The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

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The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The fourth book in the inimitable series as once again Mr Pratchett's characteristic storytelling is garnished with scientific and philosophical explanation by Professor Stewart and Dr Cohen… or is it the other way around? A great idea, well executed but how much you like it will depend on how you take to the format.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0091949808

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The wizards of the Unseen University are custodians of Roundworld. It may be different from their own turtle-carried Discworld (it's round for a start!) but they're still rather fond of it. However, there's a problem: the Church of the Latter Day Omnians have taken a shine to it too and would like to claim it. A court case will decide the winner, a court case that will have a guest spectator. For Marjorie Daw (yes, like the nursery rhyme) has arrived from Roundworld just in time. What on Earth will happen next?

As the book's name suggests, this is the fourth fusion of Terry Pratchett's Discworld and scientific/philosophical discussion in the form of some very big footnotes from mathematician Professor Ian Stewart and biologist Dr Jack Cohen.

It also follows the same format as the previous books, with the 'footnotes' taking the form of entire chapters interweaving with the chapters of a new Discworld novella. Therefore what you'll think of it very much depends on: 1. Your views on the incomparable Discworld; 2. Your views on the amazingly enthralling scientific bits; and 3. Your views on the way that one interrupts the other.

Starting with 1, personally I'm a Discworld fan and welcome the cheesy gags, clever word play, Rincewind (yes, he's here!) and all. Although this isn't one of Mr P's best stories feeling a little less bubbly than usual, his not-the-best is still hugely superior to other writers' best so not much to complain about. Marjorie Daw is as intellectually bewildered as you'd suppose an unexpectedly transplanted librarian to be and the total opposite to Discworld's Librarian. (Possibly because Discworld's Librarian is an orang-utan?)

Looking at 2, the scientific/mathematical/philosophical bits are equally good, presented to us in a hugely accessible populist James Burke Connections kind of way (for those of us old enough to remember this encyclopaedic non-condescending style). In this way we travel eagerly between Euclid, Higgs Boson, the origins of Earth and the probable inventor of the cat flap to name but a few, throwing in theology and the universe on the way.

Speaking from personal experience, scientific ability is definitely not required. I didn't do physics, maths and chemistry at school – they did me instead but even with that sort of background I was entranced. I only needed to re-read one section and even that was fully understandable second time around.

Factor number 3? Speaking for myself, I found myself resenting having to leave the story for the factual interludes and then vice versa. The eventual solution was simple though: I went through the book once only reading the story and then read it a second time concentrating only on the excellent scientific explanation. Problem solved!

If I have one minor gripe it's the way that here (and indeed in a lot of other places in life) Christians all seem to be defined as literalist/creationists. Some Christians do take the Bible literally throughout and some are indeed creationists, but some of us are neither and (here comes the 'and another thing!' bit) welcome/include the latest scientific ideas in our thinking. However that's not a gripe that prevented me from enjoying this nor prevents me from recommending it to you, so I'll just keep that moan to myself.

Further Reading: If you want to read Mr P at his best, look no further than Mort which also features one of my favourite characters: DEATH. If you some more of the factual stuff, then we definitely recommend anything by Ian Stewart, particularly his Hoard of Mathematical Treasures.

Buy The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen at Amazon.com.


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