Category Archives: Science Fiction

Kirstein, Rosemary: Steerswoman

The Steerswoman's roadI have one complaint about the series – Where is the next book????? My goodness, this series was riveting. Kirstein needs to keep on writing – well, actually, in all selfishness, I need her to keep on writing. I think this was my third read-through and I was still captured by the writing and held prisoner until the end.

THE STEERSWOMAN’S ROAD (2003)

Rosemary Kirstein Steerswoman’Road is an omnibus containing The Steerswoman and The Outskirter’s Secret. In it Kirstein tells the story of the friendship between Rowan, the Steerswoman, and Bel, the Outskirter. Rowan and Bel meet right at the beginning while they are both about their own business. Bel has been travelling with other Outskirters and Rowan has been investigating strange blue jewels that are neither cut nor dug up.

Steerswoman are men and women who travel around the land asking questions and answering them. One must tell the true answer to any question and the Steerswomen must also do so. If one refuses to answer a Steerswoman, they can ban you. That means that no matter what the question you ask is, they will not answer it. Strange rule, but as knowledge is their whole purpose perhaps not.

Rowan’s questions about the jewels seem to have stirred up interest from the wrong parties. Thankfully, she and Bel have decided to travel together for a while because the next day brings an attack. From that point on there is tension, action, betrayal, discovery, friendships and travel. In fact, Rowan’s search for the truth of these blue jewels brings her into the Outskirts.

The Outskirter is about this part of her journey of discovery, and The Outskirter is just as exciting as The Steerswoman. The Outskirters are nomads who live at the border of where people can actually survive. Every day for them is about destroying and seeding the land so humans can live there. Steerswomen are unfamiliar territory to the Outskirters, yet Rowan manages to gain their trust and help them in her own way. The importance of her work becomes clearer and clearer as the role of the wizards in the attacks on Rowan begins to make a strange sort of sense. Rowan is also beginning to realize that perhaps wizards aren’t quite as wizardly as she had thought.

We as readers should have started realizing this long ago. What does not make sense to Rowan and the regular citizens of both the Outskirts and the Inland does to us. This is a science fiction series that to begin with might seem to be a fantasy one. Quite a few science fiction books are like that. The meeting between different sorts of technologic knowledge can, after all, make it seem like magic is afoot. Pressing a button on the wall to make light in the ceiling is pretty magical if you ask me – and I know how it all happens.

The Lost SteersmanTHE LOST STEERSMAN (2003) – 2004 Locus Science Fiction Award Nominee

Rowan and Bel have parted ways (on friendly terms). Bel is in the Outskirts spreading the bad news, and Rowan has ended up at the Annex in the town of Alameth looking for more information about Slado and the wizards. The Annex is a mess. Mira, the last Steerswoman living there, had not cared one whit about her duties. She was tired of being a Steerswoman and left everything a mess when she died. Now Rowan has to try to find desperately needed information in this chaos. On top of that the townspeople have problems accepting Rowan because she is so different from Mira.

When Rowan meets Janus, a Steersman who resigned the job and was considered lost, she is happy and confused. He was one of her oldest friends and Rowan finds the ban on him difficult in their conversations. After a while, Rowan begins to suspect that things are quite complicated with Janus.

The Lost Steersman is every bit as suspenseful as The Steerswoman’s Road. Kirstein keeps the standard of her writing amazingly high. It goes against the grain, but I think I’m going to put her along with Pratchett. Their styles are completely different. However, they both manage to involve me as a reader in some very serious topics with skills beyond anything I could aspire to.

The Language of Power THE LANGUAGE OF POWER (2004) – 2005 Locus Science Fiction Award Nominee

Rowan and Bel are once again together in their adventures. The Outskirts have been warned and Rowan is finally beginning to get somewhere in her search for the answers to Slade. All roads lead to Rome, it is said. In the Inlands, all roads seem to lead to Donner. To Donner Rowan and Bel go and there they unexpectedly meet Will – our lovable wanna-be apprentice – from the first book.

Will is on the run from Corvus, trying to hide in Donner and looking for revenge on the wizards. Rowan and Bel are overjoyed at meeting their old friend and seek to help him in his quest. But, as would be expected from an adventure novel, things never turn out as one would wish. Will is surprised at Rowan’s grasp of “magic”. Because he knows so much more about science than she, he tends to be a bit overbearing with her. Just because she doesn’t have the background Will has, certainly does not mean that she is without the ability to infer and deduce. After all, her whole life has been about the quest for knowledge – a true addict.

Unfortunately the next book in this series has not come out yet. Aaaargh. Please, Kirstein! We need the next installment! I love the intelligence and wit of Rosemary Kirstein. She actually expects me as a reader to think and doesn’t divert my attention with loads of sex and violence. Sex and violence can be fun, but this is sooooo much more thrilling.

Pratchett, Terry: Strata (1981)

Cover by Josh Kirby

Kin Karad works for the Company. Her job is to oversee the creation of planets. Some of the workers like to play jokes on future inhabitants. The one she has discovered this time is a plesiosaur in the wrong stratum holding a placard reading “End Nuclear Testing Now”. While she is impressed with the inventiveness of the culprit, Kin is getting tired of her life. It has been a long one.

Then she meets a mysterious person who invites her on a journey. Kin Karad decides to go and when she gets to the spaceship she discovers that she is alone, but will be picking up two companions – a kung called Marco Farfarer, and Silver the Shandi. They are told that they will be going to a flat world.

The spaceship takes off and off they go on their adventure.

Strata precedes Pratchett’s Discworld series, but we clearly see how the foundations are laid for the later series. Kin Karad and her fellow explorers are fun characters with clearly defined personalities. Plays on words and concepts are obvious from the first pages. Pratchett was a pretty good author even back in his early days.

Herbert, Frank: The Dosadi Experiment (1977)

“The Dosadi Experiment” by Robert Laftont

Nominated for a Locus Award for best science fiction novel in 1978

The Dosadi Experiment takes place in the same universe as The Whipping Star, but can be read on its own.

I dipped my toes into the waters of Frank Herbert’s writing with The Dosadi Experiment. It’s been ages and ages, back in the days of the dinosaurs, so I cannot really remember what I thought, but it must have been positive because I kept on exploring Herbert’s world. I reread The Dosadi Experiment from time to time, and each time I discover new bits to love. As I change, so does my understanding of The Dosadi Experiment, and that is a sign of a classic to me.

The ConSentiency is composed of many species who have different abilities. The Taprisiots provide instant mind-to-mind communication between two minds anywhere in the universe. The Caleban provide instantaneous travel between any two points in the universe.

Our extremely intelligent and empathic Saboteur Extraordinary, Jorj X. McKie, gets an assignment that he soon discovers is probably a set-up. He is sent by the agency to Dosadi as their “best”. Compared to those already living on Dosadi, he was like an infant in swaddling clothes.

What he discovers on Dosadi is shocking in its blatant disregard of any and all ConSentiency regulation. Dosadi has been placed behind an impenetrable barrier called “The God Wall”. Humans and Gowachin have been dumped together in numbers that defy description. The planet itself is poisonous except for a narrow valley, containing the city “Chu”, containing nearly 89 million citizens.

Senior Liator Kaila Jedrik starts a war and Jorj becomes a pawn in her hope of saving the population of Dosadi.

Herbert, Frank: Hellstrom’s Hive (1973)

Hellstromshive
Cover by David K. Stone

Isn’t this cover cool. It pretty much says it all. Frank Herbert had the ability to write scary future scenarios while making them seem completely believable. Maybe someone is actually out there doing something like this at the moment. I wouldn’t put it past someone with a Mengele mindset.

DNA and selective breeding is an interesting topic. How far can you go, and still be human? Is being human as we know them actually desirable?

Hellstrom’s Hive takes us to a US that has become a police state. There really isn’t room for diversity and the government is rather paranoid. Of course, there is an ultra-secretive agency that looks for threats. They intercept schematics for something that looks like a dangerous weapon system. When they begin to suspect insect specialist and film-maker Nils Hellstrom, agents are sent to his remote and secluded farm compound where most of his insect films are being produced.

I’d never thought of selective breeding being used this way. In one sense it makes sense – just look at all of the weird breeds of dog that we have. In another sense, the thought is rather frightening. Frank Herbert has the ability to make me believe the scenarios he presents. What a gift.

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Review: Swords & Stitchery

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Winner of the 1978 Prix Tour-Apollo

Schmitz, James H.: Eternal Frontier (1952-1974)

Eternal FrontierThis is a collection of short works, written between the 40s and the 70s. As usual in Schmitz’ short story collections a novel has been included. These are all non-Hub, non-Vega, non-Karres stories. Some are even not Science Fiction. Quite a few of them are dark, in the sense that they reveal a lot about the human condition.

TIME AND SPACE

The Big Terrarium (1957): What would you do if you were the one caught in a cage in a zoo? This is the exact situation Fred and Marta Niedheim find themselves in when they, their farm and a tramp called Howard Cooney are transported into an alien zoo. Stuck with them is a friendly alien.

Summer Guests (1959): Mel is starting off his two-week vacation. Upstairs lives Maria the artist. They discover that a storm has brought in two pixie-like creatures in need of aid. Mel tries to help them while not alerting his neighbor, but something seems to get in the way.

Captives of the Thieve-Star (1951): For those of you who are familiar with The Witches of Karres this story shows you transmuted the protagonists into the familiar figures of Captain Pausert and Goth. Chanook, Imperial Secret Service applicant, and his diminutive wife Peer, daughter of the notorious space-rat thief Santis, find themselves in a load of trouble when they discover an abandoned space ship and try to salvage it.

Caretaker (1953): Hulman has been stranded on Cresgyth, protecting the native human        population from the encroaching blue worm-like creatures. An exploration ship comes knocking and one of the crewmen, Marsden, is filled with a sense of inexplicable horror when he sees Hulman’s paintings of the human natives.

One Step Ahead (1974): “SKANDER WAR IMMINENT”. The Programmed Corps, the mightiest war-machine ever known, have been designed to fight the alien Skander. When they start leaving the planet of Ridzin, apparently to go to war, questions are asked. The League itself has many internal rivalries, each wanting to hijack the Corps to its own ends. So there is a lot of security protecting the soldiers. But there’s always someone one step ahead.

Left Hand, Right Hand (1962): The Cassa expedition has finally landed on Cassa. Troy Gordon and his fellow humans have been captured by the hostile Hammerheads (Tareegs to themselves), who are preparing to invade Earth. After watching two of the crew tortured to death, Troy’s fellow humans are cooperating with the aliens to save their own lives. Troy is desperate to escape and warn home. But are his fellows as weak and soft as he thinks?

HOMO EXCELSIOR

The Ties of Earth (1955): Alan Commanger discovers he has an unusual ability to win crap games. This comes to the attention of something called the Guides. They ask him to come and talk to them – to discover whether he actually has special powers. It turns out he does. Somehow, he is able to move himself from one place to another. Then he wakes and discovers that he is in a store with a dead body. It seems someone is trying to set him up for murder.

Spacemaster (1965): Haddan and friends tried to escape the City of Liot, ruled by the Spacemasters, and find a planet where they can live free. But they are caught, and Haddan discovers the real reason behind the Spacemasters’ behaviour.

The Altruist (1952): Colonel Magrumssen has long been interested in the  Mysterious. When a pair of scissors disappear from his desk and then reappear his interest is woken.

Oneness (1963): Some years ago a bunch of convicts made their escape from Mars in a vessel using a stardrive system that Earth leaders want to get their hands on. One of the rebels turns up on Earth wanting to open negotiations. Earth is under the tyrannical rule of the Directors’ Machine. During the interrogation of Rainbolt it turns out that the escapees have established themselves on other Earth-like planet. Rainbolt has two reasons for coming to Earth: 1 – to gain access to Earth’s vast resources and 2 – to spread their philosophy of Oneness.

DARK VISIONS

We Don’t Want Any Trouble (1953): An apelike alien comes to Earth. The same evening the networks around the world are cleared for broadcast. Humans are deemed as being foolish, limited and incapable of harming the least of them. That means trouble – for humans.

Just Curious (1968): Litton can become any other person for five minutes — which makes him the ultimate spy. But when one of his victims discovers him, he’s forced to become someone he would rather not.

Would You? (1969): Geoffrey comes to visit Markus Menzies at his chalet. While being shown around the chalet, they come to an old chair. The chair promises one chance to change the past. What will Geoffrey do?

These Are the Arts (1962): Hugh Grover learned of the Galcom craze through his friend Andy Britton. Symbols were being used in an advertising craze. The Galactic Community sent The Teachers to adopt Earth into the Community by instructing its inhabitants in a New Method of Thought and Communication. Hugh is highly sceptical and tries to warn the leaders of the Earth, after which he isolates himself until it is past. Then he discovers that his worst fears about its effect are true.

Clean Slate (1964): Hair, one of the original Big Four, but now in disgrace, is put in charge of the ACCED project – an educational system. He is disturbed to find that it is not going well, and is sending children psychotic, but there seems to be no politically expedient way to shut it down. Hair does not give up his fight to get the authorities to listen and shut the project down.

TIME FOR CRIME

Crime Buff (1973): Jeff Clary is a wanted criminal and on the run. He runs into a large estate where he spies a plane. Desperate to get away, he goes into the house in an attempt to find someone who can fly it. He discovers Brooke Cameron and takes her hostage. He’s amazed and confused when she keeps trying to help him.

Ham Sandwich (1963): Dr Ormond runs the Total Insight seminars, getting preferably rich people to donate money in the hope of improving their psychic powers. Two of the students are being advanced to an experimental study. Wallace Cavender signs himself in as a student to find out what is happening at the Institute.

Where the Time Went (1968): The author George Belk is desperately trying to figure out where all the time he thought he spent writing is going. He cannot figure it out. A doctor sends a time-measuring instrument to home.

An Incident on Route 12 (1962): Phil Garfield’s car breaks down on its way to Phil’s escape from the police. He stops a large sedan. When the driver comes out of the car, Phil shoots him. Oh dear, shouldn’t have done that.

Swift Completion (1962): George Redfern has been trying to manipulate his wife into a situation that would leave him a widower. She is not helping things along. Then he discovers that his wife knows that he is trying to kill her. George is not giving up.

Faddist (1966): Herman’s wife Elaine is obsessed with health food. She will not let him eat anything else – ever. When she goes away for a meeting, Herman takes the opportunity to orders in cream cakes. But…;

The Eternal Frontiers (1973) is one of Schmitz’ four novels. Due to separate living conditions mankind has largely divided into to species: Walkers and Swimmers. Crowell was born a swimmer, but has become a Walker by choice. He ends up caught in the middle of an altercation between the two groups. Then he discovers that an alien race is the root cause of the conflict, and he needs to convince both sides of what is going on.

 

Colfer, Eoin: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl II
Artist: cat-cat (Catherine Wu)

I started reading Artemis Fowl  to my oldest son until he got into the whole reading thing himself. Once there, he took over and went through the books below. After I’d thoroughly brainwashed him, I set out to do the same with my youngest – first by reading to him and then through audiobooks. Audiobooks are a miracle for dyslectics. A dyslectic brain is just as brilliant as any other brain, it’s just the whole sorting letters into the right order thing that baffles them. Needless to say, I managed to convert my youngest as well. You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a fan of Eoin Colfer’s creation of the less than legal character of Artemis.

Artemis Fowl II is the main character of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Artemis is a teenage criminal mastermind on the lookout for enough gold to restore his family fortune. He considers himself fairly wicked, but as the series progresses we see that there is plenty of good deeds to balance the bad. My kids loved all of the tricks he played on both his friends and enemies. We have not read it yet, but the conclusion to the series was released in July 2012 – The Last Guardian.

ARTEMIS FOWL (2001)Young Readers Choice Award 2004

Artemis Fowl Chinese cover
Chinese cover

Eoin Colfer begins our journey into the world of Artemis Fowl II in the novel Artemis Fowl. Some of the characters we meet will appear in all of the novels while some of them we’ll only see in a few of them. His faithful bodyguard, Butler is one of the characters that will appear again and again.

Artemis is 12 years old. His father is an Irish crime lord, Artemis Fowl, who has disappeared. Through research Artemis thinks he can prove the existence of faeries and when he tracks down The Book of the People he has his proof.

Artemis decodes the book – only natural for someone of his genius – and travels the world looking for locations for a magic-restoring ritual. They discover and capture Captain Holly Short who is out restoring her magic. Holly is then brought to Fowl mansions. The faeries are not pleased with Artemis and sends a crack team (LEP) to recover her.


A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2007. A film adaptation was reported to be in the writing stage in mid-2008, with Jim Sheridan directing.


AWARDS:

  • W. H. Smith Book Award
  • British Book Award
  • Whitbread Book of the Year Award: Shortlist
  • Lancashire County Library Children’s Book Award: Shortlist
  • Bisto Book of the Year: Shortlist
  • New York Times Best-Selling Series
  • Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Master List (2003)
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Award (2001)
  • New York Times Best-seller
  • Publishers Weekly Best-seller
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List (2002-2003)
  • Book Sense Best-seller
  • USA Today Best-seller
  • ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults (2002)
  • Garden State Teen Book Award (2004)

THE ARCTIC INCIDENT (2002)

Disney; Reissue edition (April 27, 2010)

In The Arctic Incident, Artemis is a year older (13). We once again meet Butler, Captain Holly Short and Commander Julius Root.

Artemis is set up to take the blame for supplying contraband to goblins. When Artemis and Butler defeat the real baddy, the LEP decides to help Artemis recover his father from the Russian mafia. The rescue group is ambushed by goblins.

It becomes apparent that Opal Koboi of Koboi laboratories is involved somehow, leaving it to Artemis and Holly to figure out how to save the day – both for Artemis’ father and the LEP.


A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2009.


Book Magazine Best Book of the Year 2002


THE ETERNITY CODE (2003)

Cover art by Rowein

The story in Eternity Code happens shortly after the Arctic Incident. While Artemis has changed somewhat since the first book, he still loves to scheme and steal from the fairies. Artemis has created a supercomputer which he calls the “C-Cube”. It gets stolen and in the process Butler is killed. However, Artemis comes to rescue – along with a bit of fairy magic.

Artemis convinces the fairies to help him recover the Cube and they agree – but with one condition. Artemis is to be left with no memory of the fairy world.

THE OPAL DECEPTION (2005)

“Opal Koboi and her assistant” by Jisuk Cho

Our lovely Opal Koboi (from The Arctic Incident) has gotten away from the asylum where she was being held by the LEP.

She then sets out to revenge herself on Commander Root, Captain Short, Artemis and Butler.

Holly is desperate for help and turns to Artemis – against the wishes of the LEP. The only problem is that Artemis is left with no memory of the fairy world.

While Artemis likes to think of himself as someone who chooses to do bad, it turns out he is a softy after all. He is still full of trouble and deviousness, but it is difficult to come out of reading the book and not liking Artemis. Mulch provides all the laughs a kid could need.

THE LOST COLONY (2006)

“The Lost Colony” by Tanya Roberts

Artemis and Butler are demonhunting. He is somehow able to predict when a demon materializes. This comes to the attention of our trusted Foaly. This brings Holly and Mulch (who now have their own PI business) into the story.

In the meantime, there is trouble on Hybras (demon island where time is nonexistent). However, it seems that the spell holding Hybras in stasis is fraying and an answer to the problem is needed. Bullying is a favorite pastime, and No1 is one of the victims. He is convinced to come to the human world.

Right now, its glaringly obvious that everyone is going to meet – probably with a huge bang somewhere. The Artemis series does have a habit of loads of action and humor. Thankfully Colfer is keeping up the good work.

THE TIME PARADOX (2008)

The Time Paradox by Brittany

When Artemis’ mom contracts a fatal disease, Artemis turns to the fairies for help. Unfortunately the only cure to the disease is through the silky sefaka lemur of Madagascar. It is extinct. The last specimen was killed 8 years ago with the help of Artemis. Talk about the past coming back to haunt you.

Through lies and deception, Artemis gets the fairies to help him time travel. The goal is to save the lemur – hopefully for good. Holly and Artemis go back in time and need to avoid their younger selves.

Everything has a price, so too Artemis’ lies to Holly. Colfer portrays this rather well. He also brings up the issue of the cost of abusing our environment. I find myself wanting to preach here, but The Time Paradox does a much better job of illustrating the issue.

THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX (2010)

Cover art by iesnoth

One of the consequences of The Time Paradox is that Artemis is left with a clearer sense of responsibility toward the environment.

When Artemis unveils the Ice Cube – an invention to stop global warming – the fairies discover that Artemis has developed something called Atlantis Complex (including OCD, paranoia and split personality). Artemis has a break-down during the presentation. Holly and Mulch are left taking care of things, while Artemis is dealing with his episode.

In the meantime, Butler is on an adventure in Mexico. Artemis tricked into travelling to help Butler’s sister. Turns out it was a good thing after all.

Spencer, Wen: Tinker series

Tinker by Wen SpencerTINKER (2002) – 2003 Sapphire Award Winner

Tinker is a romance/adventure book placed in a science fiction setting. While there are elves, they are part of a parallel world that earth got to through technology – sort of side-stepping to another world. Warning on the romance part – it is explicit.

Wen Spencer’s invention of Tinker – our salvage-yard owner protagonist – is the creation of a well-rounded character. All others are rather two-dimensional compared to her, but as she is our scrappy heroine that doesn’t really matter.

Pittsburgh travels between Elfhome and Earth – one month on Elfhome/24 hours on Earth. While on earth the ambient level of magic goes way down. Tinker has found a way to combat that through storage tanks and a magic spell. That turns out to save the life of the Viceroy (Wolf Who Rules), Windwolf. In saving Windwolf’s life Tinker becomes embroiled in the politics of the Elfin court, the NSA and the Elfin Interdimensional Agency. Everyone is out to find her. Thankfully, Tinker has the brains to deal with all of the complications of her life.

I like Tinker. She is smarter than I’ll ever be and a whole lot braver. Her innocence and huge heart are appealing. Wen brings Tinker to life for me and her writing brings music to my soul.

Wolf Who Rules by Wen SpencerWOLF WHO RULES (2006)

Wolf Who Rules continues right after the end of Tinker. In it we get to know Wolfwind and the elven culture a little better. Tinker is still the main protagonist of the novel.

Tinker is having nightmares. Nightmares that are about things she has no knowledge of. Scary things like the Wizard of Oz. These dreams are draining her but it seems they are important for some reason.

When the royal troops come to Pittsburgh, Tinker needs to figure out how to behave around other domane and royalty. As she is only 18, the elves consider her a baby and therefore of no consequence. Are they in for a surprise!!!! Windwolf is, for the most part, left to deal with the politics of this tense situation.

While Tinker saved Elfhome from the Oni in the previous book, there were side-effects. There is a growing discontinuity in Turtle creek. Add a couple of dragons and the half-oni and the tengu and Tinker and Windwolf have their work cut out for them.

We are still encountering the excellence of Spencer’s writing. Her books are a delight to read. I believe I’ve read them all. This science fiction parallel world of Elfhome is a dangerous place to live and Spencer’s writing makes that quite clear. Warning in this book as well. There is some explicit sex in it.

Elfhome by Wen SpencerELFHOME (2012)

Elfhome disappointed. I’d gotten used to the excellent writing in Spencer’s two previous book. Elfhome on the other hand was too noisy. There were hiccups in the flow of words and Tinker had all of a sudden become two-dimensional rather than the three-dimensionality she’d had in Tinker and Wolf Who Rules.

The plot itself is actually pretty good. Elven kids come to Pittsburgh to hoping for better lives. They are kidnapped and during the investigation of that kidnapping Oilcan and Tinker discover Skin-Clan interference. It turns out the Skin-Clan might have emigrated to the Oni-world – playing gods with the lives of the population there. When Tommy Chan is added to the mixture the text loses its adhesiveness. Too much is going on in too little text.

I still liked Elfhome. It’s just that I’d gotten used to a different standard of writing from Wen. The whole Elfworld setting is pretty enchanting. A world of powerful magic, beautiful elves, man-eating trees, frost-breathing wargs, and god-like dragons makes for interesting lives for the population.

If there is a book no. 4 in this series, I will buy it. The only problem with Elfhome is Tinker and Wolf Who Rules. Without these two novels, I probably would have had no complaints. That is the problem with excellence I guess.

 

Czerneda, Julie E: The Trade Pact Cycle

TIES OF POWER (1999)

Cover art by Luis Royo

You know that feeling you get when its been ages since you read a book and then you discover again why you’ve kept it in your library. Julie E. Czerneda has been such a discovery. What a delight. Czerneda has the flowing ability. It’s like listening to good music reading her books.

In a sense the plot is pretty basic. Someone gets screwed and they set out to right the wrong. In Julie’s Trade Pact Cycle books this happens in a universe where the different races of intelligent life have joined in a Trade Pact. There are outsiders. One of these is the Clan – a group of people (look pretty much like humans) who have the ability to travel the M’hir (a place outside of regular space) and telepathic abilities. Some of the members of the Clan are extremely powerful and one of these is Sira – our female protagonist.

The Clan oppose her attraction to Jason Morgan, and Sira herself is afraid of what her power might do to this telepathic human. She is right to fear her own power. When Sira is attacked by the Clan, Sira sends Morgan off to recover what was stolen. Unfortunately a lot of her fury with the Clan is sent along and Morgan is having to fight the urge to express this anger through the book.

As Jason is sent off, Sira transports herself to the only place she feels she will be safe – the Drapsk space ship. She is correct. She is indeed safe on the Drapsk vessel, but that safety also brings a new set of problems Sira’s way. The Drapsk are very good at getting things their own way, and that way includes Sira’s time.

TO Wallpapers 3X Luis Royo 102 To Trade the Stars, papeis desktop image Luis Royo Art and PaintingTRADE THE STARS (2002)

Cover art by Luis Royo

To Trade The Stars continues a few months from where Ties of Power left off. Sira and Jason continue to trade but discover that somehow Jason’s telepathic abilities have become known. This is making it difficult to get good jobs. One does turn up for Morgan at Kimmicle (miner’s world), leaving Sira free to go to Plexis and Huido by M’hir. When she gets there, she ends up being kidnapped. We all know that Jason will turn the universe inside out to find her. He is not going to be alone in this search.

In the meantime Rael and Barac from the previous are stuck on Drapskii continuing what Sira began. They are both understandably frustrated with the Drapsk as the Drapsk are of a different species. When Barac gets a call for help from Huido, he leaps at the chance.

Once again I liked the prose of Julie. She writes seamlessly. Once again, I’ve found an author that has the gift of flow. Her books are just shy of 500 pages and that might hinder some from reading her books. Don’t worry, they are available as audiobooks at audible.com

Whates, Ian: City of a Hundred Rows

Although Ian Whates has writing experience, City of a Hundred Rows is his debut into the industry of novels.

CITY OF DREAMS & NIGHTMARE (2010)

Cover art by Greg Bridges (Incredible artwork)

Chance brought me to the city of Thaiburley and the street-nick named Tom. Sometimes chance is a wonderful thing and sometimes it isn’t. In this case I found myself liking the writing of Ian Whates and wanted to read the next book of the trilogy.

Thaiburley is a city built in tiers – one hundred of them. At the bottom we find the City Below (often called City of Nightmare by its denizens) and the poorest of the population. Wealth increases as one ascends, until one hits to the top layer – the Upper Heights. This is where the angel-like demons are supposed to reside.

The first two people we meet in City of Dreams & Nightmare are Tylus, our newly-minted Kite Guard, and Tom, our young street-nick. Tylus is out patrolling for the night, while Tom is climbing the many layers of the city so he can get to the top and steal a demon egg. Both stumble onto the apparent murder of a council-man. Thinking Tom is the culprit, Tylus chases him and sees Tom fall off the side of the building. Action-packed from the very beginning.

The adventure continues through the whole book. Tom is chased by the authorities for his assumed part in the murder of councilman Thomas. While running, Tom meets up with Kat – survivor of the Pits (like Rome’s Colosseum). In spite of her young age, Kat is an incredible fighter. Tom on the other hand is very good at not being seen. Both skills will come in handy during the story, because this novel is for the most part about trying to survive against the odds. The baddy of the story, councilman Magnus, sends off his assassin Dewar to tie off Tom. Dewar is another incredible fighter. He has absolutely no qualms and often likes to play with his victims.

Do I recommend this book. I’ll say definitely. City of Dreams & Nightmare was an easy and fun read. Ian Whates certainly knows his craft, and as a reader I always delight in such authors.

CITY OF HOPE & DESPAIR (2011)

Cover art by Greg Bridges

This second installment in the trilogy City of a Hundred Rows is as fun to read as City of Dreams & Nightmare was. Once again, we get to meet Tom, Kat, Dewar and Tylus, but this time in different combinations.

Thaiburley’s strange power is failing. The Prime Master sends Tom off to discover the source of the great river Thair in hopes that he will find out just what is causing the failure. Ironically, Dewar the assassin is sent along to protect Tom and his companions. There is no way Ian Whates is going to let this journey be a peaceful one, and we are not disappointed. Here too, are plenty of survival struggles.

Kat, in the meantime, remains in the City Below. There The Soul Thief is killing off people with “talent”. In addition to the Soul Thief the gangs of the under-city are changing, both in structure but also in behavior. This change in gang-life makes life more interesting for Kat, her sister and the Tattooed men. Kat is a great character and her adventures in this book are pretty intense.

Tylus, our Kite-Guard, is sent to the under-city to make something of the City Guard there. Automatically, we know that he is going to have his work cut out for him.

City of Hope & Despair is as much fun as City of Dreams & Nightmare. I like the fact that these books are action-filled and lacking in the gooey factor. Both books deliver what they promise – good old-fashioned adventure. Ian Whates is definitely on my author-plus list.

CITY OF LIGHT & SHADOW (2012)

Cover art by Greg Bridges (Breathtaking)

Maybe the bone-flu is not all it seems to be. As City of Light & Shadow begins, we get a glimpse at what might be the reason behind the disease.

Tom has reached his goal and is left trying to assimilate information in amounts he has never had to before. For such a curious soul, this must be a gift – although a double-edged one. Thais is not exactly what he expected in a god, but how are gods supposed to be anyways.

Dewar wakes up, clearer-headed than he has been in a long time. He knows exactly what he wants to do next. It’s time to go home and take care of some unfinished business.

Kat and her Tattooed men have not given up on getting the Soul Thief. With Tylus and some of his men, they set off into the Stain to kill it.

All the stories come together and we see clearly how they all have something to do with Thaiss. Ian Whates tells an action-filled story, one that kept me reading. City of Light & Shadow is a fun and easy read, just like the other two. The ending left me wondering if this was indeed going to remain a trilogy. Hmmm. In a sense there was closure. On the other hand I was left hanging a bit. Hmmm. Oh well, I like it when authors do that to us readers. It’s kind of cruel, but also a lot more fun for me (kind of). I’ve really enjoyed my journey into the City of a Hundred Rows.

Pratchett, Terry: Industrial Revolution/Ankh-Morpork series

MOVING PICTURES (1990)

While the earliest technological items we’ve seen on the Discworld were the iconograph, Moving Pictures takes the technology a step further and uses an imp- and salamander movie camera and projector. However, certain problems occur as a result of the experimentation with new technology, as always happens when people play around with new discoveries.

Consider the case of Thomas Midgley (1889-1944). In 1921 he discovered that lead reduced the engine-knocking in a car-engine significantly and lead was introduced into gasoline. We all know what happened as a result of that. Today we are still struggling with the effects of that discovery. Later on he managed to come up with freon which has had a severe effect on the ozone layer. Why should the Discworld be any different?

The Alchemists
by Jameli

Obviously, the place to find inventors on the Discworld has to be at the Unseen University or the Alchemist’s Guild (of whom Leonard of Quirm is a member). Where else could a bunch of people willing to try anything in the name of science be found. The motto of the alchemist’s guild is: All that glitters is gold. Most of their experiments tend to end in loud explosions, causing their building to be in a state of constant repair. Unfortunately for Ankh-Morpork, they have now managed to come up with Octo-cellulose, one of the major factors of the events in Moving Pictures.

Another major event leading to the opportunities had at Holy Wood was the death of the door keeper. You’d think that a place needing a guard for their door, ensuring that it’s kept closed, would be a hint to stay away. But it never is, because curiosity is something that people struggle with. Some of us will always push the big red button just to see what will happen (no matter what the sign says). Once Holy Wood becomes accessible, people are drawn there like flies to honey.

Windle Pon’s wheelchair
by SS Moran

Gaspode, the talking dog shows his face again. He gets to have an important part in the book, along with other dogs with suspicious names. Dibbler plays his usual scheming self and Death makes appearances as well in the book. Befuddled, eternal student, Vincent, is our main character. Poor guy. He gets completely sucked into the whole Holy Wood scene. Poor Ridicully and his wizardly gang have to join in the chaos and save the day.

You all know that Pratchett is making fun of Hollywood and the whole film industry (not just there). The glamour, hype, fame and craziness are all seen in one part or another of Moving Pictures.


ADAPTATION


THE TRUTH (2000)

Otto Chriek
by Justyna

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Our main character William deWorde, estranged from his family, starts out by writing a newsletter for foreign dignitaries. Once the dwarves bring in a press to Ankh-Morpork William ends up with a very popular newsletter called The Times. All of a sudden William is employing a journalist, Sacharissa Cripslock, and a photographer, Otto Chriek, to get enough news.

Poor Otto. Such dedication. Being a vampire with an obsession for photography cannot be easy on one’s health. Good thing he has his vial of blood with him om every assignment. The Times are lucky to have him on their staff in their search for truth.

Competition is bound to arrive on the scene. The Guild of Engravers and Printers are producing a newsletter called the Ankh-Morpork inquirer. In it you’ll find articles on just about anything, whether it be true or not.

In the meantime, a plot against Vetinari is once again going on. The Firm (in the form of Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin) are doing their best to get him accused of murder. Part of that plot is kidnapping Vetinari, but Vetinari’s dog Mr. Wuffles, gets away. Pin and Tulip need to find Wuffles, but The Times is also on the hunt and De Worde has offered a $ 25 reward for Mr. Wuffles. As usual chaos and mayhem ensue.

Journalism is obviously the theme in The Truth. Media’s function in society should be questioned at every opportunity. There is plenty of power in deciding what the truth is and who should hear it. The intentions of the owners and journalists matter a great deal. The potential for doing great harm or great good hangs as a temptation for the best of them.


ADAPTATION

  • 2002: Stage adaptation of The Truth by Stephen Briggs
  • 2008: Promo of The Truth by Brisbane Arts Theatre
  • 2009: Extracts of the performance of The Truth by Canberra Grammar School
  • 2010: Trailer of The Truth by the Emmanuel College Drama
  • 2011: A stop-motion animation of a scene from Terry Pratchett’s discworld novel ‘The Truth’
  • —————————————————————

GOING POSTAL (2004)

  • 2005: Going Postal nominated for Locus Fantasy
  • 2005: Going Postal nominated for Nebula

Moist von Lipwig and the hangman
by Fudgemallow

The term “Going postal” was coined by Karl Vick in his article “Violence at work tied to loss of  esteem”. “Going postal” refers to an employee who becomes so disgruntled with her/his workplace that she/he ends up being violent towards co-workers.

Moist von Lipwig is a conman who has conned one too many, leading to his capture. In our lovely Ankh-Morpork prison he is on death row. Waking up after his so-called hanging, Moist discovers that he has been given a choice: Become postmaster or walk out THAT door. Looking out the door, Moist discovers that the drop is a bit too deep for his preference. Postmaster it is.

Moist von Lipwig as the new director of the Post Office
by Nuka-Winch

The postmaster function in Ankh-Morpork has not been filled in decades. The Post Office is overflowing with undelivered mail. There are two employees left, living in the Post Office. They are Junior Postman Tolliver Groat and his assistant Stanley Howler. Moist certainly has his work cut out for him.

Delivering the undelivered mail is only one part of Moist’s problems. Another part is getting people to use the Post Office again, seeing it as a viable option to the Clacks. The Clacks could with a certain portion of good-will be compared to the telegraph. The Grand Trunk Company owns and operated the clacks, and they do not like the fact that the Post Office is coming to life again. In addition to these problems, von Lipwig discovers that the Post Office seems to have come into a sort of life of its own. It has definite opinions and is not afraid to share them – causing some near-death experiences.

Adora Dearheart
It might be peaches underneath
by The Ink Girl

During his duties Moist meets the golem activist Adora Dearheart. She fights for the freedom of Golem from slave-contracts. Instead they buy themselves free one at a time, through getting proper work-contracts.

Golem activism or the battle against slavery and abuse of workers has been a recurring theme in Pratchett’s books. Is it possible for people to change or do we just need to change their focus. After all it was von Lipwig’s phenomenal abilities as a con-man that made it possible for him to be the kind of Postmaster that Ankh-Morpork needed. Once again Terry takes a look at the function of technology in the world. Is it a thing for the betterment of mankind?


ADAPTATION

  • 2005: Going Postal adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs
  • 2010: Going Postal adapted for television by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle

MAKING MONEY (2007)

Moist and Mr. Fusspots
by Jess Idres

This time Vetinari tries to volunteer Moist for the banking business. After all, now that the postal business is up and running, we can’t have Moist with any time on his hands. You never know what he’ll do then. Moist won’t have any of it.

Sadly, life doesn’t always happen the way we would like it to. During his stint at the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork the owner’s dog, Mr. Fusspot, found von Lipwig quite likeable. When Topsy Lavish dies, she leaves 50% of the shares to her dog (who already owns 1%), making him Chairdog. Mr. Fusspot is left to Lipwig. Mrs. Lavish is a smart woman and has made sure that Moist knows the Assassin’s Guild have a contract on him if anything should happen to her dear Mr. Fusspot.

Moist van Lipwig is now in the banking business, and banking will never be the same in Ankh-Morpork. Neither will Moist.

Lovely Adela is still trying to help the golem population. She has travelled to the ancient civilization of Um to uncover 4 golden golems who have been buried a very long time. When she returns with them everyone gets a surprise, not least of all Moist’s enemies.

In Making Money Pratchett takes a look at our definition of money and people’s acceptance of monetary value. Banking gets its day in the sun and a well-needed sunning that is.


UNSEEN ACADEMICALS (2009)

Nutt and Glenda
by Winterspider

Mr. Scattering was at work as a night-guard at the Royal Art Museum when he experienced an explosion.

He did not want people to know about the gloriously glittering lady holding a large ball over her head before she vanished.

Smeems, the Candle Knave, makes his rounds every night lighting and refilling the candlesticks. His apprentice, Nutt, is stepping in for Trevor Likely, who seems to have taken ill. Nutts is a keen, gray-skinned fellow who tries to fit in at the UU.

Archchancellor Ridicully is a loud wizard, in a place where wizards generally take up a lot of space. Wizards are, usually, celibate. They find their celibate thoughts challenged when the housekeeper employs lovely and empty-headed Juliet. Glenda, the other housemaid, is frustrated with Juliet’s looks and empty-headedness. Getting her to focus on one task is difficult.

The Crowd Goes Wild
by Jess Kat

Ponder Stibbons, a jr. wizard, makes it his life’s mission to protect the universe from Arch-chancellor Ridicully. Sometimes that means unpleasant duties. One of those duties is telling Ridicully that the Archancellor Preserved Bigger’s Bequest is about to engage the UU in traditional sports, the Poor Boys’ Fun. As we all know, the wizards (with the exception of Ridicully) abhor physical exercise. There will be no getting out of if if they want to keep the bequest.

A team will have to be organized and getting to learn the rules of the game will be essential for them. Unfortunately, this football-like game seems to have very few rules. With Vetinari the wizards attempt to set out some rules for the game. After all, they do want to survive. They get their own coach in the form of Mr. Nutt. The wizards even end up with their own cheerleaders.

Pratchett is fond of bringing Shakespeare into the Discworld. Unseen Academicals is no exception. This time Romeo and Juliet, in the form of Trev and Julie, gets Terry’s touch. Poor lovers. They belong to teams who absolutely hate each other.


SOURCES

Pratchett, Terry: The Watch/Vimes

Streets of Ankh-Morpork (wow)

Samuel Vimes is a beautiful character. He grew up in Cockbill Street, the poorest area of Ankh-Morpork. They were so poor that while they had practically nothing to eat, at least their floors were clean enough to eat off. Getting into the Night Watch was quite a change for Sam. Now he had money for food. Being a guard runs in Vimes’ family. In fact one of his ancestors, old Stoneface, beheaded the last king of the city. Vimes’ worldview is that everyone is guilty of some kind of crime.

Guards! Guards! (1989)

[nightwatch.jpg]Nobby, Colon, Carrot, Vimes and the Librarian by William Bradford

Our first proper meeting with Captain Samuel Vimes occurs with him falling over drunk into one of Ankh-Morpork’s streets. It had been a hard day for the Watch. Poor old Herbert Gaskin had broken one of the fundamental rules of being a guard. He forgot to run away from trouble. Now the most despised group of men in the entire city consisted of only three men: himself, Sergeant Colon and Nobby.

In the meantime a young man is heading for the city with “all the openness, sincerity and innocence of purpose of an iceberg drifting into a major shipping lane.” Carrot is the name of this young man, due to the color of his hair but also due to the shape of his body. One day at sixteen his dad sat him down and told him he was not the six-foot dwarf he had always thought he was. Human was his race. His dwarven parents had in fact found him in the woods next to a burned out carriage. Now it is time for him to depart and seek his fortune as a watch-man in Ankh-Morpork. With him his father sends a sword, a dwarven woolen shirt, a golden cod-piece and The Laws And Ordinances of The Cities of Ankh and Morpork.

The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night have a plan to overthrow the Patrician. They are going to summon a dragon. Against all odds they actually succeed in calling one forth. It turns out that this is a double-edged sword. Now that they have called the dragon forth, the dragon figures out a way to get back on its own.

One of the themes that we will encounter again and again in the Watch series is the power play between Vimes and Vetinari (patrician). Vetinari plays Vimes like the strings on a guitar. Carrot is the person who manages quite well to live between a rock and a hard place. His literal interpretation of the laws of Ankh-Morpork and his ability to own any situation makes it possible for him to soften Vimes’ explosiveness after meetings with Vetinari.


Adaptations

  • 1992: BBC4 produced a 6-episode serial dramatisation by Michael Butt of Guards! Guards!
  • 1997: Stage play scripted by Stephen Briggs,
  • 1997: Geoffrey Cush’s stage-adaptation,
  • 2000: Comic adaptation of Guards! Guards! Graham Higgins
  • 2011: Board Game by Backspindle Games in conjunction with Z-Man Games

Men at Arms (1993)

Scenes from Men at Arms by Justyna

Edward d’Eath’s father has just died, leaving him the thirty-seventh Lord d’Eath and an assassin to boot. Unfortunately his father had not left Edward any money. Quite a single-minded person whose belief in a King as ruler of Ankh-Morpork was quite fervent. Coincidentally, he stumbles upon Corporal Carrot, who just happens to look like one of the old Kings. Edward sets about trying to get Carrot and kinghood into fashion.

Captain Vimes is retiring from the police to marry Sybil Ramkin, Countess and the richest woman in Akh-Morpork. He is about to become one of the posh, a gentleman of leisure. But Vimes is finding it difficult to let go of policing.

Thankfully, an important artifact disappears from the Assassin’s Guild. The mystery must be solved. But the Assassin’s Guild aren’t interested in help from the Watch. Vimes loves the chase and the opportunity to get out onto the streets again. The chase after the weapon/artifact turns out to be both challenging and bloody.

Gaspode the wonder dog makes his appearance in Men-at-Arms. Gaspode the talking dog (too much time at the UU can change someone). He is rather keen on Angua (the werewolf).

In Men-at-Arms Pratchett plays with our biases. Here we get to see racism in all its “glory”. Even though the cops in the Watch are only supposed to be cops, they still have to overcome biases towards each other. Like so many others of the Discworld books, Men-at-Arms looks at the power of belief. We get a look at what that belief makes it possible for people to do.


2000: Stage adaptation of Men At Arms by Stephen Briggs

Feet of Clay (1996)

  • 1996: Winner of SFX award for best SF/Fantasy Original Novel
  • 1997: Nominated for 1997 Locus Awards – best Fantasy novel

Warhammer’s miniature grouping

Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is shaving, thinking on the horrors he has to face as a gentleman. People doing things for him, formal dinners and not being able to sit with the servants any longer playing cards and drinking beer. And then: “There was a flicker in the glass. He moved sideways and ducked. The mirror smashed. There was the sound of feet somewhere beyond the broken window, and then a crash and a scream.” The Assassin’s Guild are at it again. Some of the other gentle-people of the city do not want Vimes alive, and the Assassin’s Guild keeps on trying to do their job.

Captain Carrot has made it through his first two years in Ankh-Morpork. The love of his life is Corporal Angua, a werewolf, whose bad-hair days he takes in his stride. She is quite handy to have around when people want scaring. So when some incredibly thick thieves rob Ironcrust’s Dwarf Bakery she does just that – earning the “respect of the community.”

The body of Father Tubelcek is discovered. The watch have just hired their new alchemist, a dwarf by the name of Cheery Littlebottom. She is sent along to investigate the clues she discovers, of which one of them is a strange light in the dead eyes of Father Tubelcek.

Weirdly enough, it turns out Nobby is posh. He has his own coat of arms and has now become a peer. Poor guy, how is he going to deal with this? With increasing desperation it seems.


Adaptation

2007: Stage adapatation of Feet of Clay by Stephen Briggs.

jingo

Jingo by Marc Simonetti

Jingo (1997)

An Ankh-Morporkian and a Klatchian fisher are both at the scene when a strange island rises above the sea. Both immediately lay claim to the island and this leads to a dispute between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. The Klatchian crown prince is sent to Ankh-Morpork and diplomacy ensues (kind of). One of the funniest scenes Terry has ever written comes when Vimes has to lead a parade. The whole thing came alive in my head and I almost fell over laughing.

An assassination attempt is made on the prince and the Klatchian embassy declare war against Ankh-Morpork. Vetinari resigns and Lord Rust takes over. He is slightly eager for war and his decision leads to Vimes and the gang ending up in the Klatchian desert.

At the same time Vetinari, Colon, Nobby and Leonard of Quirm take a u-boat ride to the island and then to Klatch. Nobby ends up having the time of his life with “nubile” women. This is also an extremely funny scene. Poor Nobby. But while there is plenty of humor in the foursome’s trip, there is also a serious reason for their trip (obviously since Vetinari is involved).


2005: Jingo stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs

French cover by Marc Simonetti – Simonetti has become my favorite Pratchett artist

The Fifth Elephant (1999)

Uberwald – the land of vampires, werewolves, trolls and dwarves, is becoming restless. Something very important is happening in a few weeks time. A new Low King is being crowned, and that is causing fighting in Ankh-Morpork. With 50000 dwarves living in the city, people are bound to notice that something is going on.

The old grievances between trolls and dwarves have not yet been resolved and large areas are controlled as fiefdoms by vampire or werewolf clans. Into this “suet pudding” Vetinari plans to send an ambassador for Ankh-Morpork, and he wants to send the Duke of Ankh. Cunning man that he is, Vetinari had already spoken to Lady Sybil about it. Vimes knew when he was beaten.

The replica of the Scone (dwarf throne) is stolen from The Dwarf Bread Museum. Vimes finds an aboundance of clues, to many in his opinion. To him it is a stupid crime that does not feel stupid.

Vimes goes off to Uberwald, leaving Carrot in charge of the city. Thankfully, Sybil is along. She will take care of the negotiations, while Vimes will represent Ankh-Morpork in his unique style.

Angua discovers that her xenophobic brother Wolfgang has decided to take over Uberwald. She leaves Ankh-Morpork and Carrot to stop Wolfgang. Carrot makes a difficult choice. He chooses love over duty and goes after Angua. This time Colon is left in charge of the Watch – a recipe for disaster.

The Fifth Elephant follows these three journeys – Vimes and Sybil/Carrot and Angua/Colon as head of Watch.

In a sense, The Fifth Elephant is a love story. Sometimes the choice is between the people we love, duty and tradition. Can we have it all?


2002: Stage adaptation of The Fifth Elephant by Stephen Briggs

Ankh-Morpork found at The Same Old Song (I need help finding the name of the artist – Kidby, Kirby ???)

The Night Watch (2002)

The Night Watch for the most part happens in the past. Through a freak accident, Vimes is thrown back to the time when he was a younger man and new to the Watch. Along for the ride is Carcer, a cold-blooded murderer. Carcer’s goal in the past is to kill Sybil, thereby wounding Sam beyond repair. Sam’s goal on the other hand is to make the city safer from people like Carcer. To do that he has to establish a new identity as his old self cannot know who he is. Luckily/unluckily Vimes assumes the identity of John Keel, his old sergeant. John Keel has been killed by Carcer. Vimes knows that changing the past will also affect his future. There might not be a wife and child-to-be when he gets home to modern Ankh-Morpork. But Vimes is who he is and cannot leave the Watch or his old self in their old shape.

Unfortunately, Carcer joins the Unmentionables. They are the secret police, carrying out the whims of Lord Winder (patrician of the time). This often includes people going missing, torture and terror. Vimes sets out to make life difficult for both Carcer and the Unmentionables.

Would we try to change the past if we could? Many of us probably would. In trying to influence his younger self to be a better copper, Vimes changed himself. But the big lines of the city. Hmmm – read and see. Corruption and incompetence are dangerous qualities in rulers, but also in the ones set to carrying out the rules. So, what happens when Vimes sets out to change his old world, trying to make it a better place?

———————————-

2008: BBC Radio 4 2008 radio adaptation dramatised by Robin Brooks

2004: Night Watch stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs

Thud (2005) 2006 Locus F Nominated 

Dribble the dragon, Samuel Vimes, Sam Jr. by Kiriban

Vimes really, really does not like Vampires. Until now he has refused to have any of them on the Watch. That choice is taken away from him by his “beloved” Vetinari. Sally is employed to assist in the investigation around the death of the dwarven demagogue, Grag Hamcrusher. Apparently a troll is the culprit. Sergeant Angua and Captain Carrot are the other Watch member assigned to the case.

Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Colon get the job of investigating the disappearance of a 50-foot painting titled The Battle of Koom Valley. The discovery of the disappearance leads to several things happening. Trolls vs. dwarves, assassination attempts, a Kube and the Summoning Dark all lead to Vimes, Sybil, Young Sam, Wilikins, and several members of the Watch going to the Koom Valley where Vimes discovers the secret of the valley.

Young Sam has become the mainstay of Vimes’ life. This will prove essential in keeping Vimes alive and sane. Family is all to him. Vimes’ dedication to peace is strong throughout the book, as can be seen clearly in his fight with the Summoning Dark. Racism is prevalent in the book through the animosity between dwarves and trolls. Once again we are confronted by our own biases. One might even replace racism with religious conflict: Protestant/Catholic (Ireland) or political conflict: Palestine/Israel.

Snuff (2011)

Samuel Vimes and one of his weapons (dragon) by Jan Pospisil(Perfect)

Snuff’s focus is for the main part on Vimes and his family. Lady Sybil makes him take a family vacation to her mansion Crundells. Of course Wilikins comes along. Here all is peaceful and Sam is enjoying being able to concentrate on being with his wife and son. But that is not the way things stay. The house-staff seems to hate Sam and Vimes nose is itching with the smell of wrong-doings.

Samuel discovers a grotto of goblins living nearby. For some inexplicable reason the local gentry seems to hate/despise/revile the goblins and treat them as disposables. When the murder of a local blacksmith occurs, all of a sudden the whole country side is involved. On his side, Vimes has Sybil, Wilikins, a young police officer called Upshot and the goblins. Against him are Lord Rust (who has interests in the area) and most of the local gentry and quite a few of the peasants.

It’s time to call in the cavalry. While he has no jurisdiction at Crundell, Vimes is able to ask his people to investigate certain aspects of his discoveries. The Watch does not play a large part in Snuff, but they are present.

I was touched by Snuff. In a sense I felt as though I was saying goodbye to Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh-Morpork and Commander of the Watch. Pratchett writing has gotten darker as the years have passed for the Discworld. The topics are no longer solely focused on making fun (in his gentle way) of current sci-fi and fantasy fashions, but very much on personal development and the conflicts people meet in life. The slavery of the goblins in Snuff very much reminded me of the slavery that has gone on and is going on in the world. Somehow people find it in themselves to treat others as nothing. Rising up to fight this slavery, both on a large and a small-scale is incredibly difficult. Thankfully Pratchett always leaves us with a sense of hope that things might get better.


SOURCES:

Pratchett, Terry: Death

Death as illustrated by Paul Kidby

The Grim Reaper in the form of a skeletal body in a black robe, with a scythe and speaking in CAPITAL LETTERS appears for the first time in The Colour of Magic. His job is to collect human souls. Death is the servant of Azrael, the “Death of Universes”. Opposing him are the Auditors, who want nothing more than the end of all life (it’s soooo messy).

At home Death has a servant, Albert and a daughter, Ysabelle. Kittens and swans are his favorite animals and his horse Binky is with him on each collection.

Because of his fascination with humans, Death sometimes leaves his post to seek understanding. This tends to cause problems because humans don’t like to see what they do not understand and the universe likes the souls of dead people collected. The only ones who can see Death for who he is are witches, wizards, cats and children.

In The Art of Discworld Terry tells us that he has received a number of letters from terminally ill fans in which they hope that Death will resemble the Discworld incarnation (he also says that those particular letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall).

Mort (1987)

“Mort” by Amianna

While Death appears in the previous books, Mort is the first book in which he becomes a main character.

Mort’s family specialized in distilling wine from reannual grapes. (“Reannual are plants that grow backwards in time. You sow the seed this year and they grow last year.”) These growers tended to be big, serious men, much given to introspection and close examination of the calendar. Mort (the youngest son) on the other hand, was tall, red-haired and freckled, with the sort of body that seems to be only marginally under its owner’s control; apparently built out of knees.

Hopeless as he is, Mort’s father decides to take his son to the hiring fair at Sheepridge. At this hiring fair men looking for work would stand in ragged lines in the centre of the square waiting for a tradesman to hire them as apprentices. Noone seems to want Mort, but just before the clock has struck its final strike at midnight, a prospective tradesman enters the square. It is Death and Mort can see him as he really looks. Mort is hired as an apprentice and Death and Mort ride off on Binky.

And so, Mort is off on the adventure of his life learning all sorts of useful things – like how many shades of black there are and how to walk through walls. Obviously death is a theme of all of the books in the Death series. Terry treats this subject with warmth and a light heart. Death comes to us all, after all. Poor old Death is going through a mid-life crisis, and Pratchett’s gentle mocking of the phenomenon is heartwarming.


Adaptions

  • 1994: The graphic novel, Mort: The Big Comic is illustrated by Graham Higgins.
  • 2004: BBC4 broadcast Mort in 4 parts. Adapted for radio by Robin Brooks. It is re-sent regularly.
  • 2007: German musical adaptation of Mort.
  • 2008: English musical adaptation of Mort by Jenifer Toksvig.
  • 2011: English stage adapation of Mort by Stephen Briggs

Reaper Man (1991)

“Death of Rats” by Alex Thomas

The terrible Auditors of Reality have been at it again. To them the fact that Death seems to be developing a personality is the sin beyond sins. So, they decide to retire Death and Death is resigned to that decision. What happens when there is no longer a collector of spirits?

Back at the Unseen University Windle Poons – the oldest wizard – is waiting for his collection by Death. He knows to the minute when this is supposed to happen. But does it? Windle Poons certainly dies, but no one shows up for his spirit, so he decides to go back into his body. This tendency seems to be spreading to other people.

Bill Door’s harvesting machine

Now that Death has his own hourglass with sand running down, he has decided to make the most of the life left to him. High up in the Ramtops a figure on a horseback turns up. He knocks at the door of Miss Flitworth asking for help. The stranger goes by name Bill Door. The main qualification needed is the ability to use a scythe, and one might say that Bill is excellent at the job.

Back at Ankh-Morpork Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler has discovered something that he thinks will make his fortune (again). This time he has found some strange globes. When they are shaken a cloud of little white snowflakes swirl up in the liquid inside and settle on a tiny model of a famous Ankh-Morpork landmark.

And finally, magic is behaving strangely at the UU. It seems all of the Life drifting accross the Discworld is acting like water building up behind a dam when the sluice gates are shut. Needing a place to go, it manifests itself in all sorts of phenomena. The wizards decide they have to meddle with all of the strangeness.

Terry addresses fate, life, death, consumerism and relationships in Reaper Man. I’ve seen reviews that praise Reaper Man to the sky and others that despair of Pratchett’s writing this books. For my own part, I rather liked the book. It juggles the serious and the silly quite well in the jump between Flitworth and the wizards.


Adaptations

  • 1996: 8-minute animated television adaptation produced by Cosgrove Hall Animation Studios of Reaper Man.
  • 2012: Australian stage adaptation of Reaper Man by Pamela Munt

Soul Music (1994)

Soul Music moments by Justyna

Mort and Ysabell married and had a baby – a little girl they named Sarah. At age six, Sarah, makes her teachers at Quirm College for Young Ladies extremely nervous. Strangeness tends to happen around the girl and she says the most bizarre things. But Susan didn’t really worry about what other people thought about her. And that continues through the years at school.

Sometimes the gods listen to the words people say. Imp Y Celyn (Buddy) said to his dad: “You don’t know anything! You’re just a stupid old man. But I’m giving my life to music! One day soon everyone will say I was the greatest musician in the world.” In retrospect, perhaps not the wisest words, but they do make for a good story. When he chances upon a pawn shop guitar and becomes possessed by it, rock and roll enters the Discworld. This means some serious hip-rolling and swooning fans. Imp’s band “Music With Rocks In” acquires a manager in Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler. He tries to do what any good manager would, cash in on the band while keeping them in the dark.

Death has decided to go on another of his walkabouts. Unfortunately, for Susan Sto Helit (Death’s granddaughter) that means leaving boarding school to carry on the family business. Having Death for a grandfather does not make for an easy life and Susan struggles to stay on top of the job. Chaos and mayhem ensue.

Part of the theme of this book is music groups and their managers in all their glory. The generation gap is also something that is experienced at the Unseen University. Ridicully’s thoughts on the younger wizards’ fascination with the new fad is typical. Idealism vs. rationality is a struggle Susan has to face. To let or not to let people die.


Adaptation

1996: An animated mini-series adaptation of Soul Music was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4.

Hogfather (1996)

  • 1997: British Fantasy Award nominee
  • 2007: Winner of BAFTA TV Award for Best Visual Effects and Interactivity
  • 2007: Nominated for BAFTA Tv Award for Best Photography & Lighting
  • 2007: Winner of BPG Multichannel Award
  • 2007: Nominated for RTS Award for Best Drama Serial
  • 2007: Nominated for VES Award

The bad guys by Stato Bizley

“”Something” began when the Guild of Assassins enrolled Mister Teatime, who saw things differently from other people, and one of the ways that he saw things differently from other people was in seeing other people as things (later, Lord Downey of the Guild said, “We took pity on him because he’d lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that”).”

At the Unseen University the wizards are standing before a nailed shut door, wondering if they should open it – despite the sign that read “Do not, under any circumstances, open this door”. But curiosity is one of the prevailing “talents” of wizards. Ridicully is one of the more curious ones. The door is opened, and what do they find? Bloody Stupid Johnson has been at it again. A wise person would have closed the door again at this moment, but alas. There are not many wise wizards in Ankh-Morpork.

Susan Sto-Helit is enjoying a quit evening at the home she is governessing at. As usual she has put the fear of something into her employer while the children adore her. All of a sudden images formed in her mind. “A red ball … The sharp smell of snow … And then they were gone, and instead there were …

“Teeth?” said Susan, aloud. “Teeth,” again”?”

“Susan and the … Hogfather?” by Rebecca M.

She knows right then that trouble is afoot, and its name is most likely DEATH. As you can see from the picture, DEATH does make a lovely Hogfather – travelling to all the children calling HO, HO, HO in his own unique style.

Absurdity, chaos and laughter are only some words to describe Hogfather. When the assassin Teatime is sent to kill the Hogfather, you just know you have to buckle up for a crazy ride. Christmas and all of its stranger sides (consumerism and altruism) are all examined. This is the ultimate Christmas story, one that might make you want to believe in Santa Claus again.


Adaptation:

2006: Hogfather adapted by Vadim Jean as a two part TV-serial for SKY

French cover by Marc Simonetti

Thief of Time (2001)

Nanny Ogg is called to a birthing – a very unusual one. Some years later Jeremy Clockson was enjoying dismantling and putting a clock back together again. He’d grown up as a child-prodigy at the Guild of Clockmakers since he was a few days old. Then Lady Myria LeJean with her two troll body-guards steps into his shop. Something about her bothers Jeremy. She wants him to build the most accurate clock in the world.

Miss Susan is a very strict and popular teacher with her pupils. Her main concern is to get her pupils to see things for what they are. But her popularity stems mainly for the class-trips she takes her students on – quite unusual ones that should not be possible. Her view on parents was that there ought to be an exam before they were allowed children. When the Death of Rats comes by to tell her that Death needs her help dealing with the Auditors, she sets off to do her duty.

The Order of Wen or the History Monks have a duty to see that tomorrow happens. One of the novices, Ludd, is causing problems. As a baby, he’d been raised by the Guild of Thieves. Then the monk Soto had stumbled upon Ludd and send him to the temple. There all sorts of unusual things happened our young Ludd. To solve the Master of Novices’ problems, Ludd is placed with another troublemaker – the sweeper Lu Tze. Both Ludd and Lu Tze are surprised by the other.

Going along for a ride with Pratchett is bound to be an insane experience and Thief of Time is no exception to the rule. His way of dealing with events of the day – and usually themes that are relevant no matter when or where one lives (like education, family, duty, propaganda, differences and prejudice) is admirable. It’s the warmth in his work that makes Pratchett so worthwhile to me.

For this blog, I’ve used Wikipedia, L-Space, and the above books as my sources.

Dick, Philip K.: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

Palmer Eldritch

Weird. Strange. These are the words that describe this book to me most. So, I had to go on the net to figure out if Philip had written about a LSD trip he’d had or whether the novel was just part of an avant-garde milieu. I can’t really say that I found a satisfactory answer, so this is what it is. While the technology in this books was dated, the book itself could have been written today by someone with the right mind-set (not mine obviously).

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was first published in 1965. In it he explores a possible future where humanity has the same questions to deal with today: what is good and what is evil, are drugs bad, how to deal with global warming, how far do we take genetic research.

Palmer Eldritch is a business man who went for a space trip ten years ago. He has now returned and is offering the world Chew-Z (a hallucinogenic). His three stigmata are: his artificial eyes, his artificial teeth and his artificial arm.

His competitor, Leo Bulero, produces the drug Can-D which enables the users to inhabit a shared illusory world.

Barney Meyerson works for Leo as a precog and ends getting involved in competition between Palmer and Leo.

Norton, Andre: Star Born (Astra series) (1957)

Star Born Andre Norton
1957 cover painted by Virgil Finlay

Star Born was written in 1957 and is the second novel of the Astra series. As such, you might expect it to be extremely dated. That’s the good thing about Andre Norton. Her focus is on the characters not on technology. Not that it would have mattered in the end, not really. I found Star Born among my books and discovered that I hadn’t read it. Shocker, but a pleasant surprise.

Our two main protagonists in Star Born are Raf Kurbi from Terra and Dalgard Nordis from Homeport. Like so many of Norton’s characters a rite of passage is what starts off the book.

Dalgard is the descendant of Terran escapees. Many generations ago they came to the planet Astra. There they found a race of people who communicated through telepathy. Telepathic communication is another of Norton’s favorites. These two groups learn to live next to each other in peace and with time the Terran stock evolve their telepathic abilities to the extent that they can communicate with the telepathic creatures on Astra. Dalgard is traveling with Sssuri, a member of the Merfolk, and his knife-brother. Together they are on a journey of exploration – rite of passage.

One of the deserted bases of “Those Others” is the goal of the two travellers. “Those Others” are the ancient enemies of the Merfolk and other creatures on Astra. In olden times the Merfolk were enslaved by “Those Others” but through rebellion they managed to hit the Others hard.

Star Born switches between Dalgard’s story and Raf’s. Raf has come from Terra along with a crew. Four of them set out to investigate some ruins that they had seen during landing. It turns out that they meet up with the Others. Raf is uncomfortable about this meeting. For some reason his guard is up. When they go with the Others to explore one of the ruins, they come upon Dalgard. Now the stories blend together and we get to see what happens when two young men hold the fate a world in their hands.

The newcomers from Terra display all of the classic symptoms displayed in meeting with aliens. Meeting as described in science fiction anyways as I do not know of any real life meetings with aliens. Fear, prejudice, and violence go together it seems in such situations.

Young adults are probably Norton’s target group. Most of her books are written for them. That is clearly reflected in the language. There is no swearing, graphic violence or sex scenes. Quite refreshing in a sense. While Star Born isn’t one of my favorite Norton books, it was an easy read.


NOTE: This title has entered the “Public Domain” and is therefore open to any publisher that wants to print it. Many “Print on Demand” publishers have started to release this title. This site has chosen to ignore these published versions and only concentrate on estate sanctioned materials.”

The Project Gutenberg has a complete version of Star Born for free – for those who are interested.


Star Born has been translated to:

  • German:  Flammen über Astra
  • Russian: Звездная стража [Star Guard]
  • Russian (in combination with The Stars Are Ours!) Астра [Astra]

Sources:


Other reviews:

Pratchett, Terry: Discworld cultures/Gods

Discworld political map
By Blamed Thande

As you can see from the above map, the Discworld consists of many countries and continents. Each country has its own culture and religion. From my reading there are three books in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series that are specifically about religion and culture. These three stories are about the countries of Djelibeybi (Pyramids) – try saying it, Omnia (Small Gods) and Zlobenia vs. Borogravia (Monstrous Regiment).

PYRAMIDS (1989)

Pyramids consists of four books: The Book of Going forth, The Book of the Dead, The Book of the New Sun and The Book of 101 Things a Boy Can Do.

As a young boy Pteppic was sent to Ankh-Morpork by his father, King Teppicymon XXVII. The Assassin’s Guild had accepted him as their student. The reason they had chosen the assassins’ school was because it offered the best all-round education in the world.

At home all Teppic had was a kingdom two miles wide and onedred and fifty miles long. Its stronger neighbors only tolerated their existence because anything else would lead to war between the two countries.

Assassin profile
By Cathy

Djelibeybi’s days of glory were over. Now all they had to attract visitors was pyramids – enough pyramids to bankrupt the country.

Teppic’s stay was Ankh-Morpork is a success. He survived his finals (assassin’s school finals can be quite deadly) through knowledge and a great deal of luck. The test was to arrive alive and well at a site and then kill someone. He passed by accident.

Then Teppic’s father dies and Teppic becomes King Teppicymon XXVIII and has to go back to Djelybeybi. When he gets there he discovers that the High Priest Dios pretty much runs the country. Any change that Teppic wants to bring in to Djelibeybi, like plumping, is fought. All Teppic is supposed to do is get a consort and bring an heir into the world. Most importantly, a new pyramid has to be raised and his father’s pyramid has to be capped.

Pratchett plays with time and space in Pyramids. The pyramid of Teppic’s father has become so large that upon capping, Djelibeybi comes out of alignment with the rest of the disc. Chaos ensues in Djelibeybi as the dead come alive and the kingdom’s various gods want a part in ruling the kingdom. The power of belief is strong on the Discworld. There gods gain power through their believers. If the people believe the pharaoh is a god, then the pharaoh has godlike powers. Egyptian mythology along with Christianity get their fair share of Pratchett’s attention.


1989: Winner of BSFA


SMALL GODS (1992)

On the Discworld there are gods for everything. On Wikipedia you’ll find a list over the gods and their function. They come in all shapes and sizes. Lack of belief decreases power while belief increases the power of the gods. If they have no believers, the gods are small gods crying out for belief.

History has to be observed. Otherwise it’s not history. It’s just … well, things happening one after another.

This is why history has its own caretakers making sure things happen as they should. These caretakers live in a hidden valley in the Ramtops. The 493rd Abbot sends his most experienced monk, Lu-Tze, to Omnia to make certain that nothing messes up the course of history.

Brutha and Om
By Thaumivore

In Omnia the time of the 8th prophet was imminent. The Church of the Great God Om has “very punctual prophets. You could set your calendar by them, if you had one big enough.” Brutha, the novice monk hears a voice. This voice is trying to get his attention. Due to a lack of belief Om finds itself stripped of power and has therefore become one of the Small Gods. When Brutha discovers that the voice he has been hearing in his head belongs to a small tortoise, Brutha is astounded. No less astounded does he become when the tortoise wants to see the High Priest. A mere novice will never be allowed into such august company.

Waiting for Vorbis
By danseusenoire

Vorbis, the Deacon, is the head of the Quisition. Their job is to do all those things that need to be done that other people would rather not do. Their methods of garnering information were like the Spanish Inquisition’s, rather unpleasant. Along with General Iam Fri’it of the Divine Legion and Bishop Drunah of the Congress of Iams Vorbis is planning on forcing the word of Om on the Ephebians. Once Ephebe has been converted, the way onward to Djel and Tsort lies open.

Religion and its inquisitions, philosophy, and the battle between reason and belief end up on the playground of Pratchett’s satiric hand. Terry gives us a look at how some people seek power to the extent that they will do anything to gain it.


ADAPTATION

  • 2006: Small Gods adapted for radio at BBC4
  • 2010: Small Gods adapted for stage by Ben Saunders
  • 2011: Small Gods on Speed fan animation on You Tube

MONSTROUS REGIMENT (2003)

File:Firstblast.jpg

Some gods are crazier than others. In Borogravia Nuggan passes decrees that are increasingly bizarre. Borogravians are ruled by the Abominations – a list of taboos: no garlic, no cats, ginger hair is out and so are six-buttoned shirts, chocolate and the color blue. You can see that being a Borogravian can be a challenge for the most devout. Due to these Abominations Borogravia is constantly at war with their neighbors.

Even though women aren’t allowed pants, Polly dons them, cuts her hair short and sets off after her brother Paul, who has gone missing in the Borogravian army. She needs him back at the family pub so the pub won’t be passed on to their terrible cousin if their dad dies. All she has to do is join the Borogravian army.

French cover art by Marc Simonetti

The recruiting sergeant and his corporal assistant Strappi give Polly (or Oliver Perks as she calls herself) a shilling to kiss and a picture of the queen. Along with Polly, several other recruits join up: a vampire, one troll, an Igor and humans. Strangely enough all the of the recruits have very light voices. The tiny regiment makes their way toward the keep where the enemy is based. Guess who we get to meet there.

Commander Samuel Vimes has been sent to Zlobenia to figure out how to deal with Borogravia. To Vimes Borogravia is just another criminal that has to be dealt with as such, and he is going to treat Zlobenia and Borogravia as he would two scrappers back in Ankh-Morpork.

As you can probably imagine the main themes of Monstrous Regiment are the battle between the sexes and repressive religions. Deprivations caused by a war-happy country are only all too apparent in this story. Along with young males, food and clothing are scarce. We don’t have to look too far back into our own histories to see how all of these themes are sadly relevant for us.

The characters in Monstrous Regiment are delightful. The lengths these women go to in order to hide their gender is funny (socks in pants etc.). Their reactions to discovering the true identities of their compatriots and the difficulties that come with hiding their gender create weird scenes (especially in relation to Lieutenant Blouse – an incredibly inept soldier).


ADAPTATION

  • 2004: Monstrous Regiment adapted for stage by Stephen Briggs
  • 2011: Monstrous Regiment trailer fanfilm by Michelle

SOURCES