Discworld marathon blog...

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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 13, 2011 8:49 am

Tonyblack wrote: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. :)


Hmm. I wished I could have put more into it, but Hogfather was simply better than Reaper Man and Small Gods. It just needs repeated reading in order to understand the plot better. But I reckon that this is Terry Pratchett's magnum opus. It's easy to see, in retrospect, why Sky chose to adapt this story.

Speaking of the adaptation, I know that some people object to Marc Warren giving Teatime the 'Willy Wonka sing-song' voice, but I actually found it hard to read Hogfather without hearing that voice again. And to be honest, it actually does fit, as Teatime is basically a brilliant and psychopathic manchild.

I've often said that Atlas Shrugged is a piece of shit, and that it being a so-called philosophical novel is no excuse. I feel that Hogfather is what Atlas Shrugged should have been like, in terms of balancing entertainment with actual high concept.
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Postby pip » Fri May 13, 2011 8:54 am

Is it strange that i can only read Hogfather close to christmas :roll:
I like the book and really enjoy the interactions between Death and Susan.
Terrys grasp on the concepts and origins of myths is amazing. He also develops the idea of belief in an amazingly interesting way. :D
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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 13, 2011 9:13 am

pip wrote:I like the book and really enjoy the interactions between Death and Susan.
Terrys grasp on the concepts and origins of myths is amazing. He also develops the idea of belief in an amazingly interesting way. :D


Agreed. It takes things in a different direction, albeit only to a degree, than Small Gods, and that bit about why the Tooth Fairy takes the teeth is probably one of the biggest instances of what TV Tropes call 'fridge brilliance' in the history of writing.

Speaking of which, that whole speech that Death makes about humans making up, or rather, needing to believe in things like justice and truth reminded me of a line from the Doctor Who telemovie, where the Doctor remarks at one point that humans 'see patterns in things that aren't there'. The context is different, but there is something in that that is related to the need for a story to be there, even when the substance may not be.
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Postby pip » Fri May 13, 2011 9:26 am

Kind of like the whole Opium of the people idea from Marx
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Postby Quatermass » Fri May 13, 2011 9:29 am

pip wrote:Kind of like the whole Opium of the people idea from Marx


Except that we need this opiate to even function. I mean, I'm mostly off what he considers to be the opiate of the people, and I am functionally knurd most of the time. I may not seem like it, but I am very knurd.

I think it's because, as we have the brain power, we build up the framework of life and society to keep us from going mental.
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Postby pip » Fri May 13, 2011 9:35 am

lots of little lies to protect us from the big truths :D Always liked that idea in the books . :D
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Postby dennykay » Fri May 13, 2011 2:52 pm

one thing always bugged me about hogfater (which is a bloody brilliant book imo!): Albert is gone from discworld for, say, 2000 years, do i remember correctly? so how can he remember hogswatch and filled stockings as a child (that pink sugar piglet! :) ), when later in the book it's stated by the raven that the hogfather has changed over time and says something like "a thousand years ago he didn't fill socks, people probably even didn't know about socks then" or something to that effect.

and look back in flat-world history, 2000 years ago. chestnuts roasting on an open fire? maybe, but not for christmas :p

but it's a very minor 'bug' in an otherwise brilliant book.
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Postby Quatermass » Sat May 14, 2011 8:09 am

I'm about a third of the way through Jingo. Might have it done in a few days.

I will reiterate my intentions, however, to suspend this blog after reading either The Last Continent or Carpe Jugulum. Assuming I don't lose the motivation beforehand... :?
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Postby Quatermass » Sun May 15, 2011 11:27 am

REVIEW: Jingo


I detest patriotism, and especially that breed of patriotism called jingoism. It's a special kind of stupid that does to people's brains what religion and alcohol does, instilling a kind of confidence that can be fatal. So a Discworld book that lampoons jingoism, amongst so many other things that are ridiculous and yet so integral to the world, would be right up my alley, right?

The tensions between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch begin to rise along with an ancient sunken island, Leshp. Anti-Klatchian sentiment in Ankh-Morpork coincides with a visit by a Klatchian emissary, whom Vimes and the Watch are meant to protect. After an assassination attempt gone wrong and misleading clues everywhere, Vimes struggles to find the truth. But with the upper class of Ankh-Morpork determined to go to war, no matter what the cost, the Watch will have a hard time keeping the peace, especially when they are disbanded. Vimes considers war itself to be a crime, but could he arrest an entire army for breaching the peace?

I have to confess, after the novelty of Guards! Guards! and the interesting mysteries of Men at Arms and Feet of Clay, Jingo appears to be the weakest of the Watch books. Not by much, mind, given the very common themes of racism and jingoism that are examined, deconstructed, and lampooned very thoroughly, but the assassination attempt seems to be more like an excuse for Vimes and the Watch to (eventually) end up in Klatch. This is one of the few novels where the beginning seems to become irrelevant later on, even though it proves to be a later vital part of the plot.

The Watch characters, including newcomer Reg Shoe, are mostly given something to do, although Cheery Littlebottom and Dorfl, after their debut in the previous Watch book, are not given as much, unfortunately. Of particular note, however, are Vimes, Colon, and Nobby, who are all given substantial adventures and character development. The new characters vary. The two assassins are one-joke wonders, and the fishermen from Ankh-Morpork and Klatch who settle on Leshp and spend all of the book bickering with each other and embarassing their children are annoying to the extreme. So is Lord Rust, who makes me want to rip his face off. However, 71-Hour Ahmed is a brillaintly devised character and wonderful foil and contrast to Vimes, and the Klatchian restaurant-owning Gorriff family adds very human faces to a dangerous situation. Vetinari has one of his most brilliant gambits yet, and Leonard of Quirm makes a welcome reappearance in a more substantial role.

The storyline itself, however, while addressing many issues, does have a rather shaky beginning. The depiction of anti-Klatchian sentiment is handled excellently and sensitively, but the assassination itself seems to be a contrivance to drive the plot forward even more than the rise of Leshp. Once Lord Rust takes over, however, things start to cohere more and become a little more interesting. And the concept of Vimes trying to arrest the leaders of an army for disturbing the peace is both funny and somehow very satisfying, even if parts of the plot resolution regarding the assassination doesn't sit right.

Jingo is a good Discworld book, but parts of it doesn't quite sit right. It feels vaguely unpolished in places. While above average, it sits at the lower edge of this above average part of the scale. That being said, it's still a rollicking good yarn, and a good aesop on war and race that many people, including many who run the world today, should take to heart.



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Postby The Mad Collector » Sun May 15, 2011 3:40 pm

Jingo is one of my favourite Discworld books, partly due to the building up of Carrot as Lawrence of Arabia, clearly based on both the David Lean film and to a lesser extent Lawrence's own writings. This is a historical period I know well and also a geography I know having made my own trip round the Crusader castles of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon following Lawrence on his route. Once they are in Klatch it feels familiar and my mental picture of what this must look like fits well with the narrative. That this 'feels' right is a tribute to how well this book works.

Taking Vimes out of his city and therefore his comfort zone and seeing how he reacts is interesting. Vetinari is also shown to be the consumate politician / diplomat capable of controlling the situation regardless of what may be needed.

Maybe a book that is particularly good for those interested in the geopolitics of the Middle East and where the subtle references (which are so important in all of Terry's books) are more easily missed by those who don't know this area well. This is probably the reason why I don't rate Moving Pictures, I just don't get the references so miss a lot of the point of some plot lines.
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Postby pip » Mon May 16, 2011 8:37 am

Love Jingo. The trouser leg of time scenario is one of my favourite bits in discworld. The disorganiser listing off what would have happened if they had stayed in the city is brilliant . The whole things to do today - Die is chilling and funny at the same time.
Agree its unpolished in parts but this gives a bit of charm to it. Also Vetinari close to his finest in this book. :D
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Postby DaveC » Mon May 16, 2011 9:06 am

The Mad Collector wrote:Maybe a book that is particularly good for those interested in the geopolitics of the Middle East and where the subtle references (which are so important in all of Terry's books) are more easily missed by those who don't know this area well. This is probably the reason why I don't rate Moving Pictures, I just don't get the references so miss a lot of the point of some plot lines.


Being a film buff, this is probably why I enjoy Moving Pictures a lot, not sure if I got many of the more obscure references in Jingo.
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Postby Quatermass » Mon May 16, 2011 11:33 pm

I have to confess that I was less impressed by Jingo than by any other Watch book preceding it. It's still a very good book, but I was left wanting, especially at the start. The plot twist of 71-Hour Ahmed not only being a policeman, but an Assassin trained in Ankh-Morpork was a very good one, though.

I'm about a third of the way through The Last Continent. Either that, or Carpe Jugulum, will be the last book for this particular run of the marathon blog.
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Postby Quatermass » Tue May 17, 2011 11:51 am

REVIEW: The Last Continent


Being an Australian, one would think that The Last Continent was well suited to me. When I first read it, I wasn't as impressed as maybe I should have been. So, coming back to it years later, is there any improvement?

The Librarian of Unseen University is suffering from a cold that is affecting his morphic field (and thus, his shape), and the only possible cure seems to be to learn his original name. Unfortunately, the only person known to have this information is Rincewind, who was stranded on Fourecks. And Rincewind has his own troubles. After all, he has been selected by the creator of Fourecks to save the dying land, and Rincewind knows that it'll mean an adventure he doesn't want to take part in. But he doesn't have a choice. The wizards of Unseen University, meanwhile, inadvertently trap themselves in the past while trying to track down a way to Fourecks. But are they alone on Mono Island? Who is watching them? And will Rincewind be able to avoid adventure and survive on a continent where the only harmless creatures are some of the sheep?

Let's be absolutely blunt. The Last Continent has only so much plot. There is Rincewind's efforts to avoid the quest given to him by Scrappy, the trickster agent of the Fourecks Creator, in an almost standard Rincewind travelogue format. And there is the wizards ending up on Mono Island after a failed attempt to find the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography. And many of the incidental characters in the Fourecks plot are one-shot wonders.

And yet...that doesn't seem to matter. It as if every Rincewind book up to this point was merely practise for this story. It is hugely and immensely entertaining, pulling one along for the ride. Maybe I am prejudiced because I'm Australian, and this is a book about Australia, despite the disclaimer at the front of the book. But The Last Continent engrossed me from beginning to end this time around.

The Wizards storyline was the one that looked perhaps most in-depth into certain themes, specifically evolution and intelligent design. The God of Evolution is a wonderful creation who manages to lampoon the creationistic spin some people put on evolution, and we get quite a bit of character development of a number of the faculty. The Bursar shows that there is more beneath that mad facade than meets the eye, and Ponder Stibbons gets a great time to shine when he finally lets fly his frustrations at the faculty. We also have a hilarious infatuation that the Senior Wrangler has for Unseen University housekeeper Mrs Whitlow.

The Fourecks side of the story is closer to a traditional Rincewind plot, but somehow, it feels like this is where Rincewind needs to be, in a place where virtually everything is trying to kill him. While his storyline is little more than a farce that is being manipulated by Scrappy (himself an interesting creation, along with the Creator of Fourecks) so that he can save Fourecks, it is hugely entertaining nonetheless, with some surprisingly insightful and wry commentary on some of Australia's more unique aspects. Like, say, our tendency to make our criminals heroes, or the more unusual culinary treats (Rincewind even managing to invent Vegemite at one point).

The references seem to be made for people whose perception of Australia comes mostly from TV and film, rather than those who live there. This isn't a bad thing, per se, but I haven't actually watched Mad Max, Skippy, or all of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But there's a few more obscure references (at least to those living outside Australia) to, say, The Man From Snowy River and Click Go The Shears, Boys (and please don't get mad at me if you've heard of these in the UK and the US, and I have made a faulty assumption. Again).

Overall, The Last Continent, being the last actual Rincewind story, is the best of the lot. It's at the lower end of the excellent spectrum, given the faults mentioned before, but it is still one of the best and most entertaining Discworld books yet.


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Postby Quatermass » Wed May 18, 2011 11:14 pm

No comments? Well, in any case, it may be a moot point soon anyway. I'm not sure whether I can muster up the motivation to read Carpe Jugulum.
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