Mort by Terry Pratchett

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Mort by Terry Pratchett

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Dave Martin
Reviewed by Dave Martin
Summary: Many consider Mort to be the finest of Pratchett's Discworld novels and this reviewer is no exception. It's funny, it's meaningful and it's interesting. In this book, in the Discworld, and in our world, it all comes back to DEATH. Don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 315 Date: March 1989
Publisher: Corgi Adult
ISBN: 0552131067

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Mort stands silently next to his father, the last remaining boy at the hiring fair. Approaching midnight, it appears that no one is willing to take him on as an apprentice. His father told him all that thinking and reading of books put people off and perhaps he was right. Suddenly, a horse appears with a hooded figure aboard. Perhaps things will turn out all right after all...

"Mort" is Terry Pratchett's fourth Discworld novel. Sat on a flat, disc shaped planet that floats through space on the back of a giant turtle it is a land were witches, wizards and dwarves mix while Gods look on. In such a world if someone says, "You look like Death" they mean the person (or anthropomorphic personification) not the condition.

"Mort" is the first Discworld novel in which one of its most memorable characters, DEATH, appears. For those who are wondering capital letters represent his booming Brian Blessed style presence throughout, as such DEATH is always presented in capitals, as is his speech. Many people, including me, consider this Pratchett's finest novel. DEATH is explored as a character and revealed to be far from the ruthless assassin against whom no lock can hold. Rather, he is a flawed character, fascinated by humanity and becoming more human as time goes on. This novel pretends to be about Mort, a young boy with no direction who learns the importance of choice yet we, as readers know it's really about DEATH and how he deals with the possibility of life and living it.

This is not to say the other characters and sub-plots are of no interest. Mort's hapless plight as a bumbling apprentice is intriguing, as is his descent into amorality as he begins to lose himself and become someone else. Supporting characters including a theoretically dead princess, a wizard who has discovered his libido and DEATH's manservant Albert, the most powerful wizard alive who claims his only skills are frying porridge make a hilarious side-show to the serious business of life and death.

The multiple plot lines running through this novel make this a fast paced, addictive read as More messes with history and tampers with reality while DEATH gets drunk, goes to a party and tries to get a job. This could be disjointed in another writer's hands, but Pratchett's writing flows and ebbs as we leap from action to drama.

Of course, in the end, it all comes back to DEATH and the majority of the humour in this novel is from him. Pratchett favours DEATH in all his novels and as such gives him all the best lines. From the moment DEATH meets Mort and says the immortal line, "I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, he said, BUT I COULD MURDER A CURRY." You are hooked. Pratchett has a way of taking fantastical characters and giving them conventional situations that entertains even the most hardened of readers.

At 320 pages this is a short but oh so funny novel, packed with quotes. It is ideal for those yet to acquaint themselves with the Discworld phenomenon as no prior knowledge is required and I strongly urge anyone with a sense of humour to try this one. What else can I do to convince you then? As Albert would say, "Sodomy non sapiens".

Booklists.jpg Mort by Terry Pratchett is in the Top Ten Funniest Books.

Booklists.jpg Mort by Terry Pratchett is in the Bookbag's Fantasy Picks.

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Magda said:

It was actually the first novel that I read in English from cover to cover, back in 1991. I had been in the UK for few months then and as I still couldn't understand what people said to me half of the time, I had this idea that I couldn't possibly cope with a whole book. But there it was, abandoned by a customer in a pub I worked in, and I started on it on a lunch break and suddenly realised, that somehow, magically, I was actually capable of reading books in English. I never looked back.

And I also think that it's one of the best if not the best Discworld novel (I was sure it was until the Witches came).

Yartek said:

Of course, it's not the first novel in which Death appears, nor is it really the first in which he plays a major part, as his house and adopted daughter are introduced and explored in some detail in The Light Fantastic. I am a Pratchett nerd :(

I still feel Equal Rites is the ideal early Discworld novel for the first time reader, it\'s character-driven and has less in the way of cameos from established characters like Rincewind and the Luggage. Amid the studied craziness of The Light Fantastic and Sourcery, it is an early mature work, if that makes any sense...

tizliz said:

I love Terry Pratchett, but I am getting a bit muddled as to which ones I have read - lost lots of books in a flood as well as the ones that I have lent out and not had returned. This is a nice clear review and I know that I have read this one (and enjoyed it).