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Archive for the ‘Magic’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: October 2021] Witches Abroad

Our trio of Witches is back.  And they’re about to do something they never imagined.  They are going to “forn parts.”

A local older witch (yes, older than Granny and Nanny) Desiderata Hollow dies and she sends Magrat her wand.  Granny and Nanny are more than a little miffed that she gave it to Magrat.  I mean, really.  Not that Granny or Nanny needs a wand or wants a wand or wants anything to do with a wand, or anything.  But still.

Getting the wand means that Magrat is now the Fairy Godmother to a girl named Emberella.  But although she gave the wand, she also gave no instructions whatsoever.  So Magrat really doesn’t know what to do.  The only note that she gave to Magrat included the important information to not let Granny or Nanny get involved.  Which Granny and Nanny take to mean that they should really take over the whole proceedings.

But Magrat is determined to do this right.  She wields that wand with authority and turns anything she waves it at into a pumpkin (she can’t do anything else with it).

As fairy godmother, Magrat’s one duty is to ensure that Emberella does not marry the Duke (who has a seriously questionable past).

Everyone knows that Fairy Godmothers are supposed to get young girls to marry Princes or Dukes.  So they are working against Fairy Tales.

But before they can even deal with Emberella, they need to cross the disc to Genua where Emberella lives.  This leads to a road-movie type story where the three naive travellers go to all manner of new places.

Nanny Ogg, who fancies herself a wise traveller also seems to know a lot of forn languages (or at least she knows a lot of rude words in other languages).  The Witches have some very amusing adventures.  There’s a Running of the Bulls type event which they find themselves right in the middle of, there’s a cave that they escape from in a giant pumpkin (thanks Magrat), and there’s a village where a giant house falls on Nanny Ogg to the delight of the locals.  Nanny is fine because the house fell on her willow-enhanced hat.

It turns out that the Duke is actually a puppet.  And the woman behind the diabolical plan to have Emberella marry the Duke is Lilith Weatherwax–Granny’s sister.  Nanny knows of Lilith because they grew up together, but no one else knew she had a sister.

Lilith has been using the power of mirrors to create more and more magic.  And she is quite powerful. She has been using the power of stories to impact the Witches travels and wants to use the Cinderella story to change the fates of Emberella and by extension, all of Genua.

Granny and Nanny are a little out of their element here (not that they are weak, they are just in an unfamiliar situation) and wind up getting help from a local witch.  Well, she doesn’t call herself a witch, but as the women talk they see that they have a lot in common.  Erzulie Gogol is a voodoo witch who lives in a swamp and has a zombie servant named Baron Saturday.  Pratchett has some good fun with stereotypes of the swamp–especially Granny not understanding alligators and the like.

Granny hypnotizes Magrat into attending the ball as if she were Emberella.  Magrat quite enjoys the experience. As does Greebo who is turned into a human.  Since Greebo is all impulse, he makes for a rakish human (who, unfortunately, doesn’t understand how his hands and arms work).

Another great rakish character introduced here is the dwarf Casanunda: “World’s 2nd Greatest Lover, swordsman, liar, soldier of fortune, stepladder repairer.”  Casanunda wins over women with his remarkably romantic courtship practices.   He is quite taken with Nanny Ogg who wouldn’t know romance if she sat on it.  He is fascinated that nothing he does impacts her an he finds her irresistible.

This book is a lot of fun because Pratchett is out and about, playing with and massaging sterotypes and just generally having a good time all over the Disc. And of course, it’s always fun seeing Granny and Nanny fight with each other even when they agree with each other.

Incidentally, Magrat and Verence were hot and heavy (well, luck warm and mildly chunky) at the end of the previous book, but things seem a little cooled down between them.  Witches aren’t supposed to marry, so who knows what will happen there….

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: October 2021] Reaper Man

This book opens unlike any other, with an amorphous group of beings called The Auditors of Reality.  (Well, it opens with a bit about Morris Dancing, which is pretty funny).  The Auditors have no individual personalities (in fact, when One says I (“I hate them”) it is immediately dispatched so a more neutral Auditor can take its place.

The Auditors want to make sure that everything is following the Rules. And what isn’t following the Rules?  Well, Death isn’t following the rules.  Death is developing a personality.  And that cannot happen.  So they fire him.  Yes indeed.

He goes off on his own trying to figure things out.  He winds up getting a job as a farm hand (his reaping skills are unparalleled).  The woman he works for is quite suspicious of him (and everyone in town is quite suspicious of her). Death is caught off guard and when she asks his name he comes up with unsuspicious name of Bill Door.

The woman is Miss Fitworth.  She is an elderly woman (rumored to have a large chest with a lot of money in it).  She had a fiancé who went on a business trip and never came back.  Rumor is that he left her, but she doesn’t believe it.

This is all well and good, but without Death, dead humans don’t know what to do–no one is there to guide them to the afterlife.  So they kind of just keep piling up.  Poltergeists run amok.  And then there is aged Wizard Windle Poons.  He was really looking forward to reincarnation.  But after he died, his spirit just returned to his body.  Of course, since he is dead, he doesn’t have any concern with old age–his sight and strength are better than they have been in years.  But everyone is more than a little freaked out by him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: September 2021] Moving Pictures

For his tenth Discworld novel, Terry Pratchett decided to have fun with Hollywood.  Indeed, it is set on a hill called Holy Wood–an abandoned location that seems to suddenly have a magnetic attraction for Disc inhabitants.

This book also introduces Mustrum Ridcully as the new Archchancellor of Unseen University.  Ridcully will remain Archchancellor for the rest of the novels.  He proves to be unkillable (at least in practice) because he is unlike any Wizard around.  He had left the University nearly four decades earlier having become a Seventh Level Wizard at the young age of twenty-seven.  He left to look after his family’s land.  Over the last forty years he has become quite a fan of the outdoors, of exercise, of rising early and basically everything else that Wizards find revolting.  He loves hunting, owns several crossbows and is very hard to surprise–hence, no one has been able to usurp him as Archchancellor. (more…)

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