Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Blog Fantastic 045: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett Review

Terry Pratchett passed away earlier this year and like many of his fans, it hit me pretty hard. I’ve only read a small fraction of his Discworld series and none of his other work, but even with so few books under my belt, his mastery of a particular kind of novel is simply unbelievable. I’m regularly amazed that more people don’t talk about him and how simply excellent his writing is. He continuously does things in his books that should be impossible. There’s no way these things should work. Of course we had plenty of excellent articles written about him last spring after his passing, but I find Pratchett simply isn’t part of the regular conversation as some of his peers sitting next to him on the fantasy shelves. Actually, that’ll never happen because Pratchett’s written so many books he easily takes up a shelf or two on his own. My point is that he’s not talked about enough, at least as much as I think he should be talked about.

I’ve tried to rectify that by writing reviews of his Discworld novels as I read them. I read about two per year and they’re always a treat. I usually go to them looking for something lighthearted. They always succeed at making me laugh but Pratchett always delivers a lot of substance to his books. I’m still surprised by this every time it happens. I prepare for it, yet it still hits me when things get really philosophical. Pratchett has the ability to make you laugh and think really, really hard.  

Pratchett has a way (quite unintentionally, I’m sure) of making me feel like an incompetent twit. Kind of like the wizards of Discworld, which is appropriate considering my gender and ineptitude. I have no idea why, but as much as I enjoy the Discworld series, I have a very hard time reviewing those novels. It’s not a problem unique to Pratchett. I’ve noticed before that I sometimes struggle a lot to write a decent review of a book I absolutely love. Other times though, it just comes pouring out. I can’t explain it, but there it is. All of my Discworld reviews in The Blog Fantastic archives kind of suck. Some are slightly better than others, but nothing I’m truly proud of. Unfortunately, I’ve got another one to add to that list and there will certainly be more in the future.

I think that the main reason I find it hard to review books by Pratchett is that he’s so much smarter and craftier than I am. His plots circle around and twist and he drops knowledge and mind expanding ideas on the reader on every other page. I’ve come to the realization that I can barely keep up with Pratchett. For all the great bits that I understand and enjoy in Wyrd Sisters and other Discworld novels, Pratchett’s level of knowledge, wisdom, and cleverness are in an entirely different league. At might best I don’t even reach his level of skill on a slow day. Reading the sixth novel in the Discworld series proved this to me once again.

Cover art by Josh Kirby.

Wyrd Sisters is the second novel in the Witches storyline. We’re reintroduced to Granny Weatherwax who is one of my top three favourite characters in the entire series. She first appeared in Equal Rites which was the first real excellent novel in the series, the first two being quite uneven in tone and quality. This volume is based on some of the works of William Shakespeare, particularly Hamlet and Macbeth. Pratchett uses those classic tales as the basis for his story and uses familiar characters as a starting point for his. Weatherwax and two other local witches make up the classic group of Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters from Macbeth. The main plot also deals with a king’s death and the problems that arise in finding a successor. Excellent character work, a very energetic and chaotic plot, combine together to produce an excellent satirical novel developing the themes of patriotism and government.

There it is Discworld fans, my rather awful and generic review of Wyrd Sisters. Please, pretty please, do not let this crap reviewer’s commentary about this book dissuade you from reading it. Like all of the Discworld books it’s rather excellent. Especially excellent if you pay attention. Pratchett’s always had something important to say in every one of his books. Luckily for us, he had a highly entertaining way to deliver those messages. He’s the kind of guy who could get you to eat your literary equivalent of brussel sprouts but made them taste like pizza and cookies. Clearly, he was a magician with words, and like the best spells they’ll likely be permanent and stick around to work their stuff on unsuspectingly on the overly critical, the cynical, and those with short attention spans for decades, if not hundreds of years to come. If you’ve made it to the end of this review you should kick yourself in the pants and read your way to the end of Wyrd Sisters, it’s guaranteed to be a significantly more enjoyable experience. You should probably lend it to a friend once you’re done as it’ll likely do them some good.

Need a copy? You can find Wyrd Sisters at Amazon for under $10. 

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