Hogfather (CBR12 #56)

Hogfather (Discworld, #20; Death, #4)

Christmas of 2019, I received many books most of which I have not managed to read in 2020. One of the ones I did get to however was Hogfather, specifically because I wanted something Christmas adjacent in this year of not really having my usual holiday traditions and routines. I’m glad that I revisited Discworld this month, even if I couldn’t really sink into it. But that’s definitely a me problem in this adjective year, and not a problem with the book.

Hogfather tells the story of what happens when someone wants the Hogfather (Discworld’s version of Santa Claus) dead, but the assassin’s guild needs to find the right person to do the job, because how do you kill a personified construct of human belief? How do you kill an immortal? And what happens when you do? With a team on the case the Hogfather is (at least temporarily) out of commission and Death, takes some debatable steps to make sure Hogwatchnight goes off as it is supposed to. While he’s running around with a fake beard and a pillow stuffed up his Hogfather costume, his reluctant granddaughter Susan gets drawn into the whole business against her will (all she wants to do is do her governess job and be normal, but she can’t seem to manage it).

I love the character of Death, it’s one of my favorites in all of the Discworld (Granny Weatherwax beats him out by a hair). The best parts of the book are Death’s escapades while taking over for the Hogfather. Death really takes the role seriously (as he does all the things he does), and the humor hangs on that fact that he never gets the complete hang of it. But Death, as usual, provides an overview of what makes humanity tick, he sees and acknowledges the injustice of a system that continues to give the wealthy more while the poor receive less. Which pokes at Pratchett’s larger goal in the Discworld – to hold a mirror up to the absurdity of life.

Soul Music (CBR11 #4)

Image result for soul music discworld

I don’t know what to say about this one, really. Its plagued me for over a week – I liked the book, I liked what it had to say about grief and memory… but I can’t quite put it together into a comprehensive opinion about the book. Here’s some thoughts I do have, though.

The book in typical Pratchett and DEATH fashion splits the narrative – we have a fab foursome causing wizards to shake, rattle and roll, and managing to bring some broken furniture and jam-packed concerts to the Mended Drum. Suddenly, there’s an earworm loose in Discworld, and now everyone’s got a song in their hearts. In addition to that, we have Death once again going off the grid and abandoning his responsibilities in a similar vein to Mort, leaving the repercussions to be dealt with by someone else. This is only the third Death book and yet it already feels repetitive. Part of the reason it frustrates me is because Death is a fun character, and I want to see more of him doing the job of Death. It was also a lot of waiting for emotionally honest moments like Reaper Man. But when they come his expresses misery at the fact that he is capable of preventing deaths but is forbidden to do so is poignant.

This one fell flat for me. I think most of the music references were from the 50s and 60s, and since that’s the music my dad played all the time I think I caught most, but certainly not all, of Pratchett’s in-jokes, but they felt more tiresome than inspiring by page 200 of 424 (there was a time I was lamenting the relatively short length of Mort, and unfortunately this one being nearly twice as long doesn’t help). The constantly-repeated “he looks elvish” joke, Imp’s translated name… it’s all a bit much. It squeaks by with 3 stars because I love the Death of Rats, Quoth the Raven, Susan, the swing that Death built for her and pillows on bony knees, and her memories returning while Binky and Albert go about what needs doing.

As is usually the case, it’s easier to identify my complaints than what worked. I enjoyed the humor as is usually the way with Pratchett books, he has a great way of using witty descriptions for common things. I also really enjoyed the character of Susan, as the granddaughter of the anthropomorphic personification of a concept. The things she “inherits” from him even before officially inheriting the work are another interesting sidetrip into what we pick up in all the other ways besides genetics.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and stick it to cancer one book at a time.

Reaper Man (CBR10 #63)

Image result for reaper man pratchett

Its been quite awhile since I read my last Discworld novel, but I wanted to read Hogfather this year (a goal I will be missing by a few days, but I’ve got it out from the library) and my need to read the various subseries in their orders meant I decided to go back and pick up where I left off with Death. I found myself with Reaper Man (and Soul Music) in my to read queue. Death (in all caps) is a loveable character through and through so I didn’t mind at all taking a side trip to get to my eventual destination.

Reaper Man chronicles what happens when Death is forced into an early retirement and all of the life forces of those who die before the new Death is online get backed up in Ankh Morpork. Taking us through that vein of the story is Windle Poons and everything else that has died since Death lost his job. The novel turns into an ever-escalating mass of controlled chaos where metaphors become reality, cities lay eggs, and swear words pop into physical existence as twittering, flying creatures. Thi certainly isn’t a treatise on the human experience (although my gut instinct is that taken together Discworld is) it does say some very specific (and hilarious) things about the human condition.

However, about a third to a full half of the book didn’t work well for me. I liked Windle Poons fine, particularly after he comes back to the world undead and in search of answers, but the madcap adventures of the Unseen University staff fighting off the trolleys and everything else popping to life from the extra life force hanging around left me feeling flat. I’m not really worried though, Death and his newish personality are a delight, as is the Death of Mice.




This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We will be beginning our ELEVENTH year in a few days and we are always looking for new reviewers who want to read and review and say “fuck you” to cancer.

Mort (CBR7 #39)

I’m continuing on with my march through the Discworld novels, and after having realized that I had perhaps gone too far down one path without veering off to some others in my review of Maskerade I decided to go back to the beginning and pick another tack to start down. Luckily for me my friend Alison had already lent me Mort, the fourth book in the series, and the first of the Death centric books. I was excited, I really liked when Death made his appearance in the Witches books and thought surely a book chock full of Death’s witticisms would be right up my proverbial alley. Unfortunately for me, this one was funny than hysterical, and more cutesy than clever. Not really what I’ve come to expect from Pratchett’s work.

The story is built around Death taking on an apprentice, Mortimer. Mort for short. Not that anyone actually calls him by his name. With a bit of spare time on his hands, once Mort is up to speed, Death’s own search for what it means to be human begins. Those portions in the final two thirds of the book  was very amusing and at times poignant, but it never felt like it had time to develop as the book raced to the end of its 240 pages.

What Pratchett does well he does very well. He absolutely understands how to bring teenage awkwardness across the page. I thought the book really hit its stride when dealing with Mort’s unrequited love of Keli and Ysabell’s growing fondness of Mort in the middle third. The build-up was slow and at times painful (as any teenage love should be) but the pay offs were mostly worth it. Ysabell’s sudden switch from being annoyed by Mort’s very presence to her fawning over Mort was done with little indication or reasoning, other than her seeing him in his element and honestly it left me feeling a little cheated.

But seriously, how bad could a book be that contains Death uttering the following line?


This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Lords and Ladies (CBR7 #23)

I had planned to read one Discworld novel each month in 2015 as part of my cannonball read before hearing about Sir Terry’s passing last month. Now that goal seems even more important. While I am still a newbie to his work, Lords and Ladies being only my fourth book of his, I was still struck by how quickly a truly gifted writer can bury themselves into your conscience and feel like your own. I may not have known you work long Sir Terry, but it knows me well.

On to Lords and Ladies because Granny Weatherwax aten’t dead.

Our favorite three witches have been away on their adventures from Witches Abroad, and lots of things can happen in eight months’ time. Magrat is planning to marry the new king (and former fool) of Lancre. Well, more accurately Verence is planning on marrying Magrat who is going along with the idea.  Anyone who’s everyone will be attending the Royal Wedding, including the Librarian and Archchancellor from the Unseen University.

But this is Discworld, and more specifically the Ramtops. There’s always something going ever so slightly off. The impending Midsummer’s Eve is no different, as we’ve reached circle time when the barriers between worlds are thin. Even the bees are worried. You see, the “lords and ladies” have somehow found a way through, and they’re NOT here for the Entertainment. Now, it’s up to Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg to stop Magrat’s fairy tale ending from being ruined by…fairies.

This is perhaps the darkest book in the Witches series thus far. The previously unflappable Esme Weatherwax is off her game in this one as the circle time is messing with her mind a bit. We get an interesting look into Granny Weatherwax’s psyche – who she is, what she fears. It makes her more relatable. She was once a girl who made the tough choices and wanted something very specific from her life. Lords and Ladies also features a very big bad. Sure Witches Abroad had Granny’s sister up to no good, but for some reason the wanton violence of this book was more unsettling than I’ve previously experienced in Discworld.

As usual Pratchett is playing with big ideas in his books interweaving them into the basic plots.  This book also offers a good look into the human need for the imaginary, for make believe.  Or put another way the glamour of Belief.  A little less than halfway through the book Granny is dealing with the first incursion from the elves and is explaining to Verence what is happening (in her Granny-like way) and lays out that beauty, grace, style are all things that can cloud our judgement and our memories and in this way the elves are more dangerous than can be easily understood. No one remembers the danger, the ugliness. We only think back to the good, or glamourous.

It is through this remembrance, through belief, that the elves anchor themselves to the Discworld – if enough people believe the elves will come, and then they will. But the longer they stay away, the more time we get without them, the more they become what we think they are: stories, myths, and old wives’ tales.  Pratchett lays out in this narrative our need for stories to get us through the tough time. But we don’t need the objects of the stories here, in the real world. Because in the real world (whether it be disc shaped or otherwise) we have only ourselves to count on, and we need to be strong enough to do that. Stories are good, in their place. But never mistake a story for the real thing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Witches Abroad (CBR7 #10)

Being that Witches Abroad is a Discworld novel written by Sir Terry Pratchett there are literary tropes to be abused and social mores to be jumped up and down on. For our enjoyment this time Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick are off to stop a bad fairy godmother from unleashing a terrible torrent of stories all over the poor city of Genua. That sentence of plot description, admittedly, makes very little sense, but I promise you Pratchett has a certain way of weaving it all together so that you can’t imagine the story, ahem narrative, going any other way.

To be honest, I picked up Witches Abroad simply because I was in desperate need of 1) a palate cleanser following What She Left Behind and 2) something upbeat – my reading of late, All the Light We Cannot See, Station Eleven, and The Line of Beauty  coming up, have all been a bit heavy on the sad emotions. Thankfully Pratchett delivered right to my expectations – a book of humor that is not brainless that I could happily cackle away to on the couch for a few evenings and harass my roommate with quotes and discussions about which of us is who (I am very definitely Nanny Ogg to her Granny Weatherwax).

And while the humor is lovely, this is a book with substance. My main takeaway, and there are surely many layered into these 350 pages, is that no one is immune from a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to change the story, because stories will make themselves happen if you don’t act accordingly. There’s also a whole bit about mirrors, and multiplying your power while stealing your soul, but that wasn’t as interesting to me, personally.

I’m definitely having a love affair with Pratchett and Discworld and am so happy that there are so many books for me to continue to enjoy. Next month I’ll be tackling Lords and Ladies.

Equal Rites (CBR7 #3)

Folks, we need to talk about how I think I’m falling in love with Discworld. Equal Rites is only my second book in the series, but it made my heart happy while I was reading it, and considering I read it while preparing to go back to work after a two week vacation, that was a tall order.

In my review of Wyrd Sisters I mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether not picking this, the starter book for the Witches books, was going to be a problem. Having read it now, I think I was better off having read Wyrd Sisters first, since it gave me a bit of who Granny Weatherwax is, and this story gave me a more in depth experience with her, and her student Esk.

So what ‘s the story? It’s about a wizard on the brink of death who comes to the small town of Bad Ass to pass along his staff and power to the eighth son of an eighth son. The problem is, the son is a daughter, and no one has any idea what to make of that. Eskarina, possessed of significant innate magical power and the old wizard’s staff, ends up in the care of our lovely Granny Weatherwax, the witch of these environs. Granny, being Granny, distrusts wizard magic and decides to try to raise Esk as a witch. In Granny’s book, that means learning things, not just having magic, so Esk gets a thorough introduction to herbs and headology before she gets any training in magic. But Esk’s innate magic isn’t going to settle for that, and neither is her staff, so finally they set out for Ankh-Morpork and the Unseen University to try to enroll the first female wizard.

But that isn’t really what the story is about. Because this is Pratchett what we really have is spot-on satire of gender roles and institutionalized idiocy, all set in a venue we’re familiar with – school.  His satire works because he has love, and not scorn, for his subject — to wit, human nature and all its foolishness and foibles.  In Equal Rites no one can imagine a female wizard, or a male witch for that matter, because everyone’s ways of doing things are so different. Some of my favorite scenes are when view of the world collides with the ways of the Unseen University, culminating in a great twist on the magical battle from The Sword in the Stone.

While this is in many ways a stock fantasy (or any genre, really) coming of age story, it also has the Pratchett deliciousness of word play and humor. Pratchett has a talent for playing with the English language in subtle little ways so that the simplest sentence (“The conversation wandered away like a couple of puppies.”) had me giggling along as I read.

The only detractions I can really make are that occasionally the story races along and threatens to run away from you (seriously, how much time elapses in Ankh-Morpork, Pratchett?). I also thought the ending was a touch weak and just sort of plopped down there on the page. I literally turned the page expecting more, and alas there was none.  I’m sure I’ll be finding my way to Witches Abroad before too long.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.