e martë, 21 prill 2009

Unofficial Discworld Series Companion

Unofficial Discworld Series Companion

Series Written By Terry Pratchett
Reviews Written By BJ Fraser

Volume 1: The Color of Magic (Or Colour of Magic if you prefer the UK spelling): This is the first Discworld novel, published originally in 1983. I doubt Pratchett thought he'd still be writing the series 25 years later. This first novel serves mostly as a send-up of fantasy epics like "Lord of the Rings" and such and lays out the unusual geography of the Discworld, that being a flat world carried by four elephants on the back of a huge space turtle. The novel deals with Rincewind, a dropout of the Unseen University for wizards, who knows only one magic spell and makes a living on the streets of grubby Ankh-Morpork as best he can. When he is employed by a rich tourist from the far-off Golden Empire, Rincewind thinks he'll make a quick buck. Little does the cowardly would-be wizard know that he's gotten himself entangled in a quest that will take him to (and over) the edges of the Disc.

As I said, this largely lays out the geography of the world, with lots of explanations of how the Disc and its various societies, gods, and so forth work. (This includes the "color of magic" to which the title refers; that color is octarine, an eighth primary color.) On its own it's an amusing novel, though not great. Having read future installments of the series, everything seems a bit off in this first installment. It's like watching season 20 of "The Simpsons" and then going back to watch an episode of season 1 where the voices of some characters (notably Homer) aren't quite right. Had I started with this one, I'm not sure I'd have been keen to read 30 more. (3 stars)

Volume 2: The Light Fantastic: This is a direct sequel to "The Color of Magic" and possibly the only direct sequel in the series, though if I'm wrong I'm sure I'll find out soon enough. Anyway, Rincewind thought he was through with crazy adventures, but an even crazier adventure beckons as the great space turtle seems to be on a collision course with a star. It just might be the one spell Rincewind knows can actually help save the entire Discworld.

Like "The Color of Magic" before it, this one is good, but not great. I think Pratchett had begun the process of settling in more to creating a series instead of just one book. It's still an amusing read if you have a couple hours to spare. (3 stars)

Volume 3: Equal Rites: This is the first Discworld novel to expand the universe outside of Rincewind. In this case the story revolves around a witch named Granny Weatherwax, who lives in the isolated Ramtop Mountains. On general principles Granny doesn't like associating with non-witches, but finds herself becoming a mentor and guardian to a little girl named Esk, who seems destined to become a wizard. Just one problem: there's never been a female wizard before.

There was some good potential for this story in the beginning, but the end never really lived up to it. For one thing, the story focuses itself on too narrow a timeframe, so that we don't really get to see much of Esk's challenges in trying to become a witch or her relationship to Simon. That they haven't reappeared to headline any of the other 30 books probably says something about the author's detachment to them. On a positive note, though, getting away from Rincewind allowed more of the Discworld universe to evolve. None of the Discworld books are probably essential reading, but this one even less so. (3 stars)

Volume 4: Mort: This is the first Discworld novel that focuses on DEATH as a main character. He appears in most every novel, at least in a cameo, but this novel really fleshes out (bad pun since he hasn't got any flesh) Death's world. Death becomes fascinated with humanity and so decides to experiment with human pleasures like drinking and eating, though fortunately not that other human pleasure. Meanwhile, he recruits a young man named Mort to cover for him. When Mort falls in love with one of his victims, the consequences are dire.

Maybe it's terribly morbid, but DEATH is probably my favorite character in the series to this point. (Second is the Librarian, an orangutan who answers everything with a hearty "Ook.") I'm pretty sure this laid the groundwork for the Susan character featured in future novels in the series, though I haven't got to that point yet. Anyway, on its own I liked this novel, though not as much as the later "Reaper Man" that also focuses heavily on DEATH. Still, I'd have to say that of the first group it's the one I liked best. (4 stars)

Volume 5: Sourcery: After two books Rincewind returns and once more the cowardly non-magical wizard has to save the universe. This time it's not a collision with a sun about to put an end to the world, but a powerful ten-year-old sourcerer, so called because he serves as a "source" for raw magic-it's a little complicated. A magic war breaks out among the wizards that threatens to destroy the fabric of reality unless Rincewind can save the day. (So everyone is pretty screwed.)

The Discworld universe continues to evolve with this book, especially the wizards. Rincewind is probably at his best of the three he's featured in at this point and is forced with a real issue other than survival when he has to take sides against his fellow wizards. The only flaw is at the end some of the characters were left with little to do but stand around and watch the fireworks, so to speak. That's a little slack storytelling. (3 stars)

Volume 6: Wyrd Sisters: this time we're back to Granny Weatherwax, last featured in "Equal Rites." Granny's got a couple new friends to form a coven-of sorts-that soon finds itself embroiled in political strife involving the assassination of a king and his newborn successor. Much of the story is modeled after works of Shakespeare like "Macbeth" and "Hamlet," which would probably be more humorous to me if I'd read (or watched) much Shakespeare.

I can't say I'm overly fond of the Granny Weatherwax character yet, but I think if you like "Wicked" (the Gregory Maguire book or the musical) you'll probably enjoy Pratchett's less-than-fanciful account of witches-and it's worth noting this came along seven years before Maguire's book. As I said above, if I knew about Shakespeare I'd have liked it more, but that's my fault not the book's. (4 stars)

Volume 7: Pyramids: this involves a kingdom loosely based on ancient Egypt, complete with pharaohs, mummies, and of course pyramids. The pharaoh's son Pteppic is sent to the city of Ankh-Morpork, where he becomes an assassin. But on the day he graduates, his father dies and he's brought home to take over as the god-king. The new pharaoh soon finds that all the real power in the kingdom rests with the high priest, who is so old and so much a fixture that no one can remember not having him around--there's a reason for this that's probably quantum. In one case, the high priest sentences a handmaiden to death in the name of the pharaoh, who then uses his assassin skills to rescue her, thus making him an enemy of the state--himself.

Meanwhile, construction begins on a pyramid for the previous pharaoh, one larger and grander than ever. But not only is the cost for this monstrosity devastating to the kingdom, the temporal energy it gives off threatens to destroy the entire kingdom.

I can't say I enjoyed this one a whole lot. Maybe I'm not into Egyptians and temporal mechanics enough. Or maybe like "Equal Rites" there wasn't enough of the main Discworld elements in this one to really pull me in. Or maybe I just like making stupid postulations. (3 stars)

Volume 8: Guards! Guards!: this one is about the laughably inept City Watch, who work the graveyard shift ringing a bell, shouting "all is well," and trying to stay out of the way. This is because the Machiavellian head of the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, has essentially legalized crime by unionizing thieves and assassins and giving them strict quotas. The head of the City Watch's night shift, Captain Sam Vimes, comes from that Bruce Willis mode of cops in that you can usually find him in a bar or in the gutter afterwards, stinking like a bar.

Things begin to change when a "dwarf" named Carrot arrives from the mountains. Carrot really isn't a dwarf, he's a human taken in by the dwarves since he was a baby and his parents were murdered. When he arrives in Ankh-Morpork he starts throwing the book (figuratively and literally) at the criminal element in the city despite Vimes and his lieutenants telling him to chill out. Meanwhile, a real crime is being perpetrated by a secret society trying to take control of the city by summoning a dragon. They get a lot more than they bargained for and now the only ones who can stop it are the City Watch with the help of the Lady Ramkin, one of her pet swamp dragons, and an orangutan librarian.

I think the good thing about this off the bat is that while the book is funny and the cops are inept, they aren't really "Keystone Cops" so much as guys who really don't have an important job and are well aware of this so they just don't care. Some of the plot is predictable but the main twist at the end I didn't really see coming. (4 stars)

Volume 9: Eric - This comes in at a brief 197 pages if you don't get the original illustrated edition--which I didn't. In this one Rincewind returns from exile in the Dungeon Dimensions at the end of "Sourcery." A 13-year-old demonologist named Eric has brought Rincewind back, thinking he's summoning a demon who can give him control of the universe, the most beautiful woman in the world, and eternal life. To Rincewind's surprise, he actually does this--after a fashion, but as the say: be careful what you wish for.

I read this book in about two hours, so it's a real light read. The way Pratchett melds ancient Greek and South American history to Discworld history is interesting, and his concept of Hell is funny for anyone who works in a cubicle. His Creator of the universe, though, seems borrowed in part from another Brit: Douglas Adams in the original "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

Anyway, probably because this was supposed to be a picture book there's not a lot of depth to it. It'll amuse you for a couple hours though. (3 stars)

Volume 10: Moving Pictures: in this one an alchemist is conducting one of his idiotic experiments when he lo and behold SUCCEEDS at making something useful! What he invents is the Discworld equivalent of film. Before long he and his fellow alchemists head off to an abandoned place called Holy Wood and begin shooting silent movies that are made by imps quickly painting images onto the film while one of the alchemists turns a handle that "motivates" the imps to keep working.

Meanwhile, Victor is a wizard student at Unseen University who because of his uncle's will doesn't want to graduate and doesn't want to drop out either; he just wants to coast along like a less wild "Van Wilder." But when he sees a "click" as the silent films are known as, he heads off to Holy Wood along with thousands of other starstruck humans, trolls, and even dogs. Victor becomes a moving picture star along with a woman named Ginger.

Before long a former sausage salesman becomes a big-time movie producer and endeavors to put on the mother of all clicks--with a thousand elephants! But all this meddling with mysterious forces in abandoned places is bound to lead to trouble--trouble fit for a click!

All these different plot threads come together fairly well in the end as all our non-heroes battle weird Things for the fate of the Discworld. Still, it felt like I'd read most of this before with only the specifics changed. I suppose when you write as many of these as Pratchett has it's easy to fall into a formula, albeit an enjoyable formula.

I did enjoy this one slightly more than the previous one I read if only because it was fun to play "spot the reference" in terms of real movies like "Gone With the Wind," "King Kong," "Lassie," and "Casablanca" among others. The real film industry was about as primitive as the Holy Wood version early on, only without the imps and trolls. (3 stars)

Volume 11: Reaper Man: As the title suggests, "Reaper Man" is about Death, both with a capital and lower-case D. Two stories run throughout the book, finally intersecting at the end. The first is about Death--the Grim Reaper in popular parlance--who is being retired by his masters because Death seems to be developing a personality. With typical bureaucratic foresight, Death's masters have no replacement lined up.

The impact of this is told through the story of 130-year-old wizard Windle Poons. After living a long, dull life at Unseen University, Windle is finally ready to go into the Great Beyond. He finally passes away at his retirement party, but soon finds one hitch: no one is there to collect his spirit. With nowhere else to go, Windle returns to his body and becomes a zombie. Not the mindless, shambling, brain-eating zombies of horror movie fame. Instead, Windle finds true mastery of his body for the first time, giving him super strength and super senses and probably a super odor from decay as well.

Meanwhile, Death decides to see the world and ends up in an out of the way mountain village where he goes to work for the ancient spinster Miss Flitworth doing--what else--harvesting with a scythe. For the first time Death discovers what it means to be alive, experiencing both the triumphs and tragedies of mortality.

Back in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, strange events are afoot. Without a Death, many other people are having the same trouble as Windle Poon, leading to disastrous consequences. Windle makes friends with a group of the undead that include a vampire, werewolf, and Bogeyman and finds himself at the epicenter of an invasion of snow globes that are the prelude to a far more dangerous enemy.

"Reaper Man" features more of Pratchett's wit and topical humor that make for an easy and fun read even if you're not really into fantasy--like myself. Really, if this book can't make you laugh then you need a funny bone transplant. Yet while it is humorous and fun, there's also a deepness and meaning to it all, which makes it a great book to read on multiple levels. If you can laugh and learn something that's the best of both worlds, right?

The last thirty pages or so of the book I thought were really excellent. It's the kind of ending that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Finding an ending that powerful is pretty rare for me and so makes this book well worth reading. (5 stars)

Volume 12: Witches Abroad: Granny Weatherwax and the witches of Lancre are back, and this time hitting the road (or really the sky given they fly on broomsticks) to stop a royal wedding. The princess Ella is about to marry a Duc with clammy skin, weird eyes, and a predilection towards eating flies unless the witches can get there in time to stop the Happily Ever After. This is the kind of anti-fairy tale fairy tale in the same vein as the "Shrek" movies, though written years earlier. Besides "Cinderella" other fairy tales like "Little Red Riding Hood" are also referenced with hilarious results. The best part is what happens to Nanny Ogg's fiendish cat Greebo; I could imagine my cat would be nearly the same under similar circumstances. A fun romp through classic fairy tales. (4 stars)

Volume 13: Small Gods: This story doesn't involve any of the main characters (except for DEATH, who appears in every book) taking place in the realm of Omnia. The people there worship the Great God Om--usually depicted as a bull--with a fervor enforced by the sadistic Quisition, obviously based on the Spanish Inquisition. There's just one problem: the Great God Om is trapped in the body of a tortoise and finds himself with just one true believer: a small-witted novice monk named Brutha. This book touches on a theme presented earlier in "Pyramids" (and possibly other books) and notably later in "Hogfather" that says gods come and go based on changing beliefs. What Pratchett suggests isn't atheism; it's more like universal apathy saying whatever you choose to believe in is as good as anything. When you think no one can really prove which god(s) is God this makes a lot of sense; after all, who's to say your toaster can't be God if you really, really believe hard enough? I like too the Discworld concept that the afterlife is whatever you believe it will be, something touched on in "Eric" among others. This is a book for the open-minded on the subject, not the true believers. (4 stars)

Volume 14: Lords and Ladies: In my review of volumes 1-6 I posited that "Light Fantastic" was the only direct sequel in the series. This is not the case as "Lords and Ladies" picks up after "Witches Abroad" though really it continues the events of "Wyrd Sisters." Granny Weatherwax and crew have returned home and now it's time for the young witch Magrat to marry the king and become queen of Lancre. As people arrive from all over the Discworld, all heck is about to break loose when elves return to plague the land. These aren't the cute Santa's helpers or even the beautiful, noble creatures from "Lord of the Rings." No, these elves are psychotic, sadistic monsters intent on enslaving humanity. Because of this, the book has a darker tone than others in the series. It draws from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which I've never seen, so like with "Wyrd Sisters" there's probably a few references I didn't catch. I was happy, though, my second-favorite character the Librarian got significant time in this book. As well, this book and "Witches Abroad" helped evolve the witch characters, fleshing out their personalities a bit more. I wasn't sold on Granny and the others in "Equal Rites" and "Wyrd Sisters" but I've started to enjoy them with these two books. (4 stars)

Volume 15: Men At Arms: Affirmative action comes to the corrupt metropolis of Ankh-Morpork when the city's leader, The Patrician, inducts a troll, a dwarf, and a female werewolf into the City Watch, Night division. The Night Watch used to be a joke, but after Corporal Carrot joined the force in "Guards! Guards!" the Watch became somewhat respectable and started actually doing work.

While the Watch is gaining three new recruits, it's losing its commander in Captain Sam Vimes. Formerly a drunk used to waking up in gutters, Vimes is now living the high life and about to marry Lady Ramkin, a wealthy swamp dragon trainer. Everything seems to be going well, except behind the scenes, someone wants to restore the monarchy to the throne.

To do this, the fiend plots to create a deadly new weapon: a gonne, which uses fireworks powder to shoot a lead slug into someone--or in other words, it's the Discworld's first gun. As racial violence between dwarves, trolls, humans, and undead heats up it's up to the Night Watch to save the day.

My problem in reading this book was I was distracted by other things, so I couldn't give it my full attention. The final solution to WHO is behind everything wasn't too obvious, which is a good thing. Like "Lords and Ladies" before it, this one had a darker tone with one central character being killed. It seemed odd to me that Corporal Carrot at the start of the book seems kind of dull-witted, but by the end he's outsmarting everyone, including a master manipulator like The Patrician. The more I got thinking about it, the more I realized Carrot is like Columbo in those old '70s mysteries. Only instead of going around in a rumpled trenchcoat and smoking cigars, he wears shiny chain mail. But the result is the same, where foes and friends grossly underestimate him until they realize they've answered "one more question" too many. (3 stars)

Volume 16: Soul Music: I was hoping to like this more than I did. DEATH--what we would think of as the Grim Reaper--is my favorite recurring character in the series, so I was hoping to really enjoy a book focusing more on him. But I didn't, in large part because "Soul Music" is much like "Moving Pictures" only instead of parodying the early film industry it parodies the early days of rock n roll--when it was actually rock n roll and not two hundred different sub categories.

Anyway, DEATH gets depressed and takes a sudden leave of absence. The job of making sure people die goes to his sixteen-year-old "granddaughter" Susan. She is the offspring of an orphan DEATH adopted and his former apprentice Mort, who got married in the earlier book aptly titled "Mort." While in many ways Susan is a normal girl, she also has the ability to will herself invisible and see things that no one else can, like a skeletal rat with a scythe that goes SQUEAK! As you'd expect Susan is no better at being DEATH than her father was, though not quite with as disastrous results.

Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork a bard named Imp arrives and wants to be the most famous musician ever, but can't afford to join the Musician's Guild to play legally. He joins up with a dwarf and troll and form a band. When Imp breaks his harp, the band discovers a music shop that has always been there, by which I mean it's NEVER been there and just suddenly turned up. Imp buys a guitar that seems to take on a life of its own. Before long, he and the others are playing a new kind of music they call Music With Rocks In, presumably because instead of drums the troll beats a sack of stones.

Music With Rocks In becomes a sensation, but for Imp--who takes the name Buddy--fame comes with a high pricetag.

What I didn't like, as I mentioned earlier, was much of this seemed derivative, as a combination of "Mort," "Reaper Man," and "Moving Pictures." At least Pratchett knew he was rehashing some of the same material, so he avoids duplicating those books exactly. Still, there was a definite feeling of "been there, done that." It was still an enjoyable read, but not a great one. (2 stars)

Volume 17: Interesting Times: the expression "May you live in interesting times" can be either a blessing or a curse. To Rincewind the wizard, it's definitely a curse. There's nothing more Rincewind would like more than to hide out somewhere safe and quiet with a large supply of potatoes. Unfortunately, Rincewind has the same kind of luck as Charlie Brown in kicking the football; whenever he thinks he's going to do it, someone pulls the football away.

This time, Rincewind is called upon by the other wizards at Unseen University to travel to the remote "Counterweight Continent" a region that has little contact with the rest of the Discworld when a hungry albatross arrives with a message requesting a "Great Wizard" be sent to the continent ASAP. Since there's no one more expendable for a dangerous mission, Rincewind is chosen to be teleported across thousands of miles, where he meets an old (literally) friend: Cohen the Barbarian. The ancient "hero" and his Silver Horde of six other old geezers are planning to mount a daring mission to steal something precious from the Empire ruling the continent.

Trying to avoid this suicide mission, Rincewind strikes out on his own, but is soon taken captive by the "Red Army", a group of teenagers who are good at plastering slogans on walls and little else. They believe Rincewind is The Great Wizard who will lead them to victory over the repressive empire.

As always happens when Rincewind is involved, his attempts to avoid trouble wind up leading him deeper into trouble and his attempts at being a coward wind up making him a hero. How this plays out was sort of predictable, but I've really come to identify with Rincewind, possessing about the same amount of "luck."

Though this isn't a sequel, there are references to the other Rincewind novels, including the reappearance of Twoflower the tourist, who first set Rincewind on the annoying path to adventure in the first two Discworld books. So there's a feeling like a class reunion in reading this that makes it fun to read. It's always good to reunite with old friends, even if they aren't real. (4 stars)

Volume 18: Maskerade: Last time we met them in "Lords and Ladies", the Lancre witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg were helping the third member of their coven become the queen of Lancre. Now that the coven is down to two, it's time to look for a replacement. As it happens, Nanny has a perfect replacement in mind. There's just one hitch: this person is hundreds of miles away in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork trying to become an opera singer. No worries though as Nanny and Granny have an errand in the big city, mainly getting Nanny's fair share of royalties from the publishing of a scandalous cookbook.

Meanwhile, at the Ankh-Morpork Opera House strange things are afoot. For many years the Opera House has been haunted by a mask-wearing phantom, who generally likes to watch the first performance of any opera from a specially-reserved box. But now the Ghost has started murdering people and it's up to Granny and Nanny to put a stop to it.

Really, since most of the story focuses on murders in the city of Ankh-Morpork, I kept wondering why this wasn't a City Watch book instead of a Witches book. I suppose since much of the story is (probably) taken from "Phantom of the Opera" it's fitting for Granny and Nanny. I didn't like this as much as some of the other Witch books like "Witches Abroad" or "Lords and Ladies." For one thing the newest witch, Agnes Nitt, doesn't have much to her yet. She's very fat, has poor self-esteem, and a good voice. Not all that interesting really. As well some of the gags like the cat Greebo turning human had already been used, so there was some staleness as well. And really, the story seemed like it could have been a "Scooby-Doo" episode--Now we'll find out who you really are, Opera Ghost! (3 stars)

Volume 19: Feet of Clay: Maybe you're like me and never quite understood what a golem was, or at least I didn't until I saw a Simpsons Halloween episode featuring one--which is how I learn most everything. Anyway, in Judaism there's this idea of making big people out of clay and then a rabbi marks it with a symbol and it comes to life. It will do anything you tell it to do by putting scrolls in its mouth.

In the Discworld, golems are used like a cross between industrial robots and illegal aliens. Since a golem can work continuously without food or sleep it means less people are needed. And a golem can do all sorts of hazardous jobs like working with acids or other chemicals because they're extremely tough and never complain. Then one shop owner gets more than he bargained for when he buys a golem that goes off on a killing spree.

Meanwhile, the City Watch is expanding its operations. In "Maskerade" we learned about a new undercover unit and now in "Feet of Clay" comes a CSI unit, which consists of one female dwarf who works in an old privy. This comes in handy when someone begins poisoning The Patrician, Ankh-Morpork's leader. Commander Vimes, Captain Carrot, and the rest of the Watch have to put together the pieces before it's too late.

This was a really interesting book because the plight of the golems touches on serious issues. These issues are brought up again later in the series with "Going Postal" and presumably "Making Money." It's a good reminder that while the plots of these books seem outlandish, they bring up topics that are still in the news today. What really got me though were some great references to movies like "Terminator 2" and "Robocop." As well the mystery, or really conspiracy, wasn't so easy that I could figure it out, which is always a good thing in a book like this. There were a couple of times where I thought I had it figured out and turned out to be wrong, just like Vimes and company investigating the crimes. So it's a great crime story ripped from today's headlines as they say in "Law & Order" promos. And you can't beat the thought of a dwarf in drag. (4 stars)

Volume 20: Hogfather: In the fictional Discworld, which is carried by four elephants atop a giant turtle floating through space, what we would consider Christmas is known as Hogwatch. The jolly, bearded fat man in the red suit we would associate with Santa Claus is known as the Hogfather and drives a team of four boars instead of eight reindeer. This year, though, something has gone amiss--mainly the Hogfather himself--and so if the Hogfather looks as if he's lost a lot of weight it's because Death is standing in for him.

The plot itself for "Hogfather" sounds like one of those cheesy Christmas specials we used to see more of on television like "The Flintstones Save Christmas" or "Ernest Saves Christmas" or even "The Santa Clause" where some ordinary klutz has to fill in for Santa and bring toys and cheer to the good little boys and girls. But things are never that simple or straightforward in the Discworld. While the Grim Reaper is filling the Hogfather's boots, his "granddaughter" Susan goes in search of the Hogfather, which ultimately involves assassins and The Tooth Fairy. Meanwhile, at Unseen University, the school for wizards, strange things are happening like gods and fairies appearing out of thin air. (It makes slightly more sense when you read the book.)

The story centers not so much on "saving Christmas, er, Hogwatch" as on the nature of belief and how it changes over time. In particular is the concept of old gods serving new purposes. If you look back through history you can compare the roles of old gods like Zeus or Odin with the Christian God (or Jesus) or Hindu gods, and so forth. No matter the society or the religion humans have always had a need for belief in something, even if it's something ridiculous like a jolly fat man and a team of flying hogs.

There's a good moral as well in the story of Death learning to be Santa, er, Hogfather in that Christmas, er, Hogwatch doesn't always mean getting everything you want. Even as children a little disappointment is necessary to help us mature into adults. (You've seen what happens to people who get everything they want growing up with the Paris Hiltons of the world.)

So really what could have in lesser hands been rendered into a cheap, sappy Christmas special has been given far more meaning by Mr. Pratchett. Not to mention the book is hilarious and a breeze to read. Some of the things near the end were a little confusing, but overall this was a great read for the holidays. (4 stars)

Volume 21: Jingo: When an island rises from the ocean between the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork and the desert kingdom of Klatch, it's the impetus for war. There's just one slight problem, as Ankh-Morpork hasn't fought a war in centuries, content during that time to invite its enemies to come in and stay awhile, followed by robbing them blind in their sleep. Because of this, the city's gentry take to raising private armies, which includes Commander Vimes of the City Watch. As expected, his unit is composed of Watchmen like heroic Captain Carrot the "dwarf", Angua the werewolf, and Detritus the troll. They face a race against time to prevent an all-out war.

This was an interesting book in that it takes the City Watch out of the city. There's references to the JFK assassination and it's hard not to think of the desert kingdom of Klatch as Iraq, though this book was written in about 1997. Certainly the sentiment that war is good for absolutely nothing rings true these days, especially when the leaders fighting the war are dopes. (4 stars)

Volume 22: The Last Continent: Everyone's favorite cowardly wizard Rincewind returns for his last full-length adventure. At the end of "Intersting Times" Rincewind ended up on the continent XXXX (so called because no one else has ever gone there and returned). With his usual luck, Rincewind is embroiled in an adventure against his wishes when this barren continent runs out of water. A helpful kangaroo helps him find his way through this strange desert continent where everyone says things like "G'day!" and "no worries" and drinks lots of beer. At the same time the orangutan Librarian of Unseen University is sick, so the school's top wizards go in search of Rincewind, as he's the only one who knows the Librarian's real name. In the process, the wizards end up stranded in time on a remote island with a god who is far from omnipotent. Somehow this all ties together.

One of the running jokes in the second half of the book is that a lot of ideas sound better after midnight and copious amounts of alcohol. This book would be best read in that state. It's not that it's not fun or interesting; it just doesn't make a lot of sense--even less sense than most Discworld books make. There are references to Australian-themed movies like "Mad Max," "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," and "Crocodile Dundee" that work best if you've seen those. I was disappointed there wasn't a "shrimp on the barby" reference. No worries! I'd recommend this one only for Discworld completists. (2 stars)

Volume 23: Carpe Jugulum: Long before "Twilight" made vampires cool again, the witches of Lancre were battling the bloodsuckers. That proves difficult as these aren't your father's vampires; these are far more enlightened vampires (so to speak) who have learned to tolerate garlic, holy water, and even a little sunlight. When the king of Lancre invites the Magpyre clan for the christening of his daughter, the vampires decide they'll make themselves at home by taking over the kingdom and making everyone into docile sheeple.

The witches of Lancre won't stand for this, but there's just one problem: the most powerful of their coven, Granny Weatherwax, is missing and presumed sulking after her invitation to the christening gets lost. Led by the folksy Nanny Ogg, the other witches do what they can against the vampires with the help of the Wee Free Men (think Scottish Smurfs), a missionary from Omnia (think a Jehovah's Witness combined with a televangelist), and an Igor (think Dr. Frankenstein's assistant). But of course the vampires aren't going to go quietly or without some blood being shed.

Though the plot is largely the same as "Lords and Ladies" where elves terrorized Lancre, there's enough different about this so that it feels fresh. Like "Lords and Ladies" this is a little darker than previous witch adventures like "Maskerade", which I guess you should expect with vampires. For fans of "Twilight" there is a sort of romance with the sexy young vampire Vlad and Agnes, a fat young witch with a touch of schizophrenia. But really it was refreshing for me after all this "Twilight" and assorted other stuff to read something where the vampires are the bad guys.

One criticism I have is that there's a lot of stuff going on in the story and at the end it seemed like some of it didn't do a whole lot. It's like assembling a puzzle and realizing you have pieces left over. In particular the Wee Free Men angle didn't add a whole lot and while it was nice to have Magrat (formerly a witch but now the queen) back in the fold, she didn't do much either other than change diapers. When's all said and done though I think Granny Weatherwax is up to third on favorite Discworld characters list behind The Librarian and DEATH, so any book with her kicking vampire butt can't be too bad. (4 stars)

Volume 24: The Fifth Elephant: The Discworld is held up by four elephants on top of a giant space turtle. But long ago legend has it there was a fifth elephant. That elephant fell off the edge though and slammed into the ground, creating mountains and most notably, large reservoirs of fat. It's this fat that the city of Ankh-Morpork wants to obtain cheaply for making candles and frying things. And so the city dispatches Duke Samuel Vimes, also commander of the City Watch, to make a deal with the dwarves who mine the fat.

The last Discworld book I read "Carpe Jugulum" dealt with vampires. This book also has vampires, but more prominently features werewolves and dwarves who run the remote nation of Uberwald, where all that fat can be found. As always happens when Vimes is involved, people are murdered and there are mysteries to be solved. In particular is the mystery of the royal dwarf throne known as the Scone of Stone--as the name implies it is a baked good that is very ancient and thus very hard. If the Scone of Stone isn't found, the entire kingdom could tear itself apart in civil war.

Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork the City Watch faces its biggest challenge yet when career sergeant Colon is forced to run things. A word to the wise: if someone's been a sergeant for 30 years there's probably a really good reason for that.

On a side note, this book also introduces the "clacks" the semaphore towers that allow one part of the Discworld to communicate with another in hours instead of days. This is the Discworld equivalent of cellphones and the Internet. The "clacks" technology later becomes a major issue in "Going Postal."

Though there is that mystery involved, a lot of book involves action as Vimes becomes a fugitive from the dwarves and the werewolves. Because of that the book is a very quick and exciting read. And maybe werewolves aren't as in vogue right now as vampires, but they're pretty fun too. (4 stars)

Volume 25: The Truth: It's important to note that in the Discworld, newspapers have never existed. The engravers guild, in order to preserve their monopoly on printing, preventing anyone from using a mechanical press. That is until a group of dwarfs arrive from the mountains yearning to make money by printing.

Along comes young William de Worde, a prodigal aristocrat whose broken from his wealthy father to make it on his own. When William visits the printing shop, he finds himself plunged into the new world of journalism. Together with a proper young lady named Sacharissa, they set out to create the Disc's first newspaper called the Times.

As luck would have it, just as they're starting out, a huge story breaks. The metropolis of Ankh-Morpork's leader, The Patrician, is accused of stabbing his clerk with a knife and then trying to flee the city with embezzled funds. The City Watch is baffled by the case, but William soon finds a "man" on the inside, the mysterious Deep Bone. Aided by Sacharissa, the dwarfs, and a vampire photographer (on the wagon, meaning he only drinks animal blood) who turns to dust if he uses flash photography, William is determined to get to the bottom of things. But the truth isn't always so easy to set free, especially when hired goons are trying to kill you.

This was a good addition to the series, but it could have been better. When I first read the description, I thought for sure there'd be some Citizen Kane references in there. I was expecting William to be one of those larger-than-life type characters like Charlie Kane and his real world counterpart William Randolph Hearst. That never materialized, which is disappointing. Instead William is an earnest young man in search of The Truth, which is OK too, but don't we all like more grandiose characters?

There are some good insights into what makes the news, especially in the comparison between the Times and its rival The Inquirer--which despite its name is more based on Weekly World News. As the Deep Bone indicates there are references to Watergate and also the hired goons Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip are based on the killers in Pulp Fiction, as evidenced by the line, "Do you know what they call a sausage-inna-bun in Klatch?"

On a side note, this story probably was the template for the later Going Postal, the first in the series I read. That involved the creation--resurrection really--of the post office in a similar fashion. Though the central character of that one, Moist von Lipwig, was more interesting. Conmen are just more exciting than conflicted aristocrats.

And that's all the news fit to print. (4 stars)

Volume 26: Thief of Time: Mostly, this felt the same as other Discworld books I'd read (ie, "Moving Pictures," "Reaper Man," and "Soul Music") where some seemingly innocuous thing created by some fringe character threatens to destroy the universe until a ragtag bunch of non-heroes band together to stop it.

In this case, Jeremy Clockson is an orphan adopted by the Clockmaker's Guild who is obsessive about making accurate clocks. A strange but beautiful woman named Lady LeJean comes into his shop one day with the challenge to make the Ultimate Clock. Jeremy takes this on with the help of his rented Igor and some inspiration from his dreams for a glass clock.

Unbeknownst to Jeremy, this has already been done before and the fallout required the mysterious History Monks to patch Time back together into something resembling a plausible reality. Sweeper Lu Tse was the one who nearly stopped the last clock and vows to stop it this time with the help of his new assistant Lobsang Ludd. Meanwhile, Death realizes the universe will end on Wednesday and is preparing for the Apocalypse by rounding up the other three Horsemen: Pestilence, Famine, and War in a style reminiscent of the "Blues Brothers." In the meantime he tasks his "granddaughter" Susan to look into what will bring an end to life as we know it.

All these different plot threads come together fairly well in the end as all our non-heroes battle the bureaucratic Auditors for the fate of the universe. Still, as I said, even though I've only read four of these it felt like I'd read most of this before with only the specifics changed. I suppose when you write as many of these as Pratchett has it's easy to fall into a formula, albeit an enjoyable formula. (3 stars)

Volume 27: The Last Hero: this picture book in some ways is the Discworld equivalent of one of those reference movies (Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, ad nauseum) in that it makes references to nearly all the major characters in the Discworld universe, except for the Witches of Lancre. The City Watch, Rincewind, the other wizards, DEATH all make appearances here.

What brings them all together is Cohen the Barbarian. The first hero stole fire from the gods, so now that Cohen is getting on in years, he decides that he'll return the fire. So along with his Silver Horde of veteran heroes, he undertakes a harrowing journey to the mountain that houses the Discworld gods. The only problem is that if he succeeds, the entire Discworld will collapse on itself and be destroyed.

To save the world the failed wizard (and professional coward) Rincewind joins up with heroic Captain Carrot of the Watch, mad genius designer Leonard da Quirm, and the Librarian of Unseen University to mount an expedition to intercept Cohen. Using a fleet of dragons and a wooden bird, they plan to sail beneath the Discworld and come out the other side to reach Cohen in time. But will they? (Well since there were more than a half-dozen books after this do you need an answer?)

Despite this being a picture book it's not exactly kid's stuff. There's a very real message here about people's relationship to gods and the struggles of getting older. Still, it's not heavy enough to bring you down. In general this is a fun little book, and it's great for fans to be able to see some of the major characters, not to mention what this entire odd little world looks like. I can't really critique the art because I can't do anything more than stick figures myself. I didn't really have any problems with it though. (4 stars)

Volume 28 "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents" is one of the four young adult books in the series that I will not be reading at this time.

Volume 29: Night Watch: In the 28 other Discworld books a lot of sci-fi/fantasy staples have already been lampooned: heroic quests, magic swords, wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves, elves, and so forth. The one staple not yet really tackled has been time travel. "Night Watch" takes care of this glaring error in relatively entertaining style.

As his wife is involved in a long labor to give birth to their first child, Commader Sam Vimes of the City Watch is involved in cornering a cop-killing madman named Carcer. In hot pursuit of Carcer, Vimes climbs up onto the roof of the library for Unseen University (the school for wizards) during a thunderstorm. When a bolt of lightning strikes the library, Vimes and Carcer are transported back in time 30 years.

And of course it is a pivotal moment in the history of the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork. The brutal Lord Winder has been heavily taxing people and rounding up any who dissent. Revolt is fermenting, all it needs is a spark.

Vimes takes on the identity of his mentor in the City Watch, John Keel, after the real Keel is killed by Carcer, who joins a secret police force known as the Unmentionables. Vimes has enough time to teach his younger self a few lessons about policing before that spark hits and the entire city erupts in violence. Now Vimes has to somehow keep the peace, keep himself (both of himselves) alive, and bring Carcer to justice. A tall order to be sure.

This book is an interesting addition to the series because it provides a little more background on some of the Ankh-Morpork characters like Vimes, Lord Vetinari, Nobby Nobbs, and even Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler the crooked merchant. I was disappointed there was really nothing included about the wizards, especially the Librarian--who was turned into an orangutan in a magical accident; I kept waiting to see if there'd be an appearance by him in human form.

My biggest complaint though is the story drags a little. Part of that is the nature of time travel stories like this. We already know there's going to be a riot because technically it's already happened. And we know in that riot there's going to be a final showdown between Vimes and Carcer, just like you knew Marty McFly would have to have it out with Biff Tannen in "Back to the Future." It's inevitable, so let's just cut to the chase.

Still, like most of these books, there's a good message underneath the action. In particular is the concept that the reason they're called "revolutions" is that they typically go in a circular fashion. Or in other words the new regime is rarely better than the old one. The main point of reference in the book is the French Revolution, only in this case no one loses their heads--literally at least. (4 stars)

Volume 30 "The Wee Free Men" is one of the four young adult books in the series that I will not be reading at this time.

Volume 31: Monstrous Regiment: In the remote country of Borogravia, war is the national pasttime. The problem is that lately Borogravia has been as successful at war as the Detroit Lions are at football. Like desperate countries everywhere, though, they claim they're winning, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Because of all this war, villages are pretty much down to the elderly, children, and women. One of these women named Polly Perks decides to cut off her hair and join the army so she can find her brother Paul, who disappeared years earlier in the war with neighboring Zlobenia. She soon joins a regiment (really more of a squad) with other young people including a pyromaniac, a potential psychopathic killer, and schizophrenic, as well as a troll, a vampire, and an Igor--the latter being one of those hunchbacked assistants to mad scientists everywhere.

Though of course Borogravia is winning the war (wink, wink) there's no time to train the new recruits in warfare. But before they can get to the front, they come under attack from Zlobenian forces. Polly uses all her cunning to defeat the enemy, but from then on this monstrous regiment is on the run. Their only hope is to retake their country's stronghold and free the prisoners inside, including Polly's brother. To do so, though requires the regiment to put themselves in great danger from the enemy--and their own superior officers.

In "Jingo" Pratchett took on war from the perspective of the invader. Now in "Monstrous Regiment" it focuses mostly on the defender. The key point is that Polly and the other Borogrovians are not bad or evil. They're just doing their job and defending their country--and each other. It's the ones in charge, like the insane god Nuggan or the never-seen Duchess, who are the bad ones. That's good to remember because in any war there's a tendency to demonize the other side so that they seem like demons instead of real people. Otherwise it would be hard for a country to want to go to war and kill other humans not so different from them.

Though I'm sure this was unintentional, the conflict between Lieutenant Blouse and Sergeant Jackrum reminded me of Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead." In both the inexperienced young officer thinks he's in charge while the sergeant thinks he should be the REAL boss because of his experience and the officer should just be a figurehead. Things go much better for the lieutenant in this book though.

While Borogravia and Zlobenia sound more like the Balkans, there are references to the second Iraq war with the term "shock and awe" and the concept of embedded reporters. That allows readers to easily relate to the story, despite the presence of fantasy elements. William de Worde and Otto the vampire photographer of "The Truth" (Volume 25) make a cameo as the aforementioned embedded reporters while Sam Vimes and members of the City Watch also appear in the story.

The one knock I have on this book is one that I've had on a couple other of the Discworld ones. Sure there's a vampire, troll, and Igor in the regiment but they don't really contribute much to overall story. Actually the vampire and troll sit out most of the conclusion. Other than the vampire's jitteriness at needing coffee (to keep him from draining people's blood) that allows for a couple of Vietnam allusions predating "Tropic Thunder", he doesn't do much and the troll does less. At least the Igor serves as the medic. They could easily have not been in the book and it wouldn't have affected the story much. The example I used before was it's like having a few pieces left over after putting together a jigsaw. The pyro, schizo, and even the psycho all have their uses in the story, but the most monstrous characters seem just there to make the jacket sound more interesting. A pity.

Still, this is a good book with humor that doesn't dumb-down it's very non-humorous subject matter.

Join me now in a verse of "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!" (4 stars)

Volume 32 "A Hat Full of Sky" is one of the four young adult books in the series that I will not be reading at this time.

Volume 33: Going Postal: the book begins with Moist von Lipwig (his real name) being hung for various misdeeds committed throughout his long career as a con artist. But Moist does not die. Instead, he's offered by the local tyrant Lord Vetinari the job of running the decrepit post office system in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork. Since the alternative is death, Moist takes the job as postmaster.

He soon discovers that death might have been preferable because the post office is a complete mess. Mail has been piled up to the point that most of the building in inaccessible. All the post office workers have fled except for "junior" postman Groat (who is an old man) and his dim-witted, pin-collecting sidekick Stanley--and Mr. Tiddles the cat. Much of the post office's decline is due to the new communications system known as "the clacks" which are towers using a sort of Morse code to send messages all over the Discworld in hours. With such instant communication possible, who needs to send a letter?

After Moist's attempt to escape from this job is thwarted by his golem bodyguard Mr. Pump, Moist decides to face up to the challenge of making the post office competitive. Falling back on his years as a con artist, Moist begins to generate public excitement by introducing a new invention called stamps. And wouldn't you know it, soon people are collecting these stamps, including Stanley. Moist's efforts are aided by saboteurs who want to shut down the clacks to put the greedy bankers who bought the clacks system from its naive inventors out of business.

As the post office begins to succeed, Moist expands his operations by hiring more golem workers from the very inappropriately-named Miss Adora Belle Dearheart. In typical fashion for this kind of story, Moist falls in love with Miss Dearheart and begins to take his post office job seriously. But the greedy owners of the clacks don't like competition and will do anything to put Moist out of commission for good.

This really is a very fun read and its messages about technology and corporate greed are pretty much pulled from today's headlines. What makes the book so great to read is that there is a serious message, but the story itself is never told in such a serious way to make it a drag. So you can have a good time and a few laughs and also learn a few things. What else could you ask for from a book? Well, there are one or two things, but let's not be too picky. (4 stars)

Volume 34: Thud!: I feel the book's title needs an explanation. Thud is a game sort of like chess combined with Risk or Stratego that's played by trolls and dwarfs on the Discworld. The object of the game is to reenact the legendary battle of Koom Valley, in which dwarfs and trolls fought each other over a thouand years earlier. There's been bad blood (or whatever trolls have) between the two races ever since.

And thud is also the sound made when a troll club whacks a dwarf over the head. That dwarf is a rabble-rouser in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork who has been rallying dwarfs to fight trolls on the eve of Koom Valley Day. The murder takes place deep underground in a dwarf mine, which complicates things for Sam Vimes and the City Watch, as the dwarfs are not keen on outsiders wandering around their mine.

The murder is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, though. Even as the whole city seems ready to explode, a strange dwarf sign begins cropping up all over the place. As well, a priceless painting of the battle of Koom Valley has disappeared from the city museum. Somehow Vimes has to put all these pieces together to find out who murdered the dwarf--and why. Oh, and he has to do it all by six o'clock when he must read Where's My Cow? to his infant son--with all the appropriate noises.

This installment of the series I take it was supposed to be like The Da Vinci Code (or a lesser extent the National Treasure movies) in that there's a murder that leads to the unraveling of an important historical mystery. While I think overall Pratchett is a much better writer, Brown's story probably moved along a little better; Thud seems to plod along until an ending that generally makes it worthwhile. It probably needed a couple of good chase scenes thrown in there to get things moving.

One problem I had in particular was I really became bored with the Angua werewolf character. This is the fifth book that features her in a significant role, but all she ever seems to do is whine about being a werewolf--that and smell stuff and threaten to rip people's throats out. By now it's like, "I GET IT! Being a werewolf sucks! Let's move past it, shall we?" But that's the problem is that none of the secondary characters are really allowed to grow much. The relationship between Angua and Captain Carrot hasn't really moved forward since the beginning. You'd think after what's probably ten years or more they'd be getting serious, or something.

Vimes is the only character who seems to be given any development. Since appearing in "Guards! Guards!" (volume 8) he's gone from a lonely drunk to a civic leader with a wife and son. That kind of growth is what allows you to like the character more, not to mention it keeps him from stagnating like the others. It's too bad some of the others (like Angua or Carrot) aren't really given this same opportunity to develop.

Anyway, it was still an entertaining book, with a good message about racial tolerance and all that. And as I said earlier, it picks up in the end to make up for some of its deficiencies in the thrill department. It really could use a better title, though if you look at all 36 series titles, none of them really seem especially clever. I suppose it's what's on the inside that counts--isn't that what they always say?

Volume 35 "Wintersmith" is one of the four young adult books in the series that I will not be reading at this time.

Volume 36: Making Money: At last we come to the end, at least until October when the next volume in the Discworld series comes out. For now though, I've read all of the adult Discworld novels in the series, concluding with "Making Money" the second installment to feature conman Moist von Lipwig.

Last time we saw Moist in "Going Postal" he was charged with resurrecting the post office in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork and in the process found himself going straight. A little time has gone by since then, with Moist still engaged to golem rights advocate Adora Belle Dearhardt and managing the post office efficiently. A little too efficiently really, as Moist has the itch for his old criminal ways that he scratches by breaking into his office at night and picking every possible lock in the place. Fortunately the city's uncontested tyrant Lord Vetinari has a solution: he wants Moist to take over the Royal Bank and shake up the system to meet modern times.

Now here is where we have to branch out into the hypothetical story on the book jacket and what actually happens.

On the book jacket it sounds like Moist is going to take over the bank and start printing paper money. Until then the city has relied on the gold standard, using a variety of coins for its money. By introducing paper money and taking Ankh-Morpork off the gold standard, he makes new enemies and runs into dangerous situations.

What actually happens is that probably a quarter of the book is spent just getting Moist into the bank and introducing all the key players like Mr. Bent, the manager who can add pages of numbers with only a glance and worships gold like a god, and the Lavish family who run the bank, especially Cosmo, who wants to make himself into Lord Vetinari. At the same time, Adora and her Golem Trust have found some ancient golems, who make things very interesting. The rest of the story involves an audit and recriminations about missing gold-and the golems. As for the paper money, it doesn't come along until the very last chapter of the book.

So like one of Moist's customers for cheap diamond rings, I feel a bit cheated here. This wasn't exactly the book I thought I was going to read. Admittedly it still is a fun read, but I kept thinking, "When are we going to get to the money? WHEN?" The actual running of the bank, the story promised on the jacket, seems like it's going to happen off the pages. No matter how good the rest of the book is, it's hard not to feel disappointed by that. Though I suppose a conman like Moist can't be any more outrageous than the Lavish family who were running the bank.

What saves this book for me, and made me really, REALLY want to give it four stars against all reason, is that I like the Moist character. Having now read the entire series, he reminds me mostly of Rincewind the cowardly wizard. Like Rincewind, Moist is that breed of noble coward who doesn't want to help anyone but seems to end up doing so anyway. Whereas Rincewind achieved this by running away from danger, Moist does it by using his very persuasive mouth. That's what makes them both fun antiheroes, unlike those brave, strapping heroes in most fantasy novels. And for personal reasons the idea of accountants traveling around like gypsies has me laughing so hard I needed an Igor to stitch me back together. So overall it's not a bad addition to the series (and provided Pratchett's health holds up long enough he's already sown the seeds for a third Moist adventure) but there have been better among these 36 volumes.

And that does it. Overall I have greatly enjoyed this series because not only are the books a lot of fun, but there's a lot of wisdom to be garnered from them as well. Even "Making Money" seems ripped from today's headlines with all the trouble in the real banking system. To do smart and funny takes a special talent and Pratchett is indeed very talented. (3 stars)

That is all.

Volume 37: Unseen Academicals: In the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series there was an episode called "Lower Decks" that focused on a group of young people serving in minor positions on the Enterprise instead of the usual group of head honchos. That is essentially what happens in "Unseen Academicals" which focuses on the people who work in the Night Kitchen and the candle vats of Unseen University, the school for wizards in the city of Ankh-Morpork.

Ostensibly though the book is about the game of foot-the-ball or football (or soccer as we call it across the Pond). In Ankh-Morpork, the game of foot-the-ball is actually more like rugby, with a lot of tackling and fighting and very little scoring. Young Trevor Likely's father was a legend because he scored 4 goals.

Trevor works in the candle vats of Unseesn University with Nutt, a very learned goblin who talks like a shelf of self-help books. Nutt has a Mysterious Past that not even he remembers. Eventually though Trev and Nutt go up to the Night Kitchen, where they meet the plain, fat Glenda and the beautiful, ditzy Juliet.

As it happens Juliet is from the Stoops family, who are sworn enemies of Trev's family because of their foot-the-ball allegiances. Trev & Juliet doesn't play out like Romeo & Juliet because tragedy is not ever really on the menu in the Discworld. Nutt does a little Cyrano in writing a poem to help woo Juliet, which would work better if Juliet could read words of more than one syllable.

Oh yes, there is a football game in there too. The wizards of Unseen University discover that they have to play a game of football in order to keep a bequest that keeps their Night Kitchen stocked. (If there's one thing wizards really like it's their kitchen.) When some new old rules are "discovered" from a museum, a new brand of foot-the-ball is born with Nutt taking the lead as coach.

This book utilizes two recurring theme-like items in the Discworld series. One is equal rights/tolerance, which is embodied by Nutt. Goblins (or what Nutt really is) being the latest in a line that includes dwarfs, trolls, werewolves, vampires, and golems who break the racial barrier in Ankh-Morpork. The other theme-like substance is modernizing the city. The police force, post office, bank, and Unseen University itself have all been dramatically remodeled since the earliest Discworld novels. As well football joins other modern things like newspapers, movies, the Internet, and rock music to become part of the fabric of Disc society. So really while the book is entertaining (as most Discworld books are) it's not anything fans of the series haven't really seen before.

What bugged me about the previous book "Making Money" was that there was no money made in it; the actual printing of money seemed like it would be taking place off the pages. I feared that Pratchett was going to do the same here and have the football game take place off the page, but he does at least manage to get it in, even if it is a bit underwhelming. While it was nice to see Rincewind (with a cameo by The Luggage) and the Librarian again, I wish they could have been used more.

That the book doesn't focus on any of the major characters in the end means that this can be filed away as "Minor Discworld" along with one-offs like "Pyramids," "Small Gods," "The Truth," and "Monstrous Regiment." Since football (soccer) hooliganism isn't a big thing here in the States, I'm sure some of the jokes in this one went over my head; British readers would then probably enjoy this more.

Still, it's not a bad entry in the series, but not an overly important one either. You could do a lot worse. (4 stars)

Volume 38:  I Shall Wear Midnight is another YA book that I will not be reviewing at this time...

This Companion will be updated with any future installments or if I feel like reading the YA ones.

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