Synopsis: Death wants to take a holiday, so he takes on an apprentice to cover for him, and things go as well as you might expect.
Book Review: If you’re one of those people who hasn’t read Pratchett before and wants to know what the big deal is, here’s half of the big deal:
His writing is stellar. He creates a world that is charming and extremely fun. It shows a fondness for the tropes of sword-and-sorcery fantasy and mocks them affectionately while simultaneously using them to tell a good story. His characters have a joy-in-life but aren’t naïve. They are, in fact, generally very smart, and react the way an intelligent reader would react, rather than the way a stereotypical “hero” might.
Pratchett is genuinely funny, and often made me laugh. His turns of phrase are delightful. And he breaks the fourth wall frequently in his books, talking directly to the reader, so it isn’t a traditional narrative insomuch as it is a favorite uncle regaling your with a tall tale. In all of this his love of writing really shines through, you can feel the passion this man has for this craft.
That being said, this is only half of what makes him good, and isn’t enough to hold my interest on its own. The other half of what makes Pratchett great (with a caveat I’ll get to soon) is that he has something to say. He cares about our world, he cares about his fellow man, and he’s pissed off about the ways society sometimes fails us all. He will let you know what is wrong, and what can be done about it, in no uncertain terms. He’s assertive and has the strength of his convictions. In a word – he writes excellent message fiction.
The first book of his I read was Going Postal, one of his later ones, about why certain social services (in this particular case, the Postal System) are damned important, and a really good thing, and efforts to privatize it can go suck an egg. It is amazing. I fell in love right away. (The Truth is similar, for journalism)
So that caveat – Mort isn’t like this. It’s one of his early books, and he hadn’t come into his own yet. Maybe he was worried about offending people? You can still see hints of that passion poking through here and there, but it feels like he’s pulling every punch that he takes, and not even swinging at all most of the time. It ends up being a humorous little tale that doesn’t go much of anywhere or say much of anything. And it’s OK, I guess. But his later work is SO MUCH BETTER! Including his books focusing on Death. Although I haven’t read it yet, I hear The Hogfather is truly excellent, has things to say, and it will make you stop and really think about our society… while still being extremely funny and a great story to boot.
If you are reading your way through all the Discoworld books… well, in that case you don’t really need this review. But if you don’t have time to read even half the things you’d really like to, don’t spend that time on Mort. You’d be FAR better served reading some of Pratchett’s later works. Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: Basically all the things I said above apply here as well. It’s kinda fun to compare everyone’s favorite scene/joke/gag, but in the end the book just doesn’t have much to say, and so there isn’t much to say about it. It reads fast and it’s funny, so it’s not a let down, but it certainly didn’t spark anything either. Not Recommended.