Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Review: Mort by Terry Pratchett

Mort, by Terry Pratchett, is the fourth book in the Discworld universe and the first of the "Death" novels, so called since they focus on the character of Death. It is an excellent starting point to the Discworld novels. Here's the Goodreads blurb:

In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can't refuse -- especially since being, well, dead isn't compulsory. As Death's apprentice, he'll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won't need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he'd ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

Read on for my spoiler-free review.

Overall Impression
This is another Discworld novel and considered to be among the best ones to start of if you are new to the Discworld universe. It has excellent characters, particularly Death, who harvests the souls of the dying, his apprentice, his daughter, etc. It also features a fast-paced plot that keeps you entertained with it's unique twists.

Unlike the prior book I read (The Wee Free Men), the plot isn't as straightforward here. Only about a third of the way in do you see what the actual story will be all about. I frequently prefer this style of story telling; the first part explores the world and characters and then we set them on the adventure to conclude their story. These types of stories tend to be more character-driven and so are somewhat less predictable. Without spoiling it, the story revolves around Mort, the new apprentice to Death and his experiences as he accompanies Death and starts taking more responsibilities in his new job.

The main character of the story is Mort, short for Mortimer. He is Death's brand new apprentice and through him we see the unusual character that is Death himself. Death is a fascinating character that breaks all the conventions typically associated with such a character. Yes, he is tasked with collecting the souls of those who have died, but he is happy to take a break when his apprentice gets good enough and starts exploring alternate careers.
“Yes,” said Death, I MEAN YES.
“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said. “Have you thought of going into teaching?”
Death’s face was a mask of terror. Well, it was always a mask of terror, but this time he meant it to be.
We also have some important minor characters, like Albert who lives with Death in his manor, and Ysabell, Death's daughter. In the Discworld, there is also the princesss Keli and the wizard Cutwell who drive part of the plot.

Setting / World Building
This is a classic Discworld novel. As such, we are reminded of the unique nature of the Disk, how light behaves in this world, and lots of quirks of magic. The most original aspect of this book, however, is the introduction of the world of death, where the characters spend quite a bit of time. This is a bleak place full of shades of black, despite the gardens, ponds, and other things Death has created for himself and his household. Death, with or without his horse Binky, can easily travel to and from this realm to carry out his duty.

A minor criticism is that the author repeats very often how light travels slower in the Discworld. While it's fine to establish that for newer readers, it seemed repetitive near the end.

Final Thoughts
This was a great Discworld novel and I highly recommend it for newcomers to the series. The best part of the book is probably the character Death, who is very unique and surprising in this universe. The plot moves along quickly as well, making this a short, enjoyable read.

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