by Terry Pratchett
I've gotten through the first 16 volumes of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series; just 12 more to go! Picking up where I left off, here are reviews of Volumes 15 & 16.
Volume 15: Men At Arms: Affirmative action comes to the corrupt metropolis of Ankh-Morpork when the city's leader, The Patrician, inducts a troll, a dwarf, and a warm into the City Watch, Night division. The Night Watch used to be a joke, but after Corporal Carrot joined the force in "Guards! Guards!" the Watch became somewhat respectable and started actually doing work.
While the Watch is gaining three new recruits, it's losing its commander in Captain Sam Vimes. Formerly a drunk used to waking up in gutters, Vimes is now living the high life and about to marry Sybil, a wealthy swamp dragon trainer. Everything seems to be going well, except behind the scenes, someone wants to restore the monarchy to the throne.
To do this, the fiend plots to create a deadly new weapon: a gonne, which uses fireworks powder to shoot a lead slug into someone--on in other words, it's the Discworld's first gun. As racial violence between dwarves, trolls, humans, and undead heats up it's up to the Night Watch to save the day.
My problem in reading this book was I was distracted by other things, so I couldn't give it my full attention. The final solution to WHO is behind everything wasn't too obvious, which is a good thing. Like "Lords and Ladies" before it, this one had a darker tone with one central character being killed. It seemed odd to me that Corporal Carrot at the start of the book seems kind of dull-witted, but by the end he's outsmarting everyone, including a master manipulator like The Patrician. The more I got thinking about it, the more I realized Carrot is like Columbo in those old '70s mysteries. Only instead of going around in a rumpled trenchcoat and smoking cigars, he wears shiny chain mail. But the result is the same, where foes and friends grossly underestimate him until they realize they've answered "one more question" too many. (3 stars)
Volume 16: Soul Music: I was hoping to like this more than I did. DEATH--what we would think of as the Grim Reaper--is my favorite recurring character in the series, so I was hoping to really enjoy a book focusing more on him. But I didn't, in large part because "Soul Music" is much like "Moving Pictures" only instead of parodying the early film industry it parodies the early days of rock n roll--when it was actually rock n roll and not two hundred different sub categories.
Anyway, DEATH gets depressed and takes a sudden leave of absence. The job of making sure people die goes to his sixteen-year-old "granddaughter" Susan. She is the offspring of an orphan DEATH adopted and his former apprentice Mort, who got married in the earlier book aptly titled "Mort." While in many ways Susan is a normal girl, she also has the ability to will herself invisible and see things that no one else can, like a skeletal rat with a scythe that goes SQUEAK! As you'd expect Susan is no better at being DEATH than her father was, though not quite with as disastrous results.
Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork a bard named Imp arrives and wants to be the most famous musician ever, but can't afford to join the Musician's Guild to play legally. He joins up with a dwarf and troll and form a band. When Imp breaks his harp, the band discovers a music shop that has always been there, by which I mean it's NEVER been there and just suddenly turned up. Imp buys a guitar that seems to take on a life of its own. Before long, he and the others are playing a new kind of music they call Music With Rocks In, presumably because instead of drums the troll beats a sack of stones.
Music With Rocks In becomes a sensation, but for Imp--who takes the name Buddy--fame comes with a high pricetag.
What I didn't like, as I mentioned earlier, was much of this seemed derivative, as a combination of "Mort," "Reaper Man," and "Moving Pictures." At least Pratchett knew he was rehashing some of the same material, so he avoids duplicating those books exactly. Still, there was a definite feeling of "been there, done that." It was still an enjoyable read, but not a great one. (3 stars)
These were definitely not the best in the series (at least to me) but maybe things will pick up a bit with "Interesting Times."
That is all.