Tag Archives: #Satire

Svingen & Pedersen; Converted (The Meantime stories II)(2018)

Illustrated by Håkon Lystad

Converted is the second short-story of The Meantime Series. “Draghan and the shaman had been on the inside of the innermost circles of power since the previous regime” until “King Avlar met his premature death after a clumsy and unfortunate accident where he sat down on his sword”. Both Draghan and the shaman had an instantaneous conversion from the old god to the god of Avlar’s son. We follow the two of them in Converted.

While there are language and grammar issues, Svingen & Pedersen have solved many of the problems I saw in Flushed. I particularly like their take on the worth of people. Some places in the world are still like this.

The authors gave me an ARC copy to review.


My review of Flushed

Svingen & Pedersen; Flushed (Meantime stories I) (2018)

Topics of the Meantime short-stories are independent of each other. Thus far there are three of them. Flushed is the first one, and the one I enjoyed the least. Most of that has to do with translation problems and proper word usage. That is not to say that it was bad. Flushed is a story about how a president handles “an uninterrupted log of such length and girth” when it refuses to be flushed down the UK PM’s toilet. Most of the story is about the president’s thoughts interspersed with short spurts of action.

While “any resemblance to real persons” is entirely coincidental according to Svingen & Pedersen, their presidential character borrows heavily from a certain US president. Flushed’s president certainly behaves the way much of media presents him.

Remember! Flushed is supposed to be a piece of humour, not a piece of political commentary.

The authors sent me an ARC copy to review.

 

Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)

Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.

“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”

In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.

In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.

One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.

I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.

“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”

“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”

While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.

Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.


Reviews:

Green, Dominic: Saucerers and Gondoliers (Ant & Cleo 1) (2008)

Saucerers and Gondoliers cover
Cover by Dominic Green

It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.

Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?

First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.

It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:

“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”

Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.

Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.

After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today).  Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.

“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”

OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.

Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.

I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Reading order:

Pratchett, Terry: Raising Steam (Discworld 40) (2013)

Terry Pratchett is God. Or perhaps he is Moist von Lipwig. What a name. Seriously! Pratchett has a way with names that I have never seen outdone.

I loved Raising Steam. Goblins are my new favorite race. These people keep on knocking over the expectations of other races time and again. Their freedom from being eaten, chased, beaten and downtrodden (at least in theory) has led to them outdoing many of their old masters.

Perhaps this is the main reason Pratchett has caught my heart. He isn’t afraid to address problems in society, and he does it in a manner that helps me see them in a new light. Moist von Lipwig is an excellent conduit for that message. He races through the story having to face himself ever so many times. Facing myself is not my favorite pastime but it is one that I try to make time for daily. One of the advantages of limited mobility is that I can no longer run from whatever parts of me I might wish to run from. Moist tries but Mister Of the Twilight the Darkness keeps him on track.

In Raising Steam those tracks are technology and the steam engine. But I guess like so many of Mr. Pratchett stories, Raising Steam is about our fears. Facing our fears. In this case our fears take the shape of racism, fear of technology, fundamentalism and basically fear of any person or thing that is not within our scope of experience.

We are all frightened little shites trying to muddle our way throughout life without realizing that all of the others around us are also frightened little shites. For this reason I truly love Pratchett. He shows us our fears, and our fears are many. What we need is a Vimes who asks us difficult questions and at the same time helps us realize that we are dumber than bread in persisting in our fears.

Like von Lipwig, Pratchett is my enabler. He helps me see what needs to be faced and leaves me feeling graced by his presence. No wonder he is my god.


Wikipedia: Raising Steam


Raising Steam available on Amazon UK paperback, Amazon UK hardcover, Amazon e-book, Audible, iTunes, iTunes AudioRandomhouse, Waterstones paperback, Waterstones audio, Waterstones hardback


Other Moist von Lipwig books

  1. Going Postal
  2. Making Money

Bradford, Owyn: “Get your exit letter, see what freedom’s done!”

A satirical look at belief by one of my friends

1) “If you want earrings count ’em one, two three,
if you want to wear no skivvies just like me,
if you want to drink a beer when the day is hot,
then a Godforsaken Mormon is what you are not.”

Chorus:

Count the restrictions, what you cannot do,
worse than a baconburger if you are a Jew,
give your money, do your tasks, wear a suit and tie,
or in the outer darkness you are gonna cry.

2) Don’t touch your little factory, don’t you date a black,
or from the good ol’ bishie you will take some flak,
Shouldn’t show your shoulders or go in the lake –
that’s the devil’s hangout, for goodness’ sake!

Chorus:

3) Funeral potatoes, oh my heck,
all that flippin’ stuff makes my hips a wreck!
Fast Sunday makes me hungry but what is worse
is kiddie testimonies, oh what a curse!

Chorus:

4) They stammer and they lisp that the chuwch is two
but it sure don’t cut the ice with me or you.
If you’ve had it up to here and “Enough!” you say,
than write that flippin’ letter and do it today!

Chorus:

5) They take our hard earned cash and they build a mall,
but if we are in need, who’re we to call?
There’s money for investments and for the Brethren too,
but there is nothing but frustration for me and you!

Chorus:

6) Count your aggravations, count them one by one,
then pack your bag, my friend, and prepare…to…run!
Count your aggravations, count them one by one,
then pack your bag, my friend, and prepare…to…run!

Parable of the Isms (1935-)

a-tale-of-two-cows-illustrated

Feudalism: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk. (Anonymous)

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. (Silas Strawn, 1935)

Pure socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need. (Anonymous)

Bureaucratic socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need. (Anonymous)

Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk. (Silas Strawn, 1935)

Pure communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk. (Anonymous)

Applied communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then sells you some milk. (Silas Strawn, 1935)

Militarianism: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you. (Anonymous)

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. (Silas Strawn, 1935) Then put both of them in your wife’s name and declare bankruptcy.  (Pat Paulsen, 1968)

Nazism (dictatorship): You have two cows. The Government takes both and shoots you. (Silas Strawn, 1935)

New Dealism: You have two cows. The Government takes both, shoots one, buys milk from the other cow, then pours the milk down the drain. (Silas Strawn, 1935)

Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them. (Anonymous)

Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned. (Anonymous)

Pure democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk. (Anonymous)

Representative democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk. (Anonymous)

American democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate”. (Anonymous)

British democracy: You have two cows. You feed them sheeps’ brains and they go mad. The government doesn’t do anything. (Anonymous)

Singapore democracy: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment. (Anonymous)

Anarchy: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows. (Anonymous)

Political correctness: You are associated with (the concept of “ownership” is a symbol of the phallocentric, warmongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of nonspecified gender. (Anonymous)

Counterculture: Wow, dude, there’s like… these two cows, man. You have got to have some of this milk. I mean totally. (Anonymous)

Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons. (Anonymous)

Therapyism: You have two cows. One is a metaphor for your inner child. The other is the manifestation of anger toward a parental figure. You take one of the cows on walks through grassy fields by the gentle ocean waves. The other you beat with an anger bat. (©2007 Mike McLoughlin, Executive Director, Memphis Recovery Centers)

Recoveryism: You have twelve cows … and a sponsor. (©2007 Mike McLoughlin, Executive Director, Memphis Recovery Centers)

Insurancism: You have two cows. The Federal regulator requires you to hold one cow in reserve because they predict a shortage of milk. The Provincial/State regulator requires you to drop the price of milk because they predict a surplus of milk. The courts deem your cows inherently dangerous and order you to provide free milk to anyone who has ever been frightened by a farm animal. The marketing people are promising chocolate milk at an enhanced commission and you discover your own actuaries have been building pricing models assuming goats instead to save on the expense line. (©2002 Saskia Oltheten Matheson)

Russian company: You have two cows. You drink some vodka and count them again. You have five cows. The Russian Mafia shows up and takes however many cows you have.

Californian company: You have a million cows. Most of them are undocumented immigrants.

US Company: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why
the cow has dropped dead.

Greek company: You have two cows. You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds, dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds. You still only have two cows.

French company: You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

Japanese company: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

Italian company: You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

Swiss company: You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

Chinese company: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

Indian company: You have two cows. You worship them.

British company: You have two cows. Both are mad.

Iraqi company: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

Australian company: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

New Zealand company: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive…

United nationism: You have two cows. France vetoes you from milking them. The United States and Britain veto the cows from milking you. New Zealand abstains.

Frisbeetarianism: You have two cows. One of them flies up on the roof and gets stuck. You hope the government provides cow ladders.

Intel Pentium 60 – A80501-60: You have 2.0000000056987983 cows.

In the marketing department: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of two thousand millicows!

Political philosophy / Wikipedia / Lillic0rr

INTA's methane collecting cows
Image source: INTA: purified methane is used to generate heat, light and motor energy.

Argentina’s INTA governmental research body has developed cow backpacks that trap its daily 300 litres (or 80 gallons) of methane in order to turn it into green energy. Researchers claim the process is painless for the cow.

Stross, Charles: The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files I)

Cover art by Steve Montiglio
Cover art by Steve Montiglio

The Atrocity Archives consists of two stories: The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle.

“Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” (The Atrocity Archives)

I have an admission to make. I do not believe I have ever read any Lovecraft but the Chtuluverse reaches far and wide and has many incarnations. Another admission. I am beginning to see that I do not understand what horror literature is. My placing it in this category relies solely upon what Charles Stross himself has said about his novellas.

The Atrocity Archive has to be a math/computer lover’s dream. It mixes real and imagined theories with abandon and we end up with things like “The Church-Turing Theorem”. Even I have heard of Alan Turing. The theorem itself is, of course, fantasy – or is it? Perhaps there really is an organization out there trying to protect us from reaching into the unknown and dragging out brain-eating monsters from parallel universes.

Artwork by Leighton Johns
Artwork by Leighton Johns

In the case of The Atrocity Archive this parallel universe is illustrated perfectly by Leighton Johns on Deviantart. As you can see, the worship of Adolph Hitler reached new heights over there. But the lovely monster who has taken over the Nazi-universe wants in to ours, and we really do not want that to happen. Unless you belong to the Order of Null.

As a first field assignment I have to say that Bob Howard has his work cut out for him. Although Angleton (boss-man) did not KNOW what kind of mess he was putting Bob into, he had to at least have an inkling of the extent of the problem. Exactly who or what Angleton is remains a mystery. I find myself curious enough about the man to want to get more of the Laundry series so I can find out more about him.

And that is just Angleton.

I have to say that Charles Stross has a wonderful way with the names of his characters. Scary Spice for one. I just about died when Scary was introduced. Then we have Bob’s flat-mates, Pinky and Brain. Pinky and Brain are uber-intelligent guys whose creative genius (and idiocy) are on par with Leonard of Quirm.

Perhaps this is the main reason I really like Charles Stross. His writing has the exact zing it needs to be both funny and painful. Stross excels at the astoundingly difficult art of satire and I love the way his intelligence radiates his writing dragging me along for the ride.

The Concrete Jungle is of the same quality. In these surveillance times it makes perfect sense to read about CCTV security cameras being taken over to wreak havoc in an area. All in the name of politics. Who cares if a a few people die along the way? You know, proper politics. Oh, the bite.

Once again, Bob Howard is called upon to save the day. Along the way he manages to show me my own “Laundry”. And so I conclude with the words of the master himself:

“The Laundry squats at the heart of a dark web, a collision between paranoia and secrecy on one hand, and the urge to knowledge on the other. Guardians of the dark secrets that threaten to drown us in nightmare, their lips sealed as tightly as their archives. To get even the vaguest outline of their activities takes a privileged takes a trickster-fool hacker like Bob, nosy enough to worm his way in where he isn’t supposed to be and smart enough to explain his way out of trouble. Some day Bob will grow up, fully understand the ghastly responsibilities that go with his job, shut the hell up, and stop digging. But until then, let us by all means use him as our unquiet guide to the corridors of the Fear Factory.” (The Atrocity Archives)


Reviews:


  • ISBN: 9780441013654
  • Author: Stross, Charles
  • Publisher: Ace Books
  • Introduction by: MacLeod, Hen
  • Copyright: 2004
  • Series: A Laundry Files Novel
  • Publication Date: 2006 01 31
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 368

2005: The Concrete Jungle won the Hugo award for novella of the year


Just for fun: Check out Mathematical Fiction: The Atrocity Files

Barant, D.D.: Dying Bites (The Bloodhound Files) (2009)

 

Dying_Bites
Cover artist: ??? (help!)

Don DeBrandt is a Canadian author who also writes under the pen-names Donn Cortez and DD Barant.”

The Bloodhound Files was created by Mr. Barant as a social satire. I had no idea of that when I bought the novel. In fact it was not until creating this review that I discovered that fact. However, the feeling of social criticism was there throughout Dying Bites.

No doubt about it, Dying Bites is an action-filled mystery with a whole lot of dark fantasy/science fiction to it. We are talking about a parallel world with an alternate history and lots of paranormal creatures and magic.

Jace Valchek fits into the gung-ho main protagonist mold without all of the gooey romance that some fantasy/science fiction novels glory in – the kind that I never seem to understand. The closest we get to romance would be a couple of thoughts about Cassius and Dr. Pete and some action with Tanaka.

DD Barant uses vampires, werewolves, golems and humans to create a world where racism is based on races rather than silly things like color. In my head it becomes easier to understand the concept of racism. Several of the scenes where Mr. Barant shows us the less pleasant sides of our world become incredibly clear. Two of those scenes are the post-sex scene with Tanaka and the nazi-camp. I found that dialogue well-done.

Other dialogue that I enjoyed greatly was between Jace and Charlie, her partner, and any conversation including Eisfanger. Eisfanger is a wonderfully nerdy person whose greatest assistant is a rat skull called Wittgenstein. I found myself wanting to sit down with Eisfanger and have a chat. Being a nerd myself along with being married to one and having two sons who are nerds makes me predisposed toward nerdy characters – if they are well-written.

Dying Bites was great entertainment with a serious undertone and lots of humour.


Reviews:


English professor suddenly realises students will believe literally anything she says

To any and all teachers/professors out there: Do you find yourself agreeing with the experiences of Prof. Mabrey?

Craig Hill Training Services

Midway through her 9 a.m. Intro to American Literature course Thursday, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Elizabeth Mabrey suddenly realised that her students would accept, without question, literally any words that came out of her mouth as absolute, incontrovertible fact, sources confirmed.

“I could say that On the Road was an overt metaphor for the Vietnam War and they would jot it down in their notebooks without any hesitation whatsoever,” said Mabrey, adding that, come midterms, her students will, as if on cue, mindlessly regurgitate whatever she tells them, whether it’s that the character of Dean Moriarty is supposed to be a figment of Sal Paradise’s imagination, or that the entire novel is meant to be read backwards.

“I could, honest to God, ask them to tear their copies of the novel in half because that’s what Kerouac ‘intended the reader to do,’ and they would do it. I mean, what…

View original post 48 more words

Jackson, Ros: The Secret Eater (2013)

Ros Jackson
Cover art by Rick Parsons
Editing by Anna Genoese

I was given a reviewer’s copy of The Secret Eater. I promise that I have not included either “bomb-making instructions” or “the directions to” Ros’ house in this review. When contacted by Ros Jackson I went to her website to check out the background info on the novella and was sold when the words “Nigella Express” appeared.  I did the elegant snort laugh that I do sometimes and said I would love to review it.

Kenssie, the demon (of the secret-eating variety), is an insecure girl with a tendency toward denial. She loves what she is in a world of demons, hybrids and humans. As usual, we humans are oblivious to the “others” around us, something that makes us perfect prey. But we aren’t the only prey around it seems. Denial is a wonderful tool of survival in a world where a poor girl wants to believe herself more included than she really is.

The way Ros Jackson has portrayed the demons and hybrids of her world makes them seem a perfect complement to our fears, insecurities, greed and anger. Using humour and satire as a tool to comment on the world is done in the way only Brits are able to.

I liked this first novella of Ros Jackson.


Reviews:


Kater, Paul: Hilda – Snow White Revisited (Hilda the Wicked Witch) (2010)

Hilda - Snow White Revisited

I am going to say it again. Grimhilda is the most adorable wicked witch I have ever come across. She is wicked, but she is wicked in a proprietary and warm manner.

Paul Kater’s writing conveys humour in spades. Some of it is innocently raunchy and some of it simply funny while the violence is quite innocent. My advice about age appropriateness is the usual one – check the story out yourself first and then decide.

Dandh (review below) said:

If you have any imagination, you can easily forgive the ‘unprofessional’ writing and enjoy the story. Many people expect too much from Kindle free books. This is a venue for amature writers to get their stories published. They don’t have editors and teams of people working behind them. The stories are pure and unedited, that’s what makes them great.

My favorite part of this story is the part where Hilda gets visited by door-to-door salespeople trying to sell her a broom. I wish I could do what she did to some of the salespeople that turn up on our doorstep.

Snow White is your classic airhead that somehow seems to survive unscathed all the horrors that are thrown her way. With Hilda as her own “semi-godmother” she has a bit of supernatural protection. But all is not horror in the life of Snow White. No, indeed it is not. I liked this version of the seven dwarves.

We also get to meet Baba Yaga. For some strange reason there are people out there who seem to think that Baba Yaga originated with Terry Pratchett. Just to clear the record, she does not. Baba Yaga and Grimhilda are great friends who love to prank the other witches.

Some on the witches that are pranked by Hilda and Baba Yaga are the three witches of MacBeth (the Weird Sisters). I guess you could say that Kater’s similarity with Pratchett lies in using some of the same sources as Pratchett does. Paul also employs humour to get whatever message he wants across to the reader.

Paul’s obvious love for his craft is what allows me to look beyond editorial problems. Sometimes a writer’s talent shines through whatever limitations are placed on him.

—————————

Reviews:

—————————

  • Published: Sep. 06, 2010 
  • File Size: 326 KB
  • Words: 45,350 (approximate)
  • Print Length: 139 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00551DEM0
  • ISBN: 9781452326436

—————————

My review of Hilda, the Wicked Witch

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.

Pratchett, Terry: Witches of Discworld

witches-cover-lge

Witches (usually women) are a force to be reckoned with on the Discworld. Nowhere near as flashy as the wizards (usually men), these women often rule their villages with an iron fist and a whole lot of headology. Pratchett describes headology as:

a witch’s way of magically setting fire to a log of wood consists of staring at the log until it burns up from pure embarrassment. As a result it is less energy intensive, which means that a witch can do more than a technically equally powerful wizard. (Discworld Wiki)

Now, imagine headology turned on people. That might frighten a few into behaving who might not otherwise behave.

Granny Weatherwax by paul kidby
Granny Weatherwax
by Paul Kidby

The strongest headologist of the “good” witches is Granny (Esmeralda) Weatherwax. Her sister, Lilith (below), happens to be one of the “bad” ones. In a world supposedly without a hierarchy, Granny is the unspoken ruler of the witches. In the village of Lancre there is absolutely no doubt she is the boss. That is until an attempted rebellion be some wannabe witches (below). Granny is a dream of a witch. In the trio of Lancre her role is the role of the Crone (although noone would actually call her a “Crone” to her face – no one with their senses intact). Granny’s special ability is to see reality clearer than the rest. Pratchett explains that this is a manner of seeing the world that does not lie to itself including an ability to question not only the world but oneself again and again and again. Young Tiffany Aching seems to be following in Granny’s “footsteps” in this regard (below). What one needs to realize about Granny Weatherwax is that she is always there for you when you need her. Her one weak spot is her cat: “gerrofoutofityoubugger!” (generally called “You”). Considering who the owner of “You” is, I find it easy to believe that she is the only creature who has gotten the better of Greebo. While younger and much smaller than Greebo “You” terrifies him – inasmuch as he is able to be terrified of anything/anyone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Nanny Ogg and Greebo
by Visente

Greebo belongs to Nanny Ogg. Nanny is probably the only person alive who thinks of Greebo as a big softy.

To Nanny Ogg he was merely a larger version of the fluffy kitten he had once been. To everyone else he was a scarred ball of inventive malignancy.

Nanny is the Mother of the threesome in Lancre. Now there is a lady I wouldn’t mind meeting. Her sense of humour is broadminded, raunchy and hilarious. At the same time she rules her brood and their spouses with something akin to terror with a dash of love mixed in. They adore her yet fear her – at least her daughters in law. Nanny Ogg saves Granny from herself when that is needed and functions as Granny’s grounding rod. Not only that but Nanny lightens the mood when Granny feels overwhelmed or as if the people around her are too stupid for their own good. While Granny is the one who scares people Nanny is the one who woos them – until it is time to stop wooing. Nanny’s final job in the trio of witches is to prod Magrat in the direction Nanny feels Magrat ought to go without being as truthful about it as Granny tends to be.

Meek_Mild_Magrat_by_mjOboe
Meek, Mild Magrat
by MJ Oboe

Magrat Garlick is an interesting character. She happens to be the “Maiden” of the Lancre coven. At first glance Magrat is a young ditz with a heart of gold and a great belief in crystals and folk wisdom.

Witches aren’t like that. We live in harmony with the great cycles of Nature, and do no harm to anyone, and it’s wicked of them to say we don’t. We ought to fill their bones with hot lead.

But as you see, Magrat has another side as well – like we all do. In Lords and Ladies that side shows up in all its glory.

Unlike Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Magrat is not very good at headology. Her forte lies in research and development of herbs and cures (and her crystals of course). She struggles with her self-confidence, but Granny and Nanny make up for that by having an abundance of confidence in themselves. It can’t be easy being the youngest witch when the two older ones in your coven have such strong personalities.

tiffany_aching_by_alda_rana-d64wi2t
Tiffany Aching and the MacNeegles
by Alda Rana

Young Tiffany Aching down down on the Chalk (mountain) is a whole different type of character. She has to take over the responsibility for her mountains when her grandmother (the local witch) dies. The only possible candidate is Tiffany Aching. At 9 her ability to ask uncomfortable questions and her quest for knowledge points to her potential as a great witch down the line. But Tiffany isn’t really worried about the whole witch thing nor is she caught up in the need to be one. Instead she happens to have the gift of making cheese. I know, strange gift for a witch one might say. But witches are practical people who prize such abilities over other more wizard-like gifts. In fact, Tiffany excels so much that one of her cheeses has come alive and become and excellent mouser. Its name is Horace. She is friends with the Nac Mac Feegles, a feat not managed by many.

These four witches are my favorite ones. There are many more that make appearances in Pratchett’s Witches’ series, but Granny, Nanny, Magrat and Tiffany get into so many incredibly weird and funny situations that its impossible not to have them as favorites. The Witches’ series consists of Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight.  As usual Wikipedia gives detailed information about these women, Pratchett’s page is a given source and L-Space has fun details.


SciFi and Fantasy Art Eskarina by Hannah Crosby
Eskarina
by Hannah Crosby

EQUAL RITES (1987)

As I stated at the beginning of this post most witches are women and most wizards are men. There are exceptions. Some of those exceptions start with mistaken identity.

Up in the Ramtops a wizard comes awalking using his staff as a guide to where he is going. Bad Ass, the village, is his lucky destination. A child is being born, the eight son of an eight son.

Drum Billet, our wizard, knows he is about to die. Wizards and witches get to have that knowledge. He gives his staff to the son of the smith and dies. One problem. The eight son of the eight son just happens to be a girl, Eskarina Smith. A wizard girl. Oops.

Good thing for young Eskarina Smith (Esk to her friends) that Granny Weatherwax was the midwife that saw her into the world. When Eskarina is 7 her mother decides to send her along with her brothers to Granny. Strange things seem to be happening around the girl whenever she is upset.

When they get to Granny’s, Granny Weatherwax is lying on her bed looking quite dead. Being a witch she wasn’t, she was only out borrowing. Eskarina feels Granny’s undeadness and goes downstairs waiting for Granny to return (while her brothers run off terrified). When she hears loud noises upstairs, even she becomes terrified, runs off, falls down and is met by the staff (yes! the staff came to her).

Granny knows something has to be done, and right away. She decides to take her to the wizards school in Ankh-Morpork, the Unseen University, and enroll the young Eskarina. But getting the girl into this all-male school is going to prove more difficult than Granny had thought.


Adaptations

BBC4 dramatisation of Equal Rites as serial on Woman’s Hour


The future king with the witches

WYRD SISTERS (1988)

The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weazel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again.”

Here we have the Discworld’s version of MacBeth‘s witches. The mother, the crone and the other one. Or as other people know them, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Maigrat.

King Verence of Lancre is making a discovery. He is about to become a ghost, unable to stop the kidnapping of his child. By a freak accident the child ends up in the arms of Granny Weatherwax and she decides to take a hand in playing with the future and sends the baby off with a troupe of actors.

Fifteen years later.

Words have power. In the “good old days” the jester was the only person at a king’s court who could speak his mind without fear of the consequences (supposedly). These days we have the media. But words have power. We might remember an event or something about the people involved, but as the story gets told and re-told our perception of the event changes. Pratchett’s way of pointing a light at our perceptions and prejudices is a wonder.


Adaptations

1997: Wyrd Sisters was produced as a two-part animated television series, produced by Cosgrove Hall.


House of Gogol
by Brer Anansi

WITCHES ABROAD (1991)

This is a story about stories.

Or what it really means to be a fairy godmother.

But it’s also, particularly, about reflections and mirrors.”

On the Ramtops there was only one witch who was not attending the Sabbat. Desiderata Hollow was making her will. Desiderata is a fairy godmother to princess Emberella. The other one was Lilith (who just happens to be Granny’s sister).

In Genua, the magical kingdom, Lady Lilith de Tempscire loved the idea of travelling through mirrors. After speaking to Desiderata she was glad that there would only be her and the voodoo woman left to fight over Emberellas’s future.

At Lancre the fairy godmother wand is delivered into the hands of Magrat. The note from Desiderata reads:

I niver had time to Trane a replaysment so youll have to Do. You must goe to the City of Genua. I would of done thys myself only cannot by reason of bein dead. Ella Saturday muste NOTTE marry the prins. PS This is important. PSPS The those 2 Olde Biddys they are Notte to come with Youe, they will onlie Ruine everythin. PSPSPS It has tendincy to resett to pumpkins but you wil gett the hange of it in noe time.”

With this bit of headology, Desiderata guarantees that Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny decide to accompany Magrat on her journey to Genua. As the threesome moves through the lands on their way to Genua, they manage to upset quite a few people. In typical tourist style they are loud and obnoxious and wonder why these people cannot speak properly. But there is also magic battle and voodoo fun to be had.


Adaptations

1999: Witches Abroad stage adaptation by Aaron Birkes played at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Theatre


Lords and Ladies
by Marc Simonetti

LORDS AND LADIES (1992)

Magrat, Nanny (with Greebo) and Granny are back in Lancre after being absent for eight months. That worried Magrat. Was the kind-of-agreement between her and Verence still up and running.

Upon her return, Magrat was informed by King Verence that they were to be married at midsummer and that all of the arrangements have been made. No proposal, just a statement. He is the King you see, and Magrat a subject.

A stone circle up in the mountains of Lancre keeps the Dancers in. That is if they are not let out. When people forget about the Dancers, it is an easy matter to lure them into the stone circle, leaving them quite dead.

Esme Weatherwax and Nanny Grogg come to the Dancers and discover that someone has been dancing. Diamanda, Perdita and that girl with the red hair decided that they should teach themselves witching in the absence of the older ladies. About six of them have been going up into the mountains every full moon dancing. When Granny goes borrowing she discovers that there is some kind of mind loose in the kingdom – Elf.

Mustrum Ridicully of the Unseen University worrying about baldness and thinking back to the good old days when he went walking with Esme. When he is invited to the wedding of King Verence and Magrat, Ridicully decides it is time to up into the mountains. With him go the Librarian and the Reader in Invisible Writings, Ponder Stibbons.


1995: Lords and Ladies stage adaptation by Irana Brown

2005: Lords and Ladies German feature length fanfilm. I’ve only been able to find the link to the trailer. So if anyone has a link to the full-length movie, please send.


MASKERADE (1995)

In his dedication Pratchett writes:

“My thanks to the people who showed me that opera was stranger than I could imagine.”

What is Pratchett going to make fun of this time you might ask. Well, the answer is The Phantom of the Opera.

Mr. Goatberger, the publisher, has been sent the manuscript to a book. It wasn’t even on proper paper, and he was filled with apprehension. Then he started reading, kept on reading, and called in his assistant, Mr. Cropper. He began dreaming “the dream of all those who publish books, which was to have so much gold in your pockets that you would have to employ two people just to hold your trousers up.”

Agnes Nitt has come to the Opera House to audition for a part. She might not be the greatest looker, but she has a voice to kill for. When the time comes to select the players, Agnes gets stuck singing for the goodlooking Christine.

Gytha Ogg gets a letter addressed to “The Lancre Witch”, bringing Granny’s temper up a bit. Nanny’s book “The Joye of Snacks” has become a hit, and it turns out the publisher has been a bit complacent about paying Nanny her dues. In fact, he owes her about four or five thousand dollars. They decide to take a trip to Ankh-Morpork and stir up the town a little. That, and convince Agnes to come back to Lancre as the maiden witch. They bring Greebo, Nanny’s cat of terror. His part in this story is amazing.

Reading Maskerade with the Phantom of the Opera playing in my head at the same time was great fun. Terry Pratchett has really nailed it this time.


If you want and incredibly detailed and extensive analysis of Maskerade, I recommend Bewitching Writing by Dorte Andersen at Aalborg University. It seems I’m not the only fan of Terry.

1998: Stephen Briggs stage adaptation of Maskerade.

2006: A stage adaptation of Maskerade by Hana Burešová and Štěpán Otčenášek (partly using adaptation by Stephen Briggs) premiered in Divadlo v Dlouhé, Prague. Pratchett attended the closing performance five years later.


The Carpe Jugulum Cast
by Vic Hill

CARPE JUGULUM (1998)

Into the country of Lancre comes an army. An army made up of very small blue men, no higher than six inches tall. Little blue men nobody messes with. Men whose favorite pasttime is fighting anything and anyone.

Not too far from Lancre, four vampires come accross an invitation to the name ceremony of the child of Queen Magrat and King Verence. It is a dangerous thing to invite vampires into your home, whether that be house or kingdom. Sort of gives them free rein. Count Magpyr, his wife and their two children enter Lancre with their servant Igor.

Granny Weatherwax gets called away to a birthing that is in trouble. When she gets there, she has to decide who to save, mother or child. Very few people could make such a choice without trying to share the responsibitility with someone. Flying back towards the castle she notices mist is on its way from Uberwald.

The dwarf Casuanunda is having to resort to highway robbery. But robbing that black coach is not very tempting when he sees how another highway robber is treated. Instead he goes on to Lancre where he has a few aquaintances.

In this novel Pratchett plays with the idea of split personality, references vampire movies of the day, pyramid schemes and good and evil through the Phoenix vs. vampire myths. Pratchett managed to give this novel a slightly creepy feel.


Adaptation

1999: Stephen Briggs’ adaptation of Carpe Jugulum


The Wee Free Men
by Kathrin

THE WEE FREE MEN (2003) (Skrellingene – 2004) – Locus YA winner 2004

We now leave Lancre behind (for the most part) and enter the world of the Chalk and Tiffany Aching. She is nine years old when we meet her for the first time in The Wee Free Men.

My first meeting with Tiffany (or Petronella in Norwegian) was in Norwegian. I thought I would introduce my youngest to Pratchett and this new book on the market seemed like the thing to read. Was it ever.

When we meet her she is lying by the river tickling the trout on their backs. She liked hearing them laugh. With her on this expedition was her brother Wentworth (Steingrim in Norwegian). Like all little kids he was messy and sticky but easy to be around.

I’m sure you remember the little blue men in Carpe Jugulum. Here they come again, trying to fish. For some reason Tiffany was able to see them. Only witches should be able to see the blue terrors.

Grandma Aching has just died and Tiffany thinks that she might have been a witch. The little blue men turn out to be the Nac mac Feegle. Since Grandma died they are on the lookout for a new “hag”. Since Tiffany sees them and is able to control them (somewhat) the Nac mac Feegle tell Tiffany that she is their hag.

They need help for their Kelda (mom). She is ill. Tiffany comes with them to their hole in the ground and checks out things for the boys. Sadly, the Kelda is dying (of old age) and Tiffany needs to be there for the boys until a new Kelda can be found.

When Tiffany’s baby brother disappears, she now has allies in her search for him. The search brings Tiffany and the mac Feegles into a strange world where Tiffany’s hag-hood is proven.

My youngest son laughed his head off and was really spooked at times. An excellent children’s book in my opinion. They won’t get all the references, but who cares, I probably don’t either. What’s really great about the Tiffany Aching series, is that we get a look at Tiffany’s growth from the beginning. Terry has created a wonderful character in our young Tiffany.


There is a possible film adaptation of The Wee Free Men by Rhianna Pratchett (Terry’s daughter) in the inning.


A Hat Full of Sky
by Fredrik Ämting

A HAT FULL OF SKY (2004) (En hatt full av himmel – 2005) – Locus YA winner 2005

More laughter came for my son in “A Hat Full of Sky“. Those Nac mac Feegle names are genius. I read them in Norwegian (in one of our dialects of course) and I couldn’t help myself. I giggled along. Pratchett has so many of those giggle moments and then all of a sudden a belly-laugh comes along. All part of his godhood status for me I guess.

Tiffany is now an apprentice to Miss Level. On their way there, Tiffany and Miss Tick are attacked by a hiver (powerful, dangerous creature).  At the cottage of Miss Level, Tiffany discovers that Miss Level is in fact two-bodied and that there is a ghost cleaning her house. During her stay Tiffany has to fight the Hiver, but fortunately she does not have to battle alone all of the time. Help is to be found in many places.

We get a great look at the life of an eleven year old torn out of her old life, having to go to boarding school (so to speak). Everything is new. Not everyone is nice. On top of that she has the macNeegle and the Hiver. Growing up must come quickly then. Pratchett does an excellent job at looking at the development of Tiffany’s identity. She emerges as someone who has integrity and the willingness to question herself. She’s actually a pretty good role-model for young people.


Wintersmith
by Bruna Brito

<

p>WINTERSMITH (2006)Locus YA winner 2007

By now I think we’ve seen that Tiffany is not the kind of girl who is ruffled by just anything. It takes a bit more than normal to get her uncomfortable. Being wooed by the Wintersmith is one of those things. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany does a foolish thing. At the dark morris dance welcoming winter, Tiffany finds herself drawn into the dance. Ooops. Wrong person.

This means the Wintersmith (who brings winter) meets Tiffany rather than the Summer Lady and is enchanted by her. Double oooops.

All of a sudden green stuff sprouts underneath Tiffany’s feet and the Cornucopia appears. Tiffany seems to have taken on at least one of the Summer Lady’s abilities. Her friends Roland, macFeegles and Granny Weatherwax have to help Tiffany get out of her new bind.

While her new teacher, miss Treason, is kind of creepy Tiffany manages to learn a lot from her, not least all which color of cheese she does not like.

I’ve seen from commentaries that some people think Wintersmith too childish. Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading the same books as other people or if I’m expecting different things from the books. I find all of the characters delightful, even crazy old Treason. Terry’s writing is up to its usual standard and as a brainwashed cultmember of the Pratchettian cult I’m sold.


i-shall-wear-midnight-discworld-novel-38

I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT (2010)Andre Norton award 2011

OK. Now we come to the last book in the Witches and Tiffany series: I Shall Wear Midnight. For some reason I found it poignant. You know how sometimes you get a feeling of being thankful that you’ve read a book? Well, Midnight and Snuff are both Pratchett books that gave me that quiet feeling. I was moved.

Tiffany is now grown up (15) and is working the Chalk as its only witch in a climate of growing suspicion and hate.

When the Baron of the county dies, she is accused of killing him. Tiffany travels to Ankh-Morpork to inform Roland of his father’s death. As usual the macFeegles follow Tiffany into town.

Tiffany’s fight this time is against the Cunning Man. Once again we get a battle between the almost good against the practically evil.

My love for this book could also be due to its darker tone. This darker tone fits the books well.