Mort by Terry Pratchett
Mort is the fourth of Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD novels. It stands alone, meaning that you don’t need to read the previous novels to enjoy Mort. It’s better than the previous novels, too, so it might be a good place for new readers to start.
Mortimer is a naïve but pensive — and therefore slightly odd — young man who doesn’t fit in with his farming community. It looks like he’s going to be jobless until Death arrives and chooses him as an apprentice. Why does Death need an apprentice? He has become bored with his immortal life and wants to travel to Ankh-Morpork so he can experience some humanity.
After only a little bit of training, Mort is left in charge. His job is to collect the souls of people who are about to depart the mortal world. When Mort becomes infatuated with a princess who’s about to die, he can’t stop himself from interfering with her death and he manages to “royally” screw things up. With the help of Death’s adopted daughter Ysabell, Mort must figure out how to put the princess and the world back right again, all without neglecting to do his job.
Unlike the three previous DISCWORLD novels, Pratchett has almost everything right in Mort. The characters are quirky and vibrant, especially Death. (Almost all of the characters are new to this story, though Rincewind the bumbling wizard makes a cameo appearance.) The plot of Mort is exciting and fast-moving, and the humor is truly funny. Especially entertaining is Death’s search for happiness. He tries many of the things he sees humans doing for fun (e.g., getting drunk, gambling, doing the Conga at a party) and can’t figure out why they’re so appealing. He keeps telling himself he’s having FUN, but he can’t quite convince himself. Pratchett is really making FUN of us, of course, and most readers will probably find themselves wondering, along with Death, what exactly “FUN” is.
There’s a completely unbelievable romance in Mort, but that’s unlikely to bother most readers — we’re not reading Terry Pratchett for romance, are we? In fact, the more ridiculous, the better in a DISCWORLD novel, and Mort is definitely ridiculous.
There are several allusions to our own world in Mort, making us wonder just what the relationship is between our world and the Discworld. I think some readers will be intrigued by these allusions while others will find that they momentarily throw the reader out of the story.
I listened to the audio version of Mort which was produced by Isis Audio Books and narrated by Nigel Planer who does a wonderful job, as usual.
Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.
Discworld for Kids:
I always liked Death because he was so earnest (and I love the Death of Rats!) This character-line picked up for me when Death’s grand-daughter got into the picture, but I did enjoy Mort. Thanks for the entertaining review, Kat.