Friday, 25 May 2012

Review: Eric

Eric by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric, first published 1990, is the ninth discworld book, and the first published as illustrated novel. Sadly, the Kindle version I was reading included neither the illustrations by Josh Kirby, nor the alternating page titles of Eric and Faust. It is also a Rincewind novel.

If you've read the older books revolving around the inept wizard, you already know that he has vanished to the dungeon dimensions in Sourcery. Now he gets a chance to come back - a one in a million chance, to be exact. They always work.
Eric is only a boy, but he is obsessed with summoning a demon to get three wishes: to live forever, to get the most beautiful woman of the world, and to be the ruler of the world. Instead of a demon, though, it's Rincewind who appears in the circle and has to play the role of a demon. He is quite surprised, in fact, that snapping his fingers has any effect at all...
Oh, and the effect it has! Rincewind and Eric are taken to an empire in Klatch, where the people are waiting to meet the ruler of the world - to complain. Only, complaining in an annoyed tone of voice is not their style, they're more the torture and kill types. They are rescued by the Luggage, of course, and with another finger snapping end up in a big wooden horse.
In Pyramids, the thing with the wooden horse was already extensively covered, but here's a short summary: Ephebe and Tsort are Terry Pratchett's parody on the Trojan war. In this war, though, the civilians try selling food to fighting soldiers and the Luggage gets to chase a lot of people. Before snapping his fingers again, Rincewind meets his ancestor Lavaeolus, who invented the horse and all tactics surrounding it. He can't bring himself to tell him that a long, 10 year journey lies before him...
Then Eric and Rincewind end up at the beginning of the universe, to have a nice chat with the creator (who creates an egg and cress sandwich for the wizard). To live forever means to start out at the beginning... But not with Rincewind! He makes Eric reverse his summoning of him, taking them both to hell.
How they escape from there as well, and what bureaucracy can do to hell, I'll leave up to you to find out.

So, what can I say about the book? It had Rincewind, the Luggage, a stupid teenager, Death, demons... Some references reminding me of Good Omens and a lot of travelling to strange places. I know some people really disliked Eric, but I enjoyed it as much as the other discworld novels I read so far.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Review: Guards! Guards!

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Guards! Guards!, first published 1989, introduced another new set of characters to my personal discworld universe: Captain Vimes and the rank of the city watch.
The book covers and unites multiple story-lines: the one of Carrot, a human raised by dwarfs, who is sent to the city to be with his own kind, and who applies at the city watch to do good. At the same time, a secret society aims at overthrowing Ankh-Morpork's ruler, the Patrician Lord Vetinari, in order to install a manipulable king. They do so by summoning a dragon, using a book stolen from the library of Unseen University and diverse stolen magical items. As anyone who read, for example, the wizard novels can deduce from that: the Librarian is not happy.
The main focus of Guards! Guards! is on Captain Vimes, though, who stops his alcohol abuse in order to be able to get rid of the dragon and protect his city. It's a somewhat clich├ęd police story, that, but nicely done and quite in discworld style. Together with the rest of the - mostly incompetent - city watch, the Librarian and Lady Sybil Ramkin, breeder of pet swamp dragons, it's Captain Vimes who tries to stop the dragon after the secret society lost control over it and it became king of Ankh-Morpork (amazing what concepts people can wrap their minds around).

Quite a bit of the story is based on the way people believe in stories and sayings - how to recognise a king, one-in-a-million chances, the behaviour of dragons... That makes up most of the novels charm: a mirror to the stupidity of people. Plus, there's dragons and I learned about L-space.
Satire, humour, dragons and L-space - definitely a book worth reading.

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Monday, 7 May 2012

Review: The Virgin Student

The Virgin Student by Virgin Student

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took another short break from my goal to read all discworld novels. A Goodreads review on The Virgin Student had caught my eye by coincidence, so I took a day off from Terry Pratchett to read it.

The Virgin Student originally was a blog, turned quite nicely into an eBook. The blog was started in summer 2005 by an Oxford student who had just done her finals. Being 21 and still a virgin, she decided to go on a quest to lose her virginity before leaving college in three weeks time. The blog quickly became popular, partly because of the way the author described the dates she went on to find the right guy, partly because, well, she advertised her virginity on the internet!

The Virgin Student was a very interesting read, especially thanks to the comments of the blog's readers, which were included. It's not only the tale of a girl trying to lose her virginity. It is also about what sex actually is, with many a heated discussion about lesbians, virginity, oral sex and the big O.
Personally, I was surprised how naive a girl of 21 could be in times of the internet, but that's just the charm of the book. Had she known more about sex, it would have been a lot less interesting to follow her journey of self-discovery.

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Sunday, 6 May 2012

Review: Pyramids

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is a terrible thing, having your believes destroyed by truth. Sometimes, it is even more terrible to see that you were right.

Pyramids, first published 1989, follows young Teppic, only son of king (Pharaoh) Teppicymon XXVII. He has decided to get his education outside of the small desert kingdom Djelibeybi, so he travels all the way to Ankh-Morpork to join the Assassins Guild. The book starts with his final examination, telling his story in flashbacks as he succeeds.
Shortly afterwards his father dies and the kingdom calls him back home. Suddenly, he has to get used to the old ways of the kingdom again, and he discovers that being king isn't at all as he expected. For example, he doesn't seem to have anything to say.
When the erection of the greatest pyramid ever build (for his father, even though he doesn't want one) tears the whole valley along the Djel out of reality, Teppic, who is not present then, has to make up his mind whether or not he is going to try to go back and save it. Meanwhile, in the kingdom's new reality, all that was ever believed there becomes true, and citizens and priests alike come to realise that it is much more comfortable believing in gods you cannot see (especially the ones with too many heads or legs).

Before I started with Pyramids I didn't know there was an Ancient Civilisation line in the discworld novels. I enjoyed the book immensely, the greatest mathematician of the world was good fun, and the criticism of religion and the unwillingness to let go of the old ways rings very true. Plus, the slow motion climax of the story would have been worth the special effects Oscar, if only it had been in a movie.
Even if you are not interested in diving into the whole discworld universe, you still should give this specific volume a try.

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