“It struck Mort with sudden, terrible poignancy that Death must be the loneliest creature in the universe. In the great party of Creation, he was always in the kitchen.”
“Mort” by Terry Pratchett
I warned you all that there would be a lot of Terry Pratchett on this list. Mort, Pratchett’s fourth Discworld novel, is another great read, a romp through the conventions of the fantasy genre, turning it on its ear or, considering the theme, turning it right over like an hour glass. Young Mortimer (call him Mort) has reached the age where it’s time for him to be apprenticed and learn a trade; this worries his father, who doubts Mort would be much good at anything. Gawky, dreamy, scholarly, and ginger, Mort doesn’t seem hot property when he and his father go and try to seek an apprentice but, at the zero hour, a most unusual proposition comes through. Death has decided he’d like to take someone on to learn the trade, and that someone so happens to be Mort.
And while Mort is learning the ropes of harboring souls into the next world, Death is taking a little personal time. I have always liked Pratchett’s perception of Death and his constant curiosity on the strange creatures called Humans, not to mention his particular affinity for cats. Death sends Mort off on a couple of jobs while Death goes and tries to be human. As this happens, things start to shift: Death becomes more humanlike, and Mort become more like Death. The shift might have even continued on without a hitch or a blink of an eye if it weren’t for one thing: Mort flubbed a job, and how! But he just couldn’t bring himself to let Princess Keli die, and, in his attempts to save her, wound up tearing a great big hole in time and mucking things up royally. It’s up to Mort to fix this before Death find out, preferably with saving the princess while he’s at it. And it’s up to Ysabell, Death’s somewhat reluctant daughter, to save Mort!
It’s impossible for me to not enjoy a Discworld book, but I really did like Mort, with a handful of the usual little quirks of Pratchett’s writing that I’m sometimes not fond of. When he writes, he has a tendency to be opaque in a way that makes you wonder if you’re missing something, but, no, he brings it around to en explanation eventually and I wonder if I should have caught it earlier. The characters will realize something, but the narrative does not explain until the characters are going about and doing it. But he handles large themes like death with an exceptional wit and skill, tongue-in-cheek with a winking grin to the usual conventions of how they’re usually done. I loved the characters and I especially loved the ending, especially since it’s the start of some of the following books.
I cannot help but love some of Pratchett’s prose. I can only have the utmost respect for the man who wrote a line like the following: “Like a reluctant cork from a bottle, like a dollop of fiery ketchup from the upturned sauce bottle of Infinity, Death landed in the octogram and swore.” He just had such a clever and exceptionally creative way to turn a phrase and twist a metaphor that it’s absolutely no surprise that his works continue to delight and entertain me to absolutely no end. I can only hope that one day, I can write with even half the cleverness and creativity that he does.
Books read: 25 our of 100.