English. By contrast, Angua would either look like a human or a wolf (except for the brief period of transition between forms). In this book, Angua mentions that some werewolves are "stuck" in a particular form, so I'd guess that Ludmilla was descended from one of them.
Several years ago, Pratchett said: "What will probably end Discworld is simple crowding -- the Watch already make Ankh-Morpork based stories a little problematical, and I won't get into the comic book convention of having Captain Courage out of town so that Commander Socko can take centre stage." (See Words from the Master in the Annotated Pratchett File.)
Arguably this story breaks that (self-imposed) rule: Vimes and Carrot go off to Uberwald, and Sergeant Colon is left in charge of the Watch in Ankh-Morpork. However, as other people have mentioned, this is a slightly different situation. If the whole book had been set in Ankh-Morpork, with Vimes and Carrot disappearing at the start and reappearing at the end, then their trip would obviously be a plot device to put Colon in charge. By contrast, this story is mainly about Uberwald, so Colon's sub-plot is more of a bonus feature to see some of the side-effects. (Apparently the stage adaptation of the book doesn't include this sub-plot at all.)
The only bit I didn't like is on p385, (view spoiler)[after a couple of people have been injured. "'If you can't help these men,' said Vimes to the kneeling Igor, 'your future does not look good.'" Igor wasn't the one who injured them, so it's not fair for Vimes to threaten him. It reminds me of the real life cases where people have assaulted ambulance crews. This may be a deliberate choice by the author to show Vimes as a flawed character, but it sits oddly with the idea that he's intensely moral. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The actual plot was pretty slight here, so this book was more about the journey than the destination. (view spoiler)[Basically, when someone was creatThe actual plot was pretty slight here, so this book was more about the journey than the destination. (view spoiler)[Basically, when someone was creating Four Ecks (Australia), he intended to use a bullroarer to create the rain. However, the wizards went back in time and stole it, then took it forward in time, so there was a long dry period until Rincewind spun it around to make the rain. That's it for the main plot. There was also a sub-plot where the Librarian kept changing shape, but then that just seemed to sort itself out. (hide spoiler)]
It's similar to Incompetence, where the story is really a series of short scenes stuck together. Those short scenes are pleasant enough, and I recognised some of the things it was parodying, but particularly on a re-read I felt that the plot was dragging a bit.
I think the highlight of the book was the bit about aboriginal art, particularly the anger towards the idea of perspective. I'm not convinced that their method is better, but it's an interesting point of view.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this book while I was stuck in hospital: it held my attention, at a point where I was almost bouncing off the walls with boredom, so I'm glad II read this book while I was stuck in hospital: it held my attention, at a point where I was almost bouncing off the walls with boredom, so I'm glad I read it. It's also pretty good for a first novel. However, I think that similar ideas have been handled better elsewhere. The most obvious similarity is the Doctor and River Song from Doctor Who, two time travellers who keep meeting in the wrong order. In fairness, this book came first, but I saw those episodes before I read it.
(view spoiler)[As the title suggests, the time traveller winds up getting married. Clare first met Henry when she was 6 and he was 36; however, Henry first met Clare when she was 20 and he was 28. So, to address the elephant in the room, was he "grooming" her to marry him when she's an adult? It's tricky, because she went into the adult relationship knowing more than he did, and arguably you could say that she seduced him. On balance, I think the book gets away with it, but I can't shake the feeling that it's slightly creepy.
Later on, one of Clare's friends get suspicious about Henry, having seen him in fights. Henry reveals the truth, and reflects to himself that the friend (a lawyer) will actually be quite helpful later on. However, as the story jumps forward, we never get to see those helpful incidents, e.g. a time when Henry was arrested for being naked in public; I think that's a pity.
Similarly, it's obvious that Henry's father knows about Henry being a time traveller, after a scene where he sees two teenage versions of Henry in their bedroom together. However, the book doesn't explain how the father found it, and how he initially reacted. Did Henry have to convince him that he was telling the truth, like he did with a doctor later on? Did his father try to seek medical advice? Again, it seems like a missed opportunity. (hide spoiler)]
Still, I don't want to be too negative: it's an interesting concept, and the book is worth reading.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was written in 1995; re-reading it in 2015, there are a few aspects of this story which seem a bit dated. For instance, there's a bit (p80 oThis book was written in 1995; re-reading it in 2015, there are a few aspects of this story which seem a bit dated. For instance, there's a bit (p80 of my paperback) describing Greebo: "he'd leapt heavily into their laps and given them the 'young masser back on de ole plantation' treatment." Presumably this has something to do with slavery, and I'd guess that it's mimicking the speech patterns in a particular film genre, but I haven't seen the relevant films.
Also, some of the jokes rely on familiarity with Michael Crawford's work. (view spoiler)[In the 1970s, he played Frank Spencer in the sitcom "Some mothers do 'ave em", and Walter Plinge in this story is very similar to Frank Spencer. In the late 1980s, Crawford played the title role in "The Phantom of the Opera", and this whole book is obviously a parody of that. I don't know whether the sitcom is still being repeated, so modern readers may miss that connection. Still, I think Walter's character is described well enough that you can picture him even if you haven't seen the TV series. (hide spoiler)]
Aside from "The Phantom of the Opera", this book also refers to other real-world musicals, e.g. "Cats". However, Wyrd Sisters did the same thing (with Hwel) and neither book really did anything with the reference beyond being the equivalent of a crossword clue (i.e. prompting you to guess which musical Pratchett had in mind).
I'm not convinced by the overall plot, although I wonder whether that's deliberate. Several characters comment that opera isn't supposed to make sense, so maybe this is some form of meta-humour? (view spoiler)[Basically, it was a clever idea to have two different people dressing up as the opera ghost, but there was nothing to suggest that Salzella was the guilty party. Re-reading other Discworld books, I can see where Pratchett laid out clues, even if I missed them the first time around, but I didn't get that here: the revelation just seemed to come out of nowhere. (hide spoiler)]
Still, despite my nitpicks, there are things to enjoy here. For instance, we have the return of Agnes Nitt, last seen in Lords and Ladies, and her character gets a lot more development here. That includes some clever page formatting (to represent her throwing her voice) so I think it works better on the printed page than it would do as an ebook. There are also some funny scenes.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I enjoyed this: the IT version of "Die Hard". However, be aware that it's very short; at 35 pages on my Sony Reader, it's the type of thing I'd normalI enjoyed this: the IT version of "Die Hard". However, be aware that it's very short; at 35 pages on my Sony Reader, it's the type of thing I'd normally expect to see as part of an anthology rather than being released on its own. The price is roughly equivalent to a comic of the same length, but I'd expect to pay more there because drawing is more labour intensive than typing. So, just make sure that you know what you're getting.
That said, there's nothing wrong with a short story, and I wouldn't want the author to pad it out just to fill space. I think it could have been longer if characters had made different choices (view spoiler)[e.g. if Toby had joined the other hostages (hide spoiler)] but I'm happy with what I got. I covered up the page counter on my reader with my thumb so that I wouldn't know when the end was coming.
The author obviously knows his subject matter, based on some of the textbooks he's written, so I think everything in the story is plausible. However, it could have done with a bit more proof-reading. E.g. on the first page of the story it says "at a precise at sixty-nine degrees" (so the second "at" doesn't belong there). There's also a bit of redundancy: this story is short enough to be read in one sitting, so we don't really need to be reminded that a particular device is "the size of a dishwasher". Still, I'm glad that the author wrote this in the third person rather than the first person (or worse, first person present tense); that's an unfortunate trend which really wouldn't fit here.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book has two main plots: something odd is going on with golems, and someone is trying to incapacitate Lord Vetinari (the Patrician). There's alsoThis book has two main plots: something odd is going on with golems, and someone is trying to incapacitate Lord Vetinari (the Patrician). There's also a subplot involving female dwarves, but I don't think that fits into this book quite so well, and it might have been better to save it for another story.
Going back to the start of Guards! Guards!, when Carrot was first introduced, he had to move to Ankh-Morpork because he'd been getting friendly with a dwarf called Mindy and her father wasn't happy about it. By contrast, in this book he seems to be uncomfortable with the very concept of openly female dwarves, feeling that it's a secret they should keep to themselves. So, the continuity gets a bit wobbly here.
Angua gets a lot more character development in this story. I don't know whether Pratchett was deliberately laying the groundwork for The Fifth Elephant, but everything in this book fits in neatly there. I also liked the idea that the undead (e.g. werewolves) despise the unliving (e.g. golems); as the audience, we're not expected to agree with her, but there's a good explanation for why she'd feel that way.
Things get a bit bumpy when we compare Carrot's views to Angua's. (view spoiler)[When Carrot reacts to Littlebottom coming out as female, Angua says that she "really, really, really" wonders why she likes him (pp269-270 of my paperback). Then later (p300), when they're discussing golems, she says: "You're being reasonable again! You're deliberately seeing everyone's point of view! Can't you try to be unfair even once?" What does she want from him?! She complains when he's fair and when he's unfair. (hide spoiler)]
Speaking of golems, one of them is described as looking quite distinctive, more like an intricately sculpted statue than a rough lump of clay. That's fair enough, but we get the same detailed description at least three times, and I think it would be better just to say "The white golem with the crown" and leave the reader to remember the rest.
There's also a typo (p158), which is unusual in a Pratchett novel: (view spoiler)["[The gruel] had been tasted by three tasters, including Sergeant Detritus, who was unlikely to be poisoned by anything that worked on humans or even by most things that worked on trolls ... but probably by most things that worked on trolls." I assume that the first mention of trolls was supposed to be dwarves, i.e. the three food tasters came from three different species. (hide spoiler)]
So, I think this book could have done with more proofreading. However, there's a lot to like in here.
Last year (September 2014), Neil Gaiman wrote an article for The Guardian: Terry Pratchett isn't jolly. He's angry. Some of that came through in this book, e.g. his dismissal of Sherlock Holmes' deduction methods and his description of the people who live in Cockbill Street. However, there are some funny bits which made me laugh, so this book isn't simply a polemic.
As for the main plotlines, they do overlap, but it doesn't feel contrived. Re-reading the book, I can pick up on the clues that I missed the first time around, but there were others that I missed until the characters pointed them out. Here's one subtle example that the characters didn't pick up on: (view spoiler)[When Fred Colon and Nobby are in the pub (p186), Colon talks to a random stranger, who says: "Working late? Hah! I've bin given the sack! Me! A craftsman! Fifteen years at Spadger and Williams, right, and then they go bust 'cos of Carry undercutting 'em and I get a job at Carry's and, bang, I'm out of a job there too! 'Surplus to requirements'! Bloody golems! Forcing real people out of a job!" He then mentions that he worked as a Wick-Dipper and End-Teaser. Going back to the very start of the book (p11), the king golem is sold to someone who explicitly asks: "Is he selling them to Albertson? Or Spadger and Williams?" So, this all fits in with what we discover later: the king golem is making wicks for Carry's candles, and therefore gets covered in arsenic. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I originally read these columns online; they are still available, but the website has been dormant for a while so the layout isn't optimised for moderI originally read these columns online; they are still available, but the website has been dormant for a while so the layout isn't optimised for modern browsers. Aside from that, I enjoyed them at the time so I was happy to buy a copy of the book as a way to send some money to the writer.
The first thing to mention is that you don't get a complete archive here. In particular, I noticed that the "Powers" parody was missing, along with the story where Batman is alone at Christmas and goes hungry without Alfred to cook for him. That's a pity, and I don't know why they were left out.
If it was simply for space reasons, I'd have preferred to skip the "Condensed Comics Classics", where other writers did self-parodies of their own series. They relied on you being familiar with the source material, and that's not always the case for me. Also, while it's nice that the creators are willing to poke fun at themselves, I assume that if they really thought something was a bad idea then they wouldn't have done it in the first place. So, I didn't really find any of them funny, even when I knew what they were talking about.
Still, Gail Simone has written some good stuff here. I particularly liked the "Conan and Hobbes" story, which doesn't require much previous knowledge. As long as you know that Conan is a barbarian hero and that "Calvin and Hobbes" was a strip about a boy and his toy tiger, you're good to go. So, if you're generally interested in comics then this book is worth reading, particular if you missed the columns the first time around....more
This is a good book: it introduces new characters (e.g. Angua) and has a strong plot. You don't need to read all the prior Discworld novels before youThis is a good book: it introduces new characters (e.g. Angua) and has a strong plot. You don't need to read all the prior Discworld novels before you read this, but I do recommend reading Guards! Guards! first, since that sets up the concept of the Night Watch.
I particularly liked Vimes' thought about facing an opponent who was slightly less intelligent than him; that reminds me of playing computer chess, where I can win on a particular difficulty level as long as I concentrate, but if I make a single mistake then I'll lose.
I also liked Carrot's comment that "Personal isn't the same as important." This gets repeated later in the series, and it really helps to establish his character.
(view spoiler)[Near the start of the book, there's a scene where Edward d'Eath realises that Carrot is the true heir to the throne of Ankh Morpork and tries to persuade a group of nobles to make him (Carrot) king. This group includes Lord Rust, who pops up again later in the series (e.g. in Jingo) but he's much more pragmatic here; the text explicitly says that "Lord Rust was not a romantic."
In "Guards! Guards!" all of the Night Watch are men. In this novel, the Patrician is keen to encourage more diversity, and there's a clever line where Carrot (referring to Angua) says "you're a w---" before she interrupts him. When I first read that, I assumed that he was going to say "woman" but later in the book it's established that she's actually a werewolf. I don't think Carrot knew it at that point, so this counts more as irony than misdirection.
Later on, there's a discussion about clowns, and what counts as their "real" nose/face. That confused me the first few times I read the book, because it involves characters trying to work out how someone else would define it, but I'm now satisfied that it all makes sense. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a really good story, and it holds up to multiple re-readings even when you know the answers to the various mysteries. There were some nice floThis is a really good story, and it holds up to multiple re-readings even when you know the answers to the various mysteries. There were some nice flourishes which didn't necessarily add anything to the plot, but helped me to care about the characters involved. For instance, at one point Miles says "Nai - Vorkosigan out." Maybe the little admiral isn't as dead and buried as he claims?
The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that a few things disappointed me. Firstly, Ekaterin had a smaller role in this story, compared to the previous two (Komarr and A Civil Campaign). That said, on subsequent readings I've picked up a few more things which were implied; I think she did have her own story going on, it's just that we didn't get to see it.
That leads into the second point. In previous books, there were shifting viewpoints, so we effectively perched on Mark or Ivan's shoulder for a while and read their thoughts. This book was all told from Miles' point of view, much like the early books in the series. That's ok, and I'm always happy to read more of that, but variety is good too.
Finally, one of the premises was basically abandoned. (view spoiler)[When Gregor sent Miles to Graf station, he said that he'd received significantly different reports from the ImpSec observer (Bel Thorne) and the fleet commander (Admiral Vorpatril). So, he told Miles: "And, critically, find out who's lying." As it turned out, neither of them was lying, and the accounts didn't really seem to vary that much (or at least what they told Miles). They had different opinions on whose fault it was, but at worst it sounded as if Vorpatril had sent a report to the Emperor before he'd gathered all the relevant information (e.g. Garnet Five's injury). I don't think I noticed this the first time I read the book, because I was swept up in all the bigger issues that Miles uncovered, but it does seem a bit odd when I re-read it. (hide spoiler)]
Still, as I say, those are just minor points. I really enjoyed reading this book, enough that I bought it twice (ebook and paperback).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If you've read the rest of the series then realistically you're going to read this too: published posthumously, it's our final chance to visit the DisIf you've read the rest of the series then realistically you're going to read this too: published posthumously, it's our final chance to visit the Discworld and spend time with some familiar characters. It's not entirely polished, and I can think of a few scenes which Pratchett probably would have added/expanded if time allowed, but it is a complete story (unlike Douglas Adams' final book).
I can't really be objective about this, but there were several bits which made me cry (eg Petulia's inner monologue), so that's good enough to earn 4 stars....more