Thursday, July 20, 2017

Memory Lane: "Mort" by Terry Pratchett

I continue my travels back through the Discworld with a book that I still believe is one of Terry Pratchett’s funniest outings, “Mort” ($9.99, HarperCollins).

What happens when Death decides he needs a vacation? Well, he hires an apprentice, of course. Enter Mort, a farmer’s son who thinks way too much for life on the family farm, and his father is only too happy to send him on his way.

His apprenticeship starts rather mundanely in the monotone lands of Death. He meets his new master’s daughter, who seems none too happy to have him around, and his strange servant, Albert. He soon discovers that Death has plans for him.

Things begin to go very wrong, though, when Death turns the Duty over to Mort for a night, and the young man must take the life of Princess Keli of Sto Lat, destined to be killed by an assassin. Smitten with her, Mort changes her fate, causing a ripple in the fabric of reality on the Disc.

Though I have a lot of favorites in Pratchett’s Discworld series, if I had to pick just one, it would probably be “Mort.” Pratchett himself that it was the first book that he was truly happy with, where the plot became integral and not just a vehicle for the jokes.

That said, I believe it’s also the funniest book in the series to that point. I found myself reliving this story with chuckles, snorts and guffaws of laughter that occasionally drew family members from other parts of the house to see what was going on.

We had, of course, met Death in the previous books, and he was an interesting fellow in our brief glimpses. But would pulling back some of the mystery ruin the character? Absolutely not. The character we meet in “Mort,” stumbling as he tries to discover what it’s like to be human and enjoy himself, only makes Death more endearing. The knowledge that we gain in this book enhances every meeting we have, no matter how small, with the ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATION throughout the rest of the series.

This is one of Pratchett’s finest moments, and after closing the book on this re-read, I wanted to start over and read it again immediately. If I had just one book to convince someone to be a Pratchett fan, “Mort” would be it. And, in most cases, I think it would create a Pratchett fan for life.


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