There isn't much to say about a Discworld novel at this point.You like the series or you don't, you shouldn't start with this one (although it isn't t...moreThere isn't much to say about a Discworld novel at this point.You like the series or you don't, you shouldn't start with this one (although it isn't that bad of a starter, it doesn't give a lot of background on the characters--start elsewhere), and you just want to know if it's one of the (rare) standouts, either as extra genius (Night Watch) or a klunker (Monstrous Regiment).
It's a solid Discworld book, and we seem to have precious few of those left, so cherish it.
For recurring characters, it revolves around Vetinari and the yahoos at the Unseen University. Lots of Mustrum Ridcully, we see Vetinari actually drunk, Lady Margolota makes an appearance, and we have passing time with Angua, the Librarian (more than usual), and Rincewind. Yes, the Luggage does drop by.
For new characters, we get the usual lovers who probably only appear in this book, we get a classic "what is he? he's new! he plays against type!" Pratchett character (the actual star of he book), and we meet a wonderful member of the University staff, the professor of "Post Mortem Communication," which, unlike necromancy, is legal. He wears black robes, has a widow's peak and goatee, and sports the official University skull ring, so he is required to be slightly, but acceptably, evil, break rules, and undermine the staff at predictable and mostly-harmless intervals. He apologizes a lot. I loved him.
Oh, and a *lot* of Ponder Stibbins. Which is always good. We get to see Stibbins competitive and crafty side, as well as some actual vindictiveness. He is certainly on the second- or third-tier of the Discworld's "dangerous when aroused to anger" list, the first being Vetinari and Esme Weatherwax and the second being Death, Susan Sto Lat, and Sam Vimes. Third tier is not bad.
The plot revolves around Vetinari, for some reason, interfering in the working-class sport of football (Ankh-Morpork football is like Soccer plus Rugby plus American Football, with some cage match and fan interference thrown in). The University is forced to choose between their food budget and fielding a staff/faculty team, which means, to Ridcully's delight, the professors have to actually go outside, wear trousers and exercise. Which apparently does not involve picnics and smoking their pipes. Stibbins is the team coach, which leads to the expected hilarity.
Of course, the romantic subplot, the underlying observations on class, politics, and human nature, and quietly put message about human dignity and equality are all present. Pratchett is at his best when he lets those underly, but not consume, his stories and he's as good as usual here (i.e., this isn't Monstrous Regiment).
And as expected, nothing that Vetinari does is what it seems. His motives and his plans (layered several on top of each other) are brilliant as always.
Not a "top 3" Discworld book, but well in the space of the more recent books (and far better than the early ones).(less)
The Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-less...moreThe Tiffany Aching books (so far, 3 of the 4 YA Discworld novels) are by far the best of Discworld. Funny, smart, and taking the reader on a life-lesson journey of the sort that should be required CEUs for keeping your Adult License.
This one returns to the themes of Hogfather and the recurring Pratchett theme of Life as a Story. Tiffany accidentally injects herself into the annual myth-story of the seasons, this time around equinox celebrations (samhain and beltane), whereas Hogfather was around the mythology of midwinter. The equinoxes are less violent a change than the solstice, but any Pratchett reader knows to expect that the more subtle the change, the greater the danger, both to the world and to the protagonist.
As with all the Tiffany Aching stories, even of all the witch stories, the plot centers around Tiffany learning what the problem is and eventually finding the way that sort of problem is designed to be solved. The model is that a problem always defines its solution. Tiffany steps into the biannual dance between Summer and Winter, interfering with the process and causing Winter to become obsessed with her.
Because she jumped in and danced at the samhain festival, Winter spends his six months pursuing her and becoming sentient; in essence, converting from a force of nature (an elemental) to a god. Tiffany doesn't know what to do about it, and Granny Weatherwax won't tell her.
Everything with witches is a test, and with Granny Weatherwax around it's a test with high stakes. She has clearly marked Tiffany as a special witch (her probably successor as the unstated first among equals with the witches) and she takes the opportunity to test Tiffany against the Wintersmith--a formidable entity in his own right, even disregarding the anger his Summertime counterpart has at Tiffany taking over her role--but also to use Tiffany as a pawn in a bit of political one-upsmanship against the rising witch star Miss Earwig.
Of course, as with all of Granny's machinations, if it works it will leave everyone better off, with only the witches knowing she scored a point and even her detractors admitting she improved life for them, and as always Tiffany breaks the unwritten rule and openly discusses the politics. And, of course, there is a different set of life lessons for Tiffany (and her friends, and Miss Earwig) tied up in the plan.
Unlike some of the other books, Wintersmith doesn't have a lot of plot-oriented action. Tiffany faces the Wintersmith in various guises as he woos her, but much of Tiffany's time is taken up with distractions: the death of her current mentor, Granny's politics, Nanny Ogg's own special brand of instruction (*ahem*), growing adolescent confusion around her friendship with "her young man"), struggles dealing with the "modern" witchcraft of the snobby Ammagramma (Earwig's student), and homesickness for the sheep-farming plains. Fortunately, her way of handling these do not coalesce into one set of skills needed for the major plot at hand; Pratchett is too good of a writer to fall into that lazy trap.
So this is another good Tiffany Aching book. Suitable for the YA crowd (actually quite tame for them) but not in any way condescending for adults, funny (but not as funny-for-funny's-sake as some of the main-line Discworld books), excellent story, and very strong character development.
Absolutely worth a read. If you aren't a Discworld fan yet, try start with the Aching books (Wee Free Men is the first, the Hat Full of Stars), then jump to Witches Abroad and read them from there. (Skip the earlier ones unless you're a completist).(less)
Quite fun. Fairly typical of the non-major-character stories in the series, although Moist von Lipzwig might be becoming a major character. The plot i...moreQuite fun. Fairly typical of the non-major-character stories in the series, although Moist von Lipzwig might be becoming a major character. The plot is a simplification of Going Postal: Vetinari ropes Moist into leaving his post as Postmaster and taking over as Assistant to the chairman of the Bank of Ankh-Morpork. Seeing as the chairman is a lapdog, this puts him in charge. The family that has run the bank for generations doesn't like this, the bank manager doesn't like Moist, and a mad scientist in the basement with an Igor is about to Do Something.
Oh, and Moist's girlfriend Spike is stirring up trouble with the golems again and might be starting a war with the Low King. Which is actually kind of tame for her. On the plus side, there is a lecherous lich leering after her, so Moist gets to get jealous.
As with all the Vetinari-centered, non-major-character stories (and with about half of the Vimes stories), this one is about the city as a living character in and of itself, asking the same question governments have been struggling with for thousands of years: what makes something valuable, and how can we get control of it? Ankh-Morpork is on the gold standard, which is entirely too inelastic for Moist's view of the world, but no Discworld economist has proposed any alternative and people don't know whether they can trust money they can't block magic with.
The economic question of automation springs up again, although the take on it is from the other side than it was in The Truth: what if it isn't one craft that's reduced from an industry to a cottage craft but instead categories of unskilled labor? How does the ripple of economic change spread and how can it gain momentum instead of lose it. This is always presented to Moist in the negative sense: how his rash ideas that words and passions can save people more than sensibility and money can could destroy even Ankh-Morpork; it takes him a long time to see the flip side of that coin.
On the downside, this isn't really anything excitingly new for Discworld. I'll keep reading the same stuff from Pratchett forever--it's brilliant. But sometimes he rises above the (already high) crowd and gives us a Night Watch, or a Fifth Elephant; if the occasional Monstrous Regiment is the price we pay to get them, then I'm happy to pay it.
I did laugh out loud through this one, reading far too many lines to my girlfriend (who was waiting to read it after me), so it's great in that Discworld-is-funny way (unlike, say Monstrous Regiment or Thud), but it's one of those "wait for the coincidences to catch up and then for Vetinari to show that he's known it all along" books, which are just so-so in my opinion.
Well, well worth reading for the humor, but don't drop Night Watch for it.(less)