Title: Mort (Discworld 4)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Release Date: April 1st, 1989
Subjects and Themes: Death
Page Count: 272 (paperback)
Yesterday was the “official” review post date but I didn’t actually start the book until Sunday, so you’re getting this one fashionably late!
So. Mort. This book’s been hyped to hell and back by everyone and I went into it clutching wide-eyed excitement in one hand and squinty skepticism in the other.
And, well, turns out all you hypers were right, because this is my favourite of the Discworld books so far (which may not be saying a lot seeing as how we’re only four books in, but still).
Here are some reasons why I think the book worked for me:
1. It’s explores a master/apprentice relationship in a macabre profession, which I have a particular weakness for. Professions like gravediggers, morticians, “monstrumologists,” and well, grim reapers. There’s something about the handling of death and the act of sharing that craft with a younger person that I find hopelessly romantic.
Sometimes I think I should have been born in a Victorian gothic novel.
2. I love, love Mort as a character. First of all, he’s an underdog–I can’t not root for those. Second of all, he’s this wonderful mix of teenage eagerness–of wanting to prove himself to others and to himself–and thoughtfulness. He’s utterly endearing and hands-down my favourite of the Discworld protagonists so far.
3. Speaking of endearing, I love this version of Death. He reads like the mysterious, eccentric relative you’ve been sent to live with for the summer. And when you ask your parents what Uncle Tim does for a living, they just flap their hands vaguely and say, “Oh, you know, he does the thing.”
And you go, “What thing?”
“You know…the thing.”
Turns out they can’t quite recall what it is. Strange. And then when you get there you find out that, oh hey, Uncle Tim is in the Grim Reaping business. And he’s kind of awkward and old-fashioned and–true to his reputation–eccentric, but he tries very hard to connect with you, and you can’t help but find it lovable.
He’s not my favourite Death incarnation (that title goes to a certain goth girl created by a different British author), but he’s definitely up there.
4. The humour really clicked with me this time around. It’s weird, because it’s the same humour–it’s still Pratchett at the helm–but with Mort as a main character, it feels…more grounded. Less loud. Still witty but not too gratuitous. It’s hard to explain.
3. It’s touching. I couldn’t really say that about the previous books, but the character dynamics combined with the musings on death and fate makes for a story with a surprising amount of heart.
And Pratchett has a way of dressing up small wisdoms and life’s truths in the most whimsical garb:
History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time.
In short, I loved it a lot more than I thought I would.
So I’m giving this one four and a half elephants riding turtles out of five!