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Archive for the ‘Magic’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] Hogfather

I don’t know that I’d call many Discworld books “exciting.”  They’re funny, thoughtful, clever, interesting and so much more.  But usually not  “exciting. ” But there’s something about Hogfather that makes it an incredibly exciting read.

It starts with the Auditors.  We haven’t seen them in a while.  The last time we saw them, they basically fired Death because he was getting too involved with humanity.  The Auditors are gray spectral beings who exist to make the sure the world is running correctly.   If any of them acts even remotely like an individual, he is instantly zapped and replaced with a new even more neutral Auditor.

And what makes the world not run smoothly?  Humanity.  Really, the Auditors hate humanity.  And they think they have finally figured out a way to make things run more smoothly.  They decide to get rid of the Hogfather.

The Hogfather is more or less Santa Claus, but with a Discworld twist.  Yes, he grants children’s wishes on Hogswatchnight (December 32–which takes its name from the Scottish celebration for the last day of the calendar year–Hogmanay) and brings them presents, but his sleigh is pulled by four wild boars, Gouger, Rooter, Tusker and Snouter.  We don’t see much of the actual Hogfather because once Death learns that Hogfather is… incapacitated, Death decides to take over his duties for the night.  Why?  Because if Hogfather doesn’t exist then the Sun will not rise.  This is nonsense, of course. Isn’t it? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 2022] Feet of Clay

The Watch is back.  This story doesn’t exactly introduce Golems to the city of Ankh-Morpork.  They’ve always been there.  But this is the first time they have become a big deal.

Also a big deal? Sam Vimes.  Now that Vimes has become a Lord, it’s about time he gets a crest.  So he goes to the local keeper of the Register of Proper People: Dragon King of Arms, to see about his old family crest.

Except, as Dragon King of Arms is quick to point out, his ancestor was a regicide and they tend to frown on that sort of thing.  So it turns out that one of Vimes ancestor’s

But while Vimes is denied a crest, he is informed that his co-worker, Nobby Nobbs is actually from a learned and proper family (but Nobby is barely human!), still, there is fanciness in his blood.  He is descended from the Earl of Ankh.

Nobby is not too happy about being upper crust and spends much of the book bemoaning that he can be upper class and have no money.  When Society calls on him to come visit, he is woefully out of place and the whole dinner party is a hilarious feast for the reader. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 2022] Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

I bought this book when it came out because I was working in a book store that sold British imported books.  I knew I’d never find it at the mall, si grabbed it,  And now, twenty-some years later, I’ve finally read it.

I read it a little out of order, but I assumed it would come after Maskerade because in that novel, Nanny Ogg has a book published.  Although, it turns out this is her third book (the other two only came out in Discworld).  This book also references Jingo and Hogfather.

So this is in fact a viable cookbook.  You can cook everything that’s in here (provided you don’t include the arsenic).  But the recipes all have a narrative from Nanny Ogg, so there’s a degree of nudge nudge involved in the whole thing.

In addition to the recipes, there is a section on etiquette, which is more of the sort of naughty fun that Nanny Ogg sprinkles in the books she appears in.

The book opens with notes from the publisher (the one who published The Joy of Snacks), discussing whether or not they can actually publish this book and if any of it should be censored.  They just can’t understand how Nanny can use normal every day words and yet some how make them all sound dirty. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 2022] Maskerade

The Discworld Witches are back for another story.  But things are different, and I didn’t remember this happening at all.  Now that Magrat is firmly established with King Verence, she is no longer witching.

And everyone (even Granny Weatherwax) seems to now that Witches work better in trios than duos (although the duo of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg is pretty formidable).

So who would be best to be their new third?  Why, that nice Agnes (once Perdita) NItt had a lot of promise.

But Agnes has no intention of becoming a witch.  She knows what the life of a Witch is like.  Plus she has a VOICE!  (The description of her voice is wonderful).

Agnes has set out for Ankh-Morpork to be an opera singer.  Agnes is very fat and there’s rather a lot of jokes at her expense, which comes across as pretty mean, Terry.  There’s a very fat man as well (this being the opera and all) and there’s jokes at his expense too.  It’s surprisingly mean spirited.

But aside from that, the story is pretty great.  Terry opens his book with some jokes/comments about how he never expected the opera to be a fruitful subject.  Until he talked to his friend in the opera who said the opera was full of crazy stories and superstitions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: December 2021] Interesting Times

I tend to think that there aren’t that many Rincewind novels, but it’s clear that Terry liked to have him around as this is the fifth one!

I’ll also preface this by saying that some readers find this book to be problematic because it deals with people from the Aurient (Asia) and tends toward the stereotypical.  I will come right out and say that some of the things said in this book were cringeworthy, and one or two things made me uncomfortable.  However, keep in mind that Pratchett was clearly anti-racist in the Disc overall.  The Watch is one of the most un-racist institutions in fiction.

Remember also that Pratchett was a satirist and is writing for comedy.  Few people fare worse than white “European” men under Pratchett’s pen.  Finally, this book is mostly meant to be about ancient China and the draconian empires.  Yes, he throws in anachronisms (as he always does), and he blurs the boundaries into Japanese culture here and there–not cool.  But the real targets are bureaucracy and tyranny.

The book starts out with Rincewind finally happy.  That doesn’t bode well.

Then the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork receives a demand from the Agatean Empire that the “Great Wizzard” be sent to them immediately.  Vetinari doesn’t know what to make of this, but it obviously involves the WIzards.  All signs (well, the spelling of WIzzard) points to Rincewind.  Although the “great” part surely doesn’t.  But the wizards are suspicious of foreign parts and no one else wants to go, so why not send Rincewind?

In part because after Eric, Rincewind has been on a desert island.  The Wizards use their machine Hex (a proto-computer) to bring him back to Anhk-Morpork.  Rincewind is none too happy–he was really looking forward to the Amazon women that had just arrived on the island.  They might have potatoes after all.

But Hex worked and Rincewind is back.  Although soon enough they are about to send him to the Agatean Empire.  The Hex works by displacing something from where you land.  Which in this case was a lit cannon.  It arrives in the middle of the University (the Wizards wisely put out the fuse). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: November 2021] Soul Music

This book is about Music With Rocks In!  (With a timeless CD on the cover).  But it’s also about Death having (another) existential crisis.

The book opens with the explanation of why Death had a granddaughter.  For reasons all his own, Death rescued a baby girl, Ysabell, and took her home.  He allowed her to age for sixteen years and then she stopped aging.

He also hired an apprentice named Mort who best Death (which Death allowed, truth be told) in a fight.

So Mort and Ysabell fell in love and were sent back to the real world where they had a daughter, Susan.  Susan technically wasn’t related to Death, but Death was her grandfather so…..

Susan went to boarding school, where she had an uncanny ability to be unseen–even by her teachers.  She was also very smart  (Neither of these things made her teachers very happy).  Susan could also see things that others couldn’t.  And she found this upsetting.  Like when a rat that seemed to be more skeleton than anything else looked at her and said SQUEAK?  As the book opens we learn that her parents have just died in an accident. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 7, 2021] “The Complete Gentleman”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

Manguel has this to say about Amos Tutuola:

He was educated in an English school but never quite abandoned his native Yoruba. Instead, he began to write stories and novels drawn from the collective imagination of his people in an English that is certainly not that of English schoolbooks, but is enriched by strange turns of phrase and an idiosyncratic grammar and spelling that the reader can follow easily.

That’s pretty interesting.

As is this story which is, indeed, pretty unusual.

Each small section has a heading which outlines the action.  First we meet the “complete” gentleman.  He was perfect in every way.  So much so that a woman decided to follow him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Fall 2021] Men at Arms

The Watch is back and it’s getting bigger.

And they are going to have to deal with another person who is trying to oust Patrician Vetinari.  This time the person in question is Edward D’eath a high ranking member of the Assassins Guild. D’eath has been doing genealogical research and he believes that Corporal Carrot might be the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork–the throne which even Lord Vetinari won’t sit on (but won’t remove either).

Meanwhile, Captain Sam Vimes is about to be married to Lady Sybil Ramkin (I can’t believe that the Vimes /Lady Sybil relationship was settled after just one book!)

Sam is delighted with Sybil, but he hates just about everything else about the upcoming marriage.  He hates that Sybil is one of the richest women in Ankh-Morpork.  He hates hobnobbing with the other rich people in the city (Sybil is really very different from everyone else, which is why he loves her). He is even rather uncomfortable with just how rich Sybil is.  There’s a very spot-on argument about how rich people even save money when they buy expensive things.  For instance, the average cop can’t afford to buy expensive shoes that last.  So instead he has to buy cheap shoed that wear out quickly.  Then he has to buy another pair.  And then another pair.  Three $20 pairs that don’t last as long as one $50 pair.

The worst thing for Sam is that he really doesn’t want to give up being a cop.  Well, maybe he kind of does, but it’s all he knows.  And he knows that he’ll miss it.  Even if things are changing around him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Fall 2021] Lords and Ladies

The Discworld Witches are back for another story.  (This is the fourth Witches story which puts them on equal footing with Rincewind at this point).

I have been reading all of the Discworld stories in order (obviously?) and I wasn’t looking forward to this one because of the lousy cover.  I mean, look at that.

But this book turns out to be great.  In addition to the enjoyable story, Sir Terry sets the record straight on elves.  They are nasty.  They are wicked.  They are not cute, they are cruel.  And they don’t appear in Discworld because generations ago they were locked out

The only way they can get back in is via the Dancers, a ring of magnetized iron stones.  Or technically they can’t get in there because the iron stones keep the elves away–elves can’t abide iron.  But when the time is right the worlds get close and the elves try to see if they can somehow get someone to magic away the iron.

And it turns out this is a time of convergence.  Crop circles begin appearing around Lancre and that can only mean that the universe of Elves is nearby.

So what is wrong with elves exactly?  They enter the minds of humans using glamour, to try to make them see the world differently.  Yes, Witches enter into human and animal minds, but only temporarily.

Here’s what they say about elves.  And what those words mean.

  • Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
  • Elves are marvelous.  They cause marvels.
  • Elves are fantastic.  They create fantasies.
  • Elves are glamourous.  They project glamour.
  • Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
  • Elves are terrific.  They beget terror
  • No one ever said elves are nice. Elves are bad.

Granny and Nanny can remember the stories about the elves.  But Magrat is too young, to sweet to believe that elves are bad.  She would believe that the elves are magical and fantastic in a good way.  She would not understand why they must be kept out.

And so Granny and Nanny do not tell her.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Fall 2021] Small Gods

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Small Gods satirizes religion.  On the Disc, it is common understanding that gods exist because people believe in them.  They come into existence when someone begins to believe and they grow more powerful the more people believe.  But some gods have few followers and they are known as the small gods.

One such god is Om.  Om once had a huge following, there was even a town named after him, Omnia.  But over the years, people started fearing the religious leaders who enforced the “rules of Om” or out of habit.

Om has been depicted in statues as a massive scary creature.  But when Om decided to manifest himself this time, he came as a turtle.

There’s a fascinating side bit about how eagles are the only animals that can kill turtles.  They bring a turtle very high in the air and drop it on a rock.  The eagle plagues Om throughout the book. (more…)

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