I WAS OFFERING YOUR BOY A POSITION. I TRUST THAT MEETS WITH YOUR APPROVAL?
What was your job again?
I USHER SOULS INTO THE NEXT WORLD.
Ah, of course, of course, sorry, should have guessed from the clothes.
-Lezek speaking with Death
I’d been meaning to read some of Terry Pratchett’s books for a while. It had begun in ’98 with a hardcover book with the simple title of Legends. It was a bunch of short novels written by a number of the most popular fantasy authors today, based in their best known settings. For George R. R. Martin, it was a story from the world in his ongoing series A Song of Ice and Fire. For Stephen King, there was a tale of Roland from his Dark Tower books. And for Terry Pratchett, it was a story of Discworld. It hit my funny bone hard enough to get me interested, but I’d put off purchasing any of his books…until recently.
So, I finally picked up Mort.
Discworld is a strange world. It’s a flat, circular planet resting on the backs of four elephants…who are standing on a very large turtle. There are a number of kingdoms around, on four continents (details can be found in the back of the book, in a travel guide called Discworld on $30 a day). Near the Ramtops mountains, there is a grassy area where a young boy-who perhaps isn’t the sharpest blade in the scabbard-is presented at the hiring fair in hopes of becoming somebody’s apprentice. Near the very last minute, however, the boy-Mort-and his father is approached by the last person one would expect to be looking for an apprentice-Death.
In his apprenticeship, Mort is introduced to what Death calls The Duty, where he must be on hand for the deaths of important personages (or cats)-or as he puts it, “SPECIAL OCCASIONS”. That isn’t all that surprising, really: what is surprising is Death’s houseguests…an old man named Albert, and Death’s daughter, Ysabell. And a horse named Binky. We get introduced to some of the facts of death as Mort travels a bit with Death; then disaster strikes: Death lets Mort perform the Duty on few people solo. And that’s when things start to get interesting.
There were a significant amount of moments in this book that had me bursting out laughing-and it’s been a while since I’ve done that. Death was at once an inhuman being and in some ways, all too human. Mort undergoes a great deal of growth in this book, from the somewhat less swift to a very significant person in his own right…although he kind of has to grow up quickly. There is a subplot running through the book involving a princess that Mort meets under the expected circumstances, and is a major cause of trouble in the book. I also enjoyed the room with hourglasses measuring out every living being’s life, and a library that contains the book of every being’s life…works in progress, until the end.
I have to say, once I finished reading this book, I wondered to myself, “What the hell have I been waiting for?” On my hitlist for future purchases-and soon-will be as many Discworld books as I can lay my hands on. I haven’t enjoyed a good humorous fantasy book this much since Robert Aspirin’s Another Fine Myth. Mort is a book I’d recommend to anyone who has a funny bone!