Discworld marathon blog...

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Postby Quatermass » Tue May 03, 2011 11:41 pm

Thanks, all of you. I am reading Maskerade, but whether I finish it or not is a different matter entirely. :?

I did enjoy Interesting Times, but I also felt a little dissatisfied. I'm surprised that Twoflower wasn't given more background, although given what happens to the poor SOB before Interesting Times, it may be just as well. But I thought Pretty Butterfly was wasted. A good character, but underutilised.

As for the Gods sequences being a waste, I disagree. Not only is it a nice callback to The Colour of Magic, but we see how the Lady has influenced Rincewind once again.

I very nearly gave it an above average score, but decided against it. However, should I manage to go on to The Last Continent, the Rincewind novels may get a better score.
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Postby Quatermass » Thu May 05, 2011 11:43 am

REVIEW: Maskerade

(Reviewed with help from Robin Bland and David Agnew. Thanks, guys)


While Soul Music holds a special place in my heart for being the first Discworld book I read, thanks to the animated adaptation, Maskerade, while not quite as fondly remembered, holds a not dissimilar place. After all, it was not only one of the first Witches books that I can remember reading, but it was also the first (and, to date, only) Pratchett adaptation I have seen on stage...

Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are restless. With Magrat now Queen of Lancre, their coven has been reduced to two, and they need something to do. When magically talented Agnes Nitt heads to Ankh-Morpork to make her fortune, and Granny Weatherwax learns that Nanny Ogg has been cheated out of a lot of money for a very raunchy cookbook, the two witches head off to Ankh-Morpork. But Agnes, upon becoming a singer at the Opera House, has found out that opera has a magic and madness all of its own, with a mysterious Ghost alternately killing people and giving compliments and criticism to performances, money being spent left, right and centre, and a bizarre group working behind the scenes. Agnes may be trying to avoid getting caught up with the witches, but she may not have a choice. Everyone has a secret, from noted tenor Enrico Basilica to awkward odd-job man Walter Plinge, from organist Andre to musical director Mr Salzella. But is the Ghost really a madman? Who is he? And can Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg manage to extricate Agnes Nitt from the mad world of opera?

While all of the Witches stories are, to one extent or another, accessible, I found Maskerade, despite all the references to musicals and opera, the most accessible of them all. Maybe it might be due to having seen it on stage, or maybe it is the different character dynamics. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg make the most marvellous double act, and, leaving aside the threefold nature of the coven, they seem to work best with just the two of them. And their quest, while initially a selfish one, soon blooms into a quite selfless one. We see the character of Agnes Nitt, a relatively minor character from Lords and Ladies, blossom into a far more notable character and who I think is far more interesting than wet hen Magrat. The return of human Greebo is also welcome and enjoyable.

Of the other characters, almost all of them are interesting, even when they don't have any real depth. Salzella oozes smarm, Henry Slugg/Basilica is amusing, and Christine, while shrill and annoying, is at least entertaining enough to cover her annoying tendencies. Walter Plinge, while apparently both a reference to a stage pseudonym and Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (which I have never watched, and I have only noticed the connection that Frank Spencer has with Maskerade while researching this review), is perhaps the most interesting of all, even if, at the very end, his character development seems disappointing in the way his nature developed. Indeed, Agnes calls him out on it.

The plotline is a rather simple and singular one, but this is one of the cases where, even if you don't understand all the references, you can still enjoy it. The story is extremely entertaining, driving you along at a rollicking pace and with enough of a jokes per minute density that you will still laugh frequently, even without knowing the in-jokes. There is no big threat to Lancre or the world at large, just mad, mad opera.

However, it is this simplicity that is the downfall of Maskerade and the one thing holding it back from perfection. The few actual side-plots are dealt with fairly quickly, and if you actually think about it, the twist surrounding the Ghost is actually quite obvious from early on. And I share Agnes' disappointment with how Walter turns out in the end, as I thought him better than that.

Mad, operatic, and funny as hell, Maskerade, while not the best of the Witches stories overall, is certainly the most entertaining from my point of view. This vicious cabaret about masks and madness and music sweeps you from beginning to end on a wave of enjoyment and ends with a lovely bow.


Special New Utterance Rating Trial: Ooh.

First words: The wind howled.

Last words: 'Isn't this nice,' she said.


Whether this one is the last or not, well, I dunno. But let's see if anyone spots the joke. :)
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Postby Tonyblack » Thu May 05, 2011 12:03 pm

Quatermass wrote:

Whether this one is the last or not, well, I dunno. But let's see if anyone spots the joke. :)
I hear no fat ladies singing. :lol:

I pretty much agree with what you've said, Q - although I'm not a great fan of this book. I think you may have understated the role that Nanny plays in that I believe she engineers many of the events deliberately to get Granny out of a rut that she's in. I also feel sorry for Agnes - she's made a life for herself and plans to use her talents only to have these two interfering busybodies telling her that she's going to be a witch whether she likes it or not. :roll:

The Frank Spencer reference is of course the fact that Frank was played by Michael Crawford who was the original Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical.
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Postby Quatermass » Thu May 05, 2011 12:30 pm

Tonyblack wrote:
Quatermass wrote:Whether this one is the last or not, well, I dunno. But let's see if anyone spots the joke. :)
I hear no fat ladies singing. :lol:


But you haven't spotted the joke either. :)

Tonyblack wrote:I pretty much agree with what you've said, Q - although I'm not a great fan of this book. I think you may have understated the role that Nanny plays in that I believe she engineers many of the events deliberately to get Granny out of a rut that she's in.


Oh, yes. I know about that. It's hard for me to do a laconic synopsis, and yet I forgot about that detail. But yes, Nanny does engineer that, though I am not sure that the whole thing about The Joye of Snacks was merely serendipitous in order to motivate Weatherwax to head to Ankh-Morpork. I think (personally) that Nanny merely took advantage of what happened to get Weatherwax going.

Tonyblack wrote:I also feel sorry for Agnes - she's made a life for herself and plans to use her talents only to have these two interfering busybodies telling her that she's going to be a witch whether she likes it or not. :roll:


But on the other hand, what would she have done if the Witches hadn't come? I get the feeling that either Agnes or Andre would have stumbled upon Salzella's wrongdoings sooner or later, and Agnes would have either been killed, or (more likely) out on her ear.

There's also some interesting speculation on TV Tropesthat I have discovered after I finished the review about why Walter acted so coldly to her at the end. There are two possible reasons:

TV Tropes Wild Mass Guessing page for Maskerade wrote:*At the end of Maskerade, the "new and improved" Walter Plinge seems to coldly reject the talented, smart, but fat and insecure Agnes Nitt in favor of the vapid, tone-deaf but beautiful and slender Christine because the latter has "star quality". While Plinge and his "Phantom" persona do seem to be different people, it always frustrated me to see the once-kindly Walter do that sort of thing. But in retrospect, it's possible that maybe Walter was well aware, or at least realized after his "transformation", that Agnes wasn't really enjoying her life at the Opera, being the Only Sane Man and therefore frequently confused and/or outraged by the behavior of her fellow performers. Therefore, it seems likely that Walter is discouraging Agnes because he knows that she'd be miserable in a Dysfunction Junction like the Ankh-Morpork Opera House. Sort of a platonic version of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.

*On the other hand, it's also true that the Ghost chose Christine over Agnes in the first place, on the grounds that "I can teach you to sing like her, but I cannot teach her to look like you" (but Christine hid under Agnes's bed when she heard the voice, and Agnes did her best Christine impression to get the lessons). The Ghost, unlike Walter, really is a bit of a git. On the third hand, if the "new" Walter is an amalgamation of his two personalities, it's possible he had both motivations at once.



Tonyblack wrote:The Frank Spencer reference is of course the fact that Frank was played by Michael Crawford who was the original Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical.


I saw that while I was writing the review and looking up Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, which was what I once saw what the inspiration was for. :)

BTW, my joke has something to do with Walter Plinge...
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Postby Tonyblack » Thu May 05, 2011 12:39 pm

Christine (in Phantom of the Opera) was originally played by the good looking but talentless Sarah Brightman, who went on to become Mrs Lloyd Webber. I've never understood why people think she's a good singer - she's dreadful! :lol:
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Postby Quatermass » Thu May 05, 2011 12:49 pm

Tonyblack wrote:Christine (in Phantom of the Opera) was originally played by the good looking but talentless Sarah Brightman, who went on to become Mrs Lloyd Webber. I've never understood why people think she's a good singer - she's dreadful! :lol:


Hey, don't ask me, musicals aren't my thing. I have been to exactly two stage musicals (using the term loosely): a pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk with Colin Baker as Fleshcreep (and damn if he can't sing powerfully), and a production of Spamalot. I have heard one or two songs from the Lloyd Webber musicals, but I have never seen one. So I cannot objectively assess Sarah Brightman's ability. I'll take your word for it. :wink:

Speaking of bad singing, you should have seen some of the people that were on a recent episode of Australia's Got Talent. Some of them were...enthusiastic, but let's just say that they make the Christine from Maskerade look talented.

And that reminds me of that funny bit when Agnes is asked to sing like Christine. :lol:
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Postby ChristianBecker » Thu May 05, 2011 6:55 pm

Yet another very fine review.
I agree with most of it and, having read it only recently (got it for christmas), remember clearly that I got quite some laughs out of it.
In another discussion I read on these forums (can't remember which one) someone said that Maskerade was a pure parody book. Well, I don't think so. The choice of Christine for her looks and "star quality" and the often repeated "the show must go on" are, at least for me, clearly harsh criticism of the showbiz and its superficiality.
Nevertheless, Terry achieves to wrap it into an entertaining and immensely funny story.

As for choosing looks over talent, there seems to be hope.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c09h1V4Vnx8
(if you don't like the music mute your speakers, but you should be able to see what I mean around 3:30)

And no, I haven't spotted the joke, (n)either.
On with their heads! I'm the clown prince of fools
if you don't get the joke it's your loss
Love and laughter you see are the new currency
'cause greed's coinage is not worth a toss

Exile yourself to the unforgiving continent of Wraeclast!
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Postby dennykay » Thu May 05, 2011 7:05 pm

Quatermass wrote:And that reminds me of that funny bit when Agnes is asked to sing like Christine. :lol:



ooh, i had forgotten that one!

kwesty!!!! maledetto!!!!


thanks for reminding me of that :)

and a great review, as seems to be usual :)


...but i don't spot the joke either. :oops:
I DETECT...MALIGNITY.
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Postby ChristianBecker » Thu May 05, 2011 7:12 pm

dennykay wrote:
Quatermass wrote:And that reminds me of that funny bit when Agnes is asked to sing like Christine. :lol:



ooh, i had forgotten that one!

kwesty!!!! maledetto!!!!


Oh yeah, that was a great scene!
On with their heads! I'm the clown prince of fools
if you don't get the joke it's your loss
Love and laughter you see are the new currency
'cause greed's coinage is not worth a toss

Exile yourself to the unforgiving continent of Wraeclast!
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Postby Quatermass » Thu May 05, 2011 11:04 pm

Okay, I've given it enough time, and I gave a major clue.

Walter Plinge is a pseudonym used in the theatre, usually by the actors. At the top of the review, I said that I had help from two people, Robin Bland and David Agnew. Now, how many people do you think I would accept help from, so I could write a review?

This is where Robin Bland came from...

And here is the background to his friend and colleague, David Agnew.

:)
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Postby Willem » Fri May 06, 2011 6:03 am

"Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process."
— E. B. White
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Postby Tonyblack » Fri May 06, 2011 6:13 am

:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Postby ChristianBecker » Fri May 06, 2011 6:19 am

Willem wrote:"Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process."
— E. B. White


Well, I can laugh about jokes after they've been explained (if they're good jokes). So my frog survives.
On with their heads! I'm the clown prince of fools
if you don't get the joke it's your loss
Love and laughter you see are the new currency
'cause greed's coinage is not worth a toss

Exile yourself to the unforgiving continent of Wraeclast!
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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 06, 2011 9:37 am

Willem wrote:"Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process."
— E. B. White


Killjoy. :P

Anyway, I still laughed at the mockumentary Who Is David Agnew? even though I knew what the punchline was. Not to mention who the director is credited as: Alan Smithee.

Anyway, it's funny when you read the origin behind the name Robin Bland. :)
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Postby Willem » Fri May 06, 2011 10:06 am

Yeah, a bit harsh, sorry. I've been waiting to use that quote for so long I couldn't resist ;)
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