Review (Discworld): Soul Music

So I’m going to do something counter to almost all my other Discworld reviews and write a (slightly) negative review… GASP.

I have read Soul Music before, and guess it didn’t really stick out for me in the past and I sort of see why. Like all Discworlds, Soul Music is pretty darn good overall, but I feel has a few weaknesses among its strengths.

To recap – Soul music is Death’s 3rd book and we finally get introduced to Susan, who I sort of feel like the MC Pratchett was looking for in the Death series, where Mort didn’t quite cut the mustard and Reaper Man lacked. It’s interesting to me that Pratchett doesn’t really ever give Death much page-time, but rather creates a story around the few actions that Death does take.

Susan appears on the scene because Death has decided he needs to forget (it’s never explicitly stated but its implied that Death is struggling with Mort and Ysllabells respective deaths). As Death’s granddaughter Susan is called upon, Harry Potter styles to take up the job. This sequence is by far my favourite part of the story, where we see Susan struggle with but also embrace the situation.

The second plot thread is ‘Imp’ an elf-like fellow who wishing to pursue a career in music, discovers “music with rocks in it” after purchasing a cursed guitar. Imp was ‘supposed’ to die early in his music career, but Susan watches on as Imp’s life is supernaturally preserved by the ‘soul’ of music. Imps plot is largely characterized by a number of musical puns and satirical sequences riffing on rockstar fame as the Soul of Music increasingly takes over his ‘life.’

All the plot threads are really fun as they’re introduced but where I felt this book didn’t quite work is how the two main threads fitted together. Yep on a practical level Susan is involved because she witnessed Imp fail to perish and starts protecting him – a bit akin to Mort saving the princess in his story. But there is no real reason the Death plot really fits with the Music one. Once all the interest in everyone getting introduced is done with the characters just kind of meet every now and again until eventually the ‘Music’ is confronted (and defeated)

Death’s own journey to forget is kinda undermined and reduced to a few gags before zooming to Susan’s aid the end, his issue isn’t exactly resolved (although as said its sort of implied that he copes with his grief).

Again it doesn’t really fit together that well – the ‘Music’ plot feels similar to Moving Pictures and in my opinion could have had a similar ‘solo’ story that didn’t need Susan or Death. Whereas other than the cool introductions the Death story felt like a rehash of Mort (Death wants some time off, a human takes his job and interferes in the natural order of things).

Finally not exactly a critique but a fair warning that Soul Music has SO MANY puns, mostly about late 1900 rock and pop music – its funny, but holy crap there was a lot.

I’m really looking forward to Hogfather which I feel is peak Death series, although I see that Thief-of-Time is consider an entry in the Death series which I never registered it as.

Review (Discworld): Lords and Ladies

Google searching for the book cover image was not as weird as I expected.

I have read Lords and Ladies before, but unlike some other rereads I hadn’t actually remembered too much from this one except that the Elves were scary AF and Granny Weatherwax AIN’T DEAD (spoiler alert).

Rereading this one was quite interesting, in terms of evolution of the Discworld series I thought that Small Gods was actually quite dark and brutal, which while Lords and Ladies continues a fair amount of this – I couldn’t help but notice a lot of humour and silliness throughout. And While I consider Pratchett to be the GOAT at what he did I feel on in comparisons to his other books the balance of humour and action is a bit off in this one. Nothing too extreme just at times some of the jokes don’t land as well – for example there is a moment where one of the characters talks about ‘psyching’ up the others, which in itself is quite anachronistic and funny, and fits with the Witches’ themes (and sort of fits with their ‘headology’) but in order to keep with the times ‘psych’ is spelt pssike. It takes a moment to translate, and the intentional misspell doesn’t exactly add to the joke, its already funny to hear a fantasy character use modern language like that.

However despite this imbalance Lords and Ladies I think shows a big lead forward in character complexity, its the only Discworld other than The Light Fantastic (an immediate sequel to Colour of Magic) which has a ‘previously on’ and follows essentially immediately on from Witches Abroad. I confess as a younger reader I didn’t really like Weatherwax that much, other than respecting her bad-assery but in rereading I actually wonder if Esme W is the closest to an author insert we get from Pratchett. I always assumed he was Vimes (and sometimes wondered if he might actually be Rincewind) although I’m relatively certain that isn’t how Pratchett worked exactly.

As a final comment the plot of Lords and Ladies is slightly leaning into ‘proper’ story telling, while its still a twisted trope on fantasy clichés the actual story is much more mainstream than early Discworld, by which I mean there are clear ‘bad-guys’ and the MCs undergo triumph and character development a little more traditionally. And WHAT a group of bad-guys, the Elves in Lords and Ladies are disturbingly abusively evil – I feel like both Small Gods and Lords and Ladies reveal a darker part of Pratchett’s imagination which I relish but also find a little scary.

Next up is Men at Arms – one of my favourite Guards books which I have read many times over – but like all of these not for some time. Will be interesting.

The Rings of Power: A Rambling Spoilery Review

Mood: kinda weird

As a ginormous fan of Lord of the Rings both book and movie (but not necessarily hugely knowledgeable about the wider lore) when the announcement for this series happened I was in two minds. Excited for more material, but also apprehensive about what story they planned on telling. Part of the reason that Lord of the Rings stands out as the seminal tale of Middle Earth is its both finality, and perfection of character vs epic stakes.

As trailers started coming through I was very glad to see that Rings of Power would be Woke (although in hindsight I feel like most the main characters were still white, and there really was only the lightest of sprinklings of representation still moreso than the original movies)

BUT I also got that trepidation that sometimes trailers give, while its hard to judge a movie from its trailer, you can sometimes get a sense of tone and Rings of Power just seemed to lack something. Was is going to be an epic battle type tale, or a heartfelt emotional journey like LOTR, or some sort of complex GoT approach? Not a lot was revealed by the promotional material which is usually a good thing, but there really didn’t seem to be anything to sink your teeth into…

So?

I don’t really want to use this post to do a lengthy plot summary, but a small amount is required to make sense of it all, the central plots of ROP were quite varied and I’m probably going to miss some key points, but the main threads were that Galadriel (surely if you’re reading this you know who that is) tries to convince all around that Sauron and Orcs are still a threat, mostly focussed on Númenóreans. This is while Elrond tries to convince the Dwarves to let the elves get access to some Mithril, Sexy Elf ranger (I can never remember his name) battles some orcs in the Southlands, and a mysterious robed and bearded magical figure is helped by some half Harfoots.

Much of the plotting has that annoying fantasy trope/style that I’m not sure bothers others, but where the practical plot and character motivation kind of become expedient on each other – like when here someone critique a plot point because “it needed to happen to have X occur.” in ROP it felt like each character would be graced with a single plot point forward each sequence regardless of how the pacing felt or the emotive nature of the point, for example in one sequence and not too badly thought-out scene involved a group of villages successfully defending themselves from attack, only to discover their victory was tarnished by the fact their attackers where their own former countrymen forced by the orcs to attack – it was a somber moment that was never mentioned again or having little impact as the orcs attacked shortly after and they tried to play a ‘riders of Rohan’ moment shortly after, essentially cramming too many feels into one sequence.

Not to mention the show was full of weird and unnecessary tropes and clichés and at times missed the mark moments.

For example when defending against said Orcs the human and Single (in both senses) Sexy Elf abandon their secure tower and somehow rig the whole thing to collapse in flames around the orcs with a single flaming across shot to a pulley. I usually don’t try to nitpick the practical matters of fantasy stories because that’s not what its about, but it just felt like lazy writing – they’d spent a lot of time building up a Helm’s Deep type scenario (and to be fair the tower falling didn’t solve everything) but it just struck me (and I suspect other viewers) as kind of add that against overwhelming odds that the whole bring down the house strategy was even an option.

There were also multiple weird choices of tone and direction, while a lot of the show attempted to have that high pitched elven emotional feel, there would be these action sequences like something out of a horror film. Sexy Elf battles one particularly big orc initially like a Matrix subway fight, and then inexplicably stabs orcy in the eyeball and we get minutes of gushing eye goop during their struggled before the eventual death stab.

Stuff like this is just plain weird, because they aren’t mistakes or necessarily bad, its definitive choices. Someone, or ones decided things like we’ll have this battle play out this way, or we’re have ?Gandalf? drop a clanger of a line “I’m……..Good” (If you haven’t seen ROP basically the whole storyline is a mystery box tease about who is the bearded stranger hanging out with hobb Harfoots almost every sign points to Gandalf but then some weird cultish characters find him and call him Sauron. In a dramtic confrontation they realize he is not in fact Sauron he’s- they are cut off by maybe-Gandalf yelling out “I’m Good” its very Jar Jar Binks level).

But not all of ROP is that bad, its just well, like I keep saying, odd. There are some genuinely awesome moments, the rapport and jokes between the dwarves and Elrond are great, for somehow Adar the overt bad-guy of the season is the best character and gives surprisingly rousing and meaningful battle speeches to his orcs, which he treats (relatively) humanely.

The budget was obviously insane, and many of the sets and special effects looked off the planet.

I think ultimately ROP has not done well as it tried to do too much, create new characters and dynamic stories, while still being akin to the Jackson Trilogy. It definitely had a sense of too much influence of GoT on the style and trying to be complex, edgy and surprising where I think most fans of Lord of Rings love the stories for their emotional impacts, not the twists and turns.

Funnily enough I am missing the series, even though sometimes it was rage-watching I did enjoy sitting down at the end of a long week and watching an episode, I’m looking forward to Season 2 although I have a bad feeling with the general consensus seeming to be that ROP hasn’t magically elevated Amazon Streaming to the biggest platform and blown everyone’s socks off the show might be relegated to a kind of production purgatory.

Anywho – what are others thoughts on the show, enjoyed, hated, mixed??

Any points I missed worth pointing out?

Favourite characters?

A Yearly Roundup: 2022

Phew – its been a bit of a 2020 round three this year, and I’m finding myself having to dig deep into my Goodreads profile and Steam library to make sense of what I’ve been up to!

The Shows

So as a positive I guess(?) I haven’t been watching too many shows over the year, but there have been a few standouts at least for a comment or two:

Ozark finally wound up this year, which kinda emphasizes how long a years its been – seems like ages ago. The last season was from a purely entertainment perspective a bit of a let down, but from a discussion generation POV not too bad there were a few interesting literary type techniques and throwbacks (See discussion of the car accident)

While it was a close race my most anticipated AND enjoyed series was Sandman, if you’re somehow unfamilar Sandman is Neil Gaiman’s original claim to fame a series of graphic novel about the Lord of Dreams. Adapting for the screen must have been no easy task and its a very surreal and magical story, but Season 1 which covered the first two novels did an amazing job with a great cast and I’m really looking forward to future seaons.

So Lord of the Rings was a kind of highlight of the year for my watching, but I confess there was an element of rage-watching. There has been a fair amount of internet controversy over this series and I don’t really want to add to the hate and that, but it was a very strange watch overall.

I never did a post on it but might consider it in the new year – basically the series had some of the strangest writing I’ve ever experienced in a series, which I can best sum up as a lot of very unusual choices in dramatic direction and tropes. It was like the writers wanted the show to be sleek and exciting, timeless, twisty, and Game of Thrones complex but couldn’t really pull it off exactly so the end result was an oddly slow paced story with many cliffhangers, weird horror moments and some of the dumbest dialogue juxtaposed with some epic lines. I dunno I probably better do a whole post devoted to this – even though it was rage watching I did enjoy it immensely!!

The Games

2022 has been a bit of a nostalgia trip for me – I replayed most of the Quest For Glory series including trying the VGA remake of I and finally (After literal decades) number V

I also played through the Coles’ follow up Hero-U

This has been a passion project for them for some time – its set in the the same ‘world’ as Quest for Glory but is a very different style of game, much more of a pick-a-path choice sort of storyline almost entirely set within a university setting.

Now I may be getting my years mixed up (double checked I am not) I also played through the 2015 reboot of Kings Quest, while not without flaws (just like my posts) it was an interesting and enjoyable game to sink my teeth into during this bout of nostalgia.

Other games of note this year included:

Lamentum – a sort of cross between Resident Evil and Amnesia the Dark Descent, all in pixel art, if had both a creepy/cosmic horror vibe and gloomy premise that I love in a game – only flaw (probably my own) is I’m really bad at completionism type games and I simply Googled the multiple endings rather than achieved them

Provided a fun and simply story about a mysterious mage traveling across a ravenged land. It had a very mindful puzzle mechanic where you working through stacks of cards basically by going up or down one number until all the cards were gone. Simple but a good brain tonic

Finally by far my most enjoyed new game this year was Hob’s Barrow:

A relatively straightforward point and click adventure, this game captures the tone and presentation of Lovecraftian works just perfectly – the lead developer is even a Kiwi and said Kia Ora to me over Twitter 😀

Non-Fiction

I actually read a very weird mix of non-fiction this year, not much on writing craft – but a mix of books about cults, abusive relationships, dictatorships, and conflict!

Probably the highlight was The Human Swarm, one of my most nerdy special interest is non-fiction about long term human development. Its hard to summarize this chonk of a book but it really deep dives into analyzing society from a long term / bird’s eye

Fiction

I actually thought I hadn’t read as much as I had this year (which is a weird blind spot) I continue my journey through the Discworld novels – I also devoured and redevoured the Sandman graphic novels in anticipation of the series. It’s hard to believe it was just this year that I pushed myself through Atlas Shrugged (geeze).

By far the most exciting fiction related element from 2022 was a friend of mine published their YA sci-fi novel MindWalker

It’s really quite a phenomenal achievement and an amazing book to have out there!

Myself

I confess I feel 2022 hasn’t been the most amazing year personally, not being a negative its more that a large portion of the year has been taken up by covid anxiety or having covid or taking covid related pre-cautions, I managed to get the Flu and Covid this year and would not recommend either.

Writing feels like its taken a bit of a backseat – although I have been enjoying what I have gotten around to I haven’t achieved much in the way of word-counts. I have enjoyed releasing a weekly blog, it seems a good format for keeping something regular (even though I flaked for most of the last quarter!) without trying to come up with a full blog topic every post.

If you’re reading this Merry Christmas, its nice to have you around and I hope you stick around for whatever 2023 brings. All the best and take care

Review (Discworld): Small Gods

Hope that the person I borrowed this book from doesn’t mind I read it with Covid-19. (I’ll return to them in a week or two after airing it out….)

So, for anyone following my Discworld reviews, a major theme of my thoughts is the difference between young me and old me’s interpretation of each book.

Small Gods is doubly interesting on this point. Strangely it wasn’t a book that I didn’t understand even when young – in fact for Pratchett its a pretty accessible satire compared to some other entries or rather more accurately the focus is a lot narrower, basically all about religious dogma and political power. (I find while Pratchett usually has one central theme like in Moving Pictures, but usually sprinkles multiple jokes and analysis throughout a book).

But in saying all that I liked Small Gods much more as a grown adult. I think it felt more significant and real, almost not just a story. The character of Vorbius that much more sinister.

So just to backtrack a bit, Small Gods is a stand alone ‘ancient civilization’ story that follows ‘Brutha’ an possibly Autistic man who finds himself caught between his one true God (currently a lowly tortoise due to only having one believer) and Vorbius, the violent voice of authority for his church which seems more concerned with conquering the known world than actually believing in Om.

I’ve mentioned before that Discworld novels seems to evolve quite a bit from most of the early editions being random romps throughout the fantasy land – to tighter more traditional storylines. Small Gods, IMO is the most focussed story yet, even complete with a growing character Arc for Brutha, with rising tension, major climax and everything. That’s not to say that these later books are more “sell-out” in fact Pratchett’s badass plots are among my favourite.

Looking forward to some Lords and Ladies next.

P.S. for an Easter egg I never realized – this book introduced Lu-Tze (Thief of Time) as a minor side-character. I don’t know if he’s snuck into any other stories but I will report back.

Review (Discworld): Witches Abroad

Witches #3 is a very interesting instalment on reread. I didn’t actually remember a whole tonne from when I first read it but I remember not being that enthralled because there was so much focus on OLD Granny Weatherwax, instead of the YOUNG relatable Magrat (I must have been pretty young oh dear).

What I’ve noticed rereading is I think this the real beginning of more bad-ass Discworld stories. Reaper Man had a little bit of this style but Witches Abroad is much more of a coherent fantasy action story, with a proper quest, villain and even somewhat serious twists.

There is still a rambling element of random adventures which is sort of relegated to the 1st act while the Witches make their way ‘abroad’ where Pratchett riffs on some cultural oddities before subverting fairy tales – the main theme being what if witches were the good guys in fairy tales?

Most of Pratchett’s characters are the best, but I feel like Granny Weatherwax is by far the most complex and dynamic. Even by book 3 I feel like she is still somewhat developing (and there are only 3 more books to go!) I can’t quite decide whether Vimes or Weatherwax are the most author insert of Sir Pratchett (or is it Rincewind LOL)

Review: Reaper Man (Discworld)

#discworld
This is kinda what I imagined new Death would look like (I know that technically he’s made of smoke)

Continuing my Discworld journey – Reaper man is an interesting one. As #2 of the Death series its of course going to rate highly – but there is something odd about this edition which probably detracts from it a little.

The basic premise is that Death finds himself given a ‘life’ and told his replacement will arrive soon. With little to no explanation Death decides to settle down on a local farm and adopt the life of one ‘Bill Door’.

Every single scene with Death in it is brilliant and perfect and everything you want from Sir Terry, from Death’s struggle to relate to life both humorously and philosophically to the strange connection between Death and a small child who can tell he’s a skeleton, and the final confrontation and struggle with the New Death.

So what’s the problem?

The weird thing with Reaper Man is the majority of the book is a wizard subplot. Death barely takes up any pages, and most of the book focusses on Windle Poons a recently undead and ancient wizard as him and his colleagues join with a small gaggle of typical undeads and fight against the effects of the build-up of excess ‘life’. The subplot is funny enough but is mostly silly narration – aside from a few really good gags (conversations with a medium) it mostly felt like distraction from the really good stuff.

Of course Reaper Man is all important in the series for introducing the seminal and significant ‘Death-of-[spoiler]’ so will always hold a special place for me!

Sleepy September (2022) Update

Yeesh anyone else exhausted at the moment?

In my defence there’s been a few things on lately, NZ has recently scrapped almost all of our covid response plan, which is a good thing (it’s because of dropping case numbers) but its a big change in our wee nation and kinda weird to not have to whip on a mask every few moments.

I’ve also had to do some on-call stuff for work which I’ve been lucky enough to get away from this year, but it tend to put a dampener on the writing hobbies!

But enough about me – what about the world?

Sir Terry Pratchett’s biography is coming out shortly I don’t know whether I want to continue my read through of the Discworld series first and then read it, or read the biography as soon as possible :D. Normally I’d prefer to read the works then the biography but given how many Discworld novels there are (I’m up to 12/45) reading all of those is probably going to be another couple of years away!

Jenna Moreci is about to publish a ‘On Writing’ book and I’m pretty excited I haven’t read a book on the craft for a while and Jenna is really funny and smart so should be a good time!

Finally this month a twitter friend of mine published their YA book:

I’m proud to be ‘Moots’ with Dylan but unfortunately can’t claim much more prestige than that! Hopefully when Dylan hits the best-seller lists they don’t unfollow me 😀

My Goodreads Review

I’ve been saving a few reddit type posts but plan on saving those for next weeks Weekly Writing Review, the last few hours of this weekend are ear-marked for cups of Earl Gray and chocolate (separately)

Hope all are taking care.

Review: Moving Pictures

Wow its actually been 3 months since my last Discworld read (At this rate I’ll be done in about 10 years!).

Moving Pictures is one the standalone Discworld novels, although has a fair few familiar Ankh Morpork characters, I and I think, unless I’ve got this wrong introduces a couple of recurring wizards who remain in place for the rest of the series (Ridickully or however you spell it and Ponder Stibbons).

MP is possibly one of Pratchett’s more pointed satires where he more squarely takes aim at Hollywood – God only knows what this book would be like in modern times but I suspect there would be a lot more skewering going on, although something to always keep in mind is that Pratchett was masterful at satire without actually targeting anyone hurtfully so he would have found a way to make us laugh.

Sorry onto the actual book, not my weird daydreams. MP is also a little different from other Discworlds its a bit more traditional in plot structure with a straight MC, inciting incidents and epic battles towards the end. It also introduces the best character ever: Gaspode! I can’t believe I forgot about him until rereading!

Overall MP feels like the beginning of the more familiar Discworld novels, packed with crazy subplots, multiple characters and unexpected turns of Discworldly magic. While its not my favourite story its a fun romp.

Reaper Man is next, another one that I can’t remember much of which is actually a bonus on this journey!

Review: Piranesi

How many times can I misspell a book title within one review?

First up, I luuuurve Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I will say Paranesi is quite a different work. First obvious thing is Paranesi is quite a bit shorter, and reads closer to a novella or short story than a tome.

Explaining the story for a review is a little difficult! We follow Paranesi, a foggy narrator living in a mysterious world of birds, statues and ever changing tides. As the story progresses we gradually learn more about the world, and eventually start to get hints about the ‘real world’ and what is really going on.

I confess at first I worried the story might be too complex or subtle for me, as there are many mystery messages and interesting allusions, but even though the book begins with a lot of questions and still has some intrigue by the end, its not a chore to follow.

Paranesi is definitely an acquired taste, I actually thought the closest influence was HP Lovecraft, the book is highly original and recommended for those who want something a bit different.

SPOILER FILLED ANALYSIS

While shrouded for much of the book it’s later revealed that Piranesi is a journalist/writer who had been investigating a small group of occultists who believed they could travel between worlds. In part of his investigation ‘Piranesi’ is tricked into entering this other world full of statues and is gaslit and manipulated by ‘the other’ to basically run errands in this other place.

By the end of the tale Piranesi doesn’t fully recover his old persona and doesn’t fully want to leave the Other World. It’s never quite explained what that other world is, however its revealed that the statues are all of real people, suggesting the world was perhaps a collective subconscious, shared dream, or oddly when I first started reading the book I thought it might be the very beginning or very end of the universe.

I haven’t Googled the deeper meanings or rather when I did I saw a lot of metaphoric analysis which is going to be awesome to enjoy. I won’t try and summarize it all here as I feel its a bit beyond me – but indeed, very much enjoyed.