I’m excited to continue with the Terry Pratchett tribute. Today, I’m talking about one of my favourites.  Mort depicts the story of  a young boy who becomes Death’s apprentice. No, you read that correctly. Mort attends the huge apprenticeship fair (for lack of a better term) and is chosen by no one. Then, as they consider leaving, Death shows up on his horse and chooses Mort. Mort now must go to Death’s home, where he meets Ysabell, Death’s adopted daughter, and Albert, his assistant. Everything is black. A bit like Batman? I thought so. Mort proceeds to learn Death’s job, and do Death’s job… until, of course, everything goes horribly wrong. Mort takes the wrong life (so now the Universe must correct itself) to save the princes (because that’s always the story), and Death goes on vacation, to find out what mortals do.

I found this absolutely brilliant. I loved it. Terry Pratchett managed to make Death my favourite character. I now look for the books that have him playing large roles, although he almost always has a cameo (any time someone dies or has a near Death experience). Death has some profound wisdom, and really amazing one-liners. If you like dry humor, you’ll find this hilarious. Does it make this post look slightly morbid? Yes. But it’s worth it. Read Mort, and you’ll understand.

Mort is indicative of Pratchett’s humor, notions of logic, and ideas of philosophy.  I love his humor, and I love his themes.

Terry Pratchett Toasting Death... That's just too great.

Life and Death: You probably guessed this one, but he ups the proverbial ante. Mort knows what life is like, but Death doesn’t. Mort isn’t exactly “dead,” though, and the others at Death’s home are in a timelessness that defeats age, and thus dying. Are they alive? You decide.

Inevitability of Truth: Can you change reality? What does it take to alter fate? Is it possible? I won’t tell you how, but the Universe on Discworld must right itself. The true destiny will simply happen… eventually… more or less.

Irrelevant? Probably. Awesome? Yes.

People Operate in Their Own Truths: When Mort “saves” the princess, the kingdom forgets she is there. They can’t believe that the alter to their “truth” is real, even though it is right in front of them. They become confused. Well, in our world, people live on their own truths. From this we see failed solutions continuously used, biases that are defunct, ideas about how the world should operate, resentments, and prejudices. We can’t escape our own perceptions, our own views of “truth.”

Doing Right: “Right” is subjective, and you may have to sacrifice a lot to do what is “right.”

Death, from "The Colour of Magic"

The Wisdom of Death: Death is very zen about things. He has a very hard job, and he has to come to grips with it. We see how he manages this as he teaches Mort about the Duty.

Duty: Sometimes unpleasant, it must be done. When Death’s Duty is not performed, the world doesn’t function. Here, we reiterate accountability and responsibility.

Sense of Self: Mort begins to lose his as he works with Death, after Death leaves, and not just because everyone keeps calling him “boy.”

Yeah, from "Good Omens" and not Discworld, but still...

These are just a few of the themes in Mort. It’s a great book for adults, and also good for ‘tweens and up. Younger children may find the content too advanced, and the split plot confusing. This book works read aloud if done well, but there is a lot to be said for reading it yourself, particularly with the importance of the way words are printed.

Inklings Recommended

Hilarious, quotable, and very, very smart.


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