Tag Archives: Discworld

A Tribute to the Man in the Awesome Hat

85610That would be Sir Terry Pratchett (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015).

My tribute is late, and by now I’m certain everyone who is anyone has said everything there is to say about Sir Terry’s life and legacy and how generally smashing he was. But since adding to the noise is what writers do, I’d like to say a few words in honor of the man who gave me more belly laughs than any other writer on God’s green earth. Yes, even Wodehouse.

I read The Color of Magic when I was fifteen and became a fan of the Man in the Awesome Hat instantaneously. Forays into Discworld are now a literary staple for me. It’s a bonkers place – not unlike a Monty Python sketch from the hand of J.R.R. Tolkien, assuming the latter had been smoking something besides tobacco while writing it. (This is where everyone raises an eyebrow and wonders why this blog isn’t rated R for drug references, too. “Mercy!”)

Sir Terry – like his friend Neil Gaiman, like Lewis and Chesterton and Alexander before them – was a reminder to me that the imagination is a terrible thing to waste. Feed it well. Gorge it. Make it fat. “Stories of imagination,” Pratchett observed, “tend to upset those who don’t have one.” For the love of God, don’t be one of those people. It’s a sorry way to think.

Another thing: laughter really is good medicine. I’m not talking about school girl titters, either. I’m talking about busting an almighty gut. I’m talking about dropping the book because your stomach hurts and you can’t read through the tears. Cue howls and labored breathing. People look at you with a mixture of wonder and alarm because, let’s be honest, you appear to be dying and having the time of your life doing it.

Cracking the cover of a Discworld book is a one way ticket to all this and more. Abdominal pain guaranteed. It’s a great feeling. You should try it.

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.