by velocibadgergirl

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I finished my re-read of Mort today. I enjoyed it a lot, though it wasn't as well-done as I remember. It has been interesting watching Pratchett's concept of Death (the character, of course) evolve. In the first two Discworld books, Death was more...not exactly malicious....but more deadly. Upon once again being denied the chance to reap Rincewind's soul, Death cut a mayfly out of the air. In later books, it is very clear that Death does not kill; he merely collects after the fact.

In Mort, the Death of later books is beginning to take shape. He objects to the mistreatment of cats. He makes it clear to his apprentice Mort that his job does not involve killing. He goes on a short-lived holiday to experience the thrills of the flesh and even finds a job as a short-order cook. However, in a scene toward the end of the book, Death knocks over and breaks several life-timers (hourglasses) during a fight, which seems inherently irresponsible. It's also inconsistent, as Death is dueling with his apprentice in anger for Mort mucking about with fate. Yet Death seems to not notice the premature ending of a half-dozen lives, which is surely quite a bit disruptive to fate.

Pratchett plays around with the idea of an alternate reality, a device he will exploit successfully in Jingo. The character of Mort is believable and intensely likeable. My only real complaint about Mort is that the ending feels somewhat tacked-on. The characters are in Death's world and all is uncertain, and then you turn the page and Mort is suddenly married to Death's daughter, who is Duchess of Sto Helit even though she had no claim to the title before the previous Duke's lifetimer was smashed during the fight. The Princess who Mort saved from assassination--which created the alternate reality--is Queen of her kingdom. All is well. But it just feels too neat. Death explains it away by saying he had a chat with the gods. Fine, I guess...but it seems like a lazy way to wrap up a number of loose ends.

Overall, I was satisfied with the book, but it definitely shows a Discworld that's still experiencing growing pains.