Mort, by Terry Pratchett

Second paragraph of third section (as you know, Bob, very few of Pratchett’s Discworld novels are divided into chapters):

Mort was interested in lots of things. Why people’s teeth fitted together so neatly, for example. He’d given that one a lot of thought. Then there was the puzzle of why the sun came out during the day, instead of at night when the light would come in useful. He knew the standard explanation, which somehow didn’t seem satisfying.

When the BBC did its Big Read in 2003, this was the first of five Terry Pratchett novels to make the top 100 books beloved by the BBC-watching public. (The others were, in order, Good Omens – co-written by Neil Gaiman of course – Guards! Guards!, Night Watch and the one that started it all, The Colour of Magic.) I’ve got to it now as the top book on my shelves not yet reviewed on line; in fact the next few on that pile are all by Pratchett, so I’m going to split the pile in two, PTerry and non-PTerry; the next books on each pile respectively are The Light Fantastic, and Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie.

It’s years since I last read this. It hasn’t lost its charm. Pratchett’s Death is one of his most memorable characters, from his first appearance in The Colour of Magic:

“I said I hope it is a good party,” said Galder, loudly.
AT THE MOMENT IT IS, said Death levelly. I THINK IT MIGHT GO DOWNHILL VERY QUICKLY AT MIDNIGHT.
“Why?”
THAT’S WHEN THEY THINK I’LL BE TAKING MY MASK OFF.

to the end:

https://twitter.com/terryandrob/status/576036726046646272

This was the fourth Discworld novel, after the original duology and Equal Rites, and Dave Langford’s comment at the time was “Pratchett has sussed the combination of hilarity with a tortuous plot, and the rest of us would-be humorists hate him for it.” I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a masterpiece, but a lot of the elements that make for a good Pratchett book – indeed for a good book in general – converge here.

You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

You can get it here, if you don’t already have it. My copy is the first Corgi paperback from 1987, with the Josh Kirby cover.

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