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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Discworld series Volumes 24, 27

Discworld series

by Terry Pratchett

Volume 24: The Fifth Elephant: The Discworld is held up by four elephants on top of a giant space turtle. But long ago legend has it there was a fifth elephant. That elephant fell off the edge though and slammed into the ground, creating mountains and most notably, large resovoirs of fat. It's this fat that the city of Ankh-Morpork wants to obtain cheaply for making candles and frying things. And so the city dispatches Duke Samuel Vimes, also commander of the City Watch, to make a deal with the dwarves who mine the fat.

The last Discworld book I read "Carpe Jugulum" dealt with vampires. This book also has vampires, but more prominently features werewolves and dwarves who ruin the remote nation of Uberwald, where all that fat can be found. As always happens when Vimes is involved, people are murdered and there are mysteries to be solved. In particular is the mystery of the royal dwarf throne known as the Scone of Stone--as the name implies it is a baked good that is very ancient and thus very hard. If the Scone of Stone isn't found, the entire kingdom could tear itself apart in civil war.

Meanwhile, in Ankh-Morpork the City Watch faces its biggest challenge yet when career sergeant Colon is forced to run things. A word to the wise: if someone's been a sergeant for 30 years there's probably a really good reason for that.

On a side note, this book also introduces the "clacks" the semaphore towers that allow one part of the Discworld to communicate with another in hours instead of days. This is the Discworld equivalent of cellphones and the Internet. The "clacks" technology later becomes a major issue in "Going Postal" the first Discworld book I read.

Though there is that mystery involved, a lot of book involves action as Vimes becomes a fugitive from the dwarves and the werewolves. Because of that the book is a very quick and exciting read. And maybe werewolves aren't as in vogue right now as vampires, but they're pretty fun too. (4 stars)

Volume 27: The Last Hero: I'm veering a little off the proper order here, but for a good reason. If "The Fifth Elephant" was a quick read, then "The Last Hero" is an even quicker read because it's an illustrated book. The paperback copy I bought comes in at a mere 176 pages. Because of this and since it's hard transporting an oversized picture book, I decided to read it over the weekend.

Anyway, this picture book in some ways is the Discworld equivalent of one of those reference movies (Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, ad nauseum) in that it makes references to nearly all the major characters in the Discworld universe, except for the Witches of Lancre. The City Watch, Rincewind, the other wizards, DEATH all make appearances here.

What brings them all together is Cohen the Barbarian. The first hero stole fire from the gods, so now that Cohen is getting on in years, he decides that he'll return the fire. So along with his Silver Horde of veteran heroes, he undertakes a harrowing journey to the mountain that houses the Discworld gods. The only problem is that if he succeeds, the entire Discworld will collapse on itself and be destroyed.

To save the world the failed wizard (and professional coward) Rincewind joins up with heroic Captain Carrot of the Watch, mad genius designer Leonard da Quirm, and the Librarian of Unseen University to mount an expedition to intercept Cohen. Using a fleet of dragons and a wooden bird, they plan to sail beneath the Discworld and come out the other side to reach Cohen in time. But will they? (Well since there were more than a half-dozen books after this do you need an answer?)

Despite this being a picture book it's not exactly kid's stuff. There's a very real message here about people's relationship to gods and the struggles of getting older. Still, it's not heavy enough to bring you down. In general this is a fun little book, and it's great for fans to be able to see some of the major characters, not to mention what this entire odd little world looks like. I can't really critique the art because I can't do anything more than stick figures myself. I didn't really have any problems with it though. (4 stars)

Next time I'll double-back for Volume 25: "The Truth" Volume 26: "Thief of Time" was previously reviewed on its own.

That is all.

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