Mini-Reviews: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, part 2

Here’s the second round of Discworld books! (First round is here.) I started reviewing all series in this format, but have since abandoned that idea. I’m sticking with it for the Discworld novels, because I have a lot of the same things to say about them and multiple posts would get incredibly redundant.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld does for (or to) Fantasy what Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy did for science fiction–firmly sets a story within a genre, stereotypes intact, then goes to town.  He’s frequently irreverent, and it’s an absolute delight to read. Since this post is a compilation of reviews for books six through ten of the series, there are a few spoilers. Specifically, if you haven’t read Sourcery yet, my review of Eric is going to spoil the ending of that for you…..

WYRD SISTERS (****)
This sixth entry in the series stands on its own rather well, its only ties to the previous novels being the reappearance of Granny Weatherwax from Equal Rites, the cameo appearance of the Orangutan librarian from the Unseen University, and the obligatory appearance by Death (who may be the only character to appear in all of the books to date, I’ll have to check on that sometime….) This volume takes on Shakespeare, the theatre, and the power of words…..

King Verence of Lancre is dead. His cousin, Lord Felmet, very rudely stuck a dagger in his back and pushed him down the stairs. The three witches of Lancre (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and young Magrat Garlick) don’t hold with meddling in politics, but what are they to do when a servant hands them a babe and a crown before expiring from the three arrows stuck in his back?

PYRAMIDS (*****)
This time Pratchett takes on ancient Egypt. Prince Teppic is the heir to the throne of Djelibeybi, the oldest kingdom on the Disc. He’s spent the last several years being educated by the Assassins’ Guild, but now he must take the throne due to his father’s unexpected demise. But ruling the Old Kingdom is harder than it looks, especially with the High Priest Dios “interpreting” all of his orders all wrong. In addition, the massive pyramid being built for his father is acting very strangely…..

This volume stands very well on its own–the only real connections to the rest of the series thus far are the city of Ankh-Morpork, Death’s appearance, and the cameo by Unseen University’s Orangutan librarian.

GUARDS! GUARDS! (*****)
With this seventh entry, we are introduced to the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. There’s Carrot Ironfoundersson, a six-foot-tall dwarf-by-adoption newly arrived in the city to seek his way in the world, while Captain Vimes serves in the role of every film-noir detective or cop ever to grace the silver screen. Along with Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs, Carrot and Vimes are going to have their work cut out for them, because Ankh-Morpork is about to discover that dragons aren’t as extinct as previously thought. But is the dragon’s arrival merely coincidence, or is there a larger, more sinister plot afoot? It is going to be up to the Watch to find out!

This volume stands on its own fairly well, at least insofar as previous books are concerned. I understand there are a number of later books also starring the Watch, but this is the first in that subseries. Recurring characters include the Librarian and Death, of course, as well as the Patrician (who I can’t help imagining as Ralph Fiennes for some reason).

FAUST ERIC (****)

When we left Rincewind at the end of Sourcery, he was running for his life through the Dungeon Dimensions, trapped there for the forseeable future. Well, it seems he’s found a way back onto our plane of existence (or whatever plane the Discworld is on, at least), but its a bit embarrassing. He’s been conjurred by a fifteen-year-old demonologist wannabe, who remains stubbornly convinced that Rincewind is a demon and demands his three wishes. Rincewind finds, much to his surprise and confusion, that he seems to actually be able to grant these wishes, which of course launches our protagonists on a comic journey of mythic proportions, literally to hell and back and to the ends of the Disc…..

Could you read this ninth entry in the Discworld series by itself? Sure, you could, but you might feel you were coming into the middle of a story. This one probably stands alone least of all the Discworld stories I’ve read so far. For my two cents, you should at least read The Colour Of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Sourcery before delving into this next installment of Rincewind’s adventures.

MOVING PICTURES (*****)

The Discworld is in peril once more, and this time it’s quite a show! When the last priest of an ancient order dies without training a successor, the spirit of Holy Wood is released once more into the world. People are called from the Disc over to come and be a part of this new phenomena–moving pictures! The only problem is that the dark Lovecraftian things from the Dungeon Dimensions still want through into the Discworld, and Holy Wood is about to make a door for them….

Moving Pictures is perhaps my favorite book in this series yet. Pratchett usually picks one idea or concept to make fun of and play with for the course of a book, and this time it was Hollywood. As such, the book is rife with references from Gone with the Wind to old Errol Flynn flicks. The plot is mostly an excuse to make all these jokes, but it’s still great fun! This one stands alone as well as any of the Discworld novels, by which I mean a lot of background characters reappear–The Librarian, Death, Detritus the Troll bouncer from the Mended Drum tavern, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler….a couple others, I think, but its not really important.

Content-wise, Discworld holds steady at a raucous PG or a mild PG-13. There’s mild language, comedic violence, and various raunchy jokes that never actually become explicit. If you were okay with the likes of Conan and Red Sonja you have nothing to worry about here.

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