Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Terry Pratchett: Color of Magic

You have to love Terry Pratchett. His skewed, slanted and twisted view on the lives of the people in his book easily makes him one of the most hilarious authors I have ever read (and for me, that's saying a lot!)

I'm frequently struck by the wonderful way he describes the plight of his characters. Take Rincewind for example, the most inept wizard in the history of the highly magical Discworld and yet…the most capable survivor in the history of that world as well. So capable that one of the eight great spells of creation lodged itself in his mind in order to protect itself from those who would misuse it. So that’s really saying a lot…assuming of course that the eight great spells of creation are truly wise enough to find the very best candidate for the job. And assuming that fortune continues to favor the foolish, (to which Rincewind definitely qualifies). Alright so we’re basically making a lot of assumptions with this one. However, a far better character witness to Rincewind’s ability to survive would be in the form of Death himself. One of the most disturbing things a man could ever learn is that he has become Death's hobby! Which is exactly what Rincewind becomes in this book. He is so adept at surviving everything that happens to him that Death begins to look at him as a hobby. Trying to make sure he meets his eventual end, but never quite managing it. And for Death…that’s saying a lot!

By far the best character in the book however, isn’t even human. Luggage, as its character description in the back of the book states: Know it, Love it, Fear it. Seriously though, who wouldn’t want a completely homicidal piece of luggage following them around on 100 tiny little legs? I know I would! Not to mention the ability to put your dirty clothes in and be able to pull out freshly pressed clean clothes in the morning. Its absolute homicidal hatred of all life except for its owner has elevated it to the status of one of the greatest characters in the history of fantasy literature…at least in my opinion.

If you have read any of my other book reviews, you will know that quantum physics is a favorite hobby of mine. Because of that the concept of a universe unraveling its own space-time continuum in order to prevent a paradox is a source of endless amusement to me. When faced with the prospect of several quintillion atoms (the precise number of atoms per fictional character being shifted across the barriers between quantum spaces being unknown) importing in from another reality, the universe unraveled its own space-time continuum merged the characters atoms with existing pre-matter then fast forwarded time to the "present" where they (of course) ended up merged with two other individuals from that reality of a remarkably similar nature, only to have those atoms leave again (in mid-flight) and return to their home reality. Which I think is a fantastic way to avoid the inevitable annihilation that a quantum level paradox would cause. Unravel space-time; merge the atoms with pre-matter when it was not so volatile, then fast forward time until those atoms can leave again. Fantastic!!!

Overall, another incredible success by Terry. I laughed so hard I cried…which is of course another paradox…COOL!!!

Brian Lumley: Necroscope

This was a fascinating book that dealt, in my opinion, three distinct aspects. The necroscope was by far the most unique and exciting; the necromancer that incorporated all that was dark in death, and the vampire or at least an interesting take on the vampire.

The necroscope, Harry Keogh was a fascinating character that saw a great deal of character development throughout the book. The uncertain and outcast youth becomes, through his “friends” a confidant and resourceful man. His powers also changed from being a little bit of help in a pinch, to one of the most powerful men ever to have lived. The idea of a man who can speak with the dead, with the large and the small, and the increadible things he could learn from the greatest minds to have ever existed. The very thought is almost beyond comprehension. And when you are able to get those great minds talking to each other, the possibilities are unimaginable. Brian Lumley however does push the boundaries of imagination when he introduces the concept of the Mobius continuum. It smacks of the quantum physics that I love to explore. If, according to Mobius everything is connected to everything else on the same plane, not separate, where and what could you truly accomplish?

In the necromancer Dragosanni you get the perfect foil for Harry. A man who has taken the interest of the dead in a darker direction as instead of talking to the dead for their secrets, he rips their secrets from their very bodies. It is almost fitting that he falls to an even greater evil in the form of the Wamphyri. As he reaches the pinnacle of his powers, he realizes that he is no match for the awesome powers he now faces in the form of Harry Keogh, and seeking out the knowledge of the vampire, falls prey to their evil before he falls to Harry.

Finally the Vampire in this story take a fascinating twist in the realm of vampire myths. The concept that the vampire is actually a symbiotic organism, that lives inside the host body, altering it into an entirely new state of being is a fascinating take on the legend. Although the descriptions are of a creature out of a humanoid nightmare, it does cover many of the explanations as to why they are so hard to kill, so long lived, and so forth. All in all, a most interesting idea.

I would have to say that I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to explore new ideas in the vampire mythology, as well as those who enjoy thinking about the possibilities of quantum physics and it’s possible applications.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Terry Pratchett's: Equal Rites

You have to love a book that starts with the cinematic description of a totally improbable world that in addition to being visually stimulating includes its own editorial commentary. You also have to love a book that is capable of cracking no less than eight jokes in just the first page.
This book is a hilariously fascinating look at the nature of gender equality as seen through the eyes of a young girl who has been mistakenly gifted with wizardly (male) powers and a very experienced witch (female) who is trying to take care of her.
The truly lovely part about this work is the author's ability to satirize everything under the sun and above it too. One of my favorite quotes was where the girl-wizard was walking through the market and setting off random magic as she went. "A box full of marzipan ducks on a nearby stall came to life and whirred past the stallholder to land, quacking happily, in the river (where, by dawn they had all melted: that's natural selection for you)"
I think the part that I enjoyed the most, however, was when Simon (an aspiring young wizard) gives a lecture about one of my favorite subjects, quantum physics, to a group of senior wizards in the Unseen University. He did not, of course, call it that but it was still quantum physics. The belief that everything is made up of non-existent particles that group together to form solid matter, but only because the collective consciousness believes in it. And that if that belief were to ever fade, all of existence would wink out. It was awesome! I also liked the theory that having power and not using it, was more powerful than using the power in the first place. But, in order to accomplish this, you had to have the power to begin with so that not using it would be a choice. Which of course, is the entire point. That the act of choosing, whether it be choosing your actions, choosing your feelings, or choosing your reality, is more powerful than any other force in the world (or worlds as the case may be.)
Overall, a fantastic read that kept me laughing and thinking for hours.