Monday, May 30, 2016

Fates Worse than Death by Kurt Vonnegut

Aside from reviewing this book, which is really nothing more than a collection of previously-published essays, I want to share how this book made me feel. 

I love Vonnegut. Sirens of Titan, Galapagos, and so many others are up there with my all-time favorites, so it was saddening to be told, by the author himself, that he just isn't invigorated by being a writer. It simply pays the bills and his books are so out there because he's clinically depressed. 

The essays are all over the place and are interesting enough - covering war, conservation, bits of Vonnegut's own life - all the biggies that appear in his fiction. He really has been around long enough to have met everybody. His name-dropping throughout surprised me more than once, but again, why did he not love what he wrote? Why did it seem to do nothing for him that his books blow people's minds? 

I realize Vonnegut must have been a very complex person, and it's not like I can go and ask him all the why's that bubbled up after reading this book. Not only was his life full of so many different situations, his mental state affected his interpretations of the world around him, and he saw a lot of messed up stuff. Yet, I had hoped his non-fiction would bring me closer to him as a writer than I feel like I already am because of his fiction. As a writer myself, seeing inside the mind of writers I admire has always been such a special experience. This book didn't do that. He may be the first writer who I feel is completely unattached to his writing.

Mostly, Vonnegut reminds me of an older version of my Dad, born into my grandfather's generation, but imbued with the lack of trust in the world around them. I just don't know what I think of him now, but I refuse to let it lead me to love his works any less. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Death "lives" in Discworld, and he's having an identity crisis. Maybe he has been detached from humanity for too long, or maybe he's jealous of the complexity of life - either way, Death's solution is to take on an apprentice. When you're alive though, being Death's apprentice is a very strange place to be, and Mort definitely doesn't have an easy time of it. In fact, as Death delves deeper into his study of life, Mort is forced to pick up the slack. The one issue, Mort is still human (and alive) and humans make mistakes.

The cast of characters in this Discworld book are all a little but snotty or snooty - and it works. Of course, Death is full of himself and Mort is snooty in his ignorance of just about everything, but we also have a pair of wizards (think they're better than everyone,) a princess who would be Queen (snob,) and Death's living daughter (adopted.) They all have issues, but are brought together when Mort makes a major mistake on the job. He lets someone slated to die, live.

The fun storytelling, crazy action, and unique sense of humor that populates Discworld novels makes them all worth reading. It's an alternative world where anything can happen (and does,) and the ridiculous isn't silly, but funny and entertaining in an intelligent way. I've enjoyed every book I've read in this series, and especially enjoy being under no obligation to read them in order. Pick any title that sounds interesting and welcome to Discworld.

Other Discwold books I've reviewed: