The Fifth Elephant (No Spoilers)

Photo on 2017-07-17 at 12.17 PM.jpg

This week’s novel is the The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. This is a Sam Vimes story. Vimesis one of my favourite characters from the Discworld and I’m always excited to read one of his books. This novel stands apart from the other’s because it takes Sam Vimes outside of Ankh-Morpork.

This is intriguing, because Vimes is Ankh-Morpork. The city is the core of his being. He’s comfortable in it, nearly unstoppable. He’s spent his whole life within it’s walls and he knows the streets like the soles of his feet. It’s always interesting to see a character taken out of their depth and put into an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. That Vimes has to travel to a place that is as alien as the moon to him only makes things more interesting.

The novel is takes place largely in Uberwald where dwarves, vampires, werewolves and Igor’s all live together in uneasy harmony. Pratchett uses this to make some interesting points on race relations and traditions. Drawing parallels between the Discworld and our own is not difficult, and is relevant even to this day.  As usual, he hides his rather vicious deconstruction of society behind comedy.

The plot is intricate and engaging, with a number of clues and mysteries to solve. All the characters you would hope show up show up and grow and evolve. The novel hums along nicely with each chapter pushing the towards to the conclusion.

Overall the Fifth Elephant had all of the elements that lend the Discworld novels it’s charms without having some of the pitfalls that sometimes show up. The novel was well plotted, charming, and in many parts, hilarious. I would fully recommend this novel to any fantasy lover, even someone who hasn’t read much or any of Terry Pratchett’s novels before.

You can follow my writing adventures on Twitter At JamesBee

Advertisements

Lords and Ladies Review (No Spoilers)

 

Photo on 2017-05-31 at 8.13 PM.jpg

This week’s book is Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies. I was looking for a quicker more comfortable read then the past few novels. I’d heard a lot about Granny Weatherwax, having seen her top a number of lists about favourite fantasy characters.

This novel fully delivered on the praise heaped up it. Pratchett was in great form, filling the pages with jokes, interesting ideas and a variety of complex and interweaved plots and subplots. There was as much ridiculous shenanigans as I was hoping for, balanced against a number of serious critiques and criticisms.

However, my favourite part of the book was it’s interesting take of elves. In most of the fantasy that I’ve read, elves are clearly superior to humans. They live forever, often have powers, aren’t likely to have the same weaknesses as plain old humans. It was fascinating to see Pratchett take this notion and bring it to it’s conclusion. This mixed with a number of ideas about folklore and multiple dimensions kept me stimulated and interested throughout the whole novel.

Honestly, theres not much I can say about his novel that I haven’t already said about other Discworld books. It had a lot of heart, was well written and was just uniquely Pratchett. It hit all the beats that I wanted it to and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone who has any sort of an interest in fantasy.

You can follow me on twitter at James Bee

Pyramids Review

Photo on 2017-05-01 at 12.16 PM.jpg

This week’s novel was Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. The last few books that I’ve read have been long, dark, and full of complicated intricate and complicated plots. Pyramids was a much needed and enjoyable palate cleanser. Lighthearted and hilarious, Pratchett takes you on a memorable romp through it’s pages.

As in all of his books, Pyramids is chock full of interesting and ridiculous characters that play off of each other very well. Jokes that at times make you laugh and groan are scattered like mines throughout the pages. In particular I found that the dialogue was particularly sharp in this novel, requiring the reader to pay close attention.

Pyramids takes a very close, and critical look at religion, royalty, and tradition and the lies that must be told to keep them in check. With almost vicious abandon, Pratchett tears them apart, uncovering the folly that lays beneath. As you would expect by the title, the ancient civilization of Egypt is largely the butt of the joke. Mummies, cat worship and the like are all examined and found silly.

In fact, this may be the most silly and absurd of the disc world books that I’ve read, which is saying quite a bit. The intersectionality of time and different dimensions make for a variety of truly ridiculous situations and encounters.

Overall the novel was extremely enjoyable and I sped through it happily. While it was at times quite lighthearted, I was left with quite a lot to think about. What traditions and dogma’s exist in my mind, only because they have always existed? What in our society do we believe in whole heartedly because we have always done so? As always when you look through the microscope you inevitably see some part of yourself. Pyramids was Pratchett at the height of his powers, weaving charming characters with a engaging story, topped off with a generous helping of gags and jokes. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would fully recommend it to anyone who enjoys his work or fantasy at large! 

As always you can follow my reading adventures at James Bee

Men at Arms

Photo on 2017-03-12 at 5.20 PM.jpg

This week’s book was Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. This novel takes place entirely in Ankh-Morpork, the centrepiece of the Discworld and easily one of my favourite fantasy cities. All of the usual characters make appearances, though the story is centred around Sam Vimes and the City Watch.

Men at Arms is largely a murder mystery story, with a myriad of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. The novel is told through a few different plot lines that slowly feed the reader clues as well as keeping them fully engaged. The eventual reveal is as satisfying as you would hope for and as usual my guess was completely wrong.

Before I read this novel, I had already read Night’s Watch, and Feet of Clay. Both of which I really enjoyed, so it was very interesting seeing how the Night’s Watch became the City Watch. Vimes, Carrot and Nobbes and all the rest are some of the most enjoyable characters to read and it was interesting seeing part of their journey, after seeing where they end up.

However, the aspect of this story that stuck out the most to me was in it’s underlying theme of acceptance, and the dangers of bigotry. Pratchett explore and comments on racism, by showing the ridiculousness of a centuries old race war between Dwarves and Trolls. Throw in prejudice against the undead by the novel’s principal characters and you get a story that is surprisingly relevant in todays world. After all, if a troll and a dwarf can put their differences aside and become friends, why can’t all of us do the same?

Overall, Men at Arms was a very enjoyable read, full of the usual Pratchett humour and biting social commentary. The plot was fast paced and engrossing and the all of the characters had enough to do to keep their chapters interesting. Perhaps I wouldn’t recommend this novel as the first Pratchett book to pick up for a first timer, but for anyone familiar with his work it would be a good pickup.

Reaper Man Review

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett was the book I read this week. It is impossible to get away from Pratchett recommendations, they seem to find their way onto every list. Not that this is a bad thing of course, I would have never picked up a copy of Mort if it weren’t for the endless number people telling me to read it.

Reaper Man is not one that I have seen on the shortlist when someone asks for the definitive books to read. Mort, Small Gods, Pyramids, Good Omens, these seem to be the tentpole novels that are given.

I would whole heartedly add Reaper man to the list.

This novel, like many others of Pratchett’s are difficult to summarize without giving too much away. Largely this is the tale of two cities, with one city being a rather small town. It has two casts, one begin Death, my favourite character in the Discworld and perhaps all of fantasy. The second cast is pulled from Ankh-Morpork, the greatest of all known cities. Wizards mixed with a deceased rights activist group make for strange bedfellows but play off each other brilliantly. 

These two sets of characters must deal with the consequences of a world where death no longer occurs. Though at times it feels as though two very different tales are being told, the novel does bring them together nicely.

Like any Pratchett novel, Reaper Man is chock full of hilarious jokes, ridiculous hijinks, and interesting characters. Mixed in with these, are a deeper commentary on life, death and the effects and ravages of time. I found the ending to be quite emotional, as well as deeply satisfying.

Overall, Reaper Man was a novel that made me laugh out loud in one moment and ponder my very existence in another. If you are a fan of Pratchett’s work then I would of course heartily recommend reading this novel. If you’ve never picked up any of his work, then I do not think you could go wrong here. Reaper Man is a strong, interesting novel that I believe stands up well against Sir Terry’s best work.     

The Colour of Magic Review

 

I arrived late to the Terry Pratchett party. Very late. It was only after he’d passed away and his multitude of fans had sung his praises that I picked up my first Discworld novel. Most would have perhaps started with the Colour of Magic, the first of the Discworld books.

I didn’t. I read Mort first, and fell in love with it. Since then, it seems that every second book I read has the late Mr Pratchett’s name on it. Yet I stayed away from The Colour of Magic. It sat on my bookshelf, ignored and passed over.

Why? I have a phobia of the beginnings. Often I’ll skip the first season of a T.V. show, instead jumping ahead to when it finds it’s stride. My preference for ignoring any early growing pains extends to the novelists and their debuts. This is why I put off the first Discworld novel. In fears that it would not measure up to those books that came after it.

My fears were unfounded. The Colour of Magic was not some stumbling Bambi, instead it flashed with the brilliance of a phoenix. All of the wit and humour that shines throughout the series was on full display in this book. Pratchett juggles the challenging task of setting up a rich and deep world with telling a compelling story, and does so very well.

As in so much of his writing, the characters were both memorable and interesting. They play off of each other perfectly, a reluctant, worrying half-wizard and a endlessly enthusiastic tourist.  At just under 300 pages, The Colour of Magic was a quick read, but not a forgettable one. Travelling along with the main characters, the reader is whisked on a whirlwind journey around the Discworld, from the dark and seedy Ankh-Morpork to the very edge of the world itself. Along the way, a colourful cast of characters both helps and hinders the unlikely heroes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the Colour of Magic, and I wish I read it sooner. While it may not have taken the place as one of my favourites of the Discworld novels, it certainly does not suffer much in comparison to them. Terry Pratchett burst out of the starting block with this novel.