Discworld, #3: Equal Rites

Equal Rites
Published 1987
228 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

Over the summer, I committed to reading the Discworld series! I’m starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

Synopsis for Equal Rites:

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins! 

My rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My reaction:

Finally, a Discworld book that I really liked! I’m three books into the series, and I have to say that the first two books were not great. (Then again, my expectations were low, since I’d already been warned about those books).

But here in Equal Rites, the 3rd book in the (vast) series, things pick up! The story is much more focused and has great main characters, so despite some messiness toward the end, it’s a charming read.

In Equal Rites, a dying wizard intends to pass along his powers to a newborn baby… but the expected boy is actually a girl. Unfortunately for the wizard, what’s done is done, and his powers flow into baby Eskarina, known as Esk as she grows up.

It’s unheard of for a female to be a wizard — it’s “against the lore”, as several wizards protest. Girls can only grow up to be witches, whom wizards dismiss as women who fiddle around with plants and herbs, not powerful magical beings like themselves.

Esk and her teacher Granny Weatherwax have other ideas, and after Esk learns all the basics about witchcraft from Granny, they realize that the wizard school Unseen University in the city of Ankh-Morpork is the best and only option for Esk.

The plot meanders a bit once Esk gets to the city, and honestly, the action sequences toward the end are a bit all over the place. But that doesn’t matter so much. As I’m learning, at least half the delight of these books is Terry Pratchett’s awesomely clever writing. The plot is nice to have, the characters are often fabulous, but the writing is what really elevates the entire thing into (pardon my saying so) magic.

Their world, bounded by an encircling ocean that falls forever into space in one long waterfall, is as round and flat as a geological pizza, although without the anchovies.

The midwife’s name was Granny Weatherwax. She was a witch. That was quite acceptable in the Ramtops, and no one had a bad word to say about witches. At least, not if he wanted to wake up in the morning the same shape as he went to bed.

Time passed, which, basically, is its job.

“How did you get here, little girl?” she said, in a voice that suggested gingerbread cottages and the slamming of big stove doors.

“I got lost from Granny.” “And where’s Granny now, dear?” Clang went the oven doors again; it was going to be a tough night for all wanderers in metaphorical forests.

It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done.

She had found them lodgings in The Shades, an ancient part of the city whose inhabitants were largely nocturnal and never inquired about one another’s business because curiosity not only killed the cat but threw it in the river with weights tied to its feet. The lodgings were on the top floor next to the well-guarded premises of a respectable dealer in stolen property because, as Granny had heard, good fences make good neighbors.

There was a feeling that the universe had been turned inside out in all dimensions at once. It was a bloated, swollen sensation. It sounded as though the whole world had said “gloop.”

Reality returned, and tried to pretend that it had never left.

See what I mean? Esk’s adventures with Granny Weatherwax are fun, but even if they weren’t, I’d be too busy laughing and snorting over the wordplay and puns to really mind at all.

I’m absolutely looking forward to…

Up next:

November 2020: Mort

Can’t wait for this one! Everyone seems to love Mort!

Discworld, #2, The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic
Published 1986
293 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

Over the summer, I committed to reading the Discworld series! I’m starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

Synopsis for The Light Fantastic:

In The Light Fantastic only one individual can save the world from a disastrous collision. Unfortunately, the hero happens to be the singularly inept wizard Rincewind, who was last seen falling off the edge of the world…

My rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My reaction:

The Light Fantastic proves that you can dislike a book’s plot and still enjoy the writing.

I’m not sure I can even describe what happens in this book. The failed wizard Rincewind has further difficulties because of the powerful spell hidden in his brain, there’s a comet that threatens to collide with Discworld and destroy it, there are helpful trolls, an elderly warrior named Cohen the Barbarian, dastardly conspiracies, and of course, the tourist Twoflowers and his amazing Luggage.

It was all just kind of one random scene after another, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes funny, but none of it felt like a compelling narrative that made any sense at all. My eyes were glazed over for at least half of this book! And it drives me crazy that there are no chapters, just one long story.

At the same time, I do appreciate Terry Pratchett’s cleverness and awesome use of words, so even though this Discworld book’s plot left me unengaged and even bored at times, I loved so many passages. I’ll wrap up by sharing a few random samples:

He felt that the darkness was full of unimaginable horrors—and the trouble with unimaginable horrors was that they were only too easy to imagine . . .

They had dined on horse meat, horse cheese, horse black pudding, horse d’oeuvres and a thin beer that Rincewind didn’t want to speculate about.

Horse d’oevres! I had an uncle who would have loved that joke (and/or said it himself.)

It wasn’t that he was particularly wise. Every wizard considered himself a fairly hot property, wisewise; it went with the job.

Another voice, dry as tinder, hissed, “You would do well to remember where you are.” It should be impossible to hiss a sentence with no sibilants in it, but the voice made a very good attempt.

It was not a grin to inspire confidence. More horrible grins had probably been seen, but only on the sort of grinner that is orange with black stripes, has a long tail and hangs around in jungles looking for victims to grin at.

“… Rincewind, all the shops have been smashed open, there was a whole bunch of people across the street helping themselves to musical instruments, can you believe that?”

“Yeah,” said Rincewind, picking up a knife and testing its blade thoughtfully. “Luters, I expect.” 

I’m not giving up on Discworld! I’d heard from the start that the first few books aren’t great, so I’m hanging in there. Next month’s book looks good, and I’m dying (ha! see what I did there?) to get to #4, Mort.

Up next:

October 2020: Equal Rites

My Discworld reading adventure: Book #1, The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic
Published 1983
294 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

As I mentioned last month, I made the big decision to finally start reading the Discworld series! Beginning August 2020, I’ll be starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

And ta-da! I’m underway!

Synopsis:

Terry Pratchett’s profoundly irreverent, bestselling novels have garnered him a revered position in the halls of parody next to the likes of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.

On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My reaction:

This was… cute? Fortunately, enough people have mentioned that the first Discworld book isn’t among the best, so I wasn’t too disappointed by the experience.

The Color of Magic introduces the world of Discworld — a flat disc of a planet that’s carried through space on the shoulders of four elephants standing on the back of a huge turtle. As a concept, it’s pretty cool. The first book introduces the basics of the planet and its residents, as well as its gods and magical systems. It’s pretty intricate and also nonsensical, so I can’t swear that I managed to follow it all.

As for the plot of The Color of Magic, it’s light and silly, focusing on the failed wizard Rincewind and the tourist Twoflowers (and Twoflower’s walking Luggage, which has a tendency to devour anyone who tries to attack Twoflowers). They encounter trolls and dragons and barbarians, and find themselves literally at the end of the world, and it’s all quite fun.

This book didn’t blow me away, but I was prepared for that, so I don’t feel let down or dissuaded from continuing onward. I’ve yet to encounter a Discworld fan who says the Rincewind books are their favorite!

One book down! And plenty more to go…

Up next:

September 2020: The Light Fantastic

My Discworld Reading Challenge

I’ve been talking about reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books for years now, and I think it’s about time to finally dig in and do it!

There are 41 books in the Discworld series, and apparently, so many different ways to read them!

I’ve checked fan sites and wikis, as well as book bloggers who’ve written about Discworld, and have seen so many recommendations about which sets of novels to read together, and where a good starting place might be.

But after giving it some thought, I think I’m just going to start with the very first book in the series, The Colour of Magic (published 1983), and then go in chronological order.

So, here’s the plan:

Starting August 1st, I plan to read one Discworld book per month, going in publication order. I’ll be taking it nice and easy, starting a new book on the 1st of each month. Let’s see how far I can go!

For reference, here’s the reading list:

1. The Colour of Magic
2. The Light Fantastic
3. Equal Rites
4. Mort
5. Sourcery
6. Wyrd Sisters
7. Pyramids
8. Guards! Guards!
9. Faust Eric
10. Moving Pictures
11. Reaper Man
12. Witches Abroad
13. Small Gods
14. Lords and Ladies
15. Men at Arms
16. Soul Music
17. Interesting times
18. Maskerade
19. Feet of Clay
20. Hogfather
21. Jingo
22. The Last Continent
23. Carpe Jugulum
24. The Fifth Elephant
25. The Truth
26. Thief of Time
27. The Last Hero
28. The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents
29. Night Watch
30. The Wee Free Men
31. Monstrous Regiment
32. A Hat Full of Sky
33. Going Postal
34. Thud!
35. Wintersmith
36. Making Money
37. Unseen Academicals
38. I Shall Wear Midnight
39. Snuff
40. Raising Steam
41. The Shepherd’s Crown

Wish me luck!

A two-person review: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens 2I had the great fortune of attending a Neil Gaiman appearance two weeks ago, which occurred on the day of the late Terry Pratchett’s death. Hearing Neil Gaiman speak with great warmth and emotion about his long friendship with Terry Pratchett and their marvelous collaborations made me realize that I had to read Good Omens without further delay… and many people felt the same way, including my good friend Heidi.

Heidi is a real-life friend who is also one of my very favorite book people. She attended the Neil Gaiman event with me**, and  also just read Good Omens this past week. (Her second time; my first). I was going to get to work on a review of Good Omens, and then I saw Heidi’s Goodreads review, which is wonderful and really says it all.

**We even got a picture with Neil Gaiman! However… I think I look hideous and she looks great. Heidi is convinced that she looks hideous and I’m actually okay. End result? We’re not posting the picture.

With Heidi’s permission, I’m featuring her words on Good Omens as a guest review:

4751840Heidi‘s review

Mar 28, 15

This was my introduction to Neil Gaiman. I have a first edition hardback, thanks to my dad, who, browsing in a bookstore one day in 1990, picked it up and thought: “This is something my daughter would like.” He had no idea. He subsequently read it himself, and to this day nurses a crush on War.

This past March 12, the date on which you might remember Sir Terry Pratchett took one last walk with an old friend, I had the improbable good/bad luck to attend an evening of conversation with Neil Gaiman. It was clear Neil was tired, and sad, but he was there. He didn’t cancel, and he very gracefully took time to chat and pose for pics at the reception beforehand. He was exactly as charming and approachable as any fan could hope.*

The talk itself, with Gaiman’s close friend Michael Chabon acting as interviewer, was meant to support his new story collection Trigger Warning, but we were in for an unscheduled surprise when it turned into a sad, funny, moving eulogy for Sir Terry. Gaiman, as he does so well, told stories. He told us about how, as a young journalist, he met his early mentor and lifelong friend Terry Pratchett. He talked about long phone calls during their pre-Internet collaboration on Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. He told funny Terry stories. And he spoke proudly about Pratchett’s brave struggle with Alzheimer’s and his very public campaign for death with dignity.

And finally, he read from this book.Which is a round-about way of getting to why I decided to reread Good Omens when I have a giant stack of new books waiting for me. This book — the story of the coming of the Antichrist (a spunky boy called Adam who’s maybe a little too rebellious for the position), and of an angel and a demon who team up to thwart the Apocalypse because they kind of like things just as they are, thank you very much — is just as delightful as it was in 1990. And from here in 2015, it gains unexpected emotional heft as a Bradbury-esque fable of that not-so-long-gone time when kids actually went out to play and make trouble of a summer day. It’s still Douglas Adams-level silly, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and its influence on the fantasy genre is undeniable. And under the comic veneer is a keen study of human (and angelic and demonic) fallibility, and the joys and responsibilities of exercising our freewill. Upgraded from four to five stars. A classic.

*In case anyone is interested in what happened when I had my chance to chat with Neil-freaking-Gaiman, I have to admit I was a little star-struck. I managed to blurt out how much I loved his screenplay for the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” In it, the TARDIS is enabled to manifest in a human body, and for the first time actually “meet” the Doctor. There’s a moment, after she’s been embodied for a while, she points out how humans are rather like a TARDIS — much bigger on the inside. Neil’s eyes — I swear — actually twinkled, and he replied: “Yes . . . that was one of those moments when I thought — yes, I’ve done something clever right there.” That episode won the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Heidi is an amazing reader and writer, and is a horror aficionado too — so if you’re looking for great reviews and recommendations, you should check her out on Goodreads!

My thoughts:

I’m not sure what I can say to add to Heidi’s words. I’m annoyed with myself for waiting so long to read Good Omens, when it was clear to me all along that I’d be sure to love this book. All the folks who say that Good Omens will appeal to Douglas Adams fans are entirely correct. There’s humor to be found in the bleakest of circumstances (like, oh, the end of the world), and Gaiman and Pratchett manage to keep Good Omens clever and funny even when it’s raining fish, Atlantis rises from the depths, and the Four Horsemen are abroad in the land, on motorcycles this time but utterly bad to the bone.

How can you not love a book in which Famine amuses himself in the 20th century by creating a calorie-less diet craze? Or where an angel and demon agree that the world is pretty okay, and that the true problem is nasty humans, not the temptations of hell? Throw in a vast assortment of characters, including a gang of four children known collectively as the Them (one of whom is also the Antichrist), a Hellhound who’s mostly a cuddly mutt, witchfinders, satanic nuns, and a very important delivery man, and you’ve got a book that’s just a pure joy to read.

I’ll wind up with a few random quotes and passages that made me chuckle:

It’s like you said the other day,” said Adam. “You grow up readin’ about pirates and cowboys and spacemen and stuff, and jus’ when  you think the world’s all full of amazin’ things, they tell you it’s really all dead whales and chopped-down forests and nuclear waste hangin’ about for millions of years. ‘Snot worth growin’ up for, if you ask my opinion.”

cropped-flourish-31609_12801.pngThe kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance.

cropped-flourish-31609_12801.png“Oh, come on. Be sensible,” said Aziraphale, doubtfully.

“That’s not good advice,” said Crowley. “That’s not good advice at all. If you sit down and think about it sensibly, you come up with some very funny ideas. Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying ‘THIS IS IT!’?”

“I don’t remember any neon.”

cropped-flourish-31609_12801.pngSome police forces would believe anything. Not the Metropolitan police, though. The Met was the hardest, most cynically pragmatic, most stubbornly down-to-earth police force in Britain.

It would take a lot to faze a copper from the Met.

It would take, for example, a huge, battered car that was nothing more nor less than a fireball, a blazing, roaring, twisted metal lemon from Hell, driven by a grinning lunatic in sunglasses, sitting amid the flames, trailing thick black smoke, coming straight at them through the lashing rain and wind at eighty miles per hour.

That would do it every time.

If you’ve grinned a bit reading these passages, there’s nothing to do but rush right out and get a copy of Good Omens. It’s amazing. Enjoy!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Good Omens
Author: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Various editions
Publication date: 1990
Length: 367 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Borrowed (stolen) from my daughter’s bookshelf

Thursday Quotables: Good Omens

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Good Omens 2

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
(published 1990)

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to finally read Good Omens, but after attending a Neil Gaiman appearance (video here) on the day of Terry Pratchett’s passing, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.

As the blurb on the cover says: “The Apocalypse has never been funnier.” I’m only about halfway through the book, but I’m loving it. Here are a few reasons why:

Crowley thumped the wheel. Everything had been going so well, he’d had it really under his thumb these few centuries. That’s how it goes, you think you’re on top of the world, and suddenly they spring Armageddon on you. The Great War, the Last Battle. Heaven versus Hell, three rounds, one Fall, no submission. And that’d be that. No more world. That’s what the end of the world meant. No more world. Just endless Heaven or, depending who won, endless Hell. Crowley didn’t know which was worse.

Well, Hell was worse, of course, by definition. but Crowly remembered what Heaven was like, and it had quite a few things in common with Hell. You couldn’t get a decent drink in either of them, for a start. And the boredom you got in Heaven was almost as bad as the excitement you got in Hell.

Another:

Two of them lurked in the ruined graveyard. Two shadowy figures, one hunched and squat, the other lean and menacing, both of them Olympic-grade lurkers. If Bruce Springsteen had ever recorded “Born to Lurk,” these two would have been on the album cover. They had been lurking in the fog for an hour now, but they had been pacing themselves and could lurk for the rest of the night if necessary, with still enough sullen menace left for a final burst of lurking around dawn.

One more:

Pepper’s given first names were Pippin Galadriel Moonchild. She had been given them in a naming ceremony in a muddy valley field that contained three sheep and a number of leaky polythene teepees. Her mother had chosen the Welsh valley of Pant-y-Gyrdl as the ideal site to Return to Nature. (Six months later, sick of the rain, the mosquitoes, the men, the tent-trampling sheep who ate first the whole commune’s marijuana crop and then its antique minibus, and by now beginning to glimpse why almost the entire drive of human history has been an attempt to get as far away from Nature as possible, Pepper’s mother returned to Pepper’s surprised grandparents in Tadfield, bought a bra, and enrolled in a sociology course with a deep sigh of relief.)

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!