Four book reviews

I haven’t done a lot of reading since the convention trip, but here are some reviews for the stuff that I did read during the trip:

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is an extremely witty writer, and his work is a pleasure to read. The Discworld is about a magical world quite different from our own — it is in fact pizza-shaped and floats through space on the back of a giant tortoise. Despite the “unlikely” nature of the world, it is in fact quite well-imagined and it has its own set of natural laws. Sort of like “Xanth for grown-ups”.

(This is actually the third book in the Discworld series, but I read it first, due to sparse availability.) Equal Rites starts off with the birth of the young girl who inherits a Wizard’s magical power, which is fine except that men are supposed to have Wizardly powers, not women. Hilarity ensues, as people’s beliefs about traditional roles are challenged.

It seems like this book is a case where the “main character” or “hero” is not the “point of view” person. In this story, the person whose thoughts and feelings the reader is focused on most of the time is Esmerelda (Granny Weatherwax) and not Esk (the girl/hero)… though we do get Esk’s viewpoint sometimes, when the two are separated.

The story flows quite well and is extremely addictive. I especially like the way Pratchett uses the language in clever ways, but is not obtrusive about it. (One example is when you struggle to lift or move something big and awkward, this is called “manhandling” but when performed by ants, Pratchett calls it “anthandling” without skipping a beat). The clever use of language here and there is funny, but not noticeable enough to be annoying. There are plenty of other funny parts that don’t beat up the language. The descriptions of places and people are quite detailed, suggesting that the story and setting were imagined in great detail and then condensed to just the right length for our reading pleasure.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

(This is actually the eighth book in the series, but I read it second, due to limited supplies on hand.) The main character here is a human, but he is raised to near-adulthood by dwarves, and he is sent out into the world to seek his fortune (and because he literally outgrew his family home). He joins the City Watch, which is pretty near obsolete and useless, since most crimes have been legalized by the creation of a Thieves’ Guild. Well, it’s a good thing they have a City Watch, as the city is soon besieged by a Dragon (the huge kind, thought to be extinct).

I won’t give away too much of the plot, though if you like spoilers, most of the reviews on the above-linked Amazon page describe this book quite well. For my own experience, I found this book exciting and rich, and in my view it is the best of the four described on this page.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

This is the first book in the Discworld series, and because it is the first, the reader needs to be introduced to the world quickly and efficiently. Well, what better way to see the world than through the eyes of a tourist? The main characters are Twoflower, a tourist from a place nobody’s heard of on the other side of the Disc, and Rincewind, a flunked-out Wizard who gets drafted to be his guide. Due to the ridiculous exchange rate, Twoflower has come to town with enough money to buy half the town, but doesn’t quite realize it. He ends up selling the tavern owner an “inn-sewer-ants” policy (which is kind of like gambling, you pay a little money up-front on a bet with extremely long odds that your store will burn down) and strangely enough, the tavern burns down that very night, taking half the town with it. Rincewind and Twoflower flee the city and get to see a lot of the Discworld by getting in and out of trouble.

The action moves pretty fast, almost too fast at times. The ending is a real cliff-hanger (quite literally) so have The Light Fantastic on hand if you’re getting near the end and enjoying yourself.

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

This is a logical conclusion to the first book, The Colour of Magic, and though it would probably stand on its own, it’s best to read the previous one first to get a feeling for the characters. The action here is not as fast-paced and I found myself skimming through parts of it, though for the most part it is quite enjoyable and shows even more of the well-imagined world and its characters.

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