Discworld marathon blog...

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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 06, 2011 11:36 pm

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


I know that feeling. I usually don't wait, though. I create my own situation to use something like that. :)
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Postby Quatermass » Sat May 07, 2011 11:10 am

REVIEW: Feet of Clay


With each Watch book so far, we have seen a progression from the Watch being a joke to a competent police force. It is at this point that the Watch 'family', such that it is, becomes complete, and it is here that we also see the true format for the Watch books to come...

Two murders have taken place, and the Watch soon learn that golems are involved. Lord Vetinari has been taken ill, and there is already talk of replacing him. Sir Samuel Vimes has been denied a coat of arms because his ancestor executed the last King of Ankh-Morpork, but for some reason, Corporal Nobbs is the Earl of Ankh. With forensic alchemist dwarf Cheery Littlebottom joining the Watch, Angua feeling pre-lunar tension, and plots in the air, the Watch will have its work cut out for them to solve the mystery. Between kings of flesh and clay, strange revolutions afoot, and a poisoning that isn't a murder, can Vimes find out who is behind it all?

While Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms were Watch books, I think that Feet of Clay sets out the formula for the books to come. In other words, the first two Watch books merely set the scene. Feet of Clay is the real beginning of the full-blown holiday for the City Watch, to use Pratchett's metaphor. While newcomer Cheery Littlebottom finds his (or her, as it turns out) feet, Vimes, Carrot, Angua, Detritus, Colon and Nobby are all well established and are used in various ways. None of them are wasted, with every one of them given something to do.

This is a story where the character development goes hand in hand with the storyline. Angua and Cheery's rapport and potential conflict (given that Cheery detests werewolves), Angua's anxiety about staying with Carrot given her nature, Vimes struggling against both his inner doubt and his inner darkness (was it here that he created his inner Watchman, or back in Men at Arms?), and the whole process of discovering how Vetinari is being poisoned. And then, the whole business of Nobbs being manipulated into being a potential king for Ankh Morpork, and the golems' own little secret, with Dorfl being an interesting character, especially towards the end.

One of the things about the Watch books is that they give a strong feeling of culture and historical depth to Ankh Morpork, and thus to the Discworld novels in general. They make the city feel like it really grew, instead of being slapped together out of cliches. And the characters, while at times based on stereotypes, are either entertaining, or have true depth. Carrot, Vimes, and Angua are perhaps the most human and complex characters in the Watch. Vimes, in particular, gets some very strong defining moments, the strongest of which, I feel, is when he goes back to the neighbourhood that he grew up in, and his reaction to what happens there.

The storyline itself is interesting, in that it follows two apparently unrelated main plotlines that nevertheless, albeit by pure (but not unbelieveable) coincidence, coincide. We have the golems and what they have brought upon Ankh Morpork, and the poisoning of the Patrician. As I said, they are linked merely by coincidence, but it is not unbelievable at all, or at least doesn't feel that way in a series set on a world on the back of a turtle!

There are only two weaknesses to this story that I can tell. The first is that I agree with TV Tropes' assessment. This is not a whodunnit as much as a howdunnit, and it would have been far more surprising had the character involved turned out not to be the villain. The second is a continuity error involving Cheery not knowing about golems, and yet seeing one back in Quirm. Go figure.

This is pretty much as close as a Watch book will come to perfection. Even if some of the references aren't noticed, Feet of Clay is a rollicking good read, enjoyable and exciting from beginning to end.

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Postby Quatermass » Sun May 08, 2011 1:50 am

What, no comments, yet? :(

I'm already a third of the way through Hogfather...
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun May 08, 2011 6:10 am

I've not got too much to say I'm afraid. It's too long since I last read feet of Clay - although I shall be reading it very soon as the next discussion is on Feet of Clay, starting on June 6th.

But at the moment I'm having a job remembering much about it. :?
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Postby The Mad Collector » Sun May 08, 2011 6:14 am

Quatermass wrote:What, no comments, yet? :(

I'm already a third of the way through Hogfather...


I think the board is playing up. I was on here yesterday evening and this thread wasn't showing as updated then, I just picked it up this morning when I logged on.

Good review Q, I agree this is a turning point book where we learn more about the city and the focus moves away from the Watch themselves. Good strong characters appear or settle down to the way we are now used to them and the plot is good and handled well.

I hadn't heard the description of it as a howdunit before, but yes that fits it well. In that way it is more an Inspector Morse than a normal detective story style as in some of those it is more a case of how Morse solves the problem than who did it.

The de Nobbs story line leads to some of the funniest passages written by Terry for a while and the idea of a fireproof aethist is a nice twist right at the end.

It's a book I really like re-reading or listening to and this has prompted me to get it back off the shelf again.

Thanks Q.
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Postby Tonyblack » Sun May 08, 2011 6:21 am

I think the technical term for this type of mystery is a 'locked room mystery' and is a sub genre of whodunits. :)
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Postby Quatermass » Sun May 08, 2011 10:27 am

The Mad Collector wrote:
Quatermass wrote:What, no comments, yet? :(

I'm already a third of the way through Hogfather...


I think the board is playing up. I was on here yesterday evening and this thread wasn't showing as updated then, I just picked it up this morning when I logged on.

Good review Q, I agree this is a turning point book where we learn more about the city and the focus moves away from the Watch themselves. Good strong characters appear or settle down to the way we are now used to them and the plot is good and handled well.

I hadn't heard the description of it as a howdunit before, but yes that fits it well. In that way it is more an Inspector Morse than a normal detective story style as in some of those it is more a case of how Morse solves the problem than who did it.

The de Nobbs story line leads to some of the funniest passages written by Terry for a while and the idea of a fireproof aethist is a nice twist right at the end.

It's a book I really like re-reading or listening to and this has prompted me to get it back off the shelf again.

Thanks Q.



Hmm. I've actually read the first Morse book, Last Bus to Woodstock, and I didn't get that impression at all, although I found that book to be a little boring. Most mystery books don't get me, although Frost at Christmas, The Killings at Badger's Drift, and Hound of the Baskervilles were all good.

Not sure that I agree about the focus moving away from the Watch themselves, but rather, they feel more of a piece with the city.

Thanks for the comments. :)


Tonyblack wrote:I think the technical term for this type of mystery is a 'locked room mystery' and is a sub genre of whodunits. :)


Hmmm...maybe. But I'm not as much a fan of mysteries, so I don't get as much of the connection.

BTW, I forgot to mention, the second weakness of Feet of Clay was not the continuity error. I forgot what the second weakness was at the time, and tried to find something to fill the gap. No, the problem was with Constable Visit. I know that technically he is meant to be irritating (after all, he's the Discworld equivalent of a door-to-door proselytiser), but he gets on my nerves very quickly. That's not hard, though, given my misotheism. :roll:
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Postby Dotsie » Sun May 08, 2011 11:03 am

I really like Feet of Clay, although it makes me feel sick when the golems are being smashed by mobs. Dorfl pathetically trying to piece his slate back together made me choke up a bit :(

I didn't spot the continuity eror you mention, although I did spot the one regarding the matches - the broken piece found by Angua has Dorfl's slaughterhouse smell on it (all the whole matches smell like different trades), but at the watch house he's still holding his broken match. But as for the weaknesses, I don't necessarily think they were. Whodunnits imply some sort of criminal mastermind who elludes detection, but that wouldn't have been the case here. I think Whydunnit would be a better description, because unltimately the golem plotline is about the freeing of slaves, rather than a murder mystery.
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Postby The Mad Collector » Sun May 08, 2011 11:25 am

I was thinking more of the TV series rather than the Morse books which are quite different. Lewis is approaching retirement in the books for instance :) the structure of the stories in the TV series is also different.
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Postby ChristianBecker » Sun May 08, 2011 3:32 pm

Feet of Clay is one of my favourite books. It was the first "criminal" story by Pratchett that I read (me being not a huge fan of this genre), and it gripped me immediately.
Then again, like in so many of Terry's books, there is not only the entertaining story but also something deeper, in this case the freeing of slaves/ golems.
Well, there's a discussion of FoC coming up in June and I didn't manage to reread it, yet, so I won't write more here.

Nice review, again, Quatermass. Now I really have to strain myself to get an introduction for next month's discussion that isn't too shabby in comparison to yours.
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Postby pip » Mon May 09, 2011 8:25 am

Right. Back from holidays . I'll have a read of these when i get a chance Q. :D
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Postby author3 » Mon May 09, 2011 7:02 pm

Well since this week just started I've finished 1 book
But from 7 days ago I've read
I Shall Were Midnight
Soul Music and Wintersmith
and at the moment I'm reading Maskerade
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Postby Quatermass » Wed May 11, 2011 6:01 am

Well, I'm over halfway through Hogfather, but I don't think I'm going to finish it on time. My motivation for the blog's gone down the crapper. We'll play it by ear, and then, if that's the case, well... :?
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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 13, 2011 5:33 am

REVIEW: Hogfather


Going through the Pratchett books again is a revelation. While I would have put Reaper Man as my all time favourite book of the Discworld series initially, upon coming back to Hogfather, I feel that I have to reassess this viewpoint. Hogfather, I feel, is the magnum opus of the Discworld series...

Shortly before the Christmas-like festival of Hogswatch, the Auditors of Reality hire the unconventional Assassin Jonathan Teatime to kill the Hogfather. And Teatime, in order to carry out his twisted plan, goes to a place where Death cannot follow. But Death, determined to thwart the Auditors, begins imitating the now vanished Hogfather, and manipulates his granddaughter, Susan, now a governess, into stopping Teatime. While Susan teams up with the wizards of Unseen University and a newly embodied Oh God of Hangovers, Death struggles to find the true meaning of Hogswatch. But can the Hogfather be saved? What does this have to do with the Tooth Fairy and why she collects teeth? And will the sun really fail to rise again if Teatime isn't stopped? The longest night of the year may turn out to be the Discworld's last...

Once, Hogfather was issued in a trilogy omnibus along with Pyramids and Small Gods. And to a degree, this is actually a logical progression, as Hogfather is a continuation of concepts explored, particularly in Small Gods, about how belief makes us human. It has a significantly high amount of intriguing concepts, including one that people rarely ask, which is why the Tooth Fairy collects teeth?

The story, then, is a collection of themes explored strongly. About childhood and belief, if not in gods, then in the imaginary that progresses to concepts like truth and justice. We also have an exploration of why Christmas turned out like it is. And despite the high concepts, this is also a very entertaining book, even though at times, especially when it comes to Teatime (who insists that he be called Teh-ah-tim-eh), it is also a very dark one. There is quite some funny sequences, mostly revolving around Death's mission to imitate the Hogfather, but also there are still some bits around Susan and her new companion Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers. This book manages to get in almost the kitchen sink without appearing cluttered.

The characters, too, are all interesting, with very little wastage. Teatime is a delightful nemesis, even if his near-invincibility gets tiresome after a while, and his cronies are also entertaining, with what happens to Banjo Lilywhite a surprising but delightful revelation. Bilious is a marvellous concept as a character, and is developed decently enough. Recurring regulars are also well done, with Death at his best as he tries to come to term with Hogswatch, and a grown-up Susan showing why she is probably on a par with Granny Weatherwax in sheer badarse nature. In fact, the only complaint I have about the book is the fact that she seems to detest her grandfather and her relation to him a bit too much after what happens in Soul Music. However, her retort to Teatime's assertion that he's in touch with his inner child ('Hi! I'm the inner babysitter!') is easily Susan's crowning moment in the novel, if not the series.

I cannot find any major fault with Hogfather. It is a story that masterfully weaves a festive story with high concepts about belief and childhood and is easily Pratchett's best ever book, balancing entertainment with things to make you think. This is Pratchett's philosophical magnum opus, and is a must have on any shelf.


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Postby Tonyblack » Fri May 13, 2011 6:08 am

There are some concepts in Hogfather that I found particularly interesting - especially the origins of Hogswatch as they parallel our own origins of Christmas - or more exactly, the Midwinter traditions. In ancient times there must have been a real fear that spring would never return. How many of us feel miserable at that time of year when there is little greenery, cold weather and few fresh food items to be had? It's no wonder that people took what greenery there was into their homes and celebrated the fact that the days were starting to lengthen again. That's the times when gods are created - when things seem to be almost hopeless and the promise of spring is a far way off.

In many ways it's more a book about folklore and history than religion. On our world it's a powerful time for beliefs and it's no wonder that the old Pagan celebrations got somewhat hijacked by Christian beliefs.

Even the toothfairy harks back to a time when people burned there discarded fingernail cuttings and hair - they certainly would have kept their children's teeth safe so that no magic could be used against them.

An interesting review, Q. :)
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