Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

386282Because of my joint love of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, (I know right. Been keeping it pre-tty quiet over the last three years.) my Twitter feed is happily full of Tweets from Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins about the filming of the new TV adaptation of Good Omens *. This is exciting for many reasons:

A) It’s a TV adaptation of Good Omens
B) It features the most amazing casting ever known in any TV or film ever. Ever.**
C) See points A and B.

It is no surprise therefore, that I have picked up my battered copy to read again, read it in two days and am now wishing even more that no crazy world leader starts WW3 before 2018 which is when the show will hit our screens.

So, to recap…the end of the world is nigh (in the book that is). In fact the world will end “on a Saturday. Next Saturday in fact. Just after tea.” Crowley and Aziraphale know this, because they are a demon and angel respectively and are therefore aware of the ineffable plan. They have also been keeping an eye on the Antichrist for the last eleven years, after he was swapped with a child at a hospital run by satanic nuns. Unfortunately, baby switching is a complicated affair, and the child Crowley and Aziraphale have been keeping tabs on is not the Antichrist at all, just a normal human child. The real Antichrist is being brought up in the quintessentially english village of Lower Tadfield, where the weather is always correct for the time of year, and a gang of four children are having a pretty perfect childhood.

Anathema Device knows about the upcoming apocalypse. She is a witch and the descendent of Agnes Nutter (also a witch) who produced the only truly accurate book of prophecies. Anathema also knows that on the day of the apocalypse, Witchfinder Private Newton Pulsifer will crash his car outside her cottage.

And of course, the Four Horsemen know. And they are getting ready to ride.

This book contains the best of both authors. As you would expect, it’s laugh out loud funny with Pratchett’s characteristic foot notes, and a disagreement between Heaven and Hell about who created Milton Keynes with neither wanting to take responsibility. But, like their other works, there is a serious side too. The book explores free will and our relationship with religion; the Four Horsemen are Horsemen for the modern age, with Famine a businessman who has created a range of diet products and fast food with absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, which eventually cause the consumer to starve. I have been unable to eat at a fast food chain without remembering this for the last twenty years.

I love this book. I will love it always. It has stuck in my conscious since I first read it, to the point where overtime I’m on the M25 I think about it (If you haven’t read it, this will make sense when you do.) I can’t wait to see it on the small screen!

5 Bites (But you knew that, didn’t you?!)

Did you know that Radio 4 adapted it too? It was awesome!
** David Tennant AND Michael Sheen! Miranda Richardson! Jack Whitehall! Jon freakin’ Hamm! Good-Omens-Fi

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

13147230._UY475_SS475_Considering I am such a vocal fan of Terry Pratchett, it’s odd that it has taken me such a long time to get to this book. I think that I am saving each book of his, like a fussy collector. Anxious about reading them because I know that for each one I start, there will be one less Terry Pratchett book which I will ever read for the first time. It’s hard knowing that his publications are finite. But then you fall upon a line which could only have been written by Sir Terry, and it sings from the page.

In a future not too distant from our present, Earth is a very different place. In fact, it is many different places. Following the events of what has come to be known as Step Day, humans have discovered that parallel versions of Earth exist just a step away from the original, or Datum Earth as it is now known. Using a device called a Stepper, invented by missing physicist Willis Linsay, humans can move to Earths east or west of Datum, into the Long Earth and unclaimed territory just like the pioneers of the old west.

For Joshua Valiente, stepping isn’t just about discovery. It is a form of escape. Like millions of children across the world, he made his own Stepper on Step Day, before the world knew what the device did and what the ramifications would be. Finding himself in another world, he saved the lives of nearby children who found themselves in the same situation. But Joshua discovered he could step without his Stepper. Fifteen years later and only a handful of people know his secret: Madison Police Officer Jansson who found Joshua wondering the streets of Datum Earth on Step Day, and is now investigating Long Earth crimes within the area which would be Madison on the Datum; and Lobsang, a legally sentient computer who happens to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman. And Lobsang has a proposition for Joshua: to join him aboard his stepping airship called the Mark Twain and travel further through the Long Earth than anyone has before.

This is a fun collaboration between Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, and the first in a five book series. Like all good Sci Fi and Fantasy fiction, complex themes are considered within the book, such as overpopulation, individuality and Homo Sapian’s need to explore and discover. Disappointingly, I found the middle of the book dragged a little. As Joshua and Lobsang step across countless Earths there is period where not much happens, but towards the final third the tension starts to ramp up a little. I found some of the characters reactions a little unrealistic at times, with conversations seeming to move from calm and considered, to angry in the space of a sentence. But overall I found the concept interesting and the characters fascinating enough to keep me gripped. The fact that I was up in the air whilst reading it added to this. Not aboard the Mark Twain and stepping across the Long Earth however, just on a bog standard Ryanair flight. Still, it’s a start.

3 Bites.

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Be More Terry

TerryPratchettSir Terry Pratchett was born on this day in 1948. His career spanned countless books- non fiction and novels- articles, plays, video games, board games, graphic novels and TV programmes. Although most famous for his 41 book ‘Discworld’ series, he is also well known for his struggle with Alzheimer’s, his advocacy for Alzheimer’s funding and the right to die movement, his humanism, his humour and his penchant for black fedoras!

On what would have been his 69th birthday, people across the world are pledging to “Be More Terry”, to follow what they believe Terry would have done in certain situations. Sir Terry’s views on life, love, youth, religion, cats, food, pretty much everything can be found in his extensive writings so being more Terry is actually pretty achievable!

Be more…questioning

“Open your eyes and then open your eyes again.” 195133-Terry-Pratchett-Quote-Not-all-questions-are-answered-but
―  The Wee Free Men

“It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”
― A Hat Full of Sky

“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”
― Monstrous Regiment

 

04_terrypBe more… honest

“He was by nature an honest person, because apart from anything else, lying was always too complicated.”
― Johnny and the Dead

“Mort’s innate honesty will never make him a poet; if Mort ever compared a girl to a summer’s day it would have been followed by a thoughtful explanation of what day he had in mind and whether it was raining at the time.”
― Mort

“’We are going to stick to the rules.  And the thing about sticking to the rules is that it’s sometimes better than cheating.’ “
― Unseen Academicals

 

Be more… political

“’As a wizard I must tell you that words have power’.

‘As a politician I must tell you I already know’.”
― Unseen Academicals220a2462-f45a-4d7f-bb27-122974fe8b53-2060x1236

“On the fifth day the Governor of the town called all the tribal chieftains to an audience in the market square, to hear their grievances.  He didn’t always do anything about them, but at least they got heard, and he nodded a lot, and everyone felt better about it at least until they got home.  This is politics.”
― The Carpet People

“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”
―  The Wee Free Men

 

pratchett1_3230196a-largeBe more… Cat

“Cats know about people. We have to. No-one else can open cupboards.”
– The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

“You can’t teach cats to do anything.  No, not a thing.  You might think you can, but that is because you’ve misunderstood what’s going on.  You think it’s the cat turning up obediently at the back door at ten o’clock for dinner.  From the cat’s point, a blob on legs has been trained to take a tin out of the fridge every night.”
―  The Unadulterated Cat

“If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.”
― Lords and Ladies

 

Happy Birthday Sir Terry, we miss you!

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Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

imageIn the middle of the Circle Sea, a mysterious island has appeared. Known as Leshp, it threatens the fragile diplomatic relationship between its nearest neighbours: Ankh Morpork and Klatch. The land is seen as strategically important and both countries think it should belong to them.

Anti-Klatchian feeling threatens violence on the streets of Ankh Morpork and as Commander of the City Watch, Sam Vimes must keep the peace. He is supported in this by the rest of the watch, the ranks of which are swelling considerably thanks to the efforts of Captain Carrot. When Prince Khufurah of Klatch arrives in the city to accept an honourable degree from the wizards of Unseen University, he is shot and critically wounded. Vimes has to work out who, in a city that hates Klatch, would arrange the assassination. And how does 71 hour Ahmed, the prince’s bodyguard, fit into it all?

This is Terry Pratchett at his absolute best. For those who haven’t read the Discworld novels before, the city watch stories are a great place to start. The characters are wonderfully diverse, not just in terms of race (ware wolves, dwarfs, adopted dwarfs, trolls and zombies are all welcome in the watch) but also in personality. From lazy, stupid Sergeant Colon, to Captain Carrot who can make even inner city gangs get along.

Using a fantasy world which floats through space on the back of a giant turtle, Pratchett explores nationalism and how ignorance and hatred explode into the everyday when society feels under threat. He writes about a countries history, how it influences its present, and about the futility of war. It is clever, satirical and thought provoking. The message of this book is as relevant in our own round world as it is on the disc.

The writing itself is wonderful. Laugh out loud funny at times, but also considered and serious. Pratchett carefully chose each word. He truly was a wordsmith. Gone but never, ever forgotten.

“Fortune favours the brave, sir,” said Carrot cheerfully.

“Good. Good. Pleased to hear it, captain. What is her position vis a vis heavily armed, well prepared and excessively manned armies?”

“Oh, no–one’s ever heard of Fortune favouring them, sir.”

“According to General Tacticus, it’s because they favour themselves,” said Vimes. He opened the battered book. Bits of paper and string indicated his many bookmarks. “In fact, men, the general has this to say about ensuring against defeat when outnumbered, out–weaponed and outpositioned. It is…” he turned the page, “‘Don’t Have a Battle.'”

5 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

imageTiffany Aching is the witch of The Chalk: a lowlands area on the Discworld. She may be young but she has had plenty of experience and as such is much respected and much in demand. The Nac Mac Feegle, a clan of pictsies call her the ‘hag o’ the hills’ and have sworn to protect her. Not that Tiffany needs much looking after, she did defeat the Queen of the Fairies to save her brother and the baron’s son after all. Which has created a little bit of a problem. The gateways between the world of the fairies and the Disc have become thinner. Jeanie the Kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle can feel it. The Queen is weaker, and Lord Peaseblossom is planning a coup. All of which could be bad news for those who live on The Chalk and in the kingdom of Lancre.

It’s up to Tiffany to rally the troops. And by troops I mean witches (who don’t generally like to be rallied), Geoffrey (third son of Lord Swivel and someone with a very calming influence), his goat Mephistopheles and, of course, the Nac Mac Feegle. But fairies can cast an influence over you, make you feel unworthy and useless. It’s not going to be plain sailing.

Where to start? With the obvious I suppose. This is the last Discworld novel. What I really wanted to do was lock myself away from the world and read it all in one go, but I didn’t. The last Discworld novel. There will be no more. This is a big deal for me. And it is all at once perfect, yet not perfect. Pratchett was a true wordsmith, he could make words dance off the page. He was clever and funny, satirical, with a little bit of darkness thrown in. And there are some parts of the book that really hit the mark. I want to make this a spoiler free zone, but there is a death and it seemed as if we were saying goodbye to Sir Terry himself. I shed more than a few tears. But the writing isn’t as polished as it normally is. This makes sense when you read the afterword, written by Sir Terry’s incredible assistant Rob Wilkins: this isn’t a final draft. It has “a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between. Terry wrote all of those. But even so, it was, still, not quite as finished as he would have liked when he died.”

If you haven’t read any Pratchett before this is not the place to start, although Tiffany Aching is a good character to start with (try The Wee Free Men). Personally I would go further back to the start of the witches books. (Equal Rights tackles the inequality between genders, Wyrd Sisters brings Shakespeare to the Disc.) If you are a fan of Pratchett’s work, I’m sure you will enjoy it. It is a fitting way to say goodbye.

4 bites

Goodbye Sir Terry

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Kelly’s Summer Reads

Summer is well and truly upon us, hooray! And with it come lazy days spent in the garden, or maybe on holiday: sitting by the pool and soaking up the sunshine. In my opinion only one thing could improve a summer’s day, and that’s the company of a good book! (Although I would say that about any day.) Part of my pre holiday ritual involves heading to a local bookshop and carefully picking out two or three titles to take away with me. In fact I normally spend longer picking out my holiday books than I do holiday clothes. The advent of the e book has made holiday reading even easier as you can now take your whole library with you without going over your luggage weight limit. But surely the choosing of those special holiday books is still an exciting prospect. So to that end, here are the books I am excited about this summer!

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“Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee. Published 14th July

This must be one of the most talked about books of the summer. For those of you who have been living on Mars over the last week, this is the highly anticipated new book by the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is actually the first draft of her much loved book, and tells the story of Jean Louise Finch (Scout) as a young woman looking back on her childhood. I love “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Like a lot of people it is one of my desert island books and so I find myself torn when it comes to reading this book. As an aspiring writer myself I think it would be fascinating to see the first draft of what became a classic. On the other hand, I wonder if the final draft should have remained sacrosanct. What do you think? Will you be buying the new Harper Lee novel?

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“Body work” by Ben Aaronovitch. Launches 15th July

For you Peter Grant fans out there, this is a graphic novel set in between “Broken Homes” and “Foxglove Summer.” It is five part series which sees Peter: Metropolitan Police Officer and apprentice wizard, investigating cars which appear to be taking on lives of their own and killing innocent people. It will keep us all happy until ” The Hanging Tree” the next novel in the series is released on 19th November. Not that I’m counting down the days!

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“Because You’ll Never Meet Me” by Leah Thomas. Published 2nd July

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but isolated from each other. For Ollie, contact with electricity causes him to have seizures, whilst Moritz has an electronic pacemaker. Knowing they can never meet, their friendship takes place through letters. This YA novel is Leah Thomas’s debut, and it is high up on my TBR pile.

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“The Shepherd’s Crown” by Terry Pratchett. Published 27th August

There are only 3 things that I know for sure about this book:

1. It is a Tiffany Aching story,
2. It is the 41st and last Discworld novel,
3. I will not be able to read it without crying.

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“Make Me” by Lee Child. Published 10th September

A little late to count as summer I guess. We will call this an ‘Indian summer/ late summer holiday/ summer’s over, I need to cheer myself up’ read. Still it’s the latest Jack Reacher novel, so that’s got to be exciting! Reacher manages to find trouble in the form of an alleged 200 deaths and a prairie town full of silent people, which turns his one day stop over into a much longer stay. Now that’s a summer holiday gone wrong!

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Terry Pratchett

There’s not much I can say about Terry Pratchett that hasn’t already been said by people who knew him better than I did, and who are more eloquent than I am. I do know that I have lost one of my heroes, and that I believe this world will be poorer without him in it. I am writing this more for myself than for anyone else, in an attempt to explain what he meant to me as a writer and as a person.

I must have been about 15 when I first came across his books. It was christmas, and a copy of “Interesting Times” was in my stocking with its wonderfully vibrant Josh Kirby cover. I read the opening page:

“There is a curse.
They say:
May You Live In Interesting Times.”

And I was hooked. I found myself in a world without chapters, with footnotes that made me laugh out loud and paragraphs that I would read out to anyone who would listen. A disc world that sits on the back of four giant elephants, that themselves sit on the back of Great A’Tuin a giant turtle. “Most worlds do, at some point in their perception. It’s a cosmological view the human brain seems pre-programmed to take.” Reading it made me feel grown up, it was the first adult book I had read and really enjoyed. My step dad Derek loved them too, and we shared the books between us. Rincewind was my favourite character, the craven wizzard (not a typo) who constantly ran away from danger. In fact mine and Derek’s fantasy football team was called “Rincewind’s Runners.” If only they had been as good at football as their namesake had been at running.

I have returned to “Interesting Times” again and again. The picture below is of my original copy. The pages are coming out from overuse (the Librarian of Unseen University would be horrified) so now I have to read it on my e-reader to save further damage. I can quote swathes of it, and at each stage of my life that I have come back to it, I have noticed a joke, or reference that I missed before.

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That’s what is so great about Pratchett’s writing. He has a love of language that shines out of the pages. He is clever, and unashamedly so. Through the Discworld he has been able to tackle a range of subjects from racism to theology; Shakespeare and rock music; Death and the afterlife. A recent Guardian article described him as a philosopher, and I think that is right. His books and characters are loved by all ages, because there is so much to get from them.

I didn’t read the first 16 Discworld books in order, and I came back to the first two a little later. There are marks next to the book titles at the front of my copy of Interesting Times (again the Librarian would be appalled) where teenage me is keeping track of the titles I own. I am proud to say that I now own every disc world book (although some are on my e-reader. Sorry!) Here is my shelfie.

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Recently I have been trying to turn my hand to writing. Once again Terry Pratchett came to my aid. He has written comprehensively on the subject of writing, and for christmas I was given his “A slip of the Keyboard.” In one of the many wonderful articles in the book was his advice on how to become a professional boxer:

“A good diet is essential, as is a daily regime of exercise. Go down to the gym everyday. Take every opportunity to watch a good professional fight. In fact watch as many bouts as you can, because you can learn something from the fighters who get it wrong. Got it? Well, becoming a writer is basically exactly the same thing, except that it isn’t about boxing.”

And who can forget his work at raising awareness of Alzheimers. £28,000 was raised for The Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) in the first 24 hours after his death. And as an advocate of changes to the assisted dying law, he was admired by many: speaking on behalf of people who had no voice.

For me, some of his characters are like friends, and going back to the Discworld always feels a bit like coming home. They marked my transition from child to adult reader, and have been there at every stage of my life since. They made me the reader and the person that I am now. This is the closest I will ever be able to come to saying thank you.

http://www.rice.org.uk

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Often described as one of Terry Pratchett’s best works, Guards! Guards! is the first of the Discworld novels to centre on the men of the Night Watch. The Night Watch are a ragtag band of men charged with keeping law and order in Ankh-Morpork, although with an official Assassin’s Guild and Thieves Guild, this isn’t exactly a demanding job.

Captain Sam Vimes is the jaded alcoholic leader of the Night Watch which also includes the cynical Sergeant Colon, the reprehensible Corporal Nobbs and the earnest new recruit Constable Carrot. It falls to them to save the city from a new doom- the kind of doom that breathes fire, eats maidens and is generally going to lower house prices in most neighbourhoods (perhaps not The Shades)- and they rise to the challenge admirably adequately eventually.

guards
Click for Amazon or find in your local library
This was my first successful attempt at reading a Terry Pratchett book. When I was younger I tried and tried to get into the Discworld books, especially after playing and enjoying the frankly amazing computer game set in Discworld (coincidentally it was loosely based on this book!), but was never able to get past the first few pages. And honestly, I missed out. Clearly I just wasn’t ready for the subtlety and surrealism that permeates the Discworld.

Guards! Guards! was recommended by fellow Book Eater Kelly and is a fantastic introduction into the Discworld universe despite being 8th in the series. This is partly due to the introduction of the Night Watch as characters, and particularly assisted by the naivety of Constable Carrot, the world’s largest ‘dwarf’… we could be clueless about Mrs Palm and her daughters together!

Delightfully dotty and marvellously madcap, Guards! Guards! weaves several strands of storytelling into an exciting and epic tale of the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night’s dragon-fuelled plan to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and replace him with a puppet king so everyone can all stop feeling oppressed.

“And the people next door oppress me all night long. I tell them, I work all day, a man’s got to have some time to learn to play the tuba. That’s oppression, that is. If I’m not under the heel of the oppressor, I don’t know who is.”

It is funny, fast-paced, and filled with an amazing amount of detail. I’m very much looking forward to further exploring the Discworld. Any recommendations for which one next?

4 bites

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.