Book Review: Pyramids

Unlike most boys his age, young Teppic doesn’t spend his time chasing girls or hanging out at the mall. Instead, he trains at a famous school run by the Assassins’ Guild, where he learns the ancient art of inhumation (otherwise known as “bumping off”). No sooner does he pass his exit exam, however, than he learns that his father, King Teppicymon XXVII, is dead – leaving Teppic the sole heir the throne of Djelibeybi.

But that’s not the worst of it: Teppic has absolutely no clue about what it means to be a pharaoh. Of course, the first thing to do is to build a worthy resting place for Dad – a pyramid to end all pyramids. Then there are numerous other administrative duties he must attend to, such as dealing with mad priests and sacred crocodiles, not to mention making the sun rise each morning. As if that’s not enough, the teenaged pharaoh uncovers deceit and betrayal at the very heart of his realm.

Having steeped myself in several volumes of rather bleak fiction (ala Lord of the Flies), I felt I needed a break. I wanted a funny book, one that didn’t take itself so seriously. Somehow or other, Terry Pratchett’s name appeared on my list of to-be-read-authors. I did a bit of research, dropped by the library, and borrowed Pyramids. It fit the bill perfectly.

Part of the bestselling Discworld series, Pyramids is an outrageous send-up of ancient Egypt (and to a certain extent, ancient Greece). It’s a fantasy adventure loaded with hilarity and satire, and hardly a page goes by that won’t have the reader smiling, laughing, or in stitches. Think Monty Python meets J.R.R. Tolkien, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the fantastical funniness of this book.

Throughout the story, we are introduced to a number of memorable characters: Teppic the boy King; Ptraci the brash and flirtatious handmaiden; Dios the mad priest; Ptaclusp the architect; a group of neo-Athenian philosophers who can’t seem to agree on anything; and my personal favorite, a mathematically-inclined camel with a crabby temper. As another critic so aptly put it, “What makes Terry Pratchett’s fantasies so entertaining is that their humor depends on the characters first, on the plot second, rather than the other way around. The story isn’t there simply to lead from one slapstick pratfall to another pun. Its humor is genuine and unforced.”

Along with the memorable characters come some equally memorable scenes. My favorite one occurs when the gods of Djelibeybi begin to fight over the Sun. A priest, witnessing this epic contest, proceeds to commentate on the struggle in sports-announcer fashion:

“It would appear,” said the high priest of Cephut, the god of Cutlery, who felt that he could take a more relaxed view of the situation, “that Thrrp has fumbled it and has fallen to a surprise tackle from Jeht, Boatman of the Solar Orb.”

There was a distant buzzing, as of several billion bluebottles taking off in a panic, and a huge dark shape passed over the palace.

“But,” said the high priest of Cephut, “here comes Scrab again… yes, he’s gaining height… Jeht hasn’t seen him yet, he’s progressing confidently toward the meridian… and here comes Sessifet, Goddess of the Afternoon! This is a surprise! What a surprise this is! A young goddess, yet to make her mark, by my word, what a lot of promise there, this is an astonishing bid, eunuchs and gentlemen, and… yes… Scrab has fumbled it! He’s fumbled it!… and… what’s this? The elder gods are, there’s no other word for it, they’re cooperating against these brash newcomers! But the plucky young Sessifet is hanging in there, she’s exploiting the weakness… she’s in!… and pulling away now, pulling away, Gil and Scrab appear to be fighting, she’s got a clear sky and, yes, yes… yes!… it’s noon! It’s noon! It’s noon!”

Silence. The priest was aware that everyone was staring at him. Then someone said, “Why are you shouting into that bulrush?”

“Sorry. Don’t know what came over me.”

Who should read Pyramids? Everyone… over a certain age, that is. While most of the humor is quite clean, there are several instances of sexual innuendo/suggestive dialogue, making it a book that I think is best reserved for readers ages 15 and up.

Flotsam & Jetsam (8/4)

The Worldview & Witchcraft of Harry Potter – A helpful article from the folks at Movieology. ” What needs to be addressed is whether or not Harry Potter and the Bible are referring to the same things when they use the words “witchcraft” and “sorcery.” What does the Bible mean when it speaks of these things?”

Hermenuetics 101 – Great stuff! When you’re finished reading that, follow it up with this.

Reel Quick – Click here to read my review of Black Death (2010), a historically-rooted supernatural thriller that rails against Christianity and paganism… but offers nothing in return.

Wednesday’s World of Work: Enter Here – Now this is pretty cool, even though I don’t have a link to contribute… yet. Hop on over and take a look!

Jaw-Dropping Crashes from Rally Finland – Wow. OK, how come I’m never allowed to take turns that fast?

Marking Books – There’s still something in me that objects to desecrating the spotless pages of a book with pen markings. I seriously need to get over it…

Silicon Wolfpack – A friend of mine started a blog, on which he’s posting a “webnovel”. So far, it’s humorous, interesting, creative, and just plain fun to read. I recommend you take a look.

Life’s Too Short… – Amen.

Open Letter to Mark Driscoll – By Frank Turk. “This open letter is actually… on one issue about which, as you have made clear in your video, someone like me will probably never agree with you. So I’ve settled on one letter only of excessive length, mostly to avoid
dragging the matter out over weeks and weeks of your admirers and my, um,
gadflies throwing rocks at each other.”

Out of the Heart – Great thoughts from Mike. “It’s not too far off to say that the world is right when it says that you follow your heart. Everyone does by default, that’s our problem. When our hearts are influenced by the sin around us and our hearts are corrupt, then the worst thing we can do is follow it, but this is all that the unregenerate mind knows.”

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious
triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor
spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight
that knows not victory nor defeat. ” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

 

Forget the Hummer… I Want the Marauder

It’s called “the Marauder”, and it’s the epitome of vehicular-awesomeness. What more could a man ask for in a tank truck?

Here’s some specs from Paramount Group:

Crew of 2 + 8
Payload 5 000kg
Various driveline, turret and weapon systems options
including 4×4 and 6×6 vehicle configurations
Air Burst
155mm High Explosive at 60m Azimeth 360 deg Elevation 0-30 deg
Ballistic Protection
7.62x54mm RB 32 API & .50cal API (Equivalent to STANAG 4569 level III)
Mine Protection
Mine Protection – Double anti-tank mine (14kg TNT) under any wheel. Single anti-mine (7kg) under the hull. (Higher than STANAG 4569 level 4a and 4b)#

When you’re behind the wheel of “the Marauder”, you can…

– ruthlessly eradicate rude or incompetent drivers who get in your way
scale Mt. Everest and drive through the Great Wall of China
run over the Incredible Hulk or the Michelin Man
– casually shrug off the RPGs aimed at you by envious neighbors
– embark on a single-handed conquest of Europe
– make Bruce Wayne cry when you flatten his “Batmobile”
crush cars who block you in at the Walmart parking lot
– fearlessly hit careless pedestrians and never even feel a bump
– safely chauffer enterprising Hobbits to their destinations regardless of orcs, ring-wraiths, or creepy flaming eyeballs

And that’s just for starters.

Don’t believe me? Fine. Go ahead and play Doubting Thomas. But first, watch this video. Satisfied? Good. Now go away while I save up for my truck.

(Many thanks to CG for the video – you have fine tastes.)

Soundtrack Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Running Time: 73 min.
Released: 2011

 

 

Captain America: The First Avenger is quite simply one of the greatest superhero films ever made. And it owes its greatness, at least in part, to the magnificent score that accompanies it. Crafted by veteran composer Alan Silvestri, it is beyond excellent: it is a score for the ages. Grand, fresh, exciting, and rousingly patriotic, it matches the high-spirited adventure of the movie with precision and breathtaking grandeur.

The album gets off to a subdued start with Main Titles, which gives us a small taste of the titular character’s theme:  just enough to whet the appetite and no more. The pace quickens with Training the Supersoldier, a short but impressive cue that coincides when the bootcamp training sequences in the film. Howling Commando’s Montage is purely thrilling, followed closely by the equally exciting Hydra Train and Motorcycle Mayhem.  “This Is My Choice” and Passage of Time are lovely pieces marked by a sense of tragedy and loss, and ultimately, hope. Everything comes to a satisfying close with the Captain America March, which fleshes out the main theme in all it’s patriotic glory – I do not lie when I say this piece is every bit as memorable as John Williams’ work for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The album also includes a pleasant, 40s-styled ditty entitled Star Spangled Man. It differs greatly from Silvestri’s score, but it’s catchy and plenty fun to listen to all the same.

Buy the MP3 album on iTunes or Amazon.com.