Econstudentlog

Terry Pratchett has died

Reading this short note made me sad, even if I’ve never met the guy. Picking just one author as my ‘favourite author’ would be an unfair and impossible undertaking, but I’m pretty sure I would often pick Pratchett if asked to do so anyway. His Discworld books are funny, thought-provoking, wonderful, and unique, and fortunately they are still around and will remain so for a long time to come. If you have not already read him, now might be a good time to give his books a shot. A few samples here, here, and here.

I’ve shared this lecture of his before here on the blog, but it may be worth doing it again today, given the circumstances.

March 13, 2015 Posted by | Terry Pratchett | 3 Comments

The Fifth Elephant

The book is (…yet) a(/nother) Terry Pratchett novel. I started the book yesterday evening and finished it this afternoon. I enjoyed it and gave it 5 stars on goodreads (average rating: 4.16) – it’s a funny book.

Some samples from the book below (I should note that I could easily have given this book 3 or 4 posts similar to this one – there’s a lot of funny stuff in there…):

“[‘]I see that the new traffic division is having the desired effect.’ He indicated a large pile of paper. ‘I am getting any amount of complaints from the Carters’ and Drovers’ Guild. Well done. Do pass on my thanks to Sergeant Colon and his team.’
‘I will, sir.’
‘I see in one day they clamped seventeen carts, ten horses, eighteen oxen and one duck.’
‘It was parked illegally, sir.’
‘Indeed. However, a strange pattern seems to emerge.’
‘Sir?’
‘Many of the carters say that they were not in fact parked but had merely halted while an extremely old and extremely ugly lady crossed the road extremely slowly.’
‘That’s their story, sir.’
‘They know she was an old lady by her constant litany on the lines of “Oh deary me, my poor old feet,” and similar expressions.’
‘Certainly sounds like an old lady to me, sir,’ said Vimes, his face wooden.
‘Quite so. What is rather strange is that several of them report seeing the old lady subsequently legging it away along an alley rather fast. I’d discount this, of course, were it not for the fact that the lady has apparently been seen crossing another street, very slowly, some distance away shortly afterwards. Something of a mystery, Vimes.'”

“Vimes nodded dourly. That made sense, too. You did something because it had always been done, and the explanation was ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ A million dead people can’t have been wrong, can they?”

“I think you can assume, sir, that any dwarf who rises sufficiently in dwarf society to even be considered as a candidate for the kingship did not get there by singing the hi-ho song and bandaging wounded animals in the forest.”

Sam Vimes could parallel-process. Most husbands can. They learn to follow their own line of thought while at the same time listening to what their wives say. And the listening is important, because at any time they could be challenged and must be ready to quote the last sentence in full. A vital additional skill is being able to scan the dialogue [technically ‘monologue’, but…] for telltale phrases, such as ‘and they can deliver it tomorrow’ or ‘so I’ve invited them for dinner’ or ‘they can do it in blue, really quite cheaply.’
Lady Sybil was aware of this. Sam could coherently carry an entire conversation while thinking about something completely different. […] Sybil was impressed. Ears operating entirely on automatic had nevertheless triggered the mouth into making a small but pertinent contribution.
She said, ‘Do you think we should take the alligator with us?’
‘Yes, that might be advisable.’
She watched his face. Small furrows formed on Vimes’s brow as the ears nudged the brain. He blinked. ‘What alligator?'”

“‘And you went around the back and saw the broken window and you …?’
‘I called out, “Is there anyone there?” sir.’
‘Really? And what would you have done if a voice had said “No”? No, don’t answer that.”

“What would be the point of cyphering messages that very clever enemies couldn’t break? You’d end up not knowing what they thought you thought they were thinking…”

“‘Can you think of any reason why someone would kill him?’
The troll scratched his head. ‘Well, ‘cos dey wanted him dead, I reckon. Dat’s a good reason.’ […and ‘dat’s a good answer…’] […]
‘Right. I suppose no one saw the murder, did they?’
Once again the troll screwed up its enormous face in thought.
‘Der murderer, yeah, an’ prob’ly Mister Sonky.’ [Mister Sonky was the murder victim..]
‘Was there a third party?’
‘I dunno, I never get invited to dem fings.'”

“Places to buy food were getting scarce. However carefully Carrot knocked at the door of some isolated farmstead, he’d end up having to talk to people who were hiding under the bed. People here were not used to the idea of muscular men with swords who were actually anxious to buy things.
In the end it generally worked out quicker to walk in, go through the contents of the pantry and leave some money on the table for when the people came up out of the cellar.”

‘What a fine figure of a man,’ said Sybil weakly, as they stepped inside. [talking about an Igor’]
‘More than one man, by the look of him.’
‘Sam!’
‘Sorry. I’m sure his heart’s in the right place.’
‘Good.’
‘Or someone’s heart, anyway.’
‘Sam, really!’
‘All right, all right, but you must admit he does look a bit … odd.’
‘None of us can help the way we’re made, Sam.’
‘It looks as if he tried—‘”

“‘I thought you were Igor.’
‘Oh, you mean my couthin Igor,’ said Igor. ‘He workth down at the embathy. How’th he getting on?’
‘Er, he’s looking … well,’ said Vimes. ‘Pretty … well. Yes.’
‘Did he mention how Igor’th getting on, thur?’ said Igor […] [‘]none of uth have heard from him, not even Igor, who’th alwayth been very clothe.’
‘I’m sorry? Is your whole family called Igor?’
‘Oh, yeth, thur. It avoidth confuthion.’ […]
‘Igor and Igor send their regards, Igor.’
‘Thank you, your exthellenthy. Thinthe you mention it, could I put a parthel on your coach for Igor?’
‘You mean the Igor at the embassy?’
‘That’th who I thaid, thur,’ said Igor patiently. ‘He athked me if I could lend him a hand.’
‘Yes, no problem there.’
‘Good. It’th well wrapped up and the ithe will keep it nithe and freth.'”

“[‘]I believe you ver an alcoholic, Sir Samuel.’
”’No,’ said Vimes, completely taken aback. ‘I was a drunk. You have to be richer than I was to be an alcoholic.'”

“‘My husband is a little unwell at the moment,’ said Serafine, in the special wife voice which Vimes recognized as meaning ‘He thinks he’s fine right now, but just you wait until I get him alone.'”

“What was the simple solution? Best to start with the first rule of policing: suspect the victim. Vimes wasn’t quite sure who the victim was here, though. So suspect the witness. That was another good rule.”

January 14, 2014 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Men at arms

I read it yesterday – a very enjoyable read, I’ve given it five stars on goodreads (the average rating is 4.28). This book is mostly about the Watch characters and it’s one of the ‘classic Ankh-Morpork stories’. I was actually wondering while reading it if I’d made the wrong choice recently when I gave Small Gods as a gift to someone unfamiliar with Pratchett – this one is much closer to ‘the average Discworld novel’ than Small Gods is, and even if I probably wouldn’t have given this particular book, a book like this one might have been a better choice (as for why I wouldn’t have given this one it’s not because it’s bad, it’s rather because it would be much more natural to start out with, say, Guards! Guards!)

Some quotes from the book, which is awesome (as the five star rating also indicates):

i. “Dwarfs are very attached to gold. Any highwayman demanding ‘Your money or your life’ had better bring a folding chair and packed lunch and a book to read while the debate goes on.”

ii. “There was a splintering noise across the street. They turned as a figure sprinted out of a tavern and hared away up the street, closely followed – at least for a few steps – by a fat man in an apron.
‘Stop! Stop! Unlicensed thief!'”

iii. “Dwarfs make a living by smashing up rocks with valuable minerals in them and the silicon-based lifeform known as trolls are, basically, rocks with valuable minerals in them. In the wild they also spend most of the daylight hours dormant, and that’s not a situation a rock containing valuable minerals needs to be in when there are dwarfs around. And dwarfs hate trolls because, after you’ve just found an interesting seam of valuable minerals, you don’t like rocks that suddenly stand up and tear your arm off because you’ve just stuck a pick-axe in their ear.
It was a state of permanent inter-species vendetta and, like all good vendettas, didn’t really need a reason any more. It was enough that it had always existed.* Dwarfs hated trolls because trolls hated dwarfs, and vice versa. […] ‘Don’t see why we can’t let ’em fight it out amongst themselves and then arrest the losers,’ said Corporal Nobbs. ‘That’s what we always used to do.'”

iv. “He was said to have the body of a twenty-five year old, although no-one knew where he kept it.”

v. “The rest of the Watch came trotting along Filigree Street as Vimes reached the Guild entrance. A couple of black-clad Assassins barred his way, in a polite manner which nevertheless indicated that impoliteness was a future option.”

vi. “Vimes would be the first to admit that he wasn’t a good copper, but he’d probably be spared the chore because lots of other people would happily admit it for him.”

vii. “Assasins did have a certain code, after all. It was dishonorable to kill someone if you weren’t being paid.” (to illustrate just how packed the book is with these kinds of remarks and quips, quote # iv is from page 54 and quote # vii is from page 63 – the quotes v and vi are from the pages in between…)

viii. “Dwarfs are known for their sense of humour, in a way. People point them out and say: ‘Those little devils haven’t got a sense of humour.’

ix. “Murder was in fact a fairly uncommon event in Ankh-Morpork, but there were a lot of suicides. Walking in the night-time alleyways of The Shades was suicide. Asking for a short in a dwarf bar was suicide. Saying ‘Got rocks in your head?’ to a troll was suicide. You could commit suicide very easily, if you weren’t careful.” […]

x. “Shouldn’t we be finding out who did it?’ said Angua.
‘Why?’ said Nobby.
She opened and shut her mouth once or twice, and finally came out with: ‘In case they do it again?’
‘It wasn’t an assasination, was it?’ said Cuddy.
‘No,’ said Carrot. ‘They always leave a note. By law.’
They looked at the drinks. They drank the drinks.
‘What a city,’ said Angua.
‘It all works, that’s the funny thing,’ said Carrot.
‘D’you know, when I first joined the Watch I was so simple I arrested the head of the Thieves’ Guild for thieving?’
‘Sounds good to me,’ said Angua.
‘Got into a bit of trouble for that,’ said Carrot.
‘You see,’ said Colon, ‘thieves are organized here. I mean, it’s official. They’re allowed a certain amount of thieving. Not that they do much these days, mind you. If you pay them a little premium each year they give you a card and leave you alone. Saves time and effort all round.’
‘And all thieves are members?’ said Angua.
‘Oh, yes, said Carrot. ‘Can’t go thieving in Ankh-Morpork without a Guild permit. Not unless you’ve got a special talent.’
‘Why? What happens? What talent?‘ she said.
‘Well, like being able to survive being hung upside down from one of the gates with your ears nailed to your knees,’ said Carrot.”

xi. “The river Ankh is probably the only river in the universe on which the investigators can chalk the outline of the corpse.”

xii. “‘He was a bit … unhinged, if you know what I mean. Head too full of brains. Ha, I remember he had this idea once of getting lightning out of lemons! Hey, Sendivoge, you remember Leonard and his lightning lemons?’
Sendivoge made little circular motions alongside his head with one finger. ‘Oh, yes. “If you stick copper and zinc rods in the lemon, hey presto, you get tame lightning.” Man was an idiot!'” (This exchange made me laugh out loud. If you’re completely lost, go here.)

xiv. “how come you know so much about all this stuff?’
‘Milit’ry service.’
‘Really, Nobby?’ said Carrot.
‘Had a special job, sir. Very responsible.’
‘And what was that?’
‘Quartermaster, sir,’ said Nobby, saluting smartly.
You were a quartermaster?’ said Carrot. ‘In whose army?’
‘Duke of Pseudopolis, sir.’
‘But Pseudopolis always lost its wars!’
‘Ah … well …’
‘Who did you sell the weapons to?’
‘That’s slander, that is! They just used to spend a lot of time away for polishing and sharpening.'”

xv. “‘He’s got a motive,’ said Nobby.
‘Yes?’
‘Yes. Hammerhock was a dwarf.’
‘That’s not a motive.’
‘It is for a troll. Anyway, if he didn’t do that, he probably did something. There’s plenty of evidence against him.’
‘Like what?’ said Angua.
‘He’s a troll.’
‘That’s not evidence.’
‘It is to Captain Quirke,’ said the sergeant.
‘He’s bound to have done something,’ Nobby repeated.
In this he was echoing the Patrician’s view of crime and punishment. If there was crime, there should be punishment. If the specific criminal should be involved in the punishment process then this was a happy accident, but if not then any criminal would do, and since everyone was undoubtedly guilty of something, the net result was that, in general terms, justice was done.”

xvi. “‘Did you know she was a werewolf?’
‘Um … Captain Vimes kind of hinted, sir …’
‘How did he hint?’
Colon took a step back.
‘He sort of said, “Fred, she’s a damn werewolf. I don’t like it any more than you do, but Vetinari says we’ve got to take one of them as well, and a werewolf’s better than a vampire or a zombie, and that’s all there is to it.” That’s what he hinted.'”

July 13, 2013 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Carpe Jugulum

As I believe I’ve pointed out before, the witch-books aren’t among my favourites; but there’s no such thing as a bad Discworld novel. Some quotes from the book, which I read yesterday and gave 3 stars on goodreads (where the average rating is 4.03):

“The people of Lancre wouldn’t dream of living in anything other than a monarchy. They’d done so for thousands of years and knew that it worked. But they’d also found that it didn’t do to pay too much attention to what the King wanted, because there was bound to be another king along in forty years or so and he’d be certain to want something different and so they’d have gone to all that trouble for nothing. In the meantime, his job as they saw it was to mostly stay in the palace, practise the waving, have enough sense to face the right way on coins and let them get on with the ploughing, sowing, growing and harvesting. It was, as they saw it, a social contract. They did what they always did, and he let them.”

“do you know what I found him doing in the old dungeons last week?’
‘I’m sure I couldn’t guess,’ said the Count.
‘He had a box of spiders and a whip! He was forcing them to make webs all over the place.’
‘I wondered why there were always so many, I must admit,’ said the Count.”

“cutting off the head and staking them in the heart is generally efficacious.’
‘But that works on everyone,’ said Nanny.
‘Er … in Splintz they die if you put a coin in their mouth and cut their head off …’
‘Not like ordinary people, then,’ said Nanny, taking out a notebook.
‘Er … in Klotz they die if you stick a lemon in their mouth—‘
‘Sounds more like it.’
‘—after you cut their head off. I believe that in Glitz you have to fill their mouth with salt, hammer a carrot into both ears, and then cut off their head.’ […]
‘And in the valley of the Ah they believe it’s best to cut off the head and boil it in vinegar.'”

“The result would have been called primitive even by people who were too primitive to have a word yet for ‘primitive’.”

“The local coachman used to warn visitors, you see. “Don’t go near the castle,” they’d say. “Even if it means spending a night up a tree, never go up there to the castle,” they’d tell people. “Whatever you do, don’t set foot in that castle.” He said it was marvellous publicity. Sometimes he had every bedroom full by 9 p.m. and people would be hammering on the door to get in. Travellers would go miles out of their way to see what all the fuss was about.”

“The castle gates swung open and Count Magpyr stepped out, flanked by his soldiers.
This was not according to the proper narrative tradition. Although the people of Lancre were technically new to all this, down at genetic level they knew that when the mob is at the gate the mobee should be screaming defiance in a burning laboratory or engaged in a cliffhanger struggle with some hero on the battlements.
He shouldn’t be lighting a cigar.
They fell silent, scyths and pitchforks hovering in mid-shake. The only sound was the crackling of the torches.
The Count blew a smoke ring.
‘Good evening,’ he said, as it drifted away. ‘You must be the mob.’
Someone at the back of the crowd, who hadn’t been keeping up to date, threw a stone. Count Magpyr caught it without looking.
‘The pitchforks are good,’ he said. ‘I like the pitchforks. As pitchforks they certainly pass muster. And the torches, well, that goes without saying. But the scythes … no, no, I’m afraid not. They simply will not do. Not a good mob weapon, I have to tell you. Take it from me. A simple sickle is much better. Start waving scythes around and someone could lose an ear. Do try to learn.’
He ambled over to a very large man who was holding a pitchfork.
‘And what’s your name, young man?’
‘Er … Jason Ogg, sir.’
‘The blacksmith?’
‘Yessir?’
‘Wife and family doing well?’
‘Er … Yessir.’
‘Good man. Carry on. If you could keep the noise down over dinner I would be grateful …”

“‘You look like a priest. What’s your god?’
‘Er … Om.’
‘That’s a he god or a she god?’
‘A he. Yes. A he. Definitely a he.’ It was one thing the Church hadn’t schismed over, strangely.”

“‘But you can hardly stand up!’
‘Certainly I can! Off you go.’
Oats turned to the assembled Lancrastians for support.
‘You wouldn’t let a poor old lady go off to confront monsters on a wild night like this, would you?’
They watched him owlishly for a while just in case something interestingly nasty was going to happen to him.
Then someone near the back said, ‘So why should we care what happens to monsters?’
And Shawn Ogg said, ‘That’s Granny Weatherwax, that is.’
‘But she’s an old lady!’ Oats insisted.
The crowd took a few steps back. Oats was clearly a dangerous man to be around.”

“He could just make out her face. It was a picture, but not one you’d hang over the fireplace.”

“Verence was technically an absolute ruler and would continue to be so provided he didn’t make the mistake of repeatedly asking Lancrastians to do anything they didn’t want to do.”

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Thud!

I’d been meaning to read the book right after my exam last week, but in the end I made other plans.

After a tough start of the week with a lot of work (I had a presentation Wednesday which required a lot of preparation, among other things), I decided to read the book yesterday. It’s great – I was quickly reminded while reading this that some of the City Watch books in my mind really are among the most enjoyable of Pratchett’s books. A few quotes:

“They walked like men who had all day. They did have all day. They had chosen this particular street because it was busy and wide and you didn’t get too many trolls and dwarfs in this part of town. The reasoning was faultless: in lots of areas, right now, dwarfs or trolls were wandering around in groups or, alternatively, staying still in groups in case any of those wandering bastards tried any trouble in this neighbourhood. There had been little flare-ups for weeks. In these areas, Nobby and Fred considered, there wasn’t too much peace, so it was a waste of effort to keep what little was left of it, right? You wouldn’t try keeping sheep in places where all the sheep got eaten by wolves, right? It stood to reason. It would look silly. Whereas in big streets like Broadway there was lots of peace which, obviously, needed keeping. Common sense told them this was true.” [Nobby and Fred are ‘(Discworld) policemen’]

“‘The painting talked to him?’
Sir Reynolds made a face. ‘We believe that’s what he meant. We don’t really know. He did not have any friends. He was convinced that if he went to sleep at night he would turn into a chicken. He’d leave little notes for himself saying, “You are not a chicken”, although sometimes he thought he was lying. […]
He also hwrote his journal on random pieces of paper, you know, and never gave any indication as to the date or hwhere he hwas staying, in case the chicken found him. And he used very guarded language, because he didn’t want the chicken to find out.’
‘Sorry, I thought you said he thought he was the chick—‘ Colon began.
‘hWho can fathom the thought processes of the sadleah disturbed, sergeant?’ said Sir Reynold wearily. […] his handwriting was what might have been achieved by a spider on a trampoline during an earthquake.”

“‘He said the government hushed it up.’
‘Yeah, but your mate Dave always says the government hushes things up, Nobby,’ said Fred.
‘Well, they do.’
‘Except he always gets to hear about ’em, and he never gets hushed up,’ said Fred.
‘I know you like to point the finger of scoff, sarge, but there’s a lot goes on that we don’t know about.’
‘Like what, exactly?’ Colon retorted. ‘Name me one thing that’s going on that you don’t know about. There – you can’t, can you?'”

“‘We could handle them, though, couldn’t we, sir?’ said Carrot. ‘With the golem officers on our side too? If it came to it?’
Of course we couldn’t, Vimes’s mind supplied, not if they mean it. What we could do is die valiantly. I’ve seen men die valiantly. There’s no future in it.”

“he was not certain, not certain at all, what he’d do if the prisoner gave him any lip or tried to be smart. Beating people up in little rooms … he knew where that led. And if you did it for a good reason, you’d do it for a bad one. You couldn’t say ‘we’re the good guys’ and do bad-guy things.”

“‘I’ve never been on a Girls’ Night Out before,’ said Cheery, as they walked, a little uncertainly, through the night-time city. ‘Was that last bit supposed to happen?’
‘What bit was that?’ said Sally.
‘The bit where the bar was set on fire.’
‘Not usually,’ said Angua.”

“‘Our rations got lost in the excitement, sir. But the dwarfs will share theirs. They aren’t unfriendly, sir. Just cautious.’
‘Share? They have dwarf bread?’
‘I’m afraid so, sir.’
‘I thought it was illegal to give that to prisoners. I think I’ll wait, thanks.'”

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Unseen Academicals

Exams are over for now (so blogging should be back to normal – no more reposts..) and I spent yesterday reading a Discworld novel. It was able to take my mind off exams and exam-related stuff completely for most of a day. That said, I don’t think it’s one of his best novels. A central theme of the book is the age-old one about an individual’s struggle to break out of the role created for him (/her) by the expectations of others. It’s also about foot-the-ball. I laughed out loud several times so it wasn’t too disappointing, but on the other hand it’s a quite long book (540 pages) so in a way I would have been very surprised if I hadn’t, considering the fact that it’s a Pratchett novel. A few quotes from the book:

i. “Regrettably, when he’d gone to check on things with the previous Master of The Traditions, who, everyone agreed, had not been seen around and about lately, he’d found that the man had been dead for two hundred years. This wasn’t a wholly unusual circumstance. Ponder, after years at Unseen, still didn’t know the full size of the faculty. […]
‘Er, I would have been happier had my predecessor paid a little more attention to some of the traditions,’ said Ponder, who believed in drip-feeding bad news.
‘Well, he was dead.’
‘Yes, of course. Perhaps, sir, we should, ahem, start a tradition of checking on the health of the Master of The Traditions?’
‘Oh, he was quite healthy,’ said the Archchancellor. ‘Just dead. Quite healthy for a dead man.’
‘He was a pile of dust, Archchancellor!’
‘That’s not the same as being ill, exactly,’ said Ridcully, who believed in never giving in. ‘Broadly speaking, it’s stable.'”

ii. “It is said that the onlooker sees most of the game. But the Librarian could smell as well, and the game, seen from outside, was humanity. Not a day went past without his thanking the magical accident that had moved him a few little genes away from it. Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, ‘The mountain is, and is not.’ They would think, ‘The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.'”

iii. “The laws of favours are amongst the most fundamental in the multiverse. The first law is: nobody asks for just one favour; the second request (after the granting of the first favour), prefaced by ‘and can I be really cheeky …?’ is the asking of the second favour. If the aforesaid second request is not granted, the second law ensures that the need for any gratitude for the first favour is nullified, and in accordance with the third law the favour giver has not done any favours at all, and the favour field collapses.”

iv. “By his own admission, he would rather run ten miles, leap a five-bar gate and climb a big hill than engage in any athletic activity. […] he didn’t like people much, an affliction that affects many who have to deal with the general public over a long perid…”

v. “Ponder’s office always puzzled Mustrum Ridcully. The man used filing cabinets for heavens’ sake. Ridcully worked on the basis that anything you couldn’t remember wasn’t important and had developed the floor-heap method of document storage to a fine art.”

vi. “‘Drumknott, if you saw a ball lying invitingly on the ground, would you kick it?’
The secretary’s forehead wrinkled. ‘How would the invitation be couched, sir?’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘Would it be, for example, a written note attached to the ball by person or persons unknown?”I was rather inclining to the idea that you might perhaps feel simply that the whole world was silently willing you to give said ball a hearty kick?’
‘No, sir. There are too many variables. Possibly an enemy or japester might have assumed that I would take some action of the kind and made the ball out of concrete or similar material, in the hope I might do myself a serious or humorous injury. So, I would check first.’
‘And then, if all was in order, you would kick the ball?’
‘To what purpose or profit, sir?’
‘Interesting question. I suppose for the joy of seeing it fly.’
Drumknott seemed to consider this for a while, and then shook his head. ‘I am sorry, sir, but you have lost me at this point.'”

vii. “Glenda reached down inside her west and pulled out a burgundy-coloured booklet with the seal of Ankh-Morpork on it.
‘What’s that?’ said Juliet.
‘Your bank book. Your money’s safe in the bank and you can take it out any time you want.’
Juliet turned the bank book over and over in her hands. ‘I don’t fink anyone in my family’s ever been in a bank except for Uncle Geoffrey and they caught up with ‘im even before he got home.'”

viii. “‘Anyway, pies are so yesterday,’ said Dibbler dismissively. ‘I am on the ground floor of football memorabilityness.’
‘What’s that, then?’
‘Like genuine autographed team jerseys and that sort of thing. I mean, look here.’ Dibbler produced from the large tray around his neck a smaller version of what one of the new gloing! gloing! footballs would be if it were about a half of the size and had been badly carved out of wood. ‘See those white patches? That’s so they can be signed by the team.’
‘You’re going to get them signed, are you?’
‘Well, no, I think people would like to get that done themselves. The personal touch, you know what I mean?’
‘So they’re actually just painted balls of wood and nothin’ else?’ said Trev.
‘But authentic!’ said Dibbler.”

ix. “‘There were no assasinations,’ said her ladyship. She turned her eyes upwards. ‘There was, however, a terrible mining accident and a rather unusual rock slide.'”

x. “Football owned the day. Nothing was happening that wasn’t about football. There were certainly no lectures. Of course, there never were, but at least today they weren’t being attended because of the excitement about the upcoming match rather than not being attended because no one wanted to go to them.”

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | 6 Comments

Going Postal (2)

I read the book 3 years ago and I also blogged it back then – the old post has a few quotes from the book if you’re interested.

Today I reread it – and it’s still a great book. Moist von Lipwig is one of my favourite Discworld characters.

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Feet of clay

Read it today – good stuff. Some quotes from the book:

i.”‘A dwarf who can’t get the hang of metal? That must be unique.’
‘Pretty rare, sir. But I was quite good at alchemy.’
‘Guild member?’
‘Not any more, sir.’
‘Oh? How did you leave the guild?’
‘Through the roof, sir. But I’m pretty certain I know what I did wrong.’
Vimes leaned back. ‘The alchemists are always blowing things up. I never heard of them getting sacked for it.’
‘That’s because no one’s ever blown up the Guild Council, sir.’
‘What, all of it?’
‘Most of it, sir. All the easily detachable bits, at least.'”

ii. “‘It beats me why Ankh-Morpork wants to celebrate the fact it had a civil war three hundred years ago,’ said Angua, coming back to the here-and-now.
‘Why not? We won,’ said Carrot.
‘Yes, but you lost, too.'”

iii. “‘I think I’ll write it in my notebook, if you don’t mind,’ said Vimes.
‘Oh, well, if you prefer, I can recognize handwriting,’ said the imp proudly. ‘I’m quite advanced.’
Vimes pulled out his notebook and held it up. ‘Like this, he said?’
The imp squinted for a moment. ‘Yep,’ it said. ‘That’s handwriting, sure enough. Curly bits, spiky bits, all joined together. Yep. Handwriting. I’d recognize it anywhere.’
‘Aren’t you supposed to tell me what it says?’
The imp looked wary. ‘Says?’ it said. ‘It’s supposed to make noises?'”

iv. “It’s a pervasive and beguiling myth that the people who design instruments of death end up being killed by them. There is almost no foundation in fact. Colonel Shrapnel wasn’t blown up, M. Guillotin died with his head on, Colonel Gatling wasn’t shot. If it hadn’t been for the murder of cosh and blackjack maker Sir William Blunt-Instrument in an alleyway, the rumour would never have got started.”

v. “‘I reckon he’s been poisoned, Fred, and that’s the truth of it.’
Colon looked horrified. ‘Ye gods! Do you want me to get a doctor?’
‘Are you mad? We want him to live!'”

vi. “‘I want you to go back to the Watch House and take care of things.’
‘What things?’
‘Everything! Rise to the occasion. Move paper around. There’s that new shift rota to draw up. Shout at people! Read reports!’
Carrot saluted. ‘Yes, Commander Vimes.'”

vii. “Cheery looked around again. By now, if it had been a dwarf bar, the floor would be sticky with beer, the air would be full of flying quaff, and people would be singing. They’d probably be singing the latest dwarf tune, Gold, Gold, Gold, or one of the old favourites, like Gold, Gold, Gold, or the all-time biggie, Gold, Gold, Gold. In a few minutes, the first axe would have been thrown.”

viii. “Vimes opened the door to see what all the shouting was about down in the office. The corporal manning – or in this case dwarfing – the desk was having trouble.
‘Again? How many times have you been killed this week?’
‘I was minding my own business!’ said the unseen complainer.
‘Stacking garlic? You’re a vampire, aren’t you? I mean, let’s see what jobs you have been doing … Post sharpener for a fencing firm, sunglasses tester for Argus opticians … Is it me, or is there some underlying trend here?'”

ix. “‘Who was that little man with the incredibly bandy legs?’
‘That was Doughnut Jimmy, sir. He used to be a jockey on a very fat horse.’
‘A racehorse?’
‘Apparently, sir.’
‘A fat racehorse? Surely that could never win a race?’
‘I don’t believe it ever did, sir. But Jimmy made a lot of money by not winning races.'”

x. “This was police work, was it? He wondered if Mr Vimes was trying to tell him something. There were other letters. The Community Co-ordinator of Equal Heights for Dwarfs was demanding that dwarfs in the Watch be allowed to carry an axe rather than the traditional sword, and should be sent to investigate only those crimes committed by tall people. The Thieves’ Guild was complaining that Commander Vimes had said publicly that most thefts were committed by thieves.”

xi. “At the end of Nonesuch Street was a gibbet, where wrongdoers – or, at least, people found guilty of wrongdoing – had been hung to twist gently in the wind as examples of just retribution and, as the elements took their toll, basic anatomy as well.
Once, parties of children were brought there by their parents to learn by dreadful example of the snares and perils what await the criminal, the outlaw and those who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they would see the terrible wreckage creaking on its chain and listen to the stern imprecations and then usually (this being Ankh-Morpork) would say ‘Wow! Brilliant!‘ and use the corpse as a swing. These days the city had more private and efficient ways of dealing with those it found surplus to requirements”

xii. “Colon in particular had great difficulty with the idea that you went on investigating after someone had confessed. You got a confession and there it ended. You didn’t go around disbelieving people. You disbelieved people only when they said they were innocent. Only guilty people were trustworthy. Anything else struck at the whole basis of policing.”

xiii. “he distrusted the kind of person who’d take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, ‘Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fallen on hard times,’ and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man’s boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he’d been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen* and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!'” [hmm… I’m wondering if Pratchett had anyone particular in mind when he wrote that]

xiv. “‘Life has certainly been more reliable under Vetinary,’ said Mr Potts of the Bakers’ Guild.
‘He does have all street-theatre players and mime artists thrown into the scorpion pit,’ said Mr Boggis of the Thieves’ Guild.
‘True. But let’s not forget that he has his bad points too.'”

xv. “I run a wholesome restaurant! My tables are so clean you could eat your dinner off them!’ […]
‘I told them, I use only the very best rats!’ shouted Gimlet. ‘Good plump rats from the best locations! None of your latrine rubbish! And they’re hard to come by, let me tell you!’
‘And when you can’t get them, Mr Gimlet?’ said Carrot.
Gimlet paused. Carrot was hard to lie to. ‘All right, he mumbled. ‘Maybe when there’s not enough I might sort of plump out the stock with some chicken, maybe just a bit of beef —‘
‘Hah! A bit?’ More voices were raised.
‘That’s right, you should see his cold room, Mr Carrot!’
‘Yeah, he uses steak and cuts little legs in it and covers it with rat sauce!’ […]

There were no public health laws in Ankh-Morpork. It would be like installing smoke detectors in Hell.”

xvi. “Every real copper knew you didn’t go around looking for Clues so that you could find out Who Done It. No, you started out with a pretty good idea of Who Done It. That way, you knew what Clues to look for.”

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Hogfather

by Terry Pratchett. I  read a few hours yesterday and then completed it today. I’d forgotten how fast you go through books like these, compared to textbooks; I got so curious after a bit of reading that I decided to time myself, and my best estimate – based on 5 hours of reading – is that on average I read about 60 pages an hour, or one page/minute. So the fact that it will take you ‘a long time’ to read this book is no excuse for not reading it, because it simply won’t (but don’t start out with this one if you’ve never read Pratchett before).

Some quotes from the book:

“The senior wizards of Unseen University stood and looked at the door.
There was no doubt that whoever had shut it wanted it to stay shut. Dozens of nails secured it to the door frame. Planks had been nailed right across. And finally it had, up until this morning, been hidden by a bookcase that had been put in front of it.
‘And there’s the sign, Ridcully,’ said the Dean. ‘You have read it, I assume. You know? The sign which says “Do not, under any circumstances, open this door”?’
‘Of course I’ve read it,’ said Ridcully. ‘Why d’yer think I want it opened?’
‘Er … why?’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
‘To see why they wanted it shut, of course.’*
[*This exchange contains almost all you need to know about human civilization. At least, those bits of it that are now under the sea, fenced off or still smoking.]”

“Lord Downey was an assassin. Or, rather, an Assassin. The capital letter was important. […] The members of the Guild of Assassins considered themselves cultured men who enjoyed good music and food and literature. And they knew the value of human life. To a penny, in many cases. […] Anyone could buy the services of the Guild. Several zombies had, in the past, employed the Guild to settle scores with their murderers. In fact the Guild, he liked to think, practised the ultimate democracy. You didn’t need intelligence, social position, beauty or charm to hire it. You just needed money which, unlike the other stuff, was available to everyone. Except for the poor, of course, but there was no helping some people.”

“There were lessons later on. These were going a lot better now she’d got rid of the reading books about bouncy balls and dogs called Spot. She’d got Gawain on to the military campaigns of General Tacticus, which were suitably bloodthirsty but, more importantly, considered too difficult for a child. As a result his vocabulary was doubling every week and he could already use words like ‘disembowelled’ in everyday conversation. After all, what was the point of teaching children to be children? They were naturally good at it.”

“‘There used to be warning signs up,’ said the neat voice from behind. ‘Yeah, well, warning signs in Ankh-Morpork might as well have “Good Firewood” written on them'”.

“Susan didn’t like Biers but she went there anyway, when the pressure of being normal got too much. Biers, despite the smell and the drink and the company, had one important virtue. In Biers nobody took any notice. Of anything. Hogswatch was traditionally supposed to be a time for families but the people who drank in Biers probably didn’t have families; some of them looked as though they might have had litters, or clutches. Some of them looked as though they’d probably eaten their relatives, or at least someone‘s relatives.
Biers was where the undead drank. And when Igor the barman was asked for a Bloody Mary, he didn’t mix a metaphor.”

[when reading this, think of the Hogfather as Discworld’s Santa Claus…]
“‘This is a shop,’ said Mr Crumley, finally getting to the root of the problem. ‘We do not give Merchandise away. How can we expect people to buy things if some Person is giving them away? Now please go and get him out of here.’
‘Arrest the Hogfather, style of thing?’
‘Yes!’
‘On Hogswatchnight?’
‘Yes!’
‘In your shop?’
Yes!’
‘In front of all those kiddies?’
‘Y—‘ Mr Crumley hesitated. To his horror, he realized that Corporal Nobbs, against all expectation, had a point.”

“The Archchancellor pointed dramatically skywards. ‘To the laundry!’ he said. ‘It’s downstairs, Ridcully,’ said the Dean. ‘Down to the laundry!’ ‘And you know Mrs Whitlow doesn’t like us going in there,’ said the chair of Indefinite Studies. ‘And who is Archchancellor of this University, may I ask?’ said Ridcully. ‘Is it Mrs Whitlow? I don’t think so! Is it me? Why, how amazing, I do believe it is!’ ‘Yes, but you know what she can be like,’ said the Chair. ‘Er, yes, that’s true—‘ Ridcully began. ‘I believe she’s gone to her sister’s for the holiday,’ said the Bursar. ‘We certainly don’t have to take orders from any kind of housekeeper!’ said the Archchancellor. ‘To the laundry!’
The wizards surged out excitedly, leaving Susan, the oh god, the Verruca Gnome and the Hair Loss Fairy. ‘Tell me again who those people were,’ said the oh god. ‘Some of the cleverest men in the world,’ said Susan.

“I THINK I MUST TELL YOU SOMETHING, said Death. ‘Yes, I think you should,’ said Ridcully. ‘I’ve got little devils running round the place eating socks and pencils, earlier tonight we sobered up someone who thinks he’s a God of Hangovers and half my wizards are trying to cheer up the Cheerful Fairy. We thought something must’ve happened to the Hogfather. We were right, right?’

“‘I’m sure he wouldn’t keep on eating them if they were addictive,’ said the Senior Wrangler.”

“‘I really should talk to him, sir. He’s had a near-death experience!’ ‘We all have. It’s called “living”,'”

Lastly, a quote which also made it into the movie (even if in a somewhat abbreviated form):

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Terry Pratchett | 4 Comments

Maskerade

Link.

The Granny Weatherwax/Nanny Ogg books are not my favourites in the series, but they’re ok and sometimes they are very funny. I liked the book.

Some quotes:

i. “As a witch, she naturally didn’t believe in any occult nonsense of any sort.”

ii. “Granny Weatherwax made a great play of her independence and self-reliance. But the point about that kind of stuff was that you needed someone around to be proudly independent and self-reliant at. People who didn’t need people needed people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn’t need people.”

iii. “she climbed the steps. A man was theoretically sweeping them. What he was in fact doing was moving the dirt around with a broom, to give it a change of scenery and a chance to make new friends.”

iv. “She’d faced wizards, monsters and elves … and now she was feeling pleased with herself because she’d fooled Jarge Weaver, a man who’d twice failed to become Village Idiot through being overqualified.”

v.”Definitely that kind of owner, he thought. Self-made man proud of his handiwork. Confuses bluffness and honesty with merely being rude. I wouldn’t mind betting a dollar that he thinks he can tell a man’s character by testing the firmness of his handshake and looking deeply into his eyes. [… 50 pages later:] ‘I happen to pride myself that I am a good judge of character,’ he said. ‘Look a man deeply in the eye and give him a firm handshake and you know everything about him.'”

vi. “It wasn’t so much the personality, it was the ‘but’ that people always added when they talked about it. But she’s got a lovely personality, they said. […] people would take pains to tell her that beauty was only skin-deep, as if a man ever fell for an attractive pair of kidneys.”

vii. “Agnes stayed up late, simply because of the novelty. Most people in Lancre, as the saying goes, went to bed with the chickens and got up with the cows.* […] *Er. That is to say, they went to bed at the same time as the chickens went to bed, and got up at the same time as the cows got up. Loosely worded sayings can really cause misunderstandings.”

viii. ‘I don’t understand! Is this man mad?’
Salzella put an arm around his shoulders and led him away from the crowd. ‘Well, now,’ he said, as kindly as he could. ‘A man who wears evening dress all the time, lurks in the shadows and occasionally kills people. Then he sends little notes, writing maniacal laughter. Five exclamation marks again, I notice. We have to ask ourselves: is this the career of a sane man?’

ix. “Agnes smiled unhappily. After you’d known Christine for any length of time, you found yourself fighting a desire to look into her ear to see if you could spot daylight coming out the other way.”

x. “‘And Mr Bucket has authorized me to say that there will be an additional two dollars’ bonus tonight in recognition of your bravely agreeing to continue with the show [the body of a murder-victim has just been discovered in the middle of a performance].
‘Money? After a shock like this? Money? He thinks he can offer us a couple of dollars and we’ll agree to stay on this cursed stage?’
‘Shame!’
‘Heartless!’
‘Unthinkable!’
‘Should be at least four!’
‘Right! Right!’ […] ‘Five dollars or nothing!'”

xi. “‘Everyone in the whole Ramtops buys the Almanack, even the dwarfs. That’s a lot of half dollars. And Gytha’s book seems to be doing very well.’
‘Well, of course, I’m glad it’s so popular, but what with distribution, paying the peddlers, the wear and tear on—‘
‘Your Almanack will last a household all winter, with care,’ said Granny. ‘Providing no one’s ill and the paper’s nice and thin.’
‘My son Jason buys two copies,’ said Nanny. ‘Of course, he’s got a big family. The privy door never stops swinging—‘”

xii. “In the same way that the really rich can never be mad (they’re eccentric), so they can also never be rude (they’re outspoken and forthright).”

xiii. “‘You’ve missed all the excitement.’
‘Have I?’
‘The Watch have been here, talking to everyone and asking lots of questions and writing things down very slowly.’
‘What sort of questions?’
‘Well, knowing the Watch, probably “Was it you what did it, then?” They’re rather slow thinkers.'”

xiv. “It is probably a full description of Henry Lawsy’s mind that if you had given him a book called How to Improve Your Mind in Five Minutes, he would have read it with a stopwatch. His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few people.”

xv. “Nanny had a witch’s view of theft, which was a lot mroe complicated than the attitude adopted by the law and, if it came to it, people who owned property worth stealing.”

xvi. “The Watch are here, you know. In secret. They’re mingling.’
‘Ah … let me guess …’
Salzella looked around at the crowds. There was, indeed, a very short man in a suit intended for a rather larger man; this was especially the case with the opera cloak, which actually trailed on the floor behind him to give the overall impression of a superhero who had spent too much time around the Kryptonite. He was wearing a deformed fur hat and trying to surreptitiously to smoke a cigarette.
‘You mean that little man with the words “Watchman in Disguise” flashing on and off just above his head?’
‘Where? I didn’t see that!’
Salzella sighed. ‘It’s Corporal Nobby Nobbs,’ he said wearily. ‘The only known person to require an identity card to prove his species. I’ve watched him mingle with three large sherries.’
‘He’s not the only one, though,’ said Mr Bucket. ‘They’re taking this seriously.’
‘Oh, yes,’ said Salzella. ‘If we look over there, for example, we see Sergeant Detritus, who is a troll, and who is wearing what in the circumstances is actually a rather well-fitting suit. It is therefore, I feel, something of a pity he has neglected to remove his helmet. And these, you understand, the Watch has chosen for their ability to blend.'”

xvii. “Henry Lawsy peered closely at his opera notes. He had not, of course, fully understood the events of the first two acts, but knew that this was perfectly OK because one would have to be quite naïve to expect good sense as well as good songs. Anyway, it would all be explained in the last act, which was the Masked Ball in the Duke’s Palace. It would almost certainly turn out that the woman one of the men had been rather daringly courting would be his own wife, but so cunningly disguised by a very small mask that her husband wouldn’t have spotted that she wore the same clothes and had the same hairstyle. Someone’s serving man would turn out to be someone else’s daughter in disguise; someone would die of something that didn’t prevent them from singing about it for several minutes; and the plot would be resolved by some coincidences which, in real life, would be as likely as a cardboard hammer.
He didn’t know any of this for a fact. He was making a calculated guess.”

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Terry Pratchett: Shaking Hands with Death

You should watch this:

Also, this.

November 4, 2011 Posted by | health care, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Thief of Time

This one was the hardest of the ones I’ve read this week to get through, and I don’t think it’s because it’s the last of them. First part is not, in my opinion, all that good. It’s not all ‘not-particularly-good’ though, some of it is brilliant, but there’s less of that stuff than there most often are in Discworld novels. I’m somewhat partial to some of the passages involving Igor and some of them, as well as the conversation between Susan Sto Helit and Madam Frout, had me laughing out loud.

Incidentally, I am told that I perhaps shouldn’t be all that worried about spoilers in my posts, but the ‘do unto others…’-thing matters somewhat here and I am very much a ‘dislike spoilers-guy’ myself.

Some stuff from the book:

i. “The shop bell rang. He sighed and put down his eyeglass. He didn’t rush, though. There was a lot to look at in the shop. Sometimes he even had to cough to attract the customer’s attention. That being said, sometimes Jeremy had to cough to attract the attention of his reflection when he was shaving.
Jeremy tried to be an interesting person. The trouble was that he was the kind of person who, having decided to be an interesting person, would first of all try to find a book called How to Be An Interesting Person and then see whether there were any courses available.” (remind me of anyone? Hmm…)

ii. “There was a row of alarm clocks on the table by Jeremy’s bed. He did not need them, because he woke up when he wanted to. They were there for testing. He set them for seven, and woke up at 6.59 to check that they went off on time.”

iii. “He put the book aside and spent the rest of the evening doing a little design work for the Guild [of Clockmakers]. They paid him handsomely for this, provided he promised never to turn up in person.”

iv. “Feeling that Igor was expecting more of him, Jeremy made a show of reading through the rest of what turned out to be references. Some of them were written in what he could only hope was dried brown ink, one was in crayon, and several were singed around the edges. They were all fulsome. After a while, though, a certain tendency could be noted amongst the signatories.
‘This one is signed by someone called Mad Doctor Scoop,’ he said.
‘Oh, he wathn’t actually named mad, thur. It wath more like a nickname, ath it were.’ [Igor has a lisp]
‘Was he mad, then?’
‘Who can thay, thur?’ said Igor calmly.
‘And Crazed Baron Haha? It says under Reason for Leaving that he was crushed by a burning windmill.’
‘Cathe of mithtaken identity, thur.’
‘Really?’
‘Yeth, thur. I underthtand the mob mithtook him for Thcreaming Doctor Bertherk, thur.’
‘Oh. Ah, yes.’ Jeremy glanced down. ‘Who you also worked for, I see.’
‘Yeth, I see.’
‘Yeth, thur.’
‘And who died of blood poisoning?’
‘Yeth, thur. Cauthed by a dirty pitchfork.’
‘And … Nipsie the Impaler?’
[…]
‘anyway, I’m not insane!’
‘That’th not compulthory, thur.’
‘I’ve actually got a piece of paper that says I’m not, you know.’
‘Well done, thur.’
‘Not many people have one of those!’
‘Very true, thur.’
‘I take medicine, you know!'”

v. “The sound of distant chanting followed them. Lu-Tze, who was not holy and therefore could think unholy thoughts, occasionally wondered whether the chanting monks were chanting anything, or were just going ‘aahaaahahah’. You could never tell with all that echo.”

vi. “‘Things either exist or they don’t,’ said Jeremy. ‘I am very clear about that. I have medicine.’
‘It ecthithted,’ said Igor, ‘and then, after it did, it never had. Thith ith what my grandfather told me, and he built that clock with thethe very handth!’
Jeremy looked down. Igor’s hands were gnarled, and, now he came to look at them, had a lot of scar tissue around the wrists. [Igor also has two thumbs on each hand]
‘We really believe in heirloomth in our family,’ said Igor, catching his gaze.
‘Sort of … hand-me-downs, ahahaha,’ said Jeremy. He wondered where his medicine was.”

vii. “‘But the Guild—‘
‘You don’t exist at the Guild.’
‘That’s stupid, I’m in the Guild records.’
‘No, you’re not. We’ll see to that.’
‘How? You can’t rewrite history!’
‘Bet you a dollar?’
‘What have I joined?’
‘We’re the most secret society that you can imagine.’
‘Really? Who are you, then?’
‘The Monks of History.’
‘Huh? I’ve never heard of you!’
‘See? That’s how good we are.'”

viii. “‘The reason I’ve called you here, Susan, is that, er, the reason is—‘ Madam Frout faltered.
‘There have been complaints?’ said Miss Susan.
‘Er, no … er … although Miss Smith has told me that the children coming up from your class are, er, restless. Their reading ability is, she says, rather unfortunately advanced …’
‘Miss Smith thinks a good book is about a boy and his dog chasing a big red ball,’ said Miss Susan. ‘My children have learned to expect a plot. No wonder they get impatient. We’re reading Grim Fairy Tales at the moment.’
‘That is rather rude of you, Susan.’
‘No, madam. That is rather polite of me. It would have been rude of me to say that there is a circle of Hell reserved for teachers like Miss Smith.’
‘But that’s a dreadf—‘ Madam Frout stopped, and began again. ‘You should not be teaching them to read at all yet!’ she snapped. […] ‘I mean,’ the headmistress mumbled, ‘childhood is a time for play and—‘
‘Learning,’ said Miss Susan.
‘Learning through play,’ said Madam Frout, grateful to find familiar territory. ‘After all, kittens and puppies—‘
‘—grow up to be cats and dogs, which are even less interesting,’ said Miss Susan, ‘whereas children should grow up to be adults.'”
[…]
‘What precisely was it you wanted, madam?’ she said. It’s just that I’ve left the class doing algebra, and they get restless when they’ve finished.’
‘Algebra?’ said Madam Frout […] ‘But that’s far too difficult for seven-year-olds!’
‘Yes, but I didn’t tell them that and so far they haven’t found out,’ said Susan.

ix. “‘They’re going to do something to Time? I thought they weren’t allowed to do things like that.’
‘NO. BUT HUMANS CAN. IT HAS BEEN DONE ONCE BEFORE.
‘No-one would be that stu—‘
Susan stopped. Of course someone would be that stupid. Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”

x. “The Code of the Igors was very strict.
Never Contradict: it was no part of an Igor’s job to say things like ‘No thur, that’th an artery.’ The marther was always right.
Never Complain: an Igor would never say ‘But that’th a thouthand mileth away!’
Never Make Personal Remarks: no Igor would dream of saying anything like ‘I thould have thomething done about that laugh, if I wath you.’
And never, ever Ask Questions. Admittedly, Igor knew, that meant never ask BIG questions. ‘Would thur like a cup of tea around now?’ was fine, but ‘What do you need a hundred virginth for?’ or ‘Where do you ecthpect me to find a brain at thith time of night?’ was not. An Igor stood for loyal, dependable, discreet service with a smile, or at least a sort of lopsided grin, or possibly just a curved scar in the right place.*
And, therefore, Igor was getting worried. Things were wrong, and when an Igor thinks that, they are really wrong.
[…]
she had something to hide. Of course, he had for worked for masters who occasionally had a great deal to hide, sometimes in deep holes at midnight. But this situation was morally different…”

xi. “There was a sound rather like a cabbage being sliced in half, and then a head rolled into a basket to cheers and cries of ‘Oh, I say, well done!’ from the crowd. The city of Quirm was a nice, peaceful, law-abiding place and the city council kept it that way with a penal policy that combined the maximum of deterrence with the minimum of reoffending.
GRIPPER ‘THE BUTCHER’ SMARTZ?
The late Gripper rubbed his neck.
‘I demand a retrial!’ he said.
THIS MAY NOT BE A GOOD TIME, said Death.
‘It couldn’t possibly have been murder because the…’ The soul of Gripper Smartz fumbled in its spectral pockets for a ghostly piece of paper, unfolded it and continued, in a voice of those to whom the written word is an uphill struggle, ‘… because the bal-ance of my mind was d … dess-turbed.’
REALLY, said Death. He found it best to let the recently departed get things off their chest.
‘Yes, ‘cos I really, really wanted to kill him, right? And you can’t tell me that’s a normal frame of mind, right? He was a dwarf, anyway, so I don’t think that should count as manslaughter.’
I UNDERSTAND THAT WAS THE SEVENTH DWARF YOU KILLED, said Death.
‘I’m very prone to being dess-turbed,’ said Gripper. ‘Really, it’s me who’s the victim here. All I needed was a bit of understanding, someone to see my point of view for five minutes…’
WHAT WAS YOUR POINT OF VIEW?
‘All dwarfs need a damn good kicking, in my opinion. ‘Ere, you’re Death, right?’
YES INDEED.
‘I’m a big fan! I’ve always wanted to meet you, y’know?'”

xii. “‘He chopped her head off!’
‘Don’t shout! And keep your head down!’ Susan hissed. […]
‘What’s going on?’
Susan drew back into the shadows. ‘I’m not … entirely sure,’ she said, ‘but I think they’ve tried to make themselves human bodies. Pretty good copies, too. And now … they’re acting human.’
‘Do you call that acting human?’
Susan gave Lobsang a sad look. ‘You don’t get out much, do you? My grandfather says that if an intelligent creature takes a human shape, it starts to think human. Form defines function.’
‘That was the action of an intelligent creature?’ said Lobsang, still shocked.
‘Not only doesn’t get out much, also doesn’t read history,’ said Susan glumly.”

xiii. “‘Oh, where are my manners? Do sit down. Pull up a small child.’
Lobsang and Susan exchanged a glance. Lady LeJean noticed it.
‘I said something wrong?’ she said.
‘We don’t use people as furniture,’ said Susan.”

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | 4 Comments

The Truth

The book is about William de Worde, an at this point new character in the Discworld universe, and about how he starts up Ankh-Morpork’s first newspaper. I’ve concluded by now that I somehow on average probably like the Discworld novels which take place in Ankh-Morpork a little better than the ones that do not; I certainly like this one somewhat better than the one I’m currently reading (Thief of Time). It’s a funny book, hilarious at times. Some of the best parts I decided against including below because they contained major spoilers.

Anyway, some excerpts:

i. “[Sergeant Colon of the City Watch] ‘Oi! You!’
For a moment there was no sound but the wind and the gurgling of the water. Then a voice said: ‘Yes?’
‘Are you invading the city or what?’
There was another pause. Then:
‘What?’
‘What what?’ said Colon, raising the stakes.
‘What were the other options?’
‘Don’t mess me about … Are you, down there in the boat, invading this city?’
‘No.’
‘Fair enough,’ said Colon, who on a night like this would happily take someone’s word for it.’Get a move on, then, ‘cos we’re going to drop the gate.’
After a while the splash of the oars resumed and disappeared downriver.
‘You reckon that was enough, just askin’ ’em?’ said Nobby.
‘Well, they ought to know,’ said Colon.”

ii. “He made part of his living by renting out the rat’s nest of old sheds and cellars that backed on to the pub. They tended to be occupied very temporarily by the kind of enthusiastic manufacturer who believed that what the world really, really needed today was an inflatable dartboard.”

iii. “There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty.
The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: ‘What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass.”

iv. “‘It’ll end in trouble, my lord,’ said Ridcully. He’d found it a good general comment in practically any debate. Besides, it was so often true.”

v. “That was the major problem with Mr Tulip, he thought, as they made their way to the ground. It wasn’t that he had a drugs habit. He wanted to have a drugs habit. What he had was a stupidity habit, which cut in whenever he found anything being sold in little bags, and this had resulted in Mr Tulip seeking heaven in flour, salt, baking powder and pickled beef sandwiches. In a street where furtive people were selling Clang, Slip, Chop, Rhino, Skunk, Triplin, Floats, Honk, Double Honk, Gongers and Slack, Mr Tulip had an unerring way of finding the man who was retailing curry powder at what worked out as six hundred dollars a pound. It was so — ing emberrassing. […] Mr Tulip was in any case the kind of heavy-set man who is on the verge of bursting out of his clothes and, despite his artistic inclinations, projected the image of a would-be wrestler who had failed the intelligence test. If his body was a temple, it was one of those strange ones where people did odd things to animals in the basement”

vi. “‘We could live like kings on a dollar a day, Arnold.’
‘What, you mean someone’d chop our heads off?’
‘No, I —‘
‘Someone’d climb up inside the privy with a red-hot poker and —‘
‘No! I meant —‘
‘Someone’d drown us in a butt of wine?’
‘No, that’s dying like kings, Arnold.'”

vii. “‘People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things … well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know a man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds.”

viii. “Moving his hands carefully, Dibbler opened the special section of his tray, the high-class one that contained sausages whose contents were 1) meat, 2) from a known four-footed creature, 3) probably land-dwelling.
‘Or may I recommend these, gentlemen,’ he said, and because old habits died hard he couldn’t stop himself from adding, ‘Finest pork.’
‘Good, are they?’
‘You’ll never want to eat another, sir.'”

ix. “A man was standing on the flat parapet just outside the fourth-storey window, back against the wall staring downwards with a frozen expression.
Far below, the crowd were trying to be helpful. It was not in the robust Ankh-Morpork nature to dissuade anyone in this position. It was a free city, after all. So was the advice.
‘Much better to try the Thieves’ Guild!’ a man yelled. ‘Six floors, and then you’re on good solid cobbles! Crack your skull first go!’
‘There’s proper flagstones around the palace,’ advised the man next to him.
‘Well, certainly,’ said his immediate neighbour. ‘But the Patrician’ll kill him if he tries to jump from up there, am I right?'”

x. [From an article in the new paper:] “Mr Hogland, (32) who was threatened at knifepoint, told the Times: ‘I shall recognise the man if I should see him again because not many people have a stocking on their head.'”

xi. “But I’m not even sure there is enough news to fill a—‘ William began, and stopped. That wasn’t the way it worked, was it? If it was in the paper, it was news. If it was news, it went in the paper, and if it was in the paper it was news. And it was the truth.
He remembered the breakfast table. ‘They’ wouldn’t let ‘them’ put it in the paper if it wasn’t true, would they?”

xii. “‘Ah. A troll. Very stupid,’ opined Otto.
‘But hard to fool. I’m afraid I shall have to try the truth. […] He’s a policeman. The truth usually confuses them. They don’t often hear it.'”

xiii. “‘One last thing, sir. Would you like me to say that if anyone saw anything suspicious they should tell you, sir?’ said William. [to the leader of the City Watch]
‘In this town? We’d need every man on the Watch just to control the queue. Just you be careful what you write, that’s all.'”

xiv. “‘Hold on, hold on, there must be a law against killing lawyers.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘There’re still some around, aren’t there?'”

xv. [Just in case you were in doubt about whether being a newspaper editor in Ankh-Morpork is a dangerous job:] “‘What are the odds?’
‘Sir?’
‘I know what goes on in the duty room. They wouldn’t be watchmen if someone wasn’t running a book.’
‘On Mr de Worde?’
‘Yes.’
‘Well … six’ll get you ten that he’ll be dead by next Monday, sir.’
‘You might just spread the word that I don’t like that sort of thing, will you?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Find out who’s running the book, and when you have found out that it is Nobby, take if off him.'”

xvi. “‘Excuse me, gentlemen?’
A figure had stepped out of the alleyway ahead of them, a knife in each hand.
‘Thieves Guild,’ it said. ‘Excuse me? This is an official robbery.’ […]
‘Official robbery?’ said Mr Tulip slowly.
‘Ah, you’re visitors to our fair city?’ said the thief. ‘Then this is your lucky day, sir and … sir. A theft of twenty-five dollars entitles you to immunity from further street theft for a period of a full six months plus, for this week only, the choice of this handsome box of crystal wine glasses or a useful set of barbeque tools which will be the envy of your friends.’
‘You mean … you’re legal?’ said Mr Pin. […]
‘Yes, sir. Lord Vetinari feels that since there’ll always be some crime in the city, it might as well be organized.'”

xvii. “‘The young man is also an idealist. He has yet to find out that what’s in the public interest is not what the public is interested in.'”

xviii. “Fire was always the terror in those parts of the city where wood and thatch predominated. That was why everyone had been so dead set against any form of fire brigade, reasoning – with impeccable Ankh-Morpork logic – that any bunch of men who were paid to put out fires would naturally see to it that there was a plentiful supply of fires to put out.”

xix. “there was a fire among the dark timbers under the bridge. William realized, as his nostrils shut down, that he was visiting the Canting Crew.
The old towpath had been deserted to start with, but Foul Ole Ron and the rest of them were the reason it stayed that way. They had nothing to steal. They had precious little even to keep. Occasionally the Beggars’ Guild considered running them out of town, but without much enthusiasm. Even beggars need someone to look down on…”

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Faust Eric

It is not a long novel, in fact it’s the shortest in the Discworld series I’ve read so far, but it was a good read. Finished it earlier today, I’ve also started on and read the first ~100 pages of The Truth so far today. Will blog that one later on. Because of the length of the book, it’s a bit hard to give a lot of quotes without spoilers, but I think I’ve managed. I like the book but it probably shouldn’t be the first Discworld novel you read, unless perhaps you have a very short attention sp — oooh, shiny read ball! — …an and dislike long books, like, a lot (It is not my impression that this description is one that fits (m?)any of my regular readers, but then again I don’t even know how many of them I have so I could be wrong). Some quotes, relatively spoiler-free:

i. “He knew he wasn’t really Archchancellor material. He hadn’t really wanted the job. He was ninety-eight and had achieved this worthwhile age by carefully not being any trouble or threat to anyone. He had hoped to spend his twilight years completing his seven-volume treatise on Some Little Known Aspects of Kuian Rain-making Rituals, which were an ideal subject for academic study in his opinion since the rituals only ever worked in Ku, and that particular continent had slipped into the ocean several thousand years ago.* The trouble was that in recent years the lifespan of Archchancellors seemed to be a bit on the short side, and the natural ambition of all wizards for the job had given way to a curious, self-effacing politeness. He’d come down one morning to find everyone calling him ‘sir’. It had taken him days to find out why.
His head ached. He felt it was several weeks past his bedtime.”

ii. “Demons have existed on the Discworld for at least as long as the gods, who in many ways they closely resemble. The difference is basically the same as that between terrorists and freedom fighters. […] Astfgl, the new King of the Demons, was furious. Not simply because the air-conditioning had broken down again, not because he felt surrounded by idiots and plotters on every side, and not even because no one could pronounce his name properly yet, but also because he had just been given bad news.”

iii. “Interestingly enough, the gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.”

iv. “It was the first chariot Rincewind had ever seen that was pulled by llamas. That wasn’t what was odd about it. What was odd about it was that it was being carried by people, two holding each side of the axle and running after the animals, their sandalled feet flapping on the flagstones.”

v. “Rincewind wasn’t used to people being pleased to see him. It was unnatural, and boded no good. These people were not only cheering, they were throwing flowers and hats. The hats were made out of stone, but the thought was there. […] ‘I can’t settle down,’ said Rincewind. ‘I’m sorry, but this sort of thing has never happened to me before. All the jewels and things. Everything going as expected. It’s not right.'”

vi. “‘Don’t you see?’ hissed Eric […] We know what’s going to happen! We could make a fortune!’
‘How, exactly?’
‘Well…’ The boy hesitated. ‘We could bet on horses, sort of thing.’
‘Great idea,’ said Rincewind.
‘Yes, and —‘
‘All we’ve got to do is escape, then find out if they have horse races here, and then really try hard to remember the names of the horses that won races in Tsort thousands of years ago.’
They went back to looking glumly at the floor. That was the thing about time travel. You were never ready for it. About the only thing he could hope for, Rincewind decided, was finding da Quirm’s Fountain of Youth and managing to stay alive for a few thousand years so he’d be ready to kill his own grandfather, which was the only aspect of time travel that had ever remotely appealed to him. He had always felt that his ancestors had it coming to them.”

vii. “Travelling by magic always had major drawbacks. There was the feeling that your stomach was lagging behind. And your mind filled up with terror because the destination was always a little uncertain. It wasn’t that you could come out anywhere. “Anywhere” represented a very restricted range of choices compared to the kind of places magic could transport you to.”

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Making Money

I’m right now rereading this, read the first 300 pages yesterday. I didn’t blog it in details the first time I read it, so I’ll give it some quotes this time around:

i. “‘Look, I can explain,’ he said. […] ‘We got a bit carried away,’ said Moist. ‘We were a bit too creative in our thinking. We encouraged mongooses to breed in the posting boxes to keep down the snakes…’
Lord Vetinari said nothing.
‘Er … which, admittedly, we introduced into the posting boxes to reduce the number of toads …’
Lord Vetinari repeated himself.
‘Er … which, it’s true, staff put in the posting boxes to keep down the snails …’
Lord Vetinari remained unvocal.
‘Er … These, I must in fairness point out, got into the boxes of their own accord, in order to eat the glue on the stamps,’ […]”

ii. “Moist stared disconsolately at a letter from a Ms Estressa Partleigh of the Campaign for Equal Heights. The Post Office, apparently, was not employing enough dwarfs. Moist had pointed out, very reasonably, he thought, that one in three of the staff were dwarfs. She had replied that this was not the point. The point was that since dwarfs were on average two-thirds the height of humans, the Post Office, as a responsible authority, should employ one and a half dwarfs for every human employed. The Post Office must reach out to the dwarf community, said Ms Partleigh.
Moist picked up the letter between thumb and forefinger and dropped it on the floor. It’s reach down, Ms Partleigh, reach down.”

iii. “It would be hard to imagine an uglier building that hadn’t won a major architectural award.”

iv. “‘I read somewhere that the coin represents a promise to hand over a dollar’s worth of gold,’ said Moist helpfully.
Mr Bent steepled his hands in front of his face and turned his eyes upwards, as though praying.
‘In theory, yes,’ he said after a few moments. ‘I would prefer to say that it is a tacit understanding that we will honour our promise to exchange it for a dollar’s worth of gold provided we are not, in point of fact, asked to.’
‘So …. it’s not really a promise?’
‘It certainly is, sir, in financial circles. It is, you see, about trust.’
‘You mean, trust us, we’ve got a big expensive building?’
‘You jest, Mr Lipwig, but there may be a grain of truth there.'”

v. “‘You’re a thief, a trickster, a charlie artful and allround bunco artist! Admit it!’
‘I’m not!’ Moist protested weakly.
‘Liar too,’ said Mrs Lavish cheerfully. ‘And probably an impostor! Oh, don’t waste that innocent look on me! I said you are a rogue, sir! I wouldn’t trust you with a bucket of water if my knickers were on fire!’
Then she prodded Moist in the chest, hard. ‘Well, are you going to lie there all day?’ she snapped. ‘Get up, man. I didn’t say I didn’t like you!’ […]
It was like shaking hands with cold parchment. Mrs Lavish laughed. ‘Ah, yes. Just like the forthright and reassuring grasp of my late husband. No honest man has a handshake as honest as that. How in the world has it taken you so long to find the financial sector?'”

vi. “‘Unfortunately, people have rather lost their faith in banks.’
‘Why?’
‘Because we lost their money, usually. Mostly not on purpose.’ […]
‘I don’t really understand how banks work.’
‘You’ve never put money in a bank?’
‘Not in, no.’
‘How do you think they work?’
‘Well, you take rich people’s money and lend it to suitable people at interest, and give as little as possible of the interest back.’
‘Yes, and what is a suitable person?’
‘Someone who can prove they don’t need the money?’
‘Oh, you cynic. But you have got the general idea.'”

vii. “It was impressive. And the first impression it gave Moist was: this is Hell on the day they couldn’t find the matches.”

viii. “‘But don’t let that worry you, Mr Lipspick. Just because I’m employing an Igor and working in a cellar doesn’t mean I’m some sort of madman, ha ha ha.’
‘Ha ha,’ agreed Moist.
‘Ha hah hah!,’ said Hubert. ‘Hahahahahaha!! Ahahahahahahhhhh!!!!! —‘
Bent slapped him on the back. Hubert coughed. ‘Sorry about that, it’s the air down here,’ he mumbled.”

ix. “‘The Times seem to think I intend to nationalize the Royal Bank,’ said Vetinari.
‘Nationalize?’ said Moist.
‘Steal,’ Vetinari translated. ‘I don’t know how these rumours get about.'”

x. “The guards stopped him at the building itself. Moist knew them of old. There was probably an entrance exam for them. If they answered the question ‘What is your name?’ and got it wrong, they were hired. There were trolls that could out-think them. But you couldn’t fool them, or talk them round. They had a list of people who could walk right in, and another of people who needed an appointment. If you weren’t on either, you didn’t get in.”

xi. “‘Good heavens, potatoes are worth more than gold!’
‘Surely not!’
‘If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what would you prefer, a bag of potatoes or a bag of gold?’
‘Yes, but a desert island isn’t Ankh-Morpork!’
‘And that proves gold is only valuable because we agree it is, right? It’s just a dream. But a potato is always worth a potato, anywhere. A knob of butter and a pinch of salt and you’ve got a meal, anywhere. Bury gold in the ground and you’ll be worrying about thieves for ever. Bury a potato in due season you could be looking at a dividend of a thousand percent!’
‘Can I assume for a moment that you don’t intend to put us on the potato standard?'”

xii. “She was easy to confide in because she never bothered to listen. She used the time to think about what to say next.”

xiii. “His bleary eyes strayed back to the editorial. They [that is, editorials – US], on the other hand, could be quite funny, since they were based on the assumption that the world would be a much better place if it was run by journalists.”

xiv. “‘Good people of Ankh-Morpork! Do any of you think this piece of paper could be worth a dollar? Would anyone give me a dollar for it?’ Pucci waved the paper dismissively.
‘Dunno. What is it,’ said someone, and there was a buzz from the crowd.
‘An experimental banknote,’ said Moist, over the growing hubbub. ‘Just to try out the idea.’
‘How many of them are there, then?’ said the enquiring man.
‘About twelve,’ said Moist.
The man turned to Pucci. ‘I’ll give you five dollars for it, how about that?’
‘Five? It says it’s worth one!’ said Pucci, aghast.
‘Yeah, right. Five dollars, miss.’
‘Why? Are you insane?’
I’m as sane as the next man, thank you, young lady!’
‘Seven dollars here!’ said the next man, raising a hand.
‘This is madness!’ wailed Pucci.
‘Mad?’ said the next man. He pointed a finger at Moist. ‘If I’d bought a pocketful of the black penny stamps when that feller brought them out last year, I’d be a rich man!'”

xv. “‘Why are you always in such a hurry, Mr Lipwig?’
‘Because people don’t like change. But make the change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another.'”

xvi. “‘I thought necromancy was banned,’ said Moist.
‘Oh, we don’t do necromancy here,’ said Hicks. ‘What made you think that?’
Moist looked around at the furnishings, shrugged, and said, ‘Well, I suppose it first crossed my mind when I saw the way the paint was flaking off the door and you can still just see a crude skull and the letters NECR …’
‘Ancient history, ancient history,’ said Hicks quickly. ‘We are the Department of Post-Mortem Communications. A force for good, you understand. Necromancy, on the other hand, is a very bad form of magic done by evil wizards.’
‘And since you are not evil wizards, what you are doing can’t be called necromancy?’
‘Exactly!’
‘And, er, what defines an evil wizard?’ said Adora Belle.
‘Well, doing necromancy would definitely be there right on top of the list.’
‘Could you just remind us what you are going to do?’
‘We’re going to talk to the late Professor Flead,’ said Hicks.
‘Who is dead, yes?’
‘Very much so. Extremely dead.'”

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Witches abroad

yet another Discworld novel. What can I say? – I really love those books. I completed it some days ago, but I try not to be too much online these days. In general that’ll probably mean that there’ll be a bit of a lag between what I post and what I’m currently reading over the next months (but don’t hesitate to comment anyway – comments are also a way for you to keep me posting, I probably wouldn’t have posted this update (at least not today..) if Plamus hadn’t commented on my post about Jones’ paper).

The book is part of the Witches-storyline, from which I’ve only ever read Equal Rites before. It’s Pratchett-quality as always – hilarious at times, great most of the rest of the time – though I like books such as Small Gods and Going Postal better. That said, reading this book is not a bad way to spend your time, and I’m 99 % sure you’ll like it more than what other people are telling you to read during the summer right now. Some quotes, I’ve tried to do my best to not include spoilers of any kind:

1. “Local people called it the Bear Mountain. This was because it was a bare mountain, not because it had a lot of bears on it. This caused a certain amount of profitable confusion, though; people often strode into the nearest village with heavy duty crossbows, traps and nets and called haughtily for native guides to lead them to the bears. Since everyone locally was making quite a good living out of this, what with the sale of guide books, maps of bear caves, ornamental cuckoo-clocks with bears on them, bear walking-sticks and cakes baked in the shape of a bear, somehow no-one had time to go and correct the spelling.”

2. “Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”

3. “They were not nice mountains. They were the kind of mountains where winters went for their summer holidays.”

4. “To Nanny Ogg Greebo was still the cute little kitten that chased balls of wool around the floor.
To the rest of the world he was an enormous tomcat, a parcel of incredibly indestructible life forces in a skin that looked less like a fur than a piece of bread that had been left in a damp place for a fortnight. Strangers often took pity on him because his ears were non-existent and his face looked as though a bear had camped on it. They could not know that this was because Greebo, as a matter of feline pride, would attempt to fight or rape absolutely anything, up to and including a four-horse logging wagon. Ferocious dogs would whine and hide under the stairs when Greebo sauntered down the street. Foxes kept away from the village. Wolves made a detour.
‘He’s an old softy, really,’ said Nanny Ogg.”

5. “‘If the creator had meant us to shift rocks by witchcraft, he wouldn’t have invented shovels. Knowing when to use a shovel is what being a witch is all about. And put down that wheelbarrow , Magrat. You don’t know nothing about machinery.'”

6. “‘Old Deliria Skibbly took me to see her once, when I was a girl. Of course, she was getting pretty … eccentric by then. Gingerbread houses, that kind of thing.’ She spoke sadly, as one might talk about an elderly relative who’d taken to wearing her underwear outside her clothes.
‘That must have been before those two children shut her up in her own oven?’ said Magrat, untangling her sleeve from a briar.
‘Yeah. Sad, that. I mean, she didn’t really ever eat anyone,’ said Nanny. ‘Well. Not often. I mean, there was talk, but …'”

7. “They had breakfast in a forest clearing. It was grilled pumpkin. The dwarf bread was brought out for expection. But it was miraculous, the dwarf bread. No-one ever went hungry when they had some dwarf bread to avoid. You only had to look at it for a moment, and instantly you could think of dozens of things you’d rather eat. Your boots, for example. Mountains. Raw sheep. Your own foot.”

8. “Genua was wealthy. Genua had once controlled the river mouth and taxed its traffic in a way that couldn’t be called piracy because it was done by the city government, and therefore sound economics and perfectly all right.”

9. “Despite many threats, Granny Weatherwax had never turned anyone into a frog. The way she saw it, there was a technically less cruel but cheaper and much more satisfying thing you could do. You could leave them human and make them think they were a frog, which also provided much innocent entertainment for passers-by.
‘I always felt sorry for Mr Wilkins,’ said Magrat, staring moodily at the table top. ‘It was so sad watching him try to catch flies on his tongue.’
‘He shouldn’t have said what he said,’ said Granny.
‘What, that you were a domineering old busybody?’ said Nanny innocently.
‘I don’t mind criticism,’ said Granny. ‘You know me. I’ve never been one to take offence at criticism. No-one could say I’m the sort to take offence at criticism -‘
‘Not twice, anyway,’ said Nanny. ‘Not without blowing bubbles.'”

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Soul Music

Another book by Pratchett. I liked Small Gods better, I don’t consider this one one of his best books. But it was still relatively fun and a reasonably enjoyable read. Some quotes:

1. “He was not, by the standard definitions, a bad man; in the same way a plague-bearing rat is not, from a dispassionate point of view, a bad animal.”

2. “‘Why couldn’t we just take it off her?’ said Glod, when they were outside.
‘Because she’s a poor defencelless olld woman,’ said Imp.
‘Exactly! My point exactly!'”

3. “Susan did not know much about history. It always seemed a particularly dull subject. The same stupid things were done over and over again by tedious people. What was the point? One king was pretty much like another.
The class was learning about some revolt in which some peasants had wanted to stop being peasants and, since the nobles had won, had stopped being peasants really quickly. Had they bothered to learn to read and acquire some history books they’d have learned about the uncertain merits of things like scythes and pitchforks when used in a battle against crossbows and broadswords.”

4. “‘Look,’ said Susan, ‘I’d just like you to know that I don’t believe any of this. I don’t believe there’s a Death of Rats in a cowl carrying a scythe.’
‘He’s standing in front of you.’
‘That’s no reason to believe it.’
‘I can see you’ve certainly had a proper education,’ said the raven [yes …raven. The talking raven.] sourly.”

5. “‘How old are you?’
‘Sixteen.’
‘Oh, my.’ Albert rolled his eyes. ‘How long have you been sixteen?’
‘Since I was fifteen, of course. Are you stupid?'”

6. “No-one actually tried to kill musicians in the Drum. Axes were thrown and crossbows fired in a good-humoured, easy-going way. No-one really aimed, even if they were capable of doing so. It was more fun watching people dodge.”

7. “‘Wizards don’t scare me. Everyone knows there’s a rule that you mustn’t use magic against civilians.’ The man thrust his face close to Ridcully and raised a fist.
Ridcully snapped his fingers. There was an inrush of air, and a croak.
‘Ive always thought of it more as a guideline,’ he said, mildly. ‘Bursar, go and put this frog in the flowerbed and when he becomes his old self give him ten dollars. Ten dollars would be all right, wouldn’t it?’
‘Croak,’ said the frog, hastily.”

8. “BUT MOST PEOPLE ARE RATHER STUPID AND WASTE THEIR LIVES. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THAT? […] YOU SEE THE LIGHTED WINDOWS AND WHAT YOU WANT TO THINK IS THAT THERE MAY BE MANY INTERESTING STORIES BEHIND THEM, BUT WHAT YOU KNOW IS THAT REALLY THERE ARE JUST DULL, DULL SOULS, MERE CONSUMERS OF FOOD, WHO THINK THEIR INSTINCTS ARE EMOTIONS AND THEIR TINY LIVES OF MORE ACCOUNT THAN A WHISPER OF WIND.
The blue glow was bottomless. It seemed to be sucking her own thoughts out of her mind.
‘No,’ whispered Susan, ‘no, I’ve never thought like that.’
Death stood up abruptly and turned away. YOU MAY FIND THAT IT HELPS, he said.” [Death’s speech is always in caps in Pratchett’s books, the caps is not my doing/a mistake.]

9. “Ridcully smacked his lips happily.
‘Ah, we certainly know what goes into good beer in Ankh-Morpork,’ he said.
The wizards nodded. They certainly did. That’s why they were drinking gin and tonic.”

10. “‘Did you read the contract?’
‘Did you?’
‘It was very small writing,’ said Glod. He brightened up. ‘But there was a lot of it,’ he added. ‘Bound to be a good contract, with that much writing in it.’
‘The Librarian ran away,’ said Buddy. ‘Oooked a lot […The Librarian is a monkey], and ran away […a monkey who’s quite a bit smarter than these guys].’
‘Hah! Well, he’ll be sorry later on’ said Glod.”

11. “Chrysoprase had been a very quick learner when he arrived in Ankh-Morpork. He began with an important lesson: hitting people was thuggery. Paying other people to do the hitting on your behalf was good business.”

12.”‘How many?’ he said.
‘Just ten to start with,’ said Dibbler. ‘But I think there’ll be more later. Lots and lots more.’
‘How many’s ten?’ said the troll.
Dibbler held up both his hands, fingers extended.
‘I’ll do them for two dollar,’ said Chalky.
‘You want me to cut my own throat?’ [it’s not for nothing that Dibbler goes by the name Cut-My-Own-Throat-Dibbler]
‘Two dollar.’
‘Dollar each for these and a dollar-fifty for the next batch.’
‘Two dollar.’
‘All right, all right, two dollars each. That’s ten dollars the lot, right?’
‘Right.'”

13. “‘Have I seen you before?’
I’M IN HERE QUITE OFTEN, YES. A WEEK LAST WEDNESDAY, FOR EXAMPLE.
‘Ha! That was a bit of a do. That’s when poor old Vince got stabbed.’
YES.
‘Asking for it, calling yourself Vincent the Invulnerable.’
YES. INACCURATE, TOO.
‘The Watch are saying it was suicide.’
Death nodded. Going into the Mended Drum and calling yourself Vincent the Invulnerable was clearly suicide by Ankh-Morpork standards.”

14. “He was, by and large, against the idea of a permanent office. On the positive side it made him easier to find, but on the negative side it made him easier to find. The success of Dibbler’s commercial strategy hinged on him being able to find customers, not the other way around.”

15. “‘I don’t remember you talking like this when you jumped up and down on that street violinist’s fingers last month,’ said Mr Clete.
‘Yeah, well, that wasn’t, like, assasination,’ said Satchelmouth. ‘I mean, he was able to walk away. Well, crawl away. And he could still earn a living,’ he added. ‘Not one that required the use of his hands, sure, but —‘”

16. “Dunelm wasn’t in the kind of job where you survived if you told people you’d seen people. Dunelm could serve drinks all night without seeing anyone.”

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Small Gods (II)

More stuff from the brilliant book:

1. “‘The captain just said something odd. He said the world is flat and has an edge.’
‘Yes? So what?’
‘But, I mean, we know the world is a ball, because…’
The tortoise blinked.
‘No, it’s not,’ he said. ‘Who said it’s a ball?’
‘You did,’ said Brutha. Then he added: ‘According to Book One of the Septateuch, anyway.’ […]
‘I told you I never made the world,’ said Om [the tortoise]. ‘Why should I make the world? It was here already. And if I did make a world, I wouldn’t make it a ball. People’d fall off. All the sea would run off the bottom.’
‘Not if you told it to stay on.'”

2. “A few Ephebian citizens watched idly from the roadside. They looked surprisingly like the people at home, and not like two-legged demons at all.
‘They’re people,’ he said.
‘Full marks for comparative anthropology.’
‘Brother Nhumrod said Ephebians eat human flesh,’ said Brutha. ‘He wouldn’t tell lies.’
A small boy regarded Brutha thoughtfully while excavating a nostril. If it was a demon in human form, it was an extremely good actor.”

3. “‘Ask them about gods,’ Om prompted.
‘Uh, I want to find out about gods,’ said Brutha.
The philosophers looked at one another.
‘Gods?’ said Xeno. ‘We don’t bother with gods. Huh. Relics of an outmoded belief system, gods.’
There was a rumble of thunder from the clear evening sky.
‘Except for Blind Io the Thunder God,’ Xeno went on, his tone hardly changing.
Lightning flashed across the sky.
‘And Cubal the Fire God,’ said Xeno.
A gust of wind rattled the windows.
‘Flatulus the God of the Winds, he’s all right too,’ said Xeno.
An arrow materialized out of the air and hit the table by Xeno’s hand.
‘Fedecks the Messenger of the Gods, one of the all-time greats,’ said Xeno.

[A little later in a tavern Brutha asks a barman the same question:]
‘Gods don’t like that sort of thing,’ said the barman. ‘We get them in here some nights, when someone’s had a few. Cosmic speculation about whether gods really exist. Next thing, there’s a bolt of lightning through the roof with a note wrapped round it saying “Yes, we do” and a pair of sandals with smoke coming out. That sort of thing, it takes all the interest out of metaphysical speculation.'”

4. “The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote.* Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.

*Provided that he wasn’t poor, foreign nor disqualified by reason of being mad, frivolous or a woman.”

5. “‘Your missionary had said that people who did not believe in Om would suffer endless punishment. I have to tell you that the crowd considered this rude.’
‘And so they threw stones at him…’
‘Not many. They only hurt his pride. And only after they’d run out of vegetables.’
‘They threw vegetables?’
‘When they couldn’t find any more eggs.'”

6. “‘Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave,’ said Vorbis.
‘So I understand,’ said the Tyrant. ‘I imagine fish have no word for water.'”

7. “‘I know about sureness,’ said Didactylos. […] ‘I remember, before I was blind, I went to Omnia once. This was before the borders were closed, when you still let people travel. And in your Citadel I saw a crowd stoning a man to death in a pit. Ever seen that?’
‘It has to be done,’ Brutha mumbled. ‘So the soul can be shriven and -‘
‘Don’t know about the soul. Never been that kind of a philosopher,’ said Didactylos. ‘All I know is, it was a horrible sight.’
‘The state of the body is not -‘
‘Oh, I’m not talking about the poor bugger in the pit,’ said the philosopher. ‘I’m talking about the people throwing the stones. They were sure all right. They were sure it wasn’t them in the pit. You could see it in their faces. So glad it wasn’t them that they were throwing just as hard as they could.'”

8. “Gods are not very introspective. It has never been a survival trait. The ability to cajole, threaten and terrify has always worked well enough. When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow’s-point-of-view is seldom necessary.
Which had led, across the multiverse, to men and women of tremendous brilliance and empathy devoting their entire lives to the service of deities who couldn’t beat them at a quiet game of dominoes.”

9. “‘And there’s some barbarians up towards the Hub,’ said the mate, relishing the word, ‘who reckon they go to a big hall where there’s all sorts to eat and drink.’
‘And women?’
‘Bound to be.’
The captain frowned. ‘It’s a funny thing,’ he said, ‘but why is it that the heathens and the barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?’
‘A bit of a poser, that,’ agreed the mate. ‘I s’pose it makes up for ’em … enjoying themselves all the time when they’re alive, too?’ He looked puzzled. Now that he was dead, the whole thing sounded suspicious.”

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Religion, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Small Gods (I)

Link. Read it yesterday. Pure escapism, I needed that. Wonderful book.

Some quotes:

1) “what gods need is belief, and what humans want is gods.”

2) “The trouble with being a god is that you’ve got no one to pray to.”

3) “Many feel they are called to the priesthood, but what they really hear is an inner voice saying, ‘It’s indoor work with no heavy lifting, do you want to be a ploughman like your father?'”

4) “He knew from experience that true and obvious ideas, such as the ineffable wisdom and judgement of the Great God Om, seemed so obscure to many people that you actually had to kill them before they saw the error of their ways, whereas dangerous and nebulous and wrong-headed notions often had such an attraction for some people that they would – he rubbed a scar thoughtfully – hide up in the mountains and throw rocks at you until you starved them out. They’d prefer to die rather than see sense. Fri’it had seen sense at an early age. He’d seen it was sense not to die. […] for Fri’it, not dying had become a habit.”

5)
“‘Why?’
‘How should I know? I don’t know!’ lied the tortoise. […the divine tortoise. The tortoise in question is a god. But a small one. To be quite frank, it’s only about the size of a tortoise.]
‘But you … you’re omnicognisant’´,’ said Brutha.
‘That doesn’t mean I know everything.’
Brutha bit his lip. ‘Um. Yes. It does.’
‘You sure?’
‘Yes.’
‘Thought that was omnipotent.’
‘No. That means you’re all-powerful. And you are. That’s what it says in the Book of Ossory.’

[…]

‘Who told him I was omnipotent?’
‘You did.’
‘No I didn’t.’
‘Well, he said you did.’
‘Don’t even remember anyone called Ossory,’ the tortoise muttered. […] ‘Ossory. Ossory,’ said the tortoise. ‘No … no … can’t say I -‘

[…]

‘What! If you didn’t give them [the Discworld version of the Commandments] to him, who did?’
‘I don’t know. Why should I know? I can’t be everywhere at once!’
‘You’re omnipresent!’
‘What says so?’
‘The Prophet Hashimi!’
‘Never met the man!’
‘Oh? Oh? So I suppose you didn’t give him the Book of Creation then?’
‘What Book of Creation?’
‘You mean you don’t know?’
‘No!’
‘Then who gave it to him?’
‘I don’t know! Perhaps he wrote it himself!’ […]
‘that’s blasphemy!’
‘Blasphemy? How can I blaspheme? I’m a god!'”

6) “On the whole, Vorbis discouraged red-hot irons, spiked chains and things with drills and big screws on, unless it was for a public display on an important Fast day. It was amazing what you could do, he always said, with a simple knife…
But many of the inquisitors liked the old ways best.”

7) “Gods don’t like people not doing much work. People who aren’t busy all the time might start to think.”

8 ) “‘He tortures people,’ he said coldly.
‘Oh, no! The inquisitors do that. They work very long hours for not much money, too, Brother Nhumrod says. No, the exquisitors just … arrange matters. Every inquisitor wants to become an exquisitor one day, Brother Nhumrod says. That’s why they put up with being on duty at all hours. They go for days without sleep, sometimes.'”

9) “‘He turned me on to my back,’said Om [the tortoise mentioned above].
‘Yes, but humans are more important than animals,’ said Brutha.
‘This is a point of view often expressed by humans,’ said Om.”

10) “People said there had to be a Supreme Being because otherwise how could the universe exist, eh?
And of course there clearly had to be, said Koomi, a Supreme Being. but since the universe was a bit of a mess, it was obvious that the Supreme Being hadn’t in fact made it. If he had made it he would, being Supreme, have made a much better job of it, with far better thought given, taking an example at random, to things like the design of the common nostril. Or, to put it another way, the existence of a badly put-together watch proved the existence of a blind watchmaker. You only had to look around to see that there was room for improvement practically everywhere.
This suggested that the Universe had probably been put together in a bit of a rush by an underling while the Supreme Being wasn’t looking […] Koomi’s theory was that gods come into being and grow and flourish because they are believed in. Belief itself is the food of the gods. […] When the Omnian Church found out about Koomi, they displayed him in every town within the Church’s empire to demonstrate the essential flaws in his argument.
There were a lot of towns, so they had to cut him up quite small.”

11) “Om listened to the sailors. They were not men who dealt in sophistries. Someone had killed a porpoise, and everyone knew what that meant. It meant that there was going to be a storm. It meant that the ship was going to be sunk. It was simple cause and effect. It was worse than women aboard. It was worse than albatrosses.”

12) “The captain, whose face now looked as if sleep had not been a regular night-time companion” […] – Pratchett makes sure that there are always wonderful sentences like these all over the place in his books. I love stuff like this.

Probably more later, I think this is one of his best books I’ve read, though it is actually quite hard to compare them. I’ve started on Soul Music today, have read the first 100 pages. I’ll not start studying again at least until I’ve finished that one as well.

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Books, Quotes/aphorisms, Religion, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Jingo

Pratchett’s 21st book in the Discworld series. Great book, just like the rest of them. Some quotes:

1. “‘We all know why people don’t trust an army,’ said Lord Downey. ‘A lot of armed men, standing around with nothing to do … they start to get ideas …'” […] “Ankh-Morpork no longer had a fire brigade. The citizens had a rather disturbingly direct way of thinking at times, and it did not take long for people to see the rather obvious flaw in paying a group of people by the number of fires they put out.”

2. “‘The problem with mercenaries,’ said the Patrician, ‘is that they need to be paid to start fighting. And, unless you’re very lucky, you end up paying them even more to stop —‘ (Machiavelli not surprisingly made the same point – I find it very unlikely that Pratchett has not to a significant degree been inspired by Machiavelli when considering the actions and thoughts of Havelock Vetinari)

3. “After all, when you seek advice from someone it’s certainly not because you want them to give it. You just want them to be there while you talk to yourself.”

4. “‘Is he good with a bow?’ said Angua.
‘Very good. He’s good at killing people he never met, too.’
‘He’s an assasin, is he?’
‘Oh, no. He just kills people for money. No style. Snowy can’t read and write.'”

5. “‘We saw the fire —‘ Carrot began, running up. ‘Is it all over?’
‘Mr Vimes saved the day!’ said Sergeant Colon excitedly. ‘Just went straight in and saved everyone, in the finest tradition of the Watch!’
‘Fred?’ said Vimes, wearily.
‘Yessir?’
‘Fred, the finest tradition of the Watch is having a quiet smoke somewhere out of the wind at 3 a.m. Let’s not get carried away, eh?’

6. “‘Wazir comes from Smale, you see,’ said Carrot. ‘And Mr Goriff comes from Elharib, and the two countries only stopped fighting ten years ago. Religious differences.’
‘Run out of weapons?’ said Vimes.
‘Ran out of rocks, sir. They ran out of weapons last century.’

7. “He rummaged in a pocket and produced a very small book, which he held up for inspection.
‘This belonged to my great-grandad,’ he said. ‘He was in the scrap we had against Pseudopolis and my great-gran gave him this book of prayers for soldiers, ‘cos you need all the prayers you can get, believe you me, and he stuck it in the top pocket of his jerkin, ‘cos he couldn’t afford armour, and next day in battle – whoosh, this arrow came out of nowhere, wham, straight into this book and it went all the way through to the last page before stopping, look. You can see the hole.’
‘Pretty miraculous,’ Carrot agreed.
‘Yeah, it was, I s’pose,’ said the sergeant. He looked ruefully at the battered volume. ‘Shame about the other seventeen arrows, really.’

8. “‘Very good, sir,’ said Leiutenant Hornett, ‘but … you don’t think the enemy might be expecting us there? It being such an obvious landing site?’
‘Not obvious at all to the trained military thinker, sir! They won’t be expecting us there precisely because it’s so obvious, d’y’see?’
‘You mean … they’ll think only a complete idiot would land there, sir?’
‘Correct! And they know we’re not complete idiots, sir, and therefore that will be the last place they will be expecting us, d’y’see?'”

[the enemy’s lair, a little later:]

“‘Where will they attack?’
‘Gebra, sire. I’m sure of it.’
‘Our most heavily fortified city?’ Surely not. Only an idiot would do that.’
‘I have studied Lord Rust in some depth, sire.'”

9. “Making history, it turned out, was quite easy. It was what got written down. It was as simple as that.”

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Books, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment