Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series.
It was hinted in "Thud!" back in 2005 that an Ankh-Morpork railways book might be coming up; this is it. I think this might have worked better as a short story than a novel; it takes a long time to get to the plot, and the railway stuff isn't really Discworld-y enough to be as funny or as subtle as I'd normally expect from this series.
This is essentially a Discworld short story with some good -- In Our Time level -- pop science chapters. Entertaining enough.
(I forgot to review this at the time I read it; I don't think it made much of an impression.)
The second chapter here pretty much kills any pretence that this series is "for young readers" — this is the darkest the Discworld books have ever got, and I found it really very unpleasant. The rapid transition back to bouncy comedy that followed was difficult to swallow.
As with the previous Tiffany Aching books, there are an awful lot of recycled jokes from earlier in the series; this one's also very cameo-heavy. Perhaps it's too easy to read the influence of Pratchett's illness into this...
Not really about football, but you'd probably guessed that already.
Cameos from most of the Ankh-Morpork regulars -- but where was Carrot, given that he's been the cause of the last two outbreaks of football we've seen in the Discworld books?
It's the end of September; it must be time to read a new Discworld book! This time, Moist von Lipwig takes on the Royal Mint -- so if you liked "Going Postal", you'll probably like this. (If, on the other hand, you didn't like "Going Postal", then -- well, it's a Discworld book, you're probably going to buy it anyway, right?) It's no "Night Watch", but it'll do.
The latest Discworld juvenile: the story of Tiffany Aching continues. There seemed to be an awful lot of material here recycled from previous Discworld books, and while it's got good parts I found it somewhat disappointing overall.
I'm particularly annoyed that Doubleday have chosen to publish this book in the same format as the regular Discworld series, rather than the smaller (and much more attractive) format used by the previous children's books; it makes the text is uncomfortably huge (since there's no more actual content here than the last book), and I can't shelve it in the right place.
I wouldn't say it's a bad book, but it's not up to the high standards set by the rest of the series.
Regular readers of these reviews (are there any?) will have noticed I haven't posted many recently; that's because I've been rereading a big chunk of the Discworld series:
- "Thud!", which I got last year and had only read once. I liked it better this time, and am eagerly awaiting an update to the APF to fill in the references I'm sure I'm missing. I'm curious as to whether "devices" will play a more important part in future books, since they weren't really needed for this one (the cube could just have been ordinarily magical). The section with Vimes under Koom Valley struck me again as a bit clumsy, although the fuzziness is probably intentional. I wonder what the book on the construction of the Ankh-Morpork Underground is going to be called, and how many New York Rapid Transit references he'll get into it...
- "Guards! Guards!", the first Watch book, since I realised I hadn't reread this thread (my favourite) for several years. A good read, even if the plot's pretty fantasy-ish by Watch standards.
- "Men at Arms". I'd forgotten how strong a book this was. It features both impressive bits of humour (for example, the secret society scenes) and some of the first really serious and moving bits in the Discworld series; I was particularly taken with the Carrot scene at the end.
- "Feet of Clay", which used to be my favourite Discworld book until Night Watch came out, and which I've thus read something like six times. I still found the occasional pun or turn of phrase that I hadn't noticed before.
- "Jingo", another good one, and with the satire looking significantly sharper a few years into the Iraq war. I thought it did a particularly good job of giving "screen time" to all the personalities involved (Vimes, Carrot, Colon and Nobby, Vetinari, Leonard, Ahmed...) without ever feeling rushed or bloated. I wonder if we'll get a Klatchian Watch book at some point in the future...
- "The Fifth Elephant", which was all right, but nothing spectacular. Some nice Vimes bits.
- (I didn't bother with "Monstrous Regiment", since it's only been a year since I last read it, and it's only incidentally a Watch book...)
- "Night Watch", my current favourite Discworld book, and probably the most serious work of the series. It stands rereading exceptionally well; the early sections actually work better when you know what's coming.
- "Going Postal". This one's a lot of fun, and it's nice to see that a Discworld book without any of the regular major characters can still work. The telegraph system's quite interesting, but I doubt we'll see any more detail of it than we have here; the Gnu references made me giggle a bit (and frown a little at the blurring of the hacker/cracker distinction, although at least the portrayal's reasonably kind here). I'll guess "Making Money" is going to be along similar lines.
- "The Truth", another Ankh-Morpork "independent" book, although characters recur in later stories. On the "good" side of OK, and resonates nicely with the Michael Green autobiography I read a while back...
- "Thief of Time", which I'd also only read once before. I didn't think it was a very strong book when I first read it, and my opinion hasn't changed since; the History Monks bits are fine, but Susan Sto Helit just isn't an interesting character to follow any more, and Lobsang/Jeremy disappear before we learn much about them.
- "The Last Continent", another one I didn't care much for when it first came out; I can see why there haven't been any more Rincewind books lately. This one's essentially just a collection of Australia-themed set pieces without much in the way of actual plot, and as such doesn't really stand rereading well.
As I'm sure you've gathered, I'd generally recommend the series; I'd probably suggest starting with "Guards! Guards!" and reading the Watch books in order for new readers, rather than diving in at "The Colour of Magic" (as I did, many years ago).
Hm, a Discworld book I didn't like? Well, it's an artbook in the form of a children's story, and I don't care very much for the art style (although I suspect someone who's more interested in children's books than I am would appreciate it more). Look before you buy.
Yay, another Watch book -- this time finding out the truth behind Koom Valley. It's not as dark nor as clever as "Night Watch", and I spotted a few jokes reused from previous Discworld books, but it's still an interesting and entertaining read.
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