Tag Archives: discworld

Terry Pratchett: Reaper Man

We meet again for another Book-Week and I have a slight feeling that it won’t be the last this year.
The first book I’ve chosen to review is Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. I have read this book some years ago during my last school years and as I said before:

When Fairy posted her review on Reaper Man for her Alphabet-Challenge I couldn’t help myself but to follow DEATH on his journey to understand mortality again, either.

What is it about?

4 of 5 stars

In the Discworld everyone and everything gets an hourglass that symbolizes their lives‘ time and that tells DEATH when it is time to pick them up. Some sand grains run faster, others slower and some don’t run at all. Until they do. When DEATH is confronted with his own mortality he decides to live the life he now gained by leaving his realm and offering his help on a farm as Bill Door.
With DEATH out of duty the dead people of the Discworld – amongst them former wizard Windle Poons – now have the slight problem of being un-dead or unable to pass on. While every other species creates their own version of DEATH quite fast, humans take longer and the life force that accumulates in the meantime causes quite a lot of trouble for the people of Ankh-Morpork, Windle, his fellow un-dead friends and the other wizards of the Unseen University.

The reading experience

I remember that when I first read it, I was quite captivated by it and didn’t want to stop. When I now read it again it wasn’t like that. I still enjoyed it greatly, but with some knowledge of what was going to happen still in mind and a different look on writing itself, some passages felt different to what I remember. I do believe I also laughed less at some of the jokes, but I’m not entirely sure whom to blame for that.
Pratchett has obviously his own way of writing – especially his Discworld novels – but some sentences bugged me quite a bit, though this might as well have been due to some translation mishaps.
The ideas, however, were quite interesting:

  • DEATH leaves and everything that is dying leaves behind its life force that creates new things that shouldn’t actually be there.
  • Unusual un-dead unite to fight for their rights.
  • Trolleys hatching from Snow Globes gathering to become a Shopping Mall.
  • Different versions of DEATH around the Discworld.

But so far I haven’t come across a Discworld book that wasn’t interesting to read.

The characters

DEATH is one of my favourite characters, both in the Discworld and across literature. His way of (mis)understanding the human nature and exploring it is just brilliant and at times quite hilarious. Seeing him face the weirdness of a mortal life as Bill Door (or Bill Tür as he is called in German) is also quite interesting, because he sees so many things quite different.
The Wizards are always a source for laughter and rolling of eyes, their just so quirky and weird. Their whole attitude stands quite in contrast to the second protagonist Windle Poons, who is rather reasonable for a(n un-dead) wizard. He brought a nice contrast into the chaos caused by the life force.
Though they get little screen time are all the side characters still interesting in their own way, with their own quirky stories. The shy Bogeyman Schleppel was quite great, just as the opposite werewolves Ludmilla and Lupine and the (fake) vampire couple the Winkings. As were the semi-self-conscious Troleys, who toyed with the wizards.
Pratchett just has a great way of creating rather unique characters that are quite likable soon.

General Opinion

Even though I roughly remembered what was going to happen, I still enjoyed this re-read.
With DEATH as main character, I cannot not like this story.
Besides that was it just interesting to read how all of them coped with their different situation (being mortal, being un-dead, being surrounded by Snow Globes, being chased by Trolleys,…).
The only down point I could see, is that at some points the story tried too much to be original, like with the crude writing on the Globes.
It also didn’t become entirely clear to me what the endgame of the Mall was and why the life force was turned into it in the first place (I know it had to go somewhere, but still…).
But it was still a fun read and I’ll probably read it again one day. 🙂

Stuff I’d like to add

If I ever get around to actually do it, I’d like to have a look at this book, Supernatural’s Death takes a Holiday and Torchwood: Miracle Day to look at how differently they handle the concept of Death’s absence.
© For the cover belongs to its rightful owner

Reading Together #4

To keep this one going you get another – this time belated, due to Laptop and Hobbit-reasons – instalment of Weltenwanderers and SchlunzenbüchersGemeinsam Lesen“ (Reading Together).

Each Tuesday one of them asks four questions, with the first three always being the same about the book one is currently reading and the fourth a new one by either of them. All questions below are obviously translated from yesterday’s German post.

1. Which Book are you currently reading and which page are you on?

I’m still reading „A Game of Thrones“ by George R.R. Martin, one of the books I had chosen as A book someone else picked for me for BiblioSmiles’s Summer Book Challenge.
I’m currently on page 515, so I managed to read about 300 pages since last Tuesday, by mostly reading in the bus and finishing the chapters I started afterwards and on occasion reading regardless of that.

2. What is the first sentence on your current page?

Jon was breaking fast on applecakes and blood sausage when Samwell Tarly plopped himself down on the bench.

or in German:

Jon frühstückte gerade Apfelkuchen und Blutwurst, als Samwell Tarly sich auf der Bank niederließ.

I didn’t continue to read until I published the post to make this a Jon-hat-trick, I just couldn’t resist and this way I wrote one of the last few stories for the Advent Calendar instead of reading in the bus.

3. What do you desperately need to tell about your current book? (Thoughts, Feelings, a Quote, whatever you want!)

I’m not sure if I like the way the tv-show changes stuff, but I mentioned that before. Besides, even if I know I should stop watching the episode after reading the chapters portrayed in it, I kind of can’t because it’s still interesting to watch. This series is just too damn captivating…
Story-wise did a lot happen in the past chapters and I’m quite certain that this was only the beginning. Neither of the Starks is in a very good situation, the Lannisters plot and maim as they see fit and the Targaryen’s have reached their destination.
I by the way really enjoy the portrayal of the characters in the book so far, especially Arya and Daenarys. I really liked how Ned handled the whole thing with Needle and I grinned while Dany gave her brother a piece of her mind upon their arrival in Vaes Dothrak.
On the other hand was I just as shocked as Catelyn when she met her sister again.
As for the men, I don’t know what to make of Tyrion.
He’s an interesting character, with good advise and clever lines, but he still seems a bit too superior to me at times. Even with his physical restraints he can do a lot of things with seemingly little effort. Of course his pain is mentioned, but it still feels a bit too much like „look at this character, he is an imp, but look how awesome he is“. Kind of like one of those imba-characters in games or role plays. I still enjoy the scenes he’s in though.
Jon on the other hand is one of those characters that I don’t want to like, due to a possible death, but still do. It’s great how he changed from lordling to tutor and protector of his Black Brothers.
I have noticed that the characters have a different view on peoples ages, but when I read Sansa’s comment on how old someone was who was closing in on twenty two I certainly had to take a moment to let this sink…
Sure she is eleven and a brat (my least favourite of the Stark-bunch by the way), but people can’t have high life expectancies if mid-thirties are considered close to death and mid-twenties regarded as old, but it does fit the context.

4. Are you reading books only once or are there books you read/re-read several times?

Generally I read books only once.
Though, when I was a teenager I re-read the first three books of the Harry Potter series a couple of times. I do believe it was something around 7-5-3 times, maybe more often, maybe the fourth one as well, I can’t say any more. I just didn’t want to leave that world and the next book was still far away…
With BiblioSmiles challenge I am going to re-read the first one again as childhood favourite.
When Fairy posted her review on Reaper Man for her Alphabet-Challenge I couldn’t help myself but to follow DEATH on his journey to understand mortality again, either.
There are also a couple of other books that I wouldn’t mind re-reading, simply because I can’t quite remember them (like Waywalkers and Timekeepers by Catherine Webb), but that wont be done quite soon I guess, as I still have a couple others on my list.

Additional thoughts

You can obviously participate in these questions by either using my translated or the original German version.
As you’ve probably noticed was this post a bit delayed, but with my Laptop being at the service and me getting some sleep before the Hobbit-midnight premier last night it wasn’t really possible for me to finish the post in time.
© For the cover, the quote and the banner belong to their rightful owners.

Terry Pratchett: Eric

As I mentioned a couple of times, I want to start reading more again.
So the first book I read for that occasion – and to get my head away from thinking about my thesis that was being reviewed at that time – was Terry Pratchett’s Eric.

What is it about?

3 of 5 stars

Eric is one of Pratchett’s Discworld novels and tells the story of the young demonology hacker Eric Thursley that summons a demon to fulfil him three simple wishes:
He wants to be the ruler of the world, meet the most beautiful woman that has ever lived and be immortal.
It isn’t really his fault that he summons the most incompetent wizard Rincewind that had been trapped in a Dungeon Dimension to help him with this. And it also isn’t his fault that they end up in places – and times – were his wishes might be granted a little differently than he had anticipated.

The reading experience

As you might have figured: I read this in German. Simply because almost every book I own is the German translation/version. Therefore I can’t say anything about Pratchett’s original jokes, as I don’t know which are his and which came through the translation.

The only thing that I can properly say about the reading itself is, that the novel is far too short.
It seemed a bit rushed at times and I am certain there would have been way more stories to tell, but we only got a little glimpse of that. Still a fun read though.

The characters

Eric pretends to be an old and wise demonology hacker, but is in fact barely older than thirteen. Therefore his antics are childish and naive in certain situations, but the more they go through the more he learns that Rincewind more or less knows what he is doing – and more importantly WHEN they should run.
Rincewind is one of the reoccurring characters from the Discworld. His first appearance was in The Colour of Magic and it took me quite some time to not misread his name as Reiswein or Ricewine
Anyway, in this story he is seemingly granted the power to fulfil wishes through snipping his fingers (whereas otherwise he is barely capable of doing simple spells), which in turn leads them to places where his natural flight instinct is rather useful. He shows again that he has a minimum of responsibility for the people he travels with and is capable of knowing exactly when and in what direction he would need to flee. His pessimistic realism is always quite fun to read and of course his often not understood sarcasm. I might even go as far as to say he is amongst my favourite characters (way after DEATH obviously).
And he never is anywhere without the Luggage (which by the way is called „Truhe„/Chest in German). I like Luggage…I just don’t want to ever meet it/him as an enemy…and his role in this novel was again quite a fun one: Eating through armies, hell gates and simply appearing every time his master is in trouble.
The other major character beside Eric is Astgfl the King of Hell. Or rather the bureaucratic King of Hell that cancelled all the fun in purgatory to be replaced with boredom. That alone makes him a quite fun parody. On the one hand you could see that his plans worked, EVERYONE suffered, on the other hand you could see why there might be some controversy towards his methods of sending out memo’s and files and organizing everything. Even if h e just wanted to improve hell…
As with most of the Discworld stuff I can’t really say that there is a character that I don’t like. I might not have gotten a proper connection to some of them, due to the length of the novel and their short appearances, but no one really stood out negatively. Not even the Tezumen tribe and their „god“ or other army people and demons they met. Heck not even the crazy parrot…

General Opinion

As I said: This novel was way too short, but still fun1. It had some interesting ideas in the ways the wishes were granted (including the creation of the universe, a tribe of Mayan like people and a Trojan-like horse).
The thing that stuck with me most was however the boring bureaucratic hell with Boredom as eternal punishment. It seems to be a rather horrible idea if you are the one being punished…or doing the punishing…
It doesn’t really live up to the other novels I’ve read so far. Which is probably due to the shortness and the bare hints at other story lines instead of actually following them like he does with in of his other novels. Still interesting and funny though.

Stuff I’d like to add

This story was alternatively called „Faust“ and was probably some strange variation of the tragedy by Goethe, but I personally can see the connection only with squinting. With Rincewind being Mephisto, Eric being Faust and Astfgl maybe being god and the „most beautiful woman that ever lived“ being Gretchen or Helena. But I don’t really read it as Faust-like tale…but that’s just my opinion, as someone who kind of really likes the original.
© For the cover belongs to its rightful owner.
1 I really like the footnotes in his novels…

Guardians of my childhood

This is somewhat a follow up to my review of Rise of the Guardians.
I reflected on how I experienced the Guardians of Childhood when I was a kid and originally had added it to that post, but it was just too off topic so I put it into a post of its own. Like many children I used to believe in the „big four“ or at least to some extent.

Sandmann, lieber Sandmann…

Ein schwarz weiß Foto aus Unser Sandmännchen. Das Sandmännchen landet gerade in einem Heißluftballon
An old still from „Unser Sandmännchen“

The Sandman was a constant companion, as we have a children’s show here in Germany called „Unser Sandmännchen“ (Our little Sandman) that uses stop-motion technique to tell the story of a little man with white hair and goatee, a red cape and a pointed hat, always carrying his bag of sand wherever he went.

And he visited many places and everywhere he went the children asked him for a bedtime story. And of course he told them. We learned about the kobold Pittiplatsch and his friends Schnatterinchen (a duck) and Moppi (a dog); of Herr Fuchs (Mr. Fox) and Frau Elster (Mrs. Magpie); of the water goblin Plumps and the baby chicken Kücken and, when the versions from East and West Germany merged, also of the the piglets Piggeldy [a]nd Frederick. (Note on this: During the Division of Germany there was a version of The Sandman on both sides of the country. Nowadays they use the figurine of the East, but stories of both sides and of course new additions.)
So nearly every evening my parents would change the channel to let me watch it and let me accept that when he threw his dream sand it was time to go to bed. 😉

The Man in Red

Santa Claus or the Weihnachtsmann (literally: Christmas-man) as we call him was a phenomenon until I was about six when I realized that the guy behind the mask was in fact my dad and it was made of plastic. I think the following year I even took the mask and played Santa for my parents. Breathing was difficult underneath that plastic thing, but it was fun nonetheless. 😀
Before that it was great to tell dad that he had just missed Santa. 😀

Until I knew the truth he was pretty much a figure of respect for me, you had to do well reciting your poems if you wanted to get your present from him after all. When I knew it was just an adult dressing up I tried not to spoil the fun for the other kids, though I think I failed at that occasionally by loudly thinking … (like I did with some other things as well, but that is a story for another time).

There is a city called „Himmelpfort“ (Heavens Gate) that has one of Germany’s Christmas post offices, where kids can write to and get a reply by Santa or the „Christkind“ (Christchild) or the „Nikolaus“ – which are two other beings, said to bring presents to children. When I was a kid I once wrote them and got a reply I still have somewhere. A printed letter on green paper with drawings all around it. I don’t remember what stood actually in it, but I remember that I used a pen to redraw the angels and stars on the paper. 😀 It’s a nice idea for kids to have the chance to write the imaginary person and get a reply. And of course having this imaginary person in the first place. 🙂

Searching for eggs

Easter is still a holiday where we hide eggs for fun, though there is not much talk about the Easter Bunny any more – unless it is about the bunny that ends up as lunch. *cough*
But when we were at my grandpa’s at Easter the adults would hide little things in his garden and we kids (my cousins and I) then went to look for them. Everyone was gathered, everyone searched. It was fun.
This year was, I think, the first Easter after he passed away that we were able to spent with the family again, but we were only a few people and the only child being my cousins daughter. But my aunt wouldn’t miss the chance to also hide something for her children and me. And of course my dad and I played our little game of: „I saw this many eggs, how much have you found?“ Leaving the actual search for the others. 😀

The unknown legends

The Tooth Fairy wasn’t that present, I’m not even sure if she was mentioned at all, probably only one or two times when I lost my baby teeth…
I roughly remember complaining about the weirdness of the idea of putting my tooth under my pillow and waiting for someone to pick it up. I kind of think my mum made me put it there anyway and exchanged it for a coin somehow. Though I guess I mostly learned about her from television and I still think it’s a weird tale to tell a kid …

And here is when it becomes weird:
The first time I ever heard about „Jack Frost“ was in the „The Santa Clause 3“ movie, where he was portrayed by Martin Short. By then I wasn’t really a kid any more. The only frost „spirits“ I new were Väterchen Frost (Father Frost) from the Russian Fairy Tales and Frau Holle (Mother Hulda) from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the movie adaptations I watched as a child. I still feel closer to them.

The Bogeyman never really played a role either and I’m pretty sure that Pitch from RotG was only the fourth I had ever encountered. I think some of the „friends“ I had throughout childhood talked about „the Black Man“ (der Schwarze Mann, as one of his German versions is called) lurking in the dark, but my parents never tried scaring me with that.
Still lying in my room all alone at night was a completely different matter, though my room was never really dark as I had a street lamp right in front of my window. As soon as a limb would make its way out underneath the bedsheets it would be drawn in again.  Even faster if it came anywhere near the floor. My bed did not have space underneath it, but there still was the floor where something could be crawling at you. But I have to admit that even now, after I’ve watched (or read) something supposedly scary the shadows seem to be even darker as they usually are.

Well, the „Fear of the Dark“ is after all something basic that is settled deep within us and I don’t think it will ever go away. It might not frighten us as it did during childhood, but you will still have this weird feeling of something watching you, just not as strongly.
As I said, Pitch was only Nr. 4 and it took me a while to learn about the concept of the Bogeyman.
My first Bogeyman ever was Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare before Christmas the main antagonist and well, the singing sack of bugs, that tried to torture „Sandy Claws„. Not really frightening, but still a Bogeyman.
Number 2 and 3 both live(d more or less) in the city of Ankh Morpork which I learned about when I read (and later watched) „Hogfather“ by Terry Pratchett. A brilliant story about an assassin „killing“ the Hogfather (the Discworld version of Santa) and DEATH fills in for him. The first Bogeyman was a minor character that got clobbered by DEATH’s granddaughter Susan in the beginning of the story. The other is the first Bogeyman ever <spoiler for anyone who still hasn’t heard about it>that became the Tooth Fairy of the Discworld, which is pretty funny if you look at the story of the RotG movie 😉 </spoiler>.

I can’t really remember any other entities that I was told about as a kid, so I guess I’ll leave it at that.
It’s always nice to rethink stuff you experienced in your childhood when learning about it in a different way and this is just one of many examples I had faced recently.
The series Once Upon a Time and Grimm made me rethink the fairy tales I grew up with. Rise of the Guardians made me think about this. And probably many more stuff I have yet to remember.
But it’s nice that a simple story can do that. 🙂


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