Thursday, May 31, 2012


Title: Mort
Author: Terry Pratchett
List: #65 on BBC Top 100
Worth reading? Yes.

After I read The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett’s first book in the Discworld series, I wasn’t sure that I would try any of the other thirteen Discworld books on the list. But then I wasn’t sure what to read next, and everything at my local library’s eBook site had a long wait, and Mort became available. So I read it. And, I enjoyed it.

I think the big difference between Mort and The Colour of Magic is that Mort actually has a plot. It tells the story of Mort, a young man who becomes Death’s apprentice. Mort, of course, manages to cause trouble and the story is concerned with fixing Mort’s mess. The existence of a plot makes Terry Pratchett’s apparently characteristically humorous tone work just like it did in Good Omens. And that confirms the hypothesis I made in my The Colour of Magic post that the humorous tone only works with a plot, because without one, the tone just becomes annoying.

Another important thing to note is that Mort appears to be a standalone novel. Technically, it is the fourth book in the Discworld series, but other than the fact that it takes place on Discworld, nothing revealed in The Colour of Magic has any bearing on the events in Mort. (I should also mention that I skipped over books two and three because they didn’t make it on the BBC list.) Now, the reason Mort seems to be a standalone novel could have to do with the fact that, at least according to Wikipedia, the novels can be grouped together into grand story arcs dealing with a set number of characters and events. For example, The Colour of Magic apparently falls in the “Rincewind” story arc and Mort falls into the “Death” story arc. (Rincewind does have a brief cameo in Mort and Death apparently makes at least a brief appearance in almost every Discworld novel.) So, maybe, I will enjoy other books in the “Death” story arc more (assuming they are on the BBC list) because I learned the background of the characters in Mort.

And here I have written way more about a Terry Pratchett novel than I expected I would write back in February after I finished The Colour of Magic. And I have to admit that I am sort of looking forward to reading more Terry Pratchett novels, at least if they fall into the “Death” story arc. I hope I will not be disappointed, but for now, I can say that yes, Mort is worth reading.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This Side of Paradise

Title: This Side of Paradise
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
List: #91 on Radcliffe’s Top 100 20th Century Novels
Worth reading? Yes

This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel, tells the tale of a young man trying to find his place in the world. The young man, Amory Blaine, has quite a high opinion of himself and is convinced that he will do well in the future. This confidence is both shattered and built back up throughout the novel, and some of his failures are due to his unwillingness to work for what he believes he deserves simply because of who he is and what he looks like. During the course of the novel, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with his former plans and tries to discover and understand himself.

The author uses a variety of writing styles and I found that this mix makes for an engagingly written novel. From simple prose, we progress through some of Amory’s poems and letters, view a narrative drama, experience free verse, and end up back in a fictional narrative. Although this blend has the potential to be disorienting, Fitzgerald manages to unite the styles in a cohesive whole that made for an amusing rather than confusing read. And so I think This Side of Paradise is worth reading, particularly if, like me, the only other Fitzgerald book you've read is The Great Gatsby because you were required to read it in high school.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Hunt for Red October

Title: The Hunt for Red October
Author: Tom Clancy
List: #81 on Modern Library Readers’ Best 20th Century Novels
Worth reading? Yes.

What do you expect from a thriller? Excitement? Suspense? Intrigue? If so, The Hunt for Red October certainly delivers. And as such, it is a nice change from the more strictly literary works on my list. As I’ve come to expect from thrillers, the quality of the writing isn’t always fantastic, but I don’t think that is what matters for this type of novel. What matters is that you start it and cannot put it down. But the thriller aspect, and its, perhaps, correlated reduced writing quality also explains why it is on the readers’ choice list.

I certainly had no problems with the level of excitement and pace of the novel while I was reading it, but when I watched the movie shortly after finishing the book, I realized there are some slightly slower parts—action-wise—that probably wouldn’t transfer very well to the big screen. And that perhaps explains why there were substantial discrepancies between the book and the movie. But it is definitely a good read and what I would consider an excellent “airplane book.” In other words, read it when you don’t want intense mental stimulation but have a lot of hours to get through!