Category Archives: Books

Equal Rites

Equal RitesThe latest entry in our Discworld marathon has been examined not just by Tom but Glen as well, for a joint look at Pratchett’s war of the sexes, the third discworld novel Equal Rites:

Glen: I’m a big fan of Pratchett, though my love for the Discworld has lessened with some of the newer novels. He’s a unique author and incredibly versatile. I’m currently listening to the Long Mars as an audio book, a completely different style to Discworld.

I flew back from Kentucky yesterday (thanks giving trip), it was a nine hour journey and I needed something to get me through. Terry Pratchett was that something. His writing is a warm, comfortable jumper I’ll that always return to. His books are still as funny when I picked them up as a 13 year old in our school library, though I’m now able to appreciate significantly more subtext…

I read both Equal Rites and the Fifth Elephant on the plane. In some ways they felt like two different authors to me. That made me take a long, hard look through the bibliography at the front of the book. I came to realise I’d moved beyond favourite character threads (Vimes vs. Rincewind, or Granny vs. Lipwig) as I was used. I’d passed through the looking glass.

Tom’s Perspective: Equal Rites offers a lot more meat than either of its predecessors, although that mostly comes in the form of Granny Weatherwax. By giving us a selection of main characters who actually respond and get involved with the story as opposed to just passing through it Pratchett gets to explore some far more interesting narrative terrains, although the ending boils down to roughly the same conclusion as the Light Fantastic.

Short, sweet, just the right length to engage and amuse without overstaying it’s welcome this was the perfect, mature, response to the anarchy of the first two novels.

The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic is an excellent justification.

601239The Discworld is a place that follows archetypal fantasy but does so through the lens of cynicism and wit. It’s scope comes through a little clearer here than in it’s predecessor the Colour of Magic. Rather than riffing off high fantasy books with warrior maidens, gambling gods and nameless horrors it offers a cottage made of sweets, an aged Conan the Barbarian and a political struggle within the halls of wizardry as the wizard Trymon plots his way to the top. The set pieces (because like it’s predecessor the plot is little more than a loose movement from one moment to the next) are much shorter and snappier, resulting in  much better flow. Perhaps the most significant improvement in this book is that it has more than two real characters. Continue reading The Light Fantastic

The Colour of Magic

There are many ways to experience Terry Pratchetts’ first entry to the Discworld Universe and in all probability it’s for the best I went about it an unorthadox way. The sad truth is that this literary beast, an ongoing series that has over many years grown to something of herculean proportions, started as something simple, trivially light and lacking in key areas.

As a teenager I first discoColour of Magicvered the Discworld in the form of a graphic novel; an excellent adaptation which brings an extraordinary level of light and colour to the vivid world Pratchett has concieved. As a comic strip the adventures of Rincewind and Twoflower feels  episodic in nature, the pair moving from one adventure to the next, and the format of the story flows most naturally here.  Many years later came the television adaptation starring David Jason and Sean Astin, which offers an entirely different take on the two characters, turning them into an elderly innofensive bumbler and an american style tourist. Enjoying that I returned to the source material with an abridged audiobook read by Tony Robinson, who invests such wit and life into the characters his voice feels like the definitive voice of the series. But when, some months later still, I finally decided to read the original book, I found that there was yet more to discover. As good as the audio books are they are heavily abridged. Each iteration of this story contains something the other’s don’t and I’d struggle to call the original book the definitive take, as despite containing the most material it also shows just how far the author has come as a writer in it’s inherent weaknesses.

Continue reading The Colour of Magic

Blackmail, My Love

I’ve recently moved to San Francisco and wanted to find out a little more about the city’s history. I don’t do well with textbooks (even sleeping with them under my pillow doesn’t work) so I absorb facts from fiction using some form of osmosis. I’m always on the look out for a piece of fiction that can give me a interesting perspective on the place I’m living in.

blackmail

Blackmail, My Love did just that. It’s a decent LGBT murder mystery but it’s the world-weaving (yes, that’s a thing), which I like. The book is rife with the geographical and historical touchstones that I love. The author does a really good job of bringing the 1950’s LGBT community’s plight alive. SF back then was definitely not liberal and a new law meant (in a round about way) that police raids were stepped up and a lot of the LGBT community were beaten, or in the case of the protagonists brother… disappeared. It really shocked me. I’ve always thought of SF as being a liberal city, it never occurred to me that those rights had to be fought for. I knew it in the back of my head of course but there’s a difference between knowing something and seeing it happen to a character you can identify with.
I googled the author and found an interview where she says that she interviewed a lot of people who lived through those times, so I guess it’s as legit as it can be. I also liked the drawings throughout (not too many, I don’t like picture books) and it turned out that they’re prints that she’s made. That sealed the deal. I’m kind of obsessed with her.

In short. Plot decent. World-weaving (again, real thing) great. Author’s credentials + print skills = legendary. I don’t think I’ll ever see the streets of SF in the same way again.

The Almond Tree

I won this novel through Goodreads Giveaway, and spoilers follow:

If14929224 the Almond Tree can be described with one word that both sums up its inspiration, content and ambition it’s ‘grim’. This is never clearer than the opening chapter, described through the eyes of a young boy as he watched his baby sister chase a butterfly out of a house, across the street and into a minefield. The story follows a boy, persecuted for being an Arab in an Israeli state, of his escape through education and the hunt to redeem himself via his family. It depicts the living conditions of real people and runs across many historical events of the last fifty years accurately (as far as I can tell, although I must confess I am no historian and woefully ignorant about some things that I should not be), I just ‘wish’ I could say it was based on a true story but sadly the redemption found in the end by Ichmad is not one that our dreary real world has accomplished yet.

Continue reading The Almond Tree