Friday, 20 January 2012

"Snuff," by Terry Pratchett

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

One thing I like to try and do at the start of a review is declare any bias that I might have.  I, therefore,  have to admit that I am long-standing fan of Terry Pratchett's writing.  I am always impatient to get his books, so I bought this one as soon as it came out and then, in a feat of willpower (not something with which I am normally well-endowed), I decided to save the pleasure of reading it for my Christmas holiday.

In "Snuff," Commander Vimes of the City Watch reluctantly goes on a compulsory holiday with his wife, Lady Sybil, and their young son.  They go to his wife's ancestral home in the country, where the egalitarian Vimes is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of being master of a house full of servants.  He misses the reek of Ankh Morpork, but soon comes to realise that something in the country smells bad - and not just because his son has become obsessed with poo.

If I'm honest, it was possibly easier for me to delay starting this book because I knew it was a Sam Vimes book; he is a character that I have liked in previous books, but not loved.  If it had been a book that featured the witches, the wizards, or Death (some of my favourite Discworld denizens) my impatience to start the book might have been insurmountable.  However, I loved Sam Vimes in this novel and I now feel like I should re-read earlier books and re-evaluate my feelings for him.  For me, the strength of this book was the warmth and humour in the relationship between Sam and his wife, Lady Sybil.  Lady Sybil is a great character - I was going to write a great female character, but that would be like giving the Orange Prize when you could be giving the Booker - and I finished the book thinking that I would want to be like her: she is strong, passionately principled (like her husband), compassionate, a great mother to young Sam and a warm human being.  Physically I'd need to gain some weight, but I seem to be naturally heading in that direction anyway.

I have dug out my copy of "Guards, Guards." as I decided that I would now like to go back and read the novel in which Sam and Sybil met.  In general I feel like I need to give Terry Pratchett's earlier books another chance, as I remember enjoying them less than more recent books.  The Discworld is a feat of imaginative creation that has grown in depth and detail as the series has progressed and evolved, and I felt that earlier books were less rich and resonant.  It has been a long time since I last read them though, so I am aware that I might be undervaluing them.  In addition, some of the best science fiction and fantasy provides an alternative commentary on the world in which we live - and to the best of my recollection his more recent books seem to do this more effectively.  His books have become darker satires on modern life, and I prefer that darkness: they are more seriously funny.  I was aware in "Snuff" that the moral commentary on prejudice and narrow-mindedness in society is ground that he has trodden well before in his later books, but I forgive him that because he does it so damn well.

I still find his books very funny and I love his inventive use of language, but there is a bitter-sweetness to every new Terry Pratchett novel because I am aware that his illness means that new Terry Pratchett books are in limited supply.  The serious illness of any human being is tragic, but I am selfishly aware that I am also sad that each new book takes us closer to the last new book.  I just have to hope with every new book that there will be one more....

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A belated award acceptance

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Here's another post where I have to start by apologising for being a bit rubbish.

On 29th November Annalisa Crawford of "Wake up, eat, write, sleep" nominated me for an "One Lovely Blog Award."  I have very rudely got caught up in other things and not thanked Annalisa for the honour, which I would like to do now (I'd also like to thank my parents, my husband and the friends and readers who have supported me!).

It seems that, thankfully, this is not one of these awards where you have to list 10 things that no-one knows about you.  I've just about run out of embarrassing things to admit.

It is one where you are meant to nominate 15 blogs.  I'm not sure that I will manage 15, and I'm not sure if blokes who write blogs will appreciate being called lovely.  I've come to the conclusion that I will still mention male bloggers - but stress that their blogs are lovely in a manly, masculine way.

So here are my recommendations:
  • My lovely husband whose blog "Nerdology" is about films, TV, games and technology.  He's also just started to expand his media empire with a podcast on ITunes called "Nerdology UK."
  • Gill Fraser Lee who writes an excellent blog about the wonderful Jeremy Northam, and who shares writing duties on another blog about Robert Donat (about whom I know very little, but I look forward to finding out more on her blog).
  • I'm going to re-nominate Annalisa because she now has a new lovely blog about fitness, "The Gym Instructor," as well as her original blog about writing: like many people I aim to get fitter in 2012, so it's a good time to start a health and fitness blog.  Don't worry, Annalisa - I won't expect you to nominate another 15.
  • Lady Byron, who I met through Gill and on Twitter, who has a blog about her travel exploits called "Lady Byron's Musings" and another called "Lady Byron's Lancashire Musings."
  • My next blog is an old favourite which I read frequently and enjoy, "Spriteby's Bokhylle," which is about one of my favourite genres: crime fiction.
  • And, of course, Martin's excellent "Seenit" for film and TV news and reviews.
The next few blogs are ones that I have only started to read comparatively recently, but I would highly recommend them ...
  • One of my friends, Beth, writes a couple of blogs which are both well worth checking: an inspiring blog called "Upward Spiral" about "taking control of [her] illnesses so that they no longer control [her]," and another called "Things I Wish They'd Told Me" about parents and children.
  • I've recently started reading a book blog by Joanne called "Being Obscure Clearly."  Joanne writes very eloquently about books and I enjoy her reviews because in some respects we seem to have similar reading tastes; it is good to read her perspective on books that I have read, and also to find out what she thinks of books that I have on my to read list.
  • I'd also recommend John Hood's blog, "Generation Star Wars" about TV, film, Macs and gadgetry.
  • I've recently found Victoria Watson on Twitter, who is a writer and has books available on the Kindle and a great blog called "Elementaryvwatson."
  • I would also highly recommend Andrew Lewin's excellent blog "Taking the Short View," about TV, films and books.
  • And, lastly but certainly not least, "This is Matt Barber," for another take on popular culture.
I think the custom is to post on their blogs to say that I have nominated them, as Annalisa did on mine, but please excuse me from doing that as I am now starting another headache (I can get a note from my Mum, if necessary).  I hope that people who read this might discover a new blog which they might not have known about, and that's great, and if anyone that I recommended wants to pass on the "One Lovely Blog Award," well that's great too ...