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review 2018-02-07 04:15
Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37, Rincewind #8)
Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37) - Terry Pratchett

The wizards of the Unseen University love their food, alcohol, and tradition which Lord Vetinari exploits to ensure that the chaotic football matches taking place get under control.  Unseen Academicals is Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld book and the last focusing on Rincewind and the wizards of the Unseen University, even though it seemed that they were of secondary concern throughout the book.

 

The wizards at the Unseen University find out that their budget is tied to a trust fund that only pays out if they play at least one football match a year, after realizing this means a change of diet they decide to play a game of football.  This pleases Lord Vetinari who then asks the wizards to organize the sport so it can be taken from the street.  But this changing of the game has an effect on the rest of the city, especially four workers inside the University whose lives and identities turned out to be tied to the success of the new version of football.

 

Although the wizards do have their share of point-of-views, Rincewind hardly appears in the book as well as The Librarian but the focus on Ponder Stibbons somewhat made up for it, they turned out not to be the focus of the book.  In fact the most important character was Mister Nutt, an orc, who was “civilized” and was sent to Ankh-Morpork to change the minds of people about orcs.  Yet Nutt was pushed into the background several times for his friends Trevor Likely, Glenda, and Juliet who had their own story arcs.  All-in-all there was a lot of narratives that created the story, but it all felt unfocused especially when it came to the satire that felt more like painting the numbers than what Pratchett had previously done.

 

While enjoyable, Unseen Academicals is unfortunately all over the place with the narrative focus and set in and around the Unseen University the wizards took a back seat.  Overall the book was good, but it just didn’t grab me and it didn’t make me laugh like previous books.

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review 2018-01-18 23:32
Making Money (Discworld #36, Industrial #5)
Making Money (Discworld, #36) - Terry Pratchett

The financial sector of Ankh-Morpork is dire trouble and Lord Vetinari looks to his Postmaster General to solve the problem, however he doesn’t want the opportunity but somethings are out of his hands.  Making Money is Terry Pratchett’s 36th Discworld novel and the second to follow the conman-turned-civil servant Moist von Lipwig who is beginning to pine for thrills and suddenly finds himself in the midst of them.

 

With the Post Office running as smoothly as possible and facing plain paperwork every day, Moist von Lipwig is looking for thrills and excitement in a variety of ways including scaling the outside of the Post Office and breaking into his own office.  Lord Vetinari attempts to sell Moist on taking over the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint, but Moist is satisfied with his life.  However Bank chairwoman Topsy Lavish changes her will to make Moist guardian of her dog, Mr. Fusspot, to whom she leaves her controlling interest in the Bank to.  Suddenly Moist is taking care of a dog and running the Bank and Mint much to his annoyance and that of the Lavish family and Mr. Bent, the head cashier.  Moist begins thinking about changes to the banking system but then is inundated with numerous challenges first from Mr. Bent, the Lavishes including one that wants to become Lord Vetinari (not Patrician just Vetinari), a former partner blackmailing him about his conman past, missing gold from the bank vault, and finally his fiancée arranging for an army of golems to arrive in Ankh-Morpork.  Soon Moist past is exposed, though no one cares, after saving the city from the golems as well as using them to base his new paper currency and is still alive at the end of the book which is the least he wants out of each day.

 

Moist is one of the most original characters that Pratchett has come up with and like Going Postal, I enjoyed following his story.  However, like the previous mentioned book this one is not up to the quality that Pratchett is known for.  While Moist, Vetinari, and Adora Belle Dearheart were well written, the overall plot and the numerous subplots just seemed to meander.  Pratchett attempted to avoid Moist doing exactly what he did in Going Postal by having him deal with other challenges, but they were a mishmash of ideas that didn’t seem to come together and pages were wasted with the Cosmo Lavish subplot that took up pages without really accomplishing anything.

 

Honestly, it was hard to rate Making Money because while I enjoyed reading Moist’s point-of-view, the overall plot of the book was just serviceable as it twist and turned based on the questionable subplots intertwined with it.  If you are a first time Discworld reader, don’t read this book until you’ve sampled some of Pratchett’s other better quality writing.  If you are a veteran Discworld reader then focusing on enjoying the point-of-view of Moist even though the book’s quality is just okay.

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text 2018-01-02 21:28
The Science of Discworld - reshelved for now
The Science Of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

I'm going to have to reshelve this book unfinished for now. This has been about the hardest Christmas I've ever had. My father has been - and is still - very ill. He was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago and has just come home. I've been out of town to be with him and to help my mother. I really haven't done any reading, other than a few pages here and there. I just haven't had the time or energy. And now I'm home, I realized that I left this book at their house. So I'm just going to reshelve it and will get back to it later, once I get my hands on it again. 

 

I'm back now, but am spending most of my time catching up at work and with the mess I left at home. Hopefully I'll be back to reading and posting regularly soon. 

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review 2018-01-01 17:56
The Science of the Discworld (updated version)
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Series: Science of the Discworld #1

 

Although I've read this book before, this was my first read of the updated version. I haven't done an exhaustive comparison, but it looks like a few of the wizard sections were shuffled around to make room for a couple extra chapters, one of which was the obviously updated one that mentioned a dinosaur show I'd never heard of and talked about feathers.

 

Overall the book suffers a bit because it's now somewhat dated and I've been exposed to the content before because I've already read it and it's pretty basic stuff that I've read in other books and so on. But it still manages to be interesting and the wizards are awesome.

 

One thing that I either hadn't noticed in my earlier read or just didn't remember because I didn't understand it at the time was the attempt to explain the difference between understanding a true description of a physical model and mathematically describing a physical model in such as way as to yield accurate predictions. Since my description of this is all wishy-washy, here's what they actually write on page 103:

"Because our human-level theories are approximations, we get very excited when some more general principle leads to more accurate results. We then, unless we are careful, confuse 'the new theory gives results that are closer to reality than the old' with 'the new theory's rules are closer to the real rules of the universe than the old one's rules were'. But that doesn't follow: we might be getting a more accurate description even though our rules differ from whatever the universe 'really' does. What it really does may not involve following neat, tidy rules at all."

Another way of capturing this idea is the lies-to-children concept that infuriated so many others reading this book. It's a good way to remind ourselves that our understanding or explanation may not be actually "true" and we should be wary of conflating accurate enough predictions or descriptions with truth as we read more in depth on various topics. Anyway, I feel that concept is super important and I wanted to underline it here.

 

Although it may be a bit dated now, it wasn't when I first read this book as a teenager, and I still think it's a good overview of the general science involved despite it being pretty basic. Plus there's wizards! And Rincewind gets to devise a system of sorting rocks based on how friendly they are.

 

Previous updates:

162 of 385 pages

32 of 385 pages

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text 2017-12-30 20:47
Reading progress update: I've read 162 out of 385 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

"If you want to reduce carbon dioxide permanently, and not just cut short-term emissions, the best bet is to build up a big library at home, locking carbon into paper, or put plenty of asphalt on roads. These don't sound like 'green' activities, but they are. You can cycle on the roads if it makes you feel better."

 

I've always liked this quote although I'd forgotten about the library comment. Now I just need to remember to use it as my excuse the next time my mother complains that I have too many books....

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