Terry Pratchett


Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy hosted by Lisa, Imyril, and Jorie. The list of daily prompts can be found here.

One of the main reasons of why I love fantasy are the wonderful unreal locations, the more different from my life, the better. I do also read books set in generic Medieval settings or modern urban cities but I always prefer more exotic locations. Oh, and except for Cogman’s series, all of them are complete.

Amber by Roger Zelazny
First seen in “Nine Princes in Amber”. In this universe, there a just two contrasting real worlds: Amber and Chaos. All other worlds are just reflections of them. So, the people of Amber, more specifically the royal family, can walk anywhere in those other worlds, called the Shadows. The Shadows can be, and are, anything: one world is our modern world, the next a Star Wars type science fiction world. Quite a few are far less developed agrarian worlds. And the characters travel to many of these in just one book. First book: “Nine Princes in Amber”

Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Being a whole world (on the back of a turtle) Discworld, too, has many locations. Perhaps my favorite is the city of Ankh-Morpork which is suspiciously similar to London.
It’s a walled city with the river Ankh running through it. And Pratchett says it so much better:
“A city like Ankh-Morpork was only two meals away from chaos at the best of times.”
“It wasn’t that the city was lawless. It had plenty of laws. It just didn’t offer many opportunities not to break them.”
“Throat took a deep breath of the thick city air. Real air. You would have to go a long way to find air that was realer than Ankh-Morpork air. You could tell just by breathing it that other people had been doing the same thing for thousands of years “
Most Discworld books are stand-alones and they can be read in any order. I love the city watch books (first one: “Guards! Guards!”) and the witches books (first one: “Equal Rites”).

Menzoberranzan by R. A. Salvatore
The vast underground city of the drow, or the dark elves, is led by the Matriarchs of the most powerful families who are also high priestesses of the spider goddess Lolth. They are an evil and cruel race whose city is full of schemers and terrible places.
Not all Drizzt books are set in Menzoberranzan but the Dark Elf trilogy is. It follows Drizzt’s childhood and struggle to escape the city: “Homeland”, “Exile”, and “Sojourn”.

Divine Cities series by Robert Jackson Bennett
In Bennett’s series, divine beings literally lived on the Continent. They influence pretty much everything in the lives of their people. They also enslaved the city without a god to defend it, Saypur. However, 75 years go the people of Saypur rebelled and found a way to killed the divinities. They conquered what was left of the Continent after the divinities died. Now, strange this are happening on the continent again. The series focuses on two cities Bulikov in the first and third book and Voortyashtan in the second book. These are cities where natural laws didn’t apply when their patron gods were alive and when they left, things changed dramatically.
The trilogy is “City of Stairs”, “City of Blades”, and “City of Miracles”.

Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Somewhat reminiscent of Amber, this universe has many, many alternate worlds. They have different levels of technology and they’re also on different scales in the chaos/order spectrum. In chaotic worlds, magic is possible and might even be more prominent than science. Chaos is personified by the Fae and order by dragons. They’re powerful and hostile to each other and the Librarians try to stay neutral between them. The Librarians can travel from world to world using their Library which seems to exist in the middle of the worlds.
The first book is “Invisible Library”.

Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
In this world, dragons are huge and used for aerial combat instead of any sorts of airplanes. The Napoleonic wars are still going strong with lots of dragons on both sides. In England, the Dragon Corps are scorned not just by the other military branches but especially by civilians. Most people thing that dragons are just animals to be used, even though they can talk and are clearly intelligent. The dragon characters are great! Also, different cultures view dragons very differently. For example, in China dragons are hugely respected and they’re part of society, unlike in England.
The first book is “His Majesty’s Dragon” (or “Temeraire” in UK).

Seattle in the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
In this world, Seattle is a walled off-city where only the most desperate people live. The city has been tainted by gas which kills people and animates their bodies. The world around it has also changed, but I really enjoyed the claustrophobic Seattle when our heroine Briar Wilks must descent there, to look for her teenaged son. And added bonus is that Briar is a middle-aged heroine, who are still quite rare in fantasy.
The first book is “Boneshaker”.

Chief inspector Chen series by Liz Williams
While this series is set in the future, it has plenty of fantasy elements. Chen is a police officer in Singapore Three and he gets all the cases which have any supernatural elements. Soon enough, he gets a new partner Zhu Irsh, who is a demon from Chinese Hell. The case takes Chen to Hell. Even though most people don’t seem to really believe it, human souls (or at least the souls which lived and died in the Chinese culture because there are hints that European afterlife is somewhat different) go the Heaven or Hell according to how well the surviving members of the family have dealt with the Celestial and the Hellish bureaucracy. If the right permits are signed and offerings made, a soul should go to Heaven. However, it’s also possible to get special visas for a living human to visit Hell. Chen has one so that he can investigate cases.
The first book is “Snake Agent”.

Of course I must end this piece with one of the most weirdly wonderful fantasy worlds ever:
Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Full whimsy and delight, with a dash of more darker tones, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is deservedly a classic.

Oh dear, reminiscing about all this wonderful series, I now want to reread all of them. And I have such a huge stack of TBR books waiting.

Advertisements

A Discworld novel about Christmas.
Publication year: 1996
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 348
Translator: Marja Sinkkonen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Karisto

The Auditors hire a crazy Assassin Johnathan Teatime to kill Hogfather. Teatime gathers up a band robbers and happily does what he was hired to do.

Every year at the end of the year, Hogfather gets into his sleigh, drawn by hogs, and flies around the world to give gifts to all nice children who have hung their stockings up. But rich kids get more and better gifts than poor kids, and kids get gifts that parents think are appropriate for them. This greatly puzzles the current Hogfather, Death. He and his trusty manservant Albert fly around Discworld in the Hogfather’s sleigh. Meanwhile, Death’s granddaughter Susan is trying to be an ordinary governess to a merchant’s kids (awkward when Susan is a duchess). When she finds out what Death is up to, she gets really angry and starts to investigate what’s happening.

Meanwhile, something stranger than usual is happening in the Unseen University.

This is a book about belief.
Look, it’s great. Go and read it!

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

“YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.”
“So we can believe the big ones?”
“YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.”

“The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.”

(Instead of even trying to review a Pratchett book, I should just post quotes.)

A Discworld novel.
Publication year: 1991
Format: print
Page count: 374
Publisher: Gollanz

Desirata Hollow is a fairy godmother and pretty good at it, too. However, she’s never been good at planning ahead and even though she knows the moment she dies, she isn’t well prepared for it. She leaves her wand and vague instructions to Magrat Garlick in the hopes that the young witch will make a good fairy godmother to at least one young princess, Ella. Desirata also leaves strict instructions for Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax not to interfere, hoping that when they find out, they will help Magrat.

Of course, the three witches are soon riding their broomsticks to the distant Genua with the intension of preventing Ella from marrying the prince. On the way, they realize that someone is making fairy tales to come literally true which isn’t a good thing at all. And more horrifyingly, they encounter foreign foods and customs which infuriate Granny especially. Also, Magrat is able to use the wand to change anything into pumpkins.

Witches abroad focuses on the nature of stories and how they affect people and vice versa. Granny also encounters someone from her past. They also muse about happy endings and how they can’t be forced on people from outside. The story is woven around the Cinderella story but if not inverted, at least turned sideways. Lots of other fairy tales make an appearance, too.

About half of the book is the witches’ journey to Genua and it had some of the funniest scenes in any Discworld book I’ve yet read; Granny taking revenge on some card sharks and Greebo, Nanny’s cat, eating a vampire while the witches are oblivious to the whole thing.

Witches are my favorite Discworld characters and they’re in fine form in this book.

Quotes:
“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”

“The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays.”

“The Yen Buddhists are the richest religious sect in the universe. They hold that the accumulation of money is a great evil and a burden to the soul. They therefore, regardless of personal hazard, see it as their unpleasant duty to acquire as much as possible in order to reduce the risk to innocent people.”

“And the people from the city – not the ones who lived in the big white mansions and went to balls in fine coaches, but the other ones. They were the ones that stories are never about. Stories are not, on the whole, interested in swineherds who remain swineherds and poor and humble shoemakers whose destiny is to die slightly poorer and much humbler.

These people were the ones who made the magical kingdom work, who cooked its meals and swept its floors and carted its nightly soil and were its faces in the crowd and whose wishes and dreams, undemanding as they were, were of no consequence. The invisibles.”

A very entertaining Discworld book.

Publication year: 2007
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Format: print
Page count: 373
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Karisto
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki

A fantasy book about banking, the concept of money, and conmen. If you like other Discworld books you’ll most likely like this one, too. More specifically, if you’ve read Going Postal and liked it, you’ll like this one, too.

Moist von Lipwig is a (former) conman and now a most respectable man, the Postmaster General of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office. However, the Post Office is now running smoothly and Moist is looking for other challenges, such as breaking into his own office in the middle of the night. Of course, he’s no longer a criminal and a conman so he can’t really want to return to his old life. He has just taken to carrying a set of lockpicks and rubber baton for his own protection. Right.

So, when Patrician takes him to Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork, which includes the Royal Mint, and wants him to take over, Moist refuses. However, he meets the current chair Topsy Lavish who is an old woman. She sees right through Moist and still likes him. Her little dog, Mr. Fusspot, likes Moist, too. When Topsy Lavish dies the next night, to his horror Moist finds out that she’s given him her dog – and the dog now owns 51% of the bank, making Moist the actual chairman. So, no matter if he wants it or not, Moist is now the chairman of the dysfunctional bank.

The first thing he notices is that the bank doesn’t actually want many clients, just a few of the most wealthiest ones but definitely not any of the poor (just like some banks right here in Finland. Alas, they aren’t as much fun as Ankh-Morpork banks). Also, the smallest coins are made at a loss by extremely poor people and that people in general don’t trust banks. Additionally, people have started to use stamps as currency.

The bank’s employees are a funny lot, chief among them Mr. Bent who never goes out during the daytime and trusts numbers but never people. The men who work in the Mint are a class in their own. The Lavish family wants Moist removed as soon as possible and the bank returned to its rightful owners: which ever one of them is still standing. Cosmo Lavish thinks that he’s the automatic leader of the family and is trying to become Havelock Vetinari – literally.

A subplot involves Moist’s fiancee Adora Belle Dearheart. She runs the Golem Trust and is trying to dig out some of the very oldest golems from dwarven lands. Also, a greedy man from Moist’s past shows up. With really strange false teeth.

The book’s philosophical ruminations are about money and banking: money, coins, gold don’t have any intricate value to humans, unlike, say air, water, and food, and so the whole money system is in fact imaginary and yet pretty much everyone is enslaved to it.

Making Money is similar to Going Postal (Moist is forced to take over a place and make it better using his quick thinking and conman instincts. Of course, the bank isn’t nearly as run down as the post office was) but I don’t think it’s quite as good, or perhaps I just enjoyed Moist more the first time.

As usual, Making Money has lots of memorable and/or funny lines:
“A weapon you held and didn’t know how to use belonged to your enemy.”
”My late husband always said that the only way to make money out of poor people is by keeping them poor.”

“He sighed. It had come to this. He was a responsible authority, and people could use terms like “core values” at him with impunity. ”

“But what’s worth more than gold?”
”Practically everything. You, for example. Gold is heavy. Your weight in gold is not very much gold at all. Aren’t you worth more than that?”

“Igor?’ said Moist. ‘You have an Igor?’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Hubert. ‘That’s how I get this wonderful light. They know the secret of storing lightning in jars! But don’t let that worry you, Mr Lipspick. Just because I’m employing an Igor and working in a cellar doesn’t mean I’m some sort of madman, ha ha ha!’
‘Ha ha,’ agreed Moist.
‘Ha hah hah!,’ said Hubert. ‘Hahahahahaha!! Ahahahahahahhhhh!!!!!-‘
Bent slapped him on the back. Hubert coughed.
‘Sorry about that, it’s the air down here,’ he mumbled.”

The sixth City Watch book.

Publication year: 2002
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2010
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 392
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Pratchett is a fine form here and this is one of my favorite Discworld books.

Commander Samuel Vimes is a bit scatterbrained because Sybil is giving birth. He’s also hot on the trail of a cold-blooded murderer Carcer. The criminal runs to the Unseen University and the police follows him. Unfortunately, both Vimes and Carcer are drawn into a magical storm and sent to the past. 30 years in the past into a darker Ankh-Morpok. Before Vimes can ask the wizards to help him, he’s arrested for breaking the curfew. He realizes that he can’t let Carcer to stay in the past and make a mess of it. He also hears that the man who should have been there, Sergeant John Keel, has been killed by Carcer. In Vimes’ past, Keel was attacked by local thugs but survived to become young Vimes’ mentor and idol. So, Vimes is in the strange position that he has to teach himself everything he’s ever known about being a copper… He also knows what happened during the Glorious Revolution of the Twenty-Fifth of May and even though he knows on an abstract level that he should let things happen as they did and just try to arrest Carcer, he just can’t let awful things happen. Especially to people he knows and works with. Or will know in the future.

This is one of the darkest Discworld books I’ve read because Pratchett set the book in a city which is led by the insane paranoid lord Winder whose secret police, the Unmentionables, run the city with terror and torture. Pratchett also includes lots of dark themes such as revolutions, rebellion, competence (or lack thereof) of military officers, and morality of people in generals and cops in particular. And phrenology. There are humor and funny lines sprinkled here and there but not as much as in some of his books.

The Night Watch is in terrible form. Taking bribes is business as usual and the Watch men also deliver prisoners to the Unmentionables, without ever having to confront the fact that they are bringing helpless people to torturers. Of course, Vimes has to take over and teach them to be real cops.

Most of the cast is new and those few which are familiar are, in fact, younger versions of themselves: Fred Colon as a young constable, Reg Shoe (before he became a zombie he was an avid revolutionist), Nobby Nobbs (a street urchin), Dibbler just starting out on his vendor career, and Vetinari who is an apprentice assassin. I found this refreshing. The Agony Aunts were especially interesting new characters (or at least new to me).

Especially interesting book for Vimes fans.
“Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that’s who.”

”The Assassin moved quietly from roof to roof until he was well away from the excitement around the Watch House. His movements could be called cat-like, except that he did not stop to spray urine up against things.”

“No! Please! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know!” the man yelled.
“Really?” said Vimes. “What’s the orbital velocity of the moon?”
“What?”
“Oh, you’d like something simpler?”

”People on the side of The People always ended up dissapointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.”

”Raising the flag and singing the anthem are, while somewhat suspicious, not in themselves acts of treason.”

Publication year: 1999
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2009
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 475
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Lord Vetinari needs a diplomat whom he can send to Überwald and he chooses Sir Samuel Vimes, the commander of Ankh-Morphok’s City Watch. Vimes is at first horrified but in the end he has no choice but to agree. Überwald is a huge country and is perhaps most famous for having a lot of dwarfs who don’t like them modern things, such as Ankh-Morphok. The dwarfs are about to enthrone a new Low King and Vimes has to negotiate a new trade deal with him. He takes with him Cheery Littlebottom (a dwarf who has admitted that she’s a woman and dresses accordingly, shocking other dwarfs) and Detrius (a troll).

Meanwhile, strange things are happening in the city (as usual). Apparently someone has stolen the replica of the Scone of Stone from the Dwarf Bread Museum . Also, a man who makes valuable rubber item has been killed.

Because Vimes leaves, Captain Carrot is left in charge. However, soon Carrot receives word that Angua has taken a leave of absence. Carrot suspects that he knows where Angua is going so and wants to follow her. So, he tries to quite the Watch but Vetinari changes it to a vacation. Carrot recruits Gaspode, that talking dog, and the due trails Angua to Überwald. Because Carrot leaves, the Watch now need a new commander. This role falls to Sargent Fred Colon as the senior officer. Unfortunately, Colon isn’t really suited to the task. Hilarity ensues!

This book shows dwarfs’ culture a lot more. They become more three dimensional than just the stereotypes we’ve seen before. Previously, many of the dwarf characters have been just easily the gruff axe wielding, heavily drinking people. Here they even have a religion! It just doesn’t revolve around deities.

To me, this book was divided into two: Vimes’ tale in Überwald isn’t laugh out loud funny but the Ankh-Morpokh tale is. Vimes’ story has a serious story line and ironic characters. I really enjoyed the Igors who are all called Igor and are made up of parts of other people. On the other hand, the werewolves and especially their leader were very serious people. Angua’s and Carrot’s relationship is also at a serious point. But meanwhile back in the city, the acting captain Colon is way out of his depth. Unfortunately (for him and the rest of the Watch, fortunately for us readers) he’s also out of control: he’s paranoid and micromanages everything, a real tyrant.

I really enjoyed this one. Vimes has grown a lot since his first appearance. The Igors were fascinating and one of them has apparently joined the Watch. Cheery is now so comfortable with her femaleness that she goes out in a skirt. Pretty much that only thing I didn’t care for was the tension between Angua and Carrot.

Publication year: 1997
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2007
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 380
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

The sunken city of Leshp rises from the bottom of the sea and it’s exactly halfway between the territories of Ankh-Morpok and Klatch. Of course this leads to conflict between the two nations and in Ankh-Morpok the citizens start to harass Klatchians. Well, more than usually.

In an effort to calm things down, the Klatchian ambassador, Prince Khufura, is taking part in a parade through the streets of Ankh-Morpok. Vimes and Vetinari are afraid that someone will try to assassinate the prince and the city guard tries to prevent this. However, Vimes is ordered to lead the parade, despite his strong objections. So, Vimes puts on his best clothes and starts the parade. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, he’s used to patrolling the city streets in a particular way. So, he slows down his pace and starts to twirl his stick while his mind works on problems and is trying to spot anything unusual. When he spots a suspected assassin, he starts to run – with the rest of the parade following.

The assassin only wounds the prince and is found dead, supposedly fallen from a great height after the shot. Many people are quick to dismiss the assassin as a lone looney but Vimes isn’t convinced. He assigns Corporal Nobby and Sergeant Colon to investigate the supposed assassin, and assigns Carrot and Angua to investigate the assassination, secretly. Vimes also investigates it himself. He strongly suspects that a group of Ankh-Morpok’s nobility is involved but he can’t deny that there are shady characters among the Klatchians, too. Then, war is declared and Ankh-Morpok’s nobility welcome is enthusiastically and start to recruit.

Jingo is another Discworld book with a strong theme of tolerance. People from both nations are shown to be quite similar in character despite the differences in clothes and foods. This is especially clear in the short snippets about two rival fishermen, Solid Jackson and Greasy Arif, who are trying to claim the new island for their own country, thoroughly embarrassing their sons in the process. The Ankh-Morpokian nobility is shown as idiots who have no idea how a war is really conducted but cling to out dated notions and romantic ideals read in books, and in the meantime costing real men their lives. Meanwhile, Klatchians have been waging war all the time and are better armed, too. There’s also a hilarious subplot where Nobby gets in touch with his inner, er, femininity.

I think this book is more satire than jokes than the previous ones I’ve read from him. (Just an observation, not a complaint.) It ridicules just about every aspect of military conflict from the excuses to have a conflict to the butler who suddenly is a very competent soldier. However, I think the characters were more archetypal than usual. Lord Rust has especially lost any contact with the real world and sunken to new heights of stupidity. Then again, I really enjoyed Nobby’s and Colon’s attempt at undercover work and Carrot was hilarious as well. There really seems to be some sort of pacifying magic around Carrot.

Quotes:
“It was much better to imagine men in some smokey room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told the children bed time stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, then what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”

“They represented what people called the “international community.” And like all uses of the word “community,” you were never quite sure what or who it was.”

“Fortune favours the brave, sir,” said Carrot cheerfully.
“Good. Good. Pleased to hear it, captain. What is her position vis a vis heavily armed, well prepared and excessively manned armies?”
“Oh, no–one’s ever heard of Fortune favouring them, sir.”
“According to General Tacticus, it’s because they favour themselves,” said Vimes.

Next Page »