Sunday, January 22, 2012

Making Money

Making Money, by Terry Pratchett

Official blurb:
It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Who would not to wish to be the man in charge of Ankh-Morpork’s Royal Mint and the bank next door?

It’s a job for life. But, as former con-man Moist von Lipwig is learning, the life is not necessarily for long.

The Chief Cashier is almost certainly a vampire. There’s something nameless in the cellar (and the cellar itself is pretty nameless), it turns out that the Royal Mint runs at a loss. A 300 year old wizard is after his girlfriend.  He’s about to be exposed as a fraud, but the Assassins Guild might get him first. In fact, a lot of people want him dead.

Oh. And every day he has to take the Chairman for walkies.

Everywhere he looks he’s making enemies.

What he should be doing is . . . Making Money!

I read this with Donald, after we watched the made-for-TV movie adaptation of Going Postal, which is a (the?) previous (first?) installment in the story of the main character, Moist von Lipwig.  Before watching that adaptation, I was skeptical of anything written by Terry Pratchett, even though I knew Donald had enjoyed some of his novels.  It wasn't anything personal against Pratchett; it was just that I'd mentally labeled his writing as "Fantasy" and had similarly labeled "Fantasy" as "Not My Thing, Really"-- even though, ok, I did like the Harry Potter series... and the Lord of the Rings trilogy... and probably several other things that might fall into the fantasy genre.

The thing is, genre is rarely cut and dried.  Usually, the same work of fiction could legitimately be placed in at least two or three genres, depending on who's doing the placing and what element or aspect of the work they choose to give the greatest weight.

For whatever reason, I am prejudiced against "Fantasy".  I realize and admit it.  When I hear "Fantasy", I think, "Oh boy, dragons and swords, Quests, people with silly, complicated names, muscular mighty men (diamonds in the rough, secret heirs to the throne), wizened wizards, (all-too-often scantily-clad) battle-maidens-- and a bunch of  fancy-schmancy, utterly pointless 'World-Building' that makes a 200-page story mushroom into an 800-page 'Saga'.  Meh, no thanks."  Now, I don't know if I've ever actually read a fantasy novel where those things were true-- or rather, where that was all the novel had to offer (because let's be honest, several of those stereotypes are pretty accurate, in many works of fantasy)-- but that's what I envision, and it doesn't appeal.  (Not to me, that is.) 

However, I'm trying to change my bias against fantasy, because there are so many instances where something that could easily be labeled as such does hold my interest-- much more than my (perhaps unfair) idea of "Fantasy".  Yes, there's world-building, but that can be a good thing when it isn't the whole focus of the novel, or when it's well done, woven into the story instead of presented in mind-numbing blocks of "world history".  There may be dragons and swords (A Game of Thrones comes to mind), but that doesn't have to overpower other elements of the story. Basically, I ought to give fantasy a fair chance, precisely because of authors like Terry Pratchett.  If an author writes compelling / amusing / entertaining stories about relatable characters, I don't much care whether they're set in Middle Earth or Minnesota. 

Now, on to this particular book.

Was it my most favorite book ever?  Well, no.  Am I likely to encounter my favorite book ever, in my thirties or onward?  No.  I am of the belief that it's extremely difficult for books we read as adults to come close to "measuring up" to the books we loved as adolescents/young adults.  It's only natural; we're more impressionable at that age, and we haven't been exposed to as much.  The first time you encounter a particular literary device, genre, or type of character, it's completely fresh and new, and you can't help but admire the author's supreme creativity.  You bond with characters and stories differently, under those circumstances. By the time you're thirty, you've been there, done that.  ("Yeah, that was pretty good, but I've seen this before.")  ...Besides, I hardly ever call anything "my favorite", anymore.  Or in other words, I don't have a single favorite book.  (Having a favorite anything feels like something I left behind in 7th or 8th grade, honestly.)

All that said (wow, I'm in a rambly mood this morning!), I did enjoy the book-- parts of it very much-- and if Pratchett's other works are comparable to Making Money, I am certainly interested in reading more. 

A few more specific observations/comments/etc:

•  Pratchett really enjoys having his characters end sentences with "yes" (as a question), doesn't he?

•  I love the fact that the world where this is set includes fantastical beings from all over the map-- werewolves, vampires, golems, dwarves, imps... and too many more to name, really.

•  This fantasy world (Discworld)  has a slightly Victorian England vibe that I like. (Obviously.  It should go without saying.   I mean, don't you know me at all?)

•  This novel felt more like humor than fantasy.  Witty, clever humor that just happens to be set in a fantasy world populated by fantastical beings (as well as very many beings that could at least pass for human). 

...And that's all that comes to mind (since I don't believe I took any notes while reading this one... I very rarely do when I'm reading aloud).

I give it a thumbs-up.