Book Review – Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

WHAT’S PLAYING: Janet Jackson featuring Nelly “Call on Me”

This week’s book is Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett.

Everybody wants more time, but one man is about to stop it for good by constructing the world’s first truly accurate clock. The Auditors—spirits who, like Accountants from Hell, try to keep the Universe in order—have decided their task would be much easier if time would just stop. Then they could sort everything out and it would stay that way. So, they hatch a plan to commission the Perfect Clock. It falls to History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd to find the timepiece and stop it before it starts. Because if the Perfect Clock starts ticking, Time as we know it will stop. And that’s when the real trouble will begin.

This is one of the darker, more satirical Discworld novels. I’ve been looking forward to revisiting the Monks of History ever since they first appeared in Small Gods. But, the monks aren’t the only familiar faces. Two of my favorite characters, Death and Susan Sto Helit feature heavily. Nanny Ogg has a cameo as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Not to mention the supporting cast of heroes, villains, yetis, martial artists. And we mustn’t forget the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (who left before they became famous).

A superb send-up of science and philosophy, religion and death, Thief of Time provides the perfect opportunity to kick back and unwind.

 

Favorite Line/Image:  Jeremy was completely baffled as to his next move. He’d never been very good at talking to people, and this, apart from Lady LeJean and a wrangle with Mr. Soak over an unwanted cheese, was the longest conversation he’d had for a year. Perhaps it was because it was hard to think of Igor as coming under the heading of people. Up until now, Jeremy’s definition of “people” had not included anyone with more stitches than a handbag.

“I’m not sure I’ve got any work for you, though,” he said. “I’ve got a new commission, but I’m not sure how…anyway, I’m not insane!”

“That’th not compulthory, thur.”

“I’ve actually got a piece of paper that says I’m not, you know.”

“Well done, thur.”

“Not many people have one of those!”

“Very true, thur.”

 

Bottom Line:  Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today. Read Thief of Time.

 

Coming Up Next: My Own Worst Frenemy by Kimberly Reid

My Book a Week Challenge: Book 1

WHAT’S PLAYING: Alison Krauss “Down to the River to Pray”

I decided to kick off the challenge with one of my favorite books in which three witches make the Godmother an offer she can’t refuse: “Witches Abroad” by Terry Pratchett.

When fairy godmother Desiderata Hollow dies unexpectedly, she leaves Princess Emberella in the care of the other – evil – godmother, Lilith. Now it’s up to Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick to save a city and make sure that the princess doesn’t marry the handsome (frog) prince.

“Witches Abroad” is about many things: good and evil, free will, balance, but it’s mostly about the power of stories. Of course, any writer can tell you about the power of stories, how they affect us in ways we can’t explain. Make us feel things, change the way we look at the world and each other. This is one of those stories.

This book delves into some of our favorite childhood stories and turns them inside out. Little Red Riding Hood is an obnoxious brat and the big bad wolf is neither big nor bad, just a wolf tragically altered by a demented fairy godmother obsessed with stories and happy endings. As Terry Pratchett put it: “Lilith held a mirror up to life, and chopped all the bits off life that didn’t fit…”

Dive into this book and you’ll find several of your favorite stories waiting for you: including The Hobbit, the Three Little Pigs, the Wizard of Oz, and Sleeping Beauty.

The thing about Terry Pratchett novels is that I always walk away feeling smarter. The writing is superb, full of real-world allusions and tongue-in-cheek humor, all of which is great. I leave them entertained, but also wiser. The way he takes universal truths and couches them in humor is awe-inspiring.

Favorite Line: “Listen, happy endings is fine if they turn out happy…You can’t make happiness…all you can do is make an ending.”

What I Learned: Stories should be like life. Love, laughter, tragedy, horror and humor, all blended together to make life worth living. Any story worth telling should make us think, feel, laugh, cry and cheer. They should show us life as it is and how it should be. Anything else is just words on a page.

Coming next week: “The Enchantress of Florence” by Salman Rushdie

Why You Should Get Lost in Discworld or How Terry Pratchett Changed My Life

WHAT’S PLAYING: AdeleLovesong

I received a strange package in the mail last Monday, but because of work and the general chaos that is my life, I didn’t get a chance to open it until the night before Thanksgiving. Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope to reveal a signed copy of Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel “Snuff”.

Cue happy dance!

Happy Dance

After jumping around and screaming for about twenty minutes, I settled in and started reading. Bedtime came and went, chores went undone, and phones and e-mails unanswered.  (Sorry, Dad.) I finished it around 3AM, and fell asleep still wanting more.

Now, I could tell you how great the Discworld books are. Funny, relevant, and brilliantly written, they are an awesome combination of fantasy, humor and satire.

Instead, I think I’ll tell you how these books changed my life.

When I was nine years old – per a custody agreement drawn up before I was even born – I left my home on the reservation and moved in with my father. I still visited my mother fairly often, but it wasn’t the same as living with her. I was something of a loner before I left the rez. After, I became down right reclusive. I rarely spoke and spent most of that summer in my room, only coming down for meals or at my father’s insistence.

Problem was that I didn’t speak English very well. I could barely string three words together.  So, that fall, my father enrolled me in a Catholic school that specialized in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). I excelled at math and science, but my grasp of the English language remained sketchy at best. Truth is, I didn’t want to learn. I already spoke one language fluently. How many did I need?

Then one day, a nun handed me an old, dog-eared copy of “The Color of Magic”. It took me over a month to finish it, but after that, I was a goner. I decided that if I had to learn English to read books like that, then I would learn. Six months later, I had reached “proficient” level. Two months after that, I was fluent. My love of reading didn’t end with Discworld – over the years, I discovered Twain, Gaiman, Shirley, Norton, McCraffrey, Lackey, and so many others – but it began there. And the result is that I now get to make my living doing the two things I love most: chemistry and writing.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is roses. There are mornings I wake to the gray and featureless void of depression. When the very act of breathing is a struggle and I feel about as worthless as tits on a telephone pole. It’s on these days that I force myself to look for pleasure in small things: a funny movie, an uplifting piece of music, a hot shower, even a spoon of ice cream. (To paraphrase Raymond Carver: eating is a small, good thing in a time like that.)

And, of course, a good book.

The Discworld novels saw me through my first transition from reservation life to the mainstream. Ten years later, they helped me cope when I lost my twin brother, and my fiancée five years after that.

I’m not saying that reading is some sort of magical cure for depression. It’s not. But, you have to admit that a world in which books like “Snuff” or “The Color of Magic” exist can’t be all bad.

What about you? What cheers you up when life gets  hard? Friends? Family? Music, art, or books? Where do you find your little wonders, your small pleasures?

Stories not only shape our perceptions, but can also shape our lives if we let them. They remind us that there is no such thing as a hopeless cause, that we can all be better if we choose. If they’re really good, stories can leave us feeling uplifted and a bit wiser.

And that is no small thing.

Countdowns and Deadlines – How Time is Not on My Side

WHAT’S PLAYING: Justin Bieber “Baby” (Don’t judge me.)

Time is playing tricks on me. It’s sort of like being trapped in a Dr. Who episode. (Ok, let’s just pause for a moment and reflect on how cool that would be.) As the Doctor would say, “Time has gone a bit wobbly.”  

Consider the Outage. It’s scheduled to end in less than two weeks, but it feels like the 30th will never come. I’m supposed to get my braces off in December, but I suspect that sixty years from now, I’ll still have a mouth full of metal wires and brackets. Then there’s my diet. I’ve been on it about 3 weeks and have cheated six times. (Again, don’t judge me.) I promised myself to stay strong and stick with it until Thanksgiving, at which time I will be free to stuff my face. And again, I’m sure that Turkey Day will never, ever come.

On the other hand, I have deadlines looming over me, each one whispering snarky little comments about how I don’t have a chance in hell of meeting them. I set the goal to finish my novel by the end of the year, and yet I’m still struggling through the second draft. I’m also planning a trip to England next year to attend the Discworld convention, and I want to save up enough money to allow for a pleasant vacation. And yet, the clock keeps ticking and my bank account remains distressingly low, despite the extra bucks I’ve made the last few weeks.

So, you see, time has gone all wobbly. (At least, it has in my head.) I can feel the deadlines breathing down my neck while the things I actually want to happen remain stubbornly out of reach. I suppose I should get used to this feeling of time being out of joint. As a writer, I’ll have to deal with deadlines fairly often.

Let’s face it, there will always be something to look forward to and something to dread. I guess the trick is to focus on the things I can change, like writing a bit every day and being more frugal with money. The other things will come with time – just never soon enough for me.