Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Book 23 of 2012: The Wee Free Men

I've been hurtling through the remaining Discworld books recently. The reading bug caught up with me again this March, presumably because I have an assignment that I should really actually be working on instead so therefore everything is looking much more interesting and fun instead. It makes me a little bit sad to think that I'm getting through them all so quickly because I get excited each time I come around to my top shelf and the next Discworld book.

Anyway, The Wee Free Men is the second of the young adult Discworld novels and the first featuring Tiffany Aching. Tiffany is a young witch (although when the book begins she isn't really yet) whose brother is stolen by the 'Queen' and who she sets about trying to rescue with the help of a host of small blue pictsies.
When I met Terry Pratchett, many, many years ago, The Wee Free Men had been published fairly recently (in fact, I think that perhaps it was part of the publicity for the book that he gave the talk I attended). I remember him talking about the idea of the pictsies but aside from brief mentions of them in other books in the series, I hadn't read this one before, so this was my first real introduction to them.
"Anything could make Wentworth sticky. Washed and dried and left in the middle of a clean floor for five minutes, Wentworth would be sticky. It didn't seem to come from anywhere. He just got sticky."
(Page 11)
I actually have a funny feeling that he read the first chapter to us when we met him. It was the strangest thing reading it for myself. Either I've picked it up and just read the first chapter on my own at some point, or he read it to us. I knew exactly what was going to happen before I read it.

I have enjoyed the previous glimpses of the Wee Free Men in previous books, but it was really good to learn more about them. Terry Pratchett has such a fantastic way of creating the whole Discworld, I loved the whole social structure of the pictsies, with the Kelda and all the men. I loved the way they spoke too. They're deliberately meant to be a bit of a mickey take of Scots and it's done very well. I love the way that the accent is reproduced in the book. There are a couple of points where Tiffany accidentally slips into their dialect, which is hilarious because I've been here for almost half my life and I find myself doing it still but I'm so English it sounds ridiculous.
"'We'd best move on. We lost some of the lads.'
'You mean they're dead?' Tiffany whispered. The sun was shining brightly again, the skylarks were back... and people were dead.
'Ach, no,' said Rob. 'We're the ones who's deid. Did ye not know that?'"
(Page 119)

As always, the humour is brilliant. I know that Discworld humour isn't for everyone, but it's so clever. I always like it when I get a little nod or reference to something in the real world. For example, the Wee Free Men make use of war poets, who recite (bad) poetry to scare off their enemies. These poets are called Gonnagles and the particular one who crops up in this story is called William, a little nod to William McGonagall (seriously, if you've never heard of him, Google him).
"But she thought there should be a word meaning 'a word that sounds like the noise a thing would make if that thing made a noise even though, actually, it doesn't, but would it if did'."
(Page 137)

I'm really looking forward to the next Tiffany Aching book (A Hat Full Of Sky) which I believe I started reading or at least skimmed through a few years back but when I realised it was the second in the series, I put it down. I love her as a character and as I'm a big fan of the Witches books, I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress. I feel like of like Equal Rites could have worked well as a young adult book. I think these would also be a good introduction to the Discworld books for someone who didn't know where to begin, starting with The Wee Free Men and then moving onto the original Witches books. It's a good bridge in the series, if you don't mind going backwards.
"Somewhere a voice went: 'Ooooooooooooeeerrrrrr...'
Rob struggled in Tiffany's grip. 'Quick, put me doon!' he yelled. 'There's gonna be poetry!'"
(Page 198)

And as a random, totally unrelated note. I very nearly picked up and American copy of the book while I was in Oban on Saturday. I had no reason to buy it but I did get very excited at first because Oxfam had a massive stack of Discworld books (which went more or less up to the same place in the series that I've got up to, so no cheap secondhand Discworld books for me). Having a totally different cover to all the others meant that it just stood out and caught my eye.
I've now finished the entire first shelf of my bookcase now, which means it won't be too long before I'm actually finished with all the Discworld books to date. Next up is one of my favourites, Monstrous Regiment which I've only read once, but absolutely loved. I'm also heading out of the familiar now. I think the most recent book I read in the series was Going Postal then I didn't have time to read them, or didn't have the books available, and then I made the decision to read the whole series in order. It won't be long until I'm done with them all. Which is a bit of a sad thought.
"'A few sharks were involved, that kind of thing,' said Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock.
'Oh, aye, a few sharkies,' said Rob Anybody shrugging. 'And one o' them octopussies -'
'It was a giant squid,' said William the gonnagle.
'Aye, well, it was a kebab pretty quickly,' said Daft Wullie."
(Page 295)

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