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Review: “Hogfather (1996)” by Terry Pratchett (5 Stars)

Densely wrapped satire cleverly tucked in around a holiday plot loaf of good cheer, and baked with a robust premise which is both refreshingly poignant and wildly genius—it’s an important Hogswatch on the Disc this season—mind the bells—Glingleglingleglingle!!!

Do you believe in the Hogfather?! It’s rather important. Belief is the foundation of this carefully woven satire with an in-world holiday that closely resembles a common tradition on our own world. Pratchett pulls out all the stops in this layered tale that explores both the importance and meaning of belief.

The story is strong right out of the gate. Within very few pages I found myself laughing out loud, pulling my head out of the book, and wondering how on the Disc he could cover so much ground so quickly. That’s Pratchett for you.

Death personified plays a strong part in this book stepping into an unusual role when some bothersome forces have decided to finance a rather dark conspiracy for this season’s holiday. These meddlesome figures have ordered the end of the Hogfather and have the money to make this seemingly impossible task happen. In earth-speak, there’s a hit out on Santa Claus.

As in other yarns told by this master storyteller characters abound on the page and stack up at a steady pace. He jumps from heroes to villains, from foibles to set pieces and back again. The point of view shifts continuously and all without the benefit of chapter breaks (which is nothing new for a Discworld book). Never too worry, you’re in good hands and the narrative progresses expertly and always forward. It’s all part of the fun with a Pratchett novel. You get so many unique and distinct voices that it’s nearly impossible to get caught up in the chaos which the characters themselves are embroiled. All the thread lines of plot work in parallel and compliment each other keeping you well invested with the trials and tribulations of the chief protagonist (Susan) who’s investigating why her grandfather (Death – no less) has taken it upon himself to play the role of the Hogfather this year. Something’s gone all too wrong.

We get a better appreciation for what’s at stake on the greater Disc by chumming along with the bumbling wizards of the Unseen University as their preparations for the holiday turn into misadventures and existential explorations, which lead to the invention of a true-to-life artificial contraption in the form of the Disc’s first computer: Hex (another fun character).

Pratchett also has us following the baddies as they go about their business of mucking things up for everyone (intentionally and not so intentionally). We get a range of interesting characters here from the indolent bruiser, Banjo, and his overly clever brother, Medium Dave, to the straight up psychopathic killer, Teatime. Their journey is fascinating and you can’t help but feel curious to see where they’ll end up. Pratchett manages to tread some very interesting notes with these antagonists by deftly committing wonderful comedy for the reader, while at the same time intruding with real and actual disturbing acts that remind us that these chaps are playing for keeps and it’s not all fun and games. Yet, the author holds that line never managing to descend into pointless violence and depravity for its own purpose—whatever the motives of the characters. The other side of the coin is always lurking there on the backside to reveal the absurdity of things.

Death’s granddaughter (who’s a sort Merry Poppins character on steroids) reminds us that there is much good left on the Disc—especially for those kind-hearted folks who just want a bit of normal now and again, and when the chips are down, by gosh, they’re ready to fight for it! Her cunning and persistence lead the way as she explores the unraveling mystery which is threatening the general order of things on the Disc (whatever order means on a flat Disc-shaped planet). She knows something isn’t right and it has to do with the supernatural. Her inner conflict with this is oddly humanist. She’s related to Death himself and just wants to be left alone (everyone has a relative of some sort that sometimes they’d rather not see), but she won’t give in to isolationism when it gets right down to it. So, she becomes a sort of sleuth and adventurer looking for the clues that will help her discover what has really gone wrong.

All the while that things are getting upended—the characters have to wonder what’s behind the curtain of belief. Even, Susan, the protagonist who’s related to Death and knows he is real, has trouble believing that something like the Hogfather is real and what role he could possibly have on the Disc besides living in the hearts and minds of children.

Well, Pratchett gets to the center of all this nonsense in his sort of philosophical and satirical way and leaves you with those thoughts you usually get when you read something particularly good. And, of course, the story underscores this all. Perhaps it’s the sort of thing you might expect from a fantasy writer, but perhaps it’s more than that—or, exactly that? Pratchett’s wisdom seems to cut right to the core of life and what it means to be alive. This novel really gets at that.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/review-hogfather-terry-pratchett

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett (4 Stars)

A right good romp on the Disc, full of madcap adventure and plenty of wonderment (plus a dash of introspection for good measure)!
This the first book of Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, and the first gateway into all things Disc (yet it is not the only entry point). The story is told through four novelette-sized vignettes that tie together enough to justify compilation here.

The story is told through the eyes of the much-harried wizard, Rincewind, who has been expelled from the wizarding school known as the Unseen University due to his rather inconvenient ability of not being able to cast any spells (almost). Rincewind makes fast friends with a local ‘tourist’ named Twoflower (the first tourist in fact). The wizard is primarily concerned with his new friend’s inexhaustible supply of precious metals due to a quirk in the exchange rates (setting a nice tone of absurdity to compliment Pratchett’s steady, dry and brilliant wit). The local Patrician charges Rincewind with the seemingly impossible task of keeping Twoflower alive while he tours about the place (no need to start an international incident by letting the locals pop off paying tourists).
The story takes on the momentum of a roly poly dodge of misadventures as the twosome seem to simply fall in and out of trouble. The action is often driven by Twoflower’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed view of the world as he stumbles along taking in all the sights. The tourist is too awed at each every new experience to notice when any real danger is abound. Rincewind serves as a polarizing balance to this as he continually foretells their certain doom with biting sarcasm. That said, Rincewind also manages to develop a special place in his heart for Twoflower’s unique and almost child-like love of new experiences which helps to fully flesh the characters out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the luggage. Every tourist must carry their very own piece of gawdy and garish luggage. Twoflower is no different. However, we learn very early on that this particular piece of travelware is very unique—being of the magical quality. The luggage itself becomes a character unto itself and is even granted a sort of point-of-view status throughout the book as it scurries on after its meandering owner like an extremely loyal big dog. I’ll say no more, except that the luggage really was my favorite part of the book.
Our protagonists pass through various parts of Discworld, much like a mad tour bus (with pontoons and wings) might. We get to see a lot and this book has the usual tongue-in-cheek, world-building asides that offer laugh-out-loud perspectives on an absurd world that all too closely mirrors our own in its absurdity. Of course, this is Pratchett’s genius as he makes us reconsider our own reality through the unique silliness floundering about on Discworld. 
Through various interactions with other players on the Disc (including the gods themselves), we learn more and more about Rincewind and Twoflower. From sword-slashing barbarians to academic wizards; even fabled dragons and monsters abound the place. Classic fans of the fantasy genre will note some specific references that might particularly tickle their funny bones, but even neophyte priests will enjoy the universally relatable humor. I mean come on? Twoflower is an insurance salesman on holiday amongst: trolls, dragons, pirates, slavers, wizards, heroes, and multi-tentacled beasts of old. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett (4 Stars)

A right good romp on the Disc, full of madcap adventure and plenty of wonderment (plus a dash of introspection for good measure)!
This the first book of Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, and the first gateway into all things Disc (yet it is not the only entry point). The story is told through four novelette-sized vignettes that tie together enough to justify compilation here.

The story is told through the eyes of the much-harried wizard, Rincewind, who has been expelled from the wizarding school known as the Unseen University due to his rather inconvenient ability of not being able to cast any spells (almost). Rincewind makes fast friends with a local ‘tourist’ named Twoflower (the first tourist in fact). The wizard is primarily concerned with his new friend’s inexhaustible supply of precious metals due to a quirk in the exchange rates (setting a nice tone of absurdity to compliment Pratchett’s steady, dry and brilliant wit). The local Patrician charges Rincewind with the seemingly impossible task of keeping Twoflower alive while he tours about the place (no need to start an international incident by letting the locals pop off paying tourists).
The story takes on the momentum of a roly poly dodge of misadventures as the twosome seem to simply fall in and out of trouble. The action is often driven by Twoflower’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed view of the world as he stumbles along taking in all the sights. The tourist is too awed at each every new experience to notice when any real danger is abound. Rincewind serves as a polarizing balance to this as he continually foretells their certain doom with biting sarcasm. That said, Rincewind also manages to develop a special place in his heart for Twoflower’s unique and almost child-like love of new experiences which helps to fully flesh the characters out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the luggage. Every tourist must carry their very own piece of gawdy and garish luggage. Twoflower is no different. However, we learn very early on that this particular piece of travelware is very unique—being of the magical quality. The luggage itself becomes a character unto itself and is even granted a sort of point-of-view status throughout the book as it scurries on after its meandering owner like an extremely loyal big dog. I’ll say no more, except that the luggage really was my favorite part of the book.
Our protagonists pass through various parts of Discworld, much like a mad tour bus (with pontoons and wings) might. We get to see a lot and this book has the usual tongue-in-cheek, world-building asides that offer laugh-out-loud perspectives on an absurd world that all too closely mirrors our own in its absurdity. Of course, this is Pratchett’s genius as he makes us reconsider our own reality through the unique silliness floundering about on Discworld. 
Through various interactions with other players on the Disc (including the gods themselves), we learn more and more about Rincewind and Twoflower. From sword-slashing barbarians to academic wizards; even fabled dragons and monsters abound the place. Classic fans of the fantasy genre will note some specific references that might particularly tickle their funny bones, but even neophyte priests will enjoy the universally relatable humor. I mean come on? Twoflower is an insurance salesman on holiday amongst: trolls, dragons, pirates, slavers, wizards, heroes, and multi-tentacled beasts of old. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett (4 Stars)

A right good romp on the Disc, full of madcap adventure and plenty of wonderment (plus a dash of introspection for good measure)!
This the first book of Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, and the first gateway into all things Disc (yet it is not the only entry point). The story is told through four novelette-sized vignettes that tie together enough to justify compilation here.

The story is told through the eyes of the much-harried wizard, Rincewind, who has been expelled from the wizarding school known as the Unseen University due to his rather inconvenient ability of not being able to cast any spells (almost). Rincewind makes fast friends with a local ‘tourist’ named Twoflower (the first tourist in fact). The wizard is primarily concerned with his new friend’s inexhaustible supply of precious metals due to a quirk in the exchange rates (setting a nice tone of absurdity to compliment Pratchett’s steady, dry and brilliant wit). The local Patrician charges Rincewind with the seemingly impossible task of keeping Twoflower alive while he tours about the place (no need to start an international incident by letting the locals pop off paying tourists).
The story takes on the momentum of a roly poly dodge of misadventures as the twosome seem to simply fall in and out of trouble. The action is often driven by Twoflower’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed view of the world as he stumbles along taking in all the sights. The tourist is too awed at each every new experience to notice when any real danger is abound. Rincewind serves as a polarizing balance to this as he continually foretells their certain doom with biting sarcasm. That said, Rincewind also manages to develop a special place in his heart for Twoflower’s unique and almost child-like love of new experiences which helps to fully flesh the characters out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the luggage. Every tourist must carry their very own piece of gawdy and garish luggage. Twoflower is no different. However, we learn very early on that this particular piece of travelware is very unique—being of the magical quality. The luggage itself becomes a character unto itself and is even granted a sort of point-of-view status throughout the book as it scurries on after its meandering owner like an extremely loyal big dog. I’ll say no more, except that the luggage really was my favorite part of the book.
Our protagonists pass through various parts of Discworld, much like a mad tour bus (with pontoons and wings) might. We get to see a lot and this book has the usual tongue-in-cheek, world-building asides that offer laugh-out-loud perspectives on an absurd world that all too closely mirrors our own in its absurdity. Of course, this is Pratchett’s genius as he makes us reconsider our own reality through the unique silliness floundering about on Discworld. 
Through various interactions with other players on the Disc (including the gods themselves), we learn more and more about Rincewind and Twoflower. From sword-slashing barbarians to academic wizards; even fabled dragons and monsters abound the place. Classic fans of the fantasy genre will note some specific references that might particularly tickle their funny bones, but even neophyte priests will enjoy the universally relatable humor. I mean come on? Twoflower is an insurance salesman on holiday amongst: trolls, dragons, pirates, slavers, wizards, heroes, and multi-tentacled beasts of old. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Going Postal (Discworld)” by Terry Pratchett (5 Stars)

You will not Return this Book to Sender—because it’s hilarious and awesome!

Moist Von Lipwig is the name of the main character in this 33rd Novel of the Discworld series. That pretty much sets the stage for everything else. Grab hold of your hat and hang on for the ride.

Moist is a talented and clever conman who has had a very successful criminal career on a sort of “middling” level. That is to say, he’s a step up from pickpocket but a step down from the clowns running multinational corporations. He’s spent a vast majority of his life playing alter egos that suit his various (and less than altruistic) endeavors. So much so, that you realize a fair way through, that the man does not really know himself. He’s been so busy playing make-believe in order to earn a fast buck that he really hasn’t ever figured out who he really is or what he cares about. And in that, we see the true genius of Terry Prachett’s writing. The story of the protagonist is a redemptive tale that is wrapped up in the polka dotted humor and witticism of a very clever satirist. We manage to care very deeply for Moist and his struggles, which are both outward and inward.

The story primarily centers around the city of Ankh-Morpork and its communications system. The book opens with the protagonist being saved from death, by a benevolent tyrant—the city patrician—Lord Vetinari. Although Vetinari is a dictator, he seems to be shrewd enough to care about the well-being of his citizens. Vetinari has identified a troubling problem with the mode of communication in the city; in which the majority of the story takes place. Swift communications between the citizenry are being conducted through a privately run utility known as the “Clacks,” which is basically a system of visual telegraph towers (semaphores) that translate messages across distances using coding. Apparently, the Clacks system was “legally” taken over through a series of questionable financial maneuvers by a collective of investors known as “The Grand Trunk” who are headed by Reacher Gilt (a min of ill repute—and probably a pirate to boot!). Since the takeover, fees have gone up and service has gone down. Vetinari attempts to correct the situation by talking to The Grand Trunk and is rebuked for his efforts. The problem is that the Clacks are now the only game in town and everyone relies on them exclusively to get things done. Too big to fail….

So Vetinari schemes to even the playing field by resurrecting the ancient, defunct postal system. To do this, he conscripts our protagonist. Moist agrees to go along with the plan for appearances, until he can bide his time and figure a way to escape and return to his old scamming ways. However, the endearing, odd ball cast of characters which Moist encounters while working in and around the post office slowly start to wear him down and he develops an interest in things beyond his own selfish needs.

The cast of characters that Prachett dreams up are brilliant and memorable. Whether it’s the fire-eyed Golem parole officer who must keep tabs on the protagonist; the old-guard of anal-retentive postal workers; the slick zombie-faced lawyer; the mostly-sane former Clacks workers turned code-crackers and rabble rousers; the boisterous and bumbling stuffy-robed wizards of the Unseen University; the sulking and skulking Igor butler henchman; the disturbing pigeon-eating banshee; or the chain-smoking golem-rights activist/love interest—you fall in love with them all. Everyone comes alive. An unforgettable cast. Sometimes there are heartfelt moments of kind and generous acts, other times you revel in the satire that floods through the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Everyone is a character and a caricature and always faintly familiar.

Moist is quick-witted and all to willing to up the stakes. A bad habit from his scheming days, but it serves him well in his new career as postman as he finds himself pitted against the biggest conman of them all—the head of the Clacks—Reacher Gilt. This is where we see real character growth as Moist is both awed and repulsed by the story’s chief antagonist. He is facing a distorted and much crueler mirror image of himself in dealing with Gilt. The more he learns, the more he is intrigued, and the more he is distressed. Upon meeting a truly great connoisseur of the trade (i.e. master conman) in Gilt, he sees that it is not so great a thing to aspire to. Then he questions himself and the life he has led and he wonders if there is much difference between him and Gilt. This is great character growth and the stuff of good story making.

Another great thing in this book is the inherit magic of the post office (A decidedly untraditional magical reagent). But Pratchett’s description of the place—even in its pigeon-dropping-covered-piles-of-old-letters—have all the intrigue and captivation of a haunted castle. A wonderfully original setting.

Other commentators have pointed out how well Pratchett does with word-play (even the title of the book lends itself to this). They also point out how you don’t get tired of it. It’s true. This book has many levels of humor from word-puns to deep satire pointing out the absurdities that are abundant in a capitalistic society. The Clacks system and The Grand Trunk have innumerable alliterations to phone companies and investment banking. Indeed, this book was written before the recent financial crisis that raked the world’s economies and is disturbingly prescient in many of its aphorisms. He makes you think as well as entertains you (as truly great authors do!).

Prachett really hits the spot. He is refreshingly funny and a good storyteller. The world can be a very awful place sometimes, when you look at all the problems one can suffer through during a lifetime. Yet, it is books like this one that help to put all the grim things in their proper place of absurdity.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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