Category Archives: Terry Pratchett

My review of Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’…

This time I’m reviewing Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’, his book of collected non-fiction. I have been a fan of Mr. Pratchett’s for as long as I can remember, I read his and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ in my teens and every Discworld novel since then, along with most of the rest of Pratchett’s output. But before reading this book I hadn’t read much of his non-fiction output and so this collection was a joy to find and devour. I also think that it is fair to say that Pratchett, along with Gaiman, is a huge influence on my work and writings (who isn’t influenced by this pair, though) and reader reviews have even made that comparison more directly than I would ever dare (review here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z), which is lovely! Anyway, onto my review.

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So, ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ includes all manner of articles Pratchett wrote from the 1970’s to almost current day where he talks about things ranging from what his life as a writer was really like both at home and on the road, to his thoughts on paying taxes or on education, to how much his life changed since he announced that he was suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s. The articles range from the absolutely hilarious to the heartbreakingly poignant and I don’t remember the last time I read or saw anything that made me laugh as much as this book. And it’s non-fiction! But Pratchett knows how to set up and deliver a joke and the speech’s that he gave must surely have been absolute barnstormers. I had to continuously pause when I was reading the book so that I could stop myself from laughing too loudly on the train to work. I think I might even be scaring the other passengers a little! Oh, well.

Pratchett also covered matters that he clearly felt strongly about including the need for regulated assisted suicide in the UK (or assisted death as Pratchett prefers to call it) so as to reduce the suffering of people with terminal illnesses to how poorly funded Alzheimer’s research is compared to things like cancer research. These articles obviously have a different feel that the openly comic ones that the book starts with but they are nevertheless a joy to read.  As with Gaiman’s ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/zklvpvp), there’s a strong sense when reading this book of the author talking directly to the reader and that is just wonderful! As a young, self-published author with no agent, publishing house or support network, I am yet to go on a book tour or do a signing but I’m hoping to get to that point someday and Pratchett’s words on what it is like and how to cope with the stresses of said life are invaluable. These articles are also incredibly entertaining too which always helps!

As a fan of his work, I’ve read the vast majority of Pratchett’s output (I still have to read ‘Nation’, his best book according to the author, so I shall definitely have to hunt that out) and this is one of the one’s that I have enjoyed the most. I expected to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as a I did. ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ is a joy to read from start to finish, through the early articles and letters onto his life as an author to his fight against Alzheimer’s and how much his life changed when he announced he was suffering from the disease. I highly recommend this book to any and all writers out there as well as to fans of his work who simply want more of his writings to read, even if what we all really want is more Discworld novels.  Pratchett has left an incredible legacy and this is one part of said legacy that deserves to be read and enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. So go out and read it people!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The View from the Cheap Seats’…

In case it isn’t quite clear from my previous ‘rambing’ blog posts, Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author. I have loved his work for as long as I can remember from reading his and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Good Omens’ in the 90’s as a teenager, to discovering ‘The Graveyard Book’ in my local library many years later, I’ve always read everything of his that I can get my hands on. I’ve enjoyed all of his novels and most of his short-story collections, as well as his excellent comics especially Sandman (which I will be buying in the beautiful omnibus edition when funds allow). I’ve never read anything of Gaiman’s that I didn’t find to be beautifully written and that I didn’t take a lot away from. Anyway, onwards to the review!

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‘The View from the Cheap Seats’ is a non-fiction, mish-mash of many random things such as the introduction to books written by friends of Gaiman, including the late Terry Pratchett, to blog posts taking in such topics as his appearance at the Oscars (from which the title of this book is taken) or a heartbreaking visit to Syria, to musings on friends like Charles Vess or Dave McKean and with ‘View’ Gaiman’s passion is clearly on display. He writes about things that matter to him and that he wants you to care about and everything written by Gaiman is worth reading, in my opinion.

I would always recommend reading Gaiman’s work but ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ is something a little different, something that may be passed over by readers of his due to the fact that it’s not a work of fiction. I would urge people to not do that. Find the time for this sizeable tome, you won’t be disappointed and a lot of worthwhile information will be conveyed to you. I also felt with this volume that Gaiman was almost reading these exchanges to me (as it often feels like when you listen to his audio version of Neverwhere) and that was something I enjoyed very much. He is a writer who is always looking to improve, always striving to be better, and someone who does not want to stay still for too long, nor to repeat what he has already done, something which many writers seem to settle into once a certain level of success and fame is reached. Reading Gaiman always makes me want to be a better writer and I think that is one of the best things about reading his work.

When my wife and I recently saw Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in a New Statesman event, several things stood out. One is how unbelievably talented this pair is (but also how hard they work) as well as how much they adore each other. Second, they obviously give a shit about the world around them and want to do what they can to improve said world. Gaiman’s visit to Syria, and subsequent appearances on news networks, as well as his blog post (which is included here) demonstrate that he would very much like to contribute to both the conversation and to finding a solution to the problems of the world. And given the state of the world, I think most of us know how he feels.

I got the copy that I read from my local library (something I’m sure Gaiman would like) but I may at some point pick up a copy of this book if only to, hopefully, get it signed (along with my hardcover copy of Graveyard book, which I treasure) as well as to work my way back through the frankly ridiculously long list of authors that Gaiman talks about. From Ray Bradbury to Brian Aldiss and many other names along the way, the book could potentially provide you with an impressively long reading list. I will be endeavouring to find the time to add some of these authors to my to-read list, though I have no clue when that will happen, given the stack I seem to permanently be attempting to tackle

I think it’s fair to say that Gaiman is an influence on my writing, probably my biggest influence, and I strive to one day write as well as he does. Maybe if I keep going that will happen. Eventually. ‘Only an atheist’ has already been compared to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett by a reader who reviewed it and I hope that something I write will be compared to Gaiman. Until then, I shall also strive to be the best writer I can be, to aim to keep improving, and to repeat myself as little as possible. In this, Gaiman provides a role model and for that, as much as for his writings, I am grateful. Cheers!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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The rise of religious comedies and satire…

So, last summer I self-published my debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, through Amazon and Smashwords. This novel is a humorous look at what happens when God, who has become ensnared in the bureaucracy that Heaven has become, travels to Earth to convince humans to stop ravaging our planet and the only person who can help Him is an atheist. Hilarity obviously ensues. I am also in the process of completing the sequel, Jesus Returns: here he comes again, and will self-publish this at a later date.

Now both are obviously satirical and not that serious and are meant to be taken as anything as the silly fun that they are intended to be and since publishing the novel a small, but growing, number of people have read it and written me some lovely reviews (see here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z). I will also soon be appearing on some atheist podcasts, something I am very much looking forward to (though they will require some very late nights which I am less keen on) to talk about the novel, as well as my experience of being an atheist. I hope you will take the time to listen to the shows and enjoy them!

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Yet, when I had self-published the novel a funny thing happened: I began to notice an increasing number of other religious comedies around. When I travelled on the London Underground I would see posters advertising them as well as reading articles in newspapers. Things like, the Book of Mormon, from the creators of South Park, that is still playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London and that I intend to see this when I can find the money. Then I saw a Guardian article about the new play from Gary Sinyor, NotMoses, that is playing in London at the moment and which features a not-too-bright God. Then I saw an advert for ‘Hand to God’, the play currently running at the Vaudeville Theatre and I began to wonder about the increasing prevalence of plays, books and movies that openly satirise religion.

Hand to God

Now, comedies that mock religion are nothing new, the obvious example being the brilliant Life of Brian from Monty Python. Hilarious and eminently quotable, this movie has obviously influenced much of what has come since. Kevin’s Smith’s Dogma is another excellent and very funny religious comedy and an obvious comparison to my novel given the subject matter. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s wonderful ‘Good Omens’ also plays with religious characters in a way that only that pair could and provides many laughs as well as the humanity that was apparent in so much of Pratchett’s writing.

Good Omens

But it got me thinking that maybe we might be entering a new era where we see many more comedies that are not afraid to openly mock religion. And I have to say that it’s about time, for satire is one of the best means by which you can strip something of its power. You only need look at something like the brilliant ‘Spitting Image’ to know how effective humour can be in doing this and to realise how badly the UK needs a show with the biting power that this one had. Or an equivalent of the Daily Show, Nightly Show or Last Week Tonight that focuses on mocking our current politic scene for there is surely much to mock and an abundance of material to work with.

Life of Brian

I really hope that this trend keeps going and that we will continue, no matter how tricky it can be at times, to mock and satirise religion and all that is inherently silly in these mythologies, concepts and institutions. I am hoping to finish and self-publish ‘Jesus Returns’ and that by promoting my work and the satirising of religion, that I am contributing, in some small way, to this discussion. For Jesus will indeed be returning to Earth and hilarity will again ensue. Until then, I will go and see The Book of Mormon and guest on atheist podcasts and contribute to the going mockery of all religions. For they really, truly deserve it! Oh, and I’ll be reading Justin Lee Anderson’s ‘Carpet Diem’ when I can find the time. I might even review it too! Cheers!

EDIT: Balls! I completely forgot to include ‘An Act of God’, the play brought to us by David Javerbaum, the writer behind “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God”, another to add to the growing list of religious satires and comedies…

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My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings: my thoughts and a (brief) review of the Shepherds’ Crown.

For my next blog post I’m going to try something new- I’m going to review a book. I think I’ll be doing this more frequently in the coming months, and I plan on reviewing several works by other self-published authors, but I’m going to start with the last Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown. Now, I’m sure no introduction is needed for Terry Pratchett, the author of this remarkable series, except to say that I am a fan and that you should be too. And if you’re not then you need to go out and read his incredible back catalogue. It is seriously brilliant.

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As I’m also sure most people are aware, Mr. Pratchett died back in March after suffering from Alzheimers disease for many years. And I, like many people out there, was very moved by the news of his death. I learned about his passing through the medium of Twitter, having joined a short time before, and this was a novel experience for me. I saw reactions from many people whom I follow and respect as the news filtered around the network and I was genuinely moved, as were many, by this unfortunate news. I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears that day and, for the first time, I understood a little about what Twitter can do to help spread information and to create a shared experience.

Now, for anyone who’s read my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ or seen any of the excerpts that I post on Twitter, it is not hard to tell that I’m a big fan of Mr. Pratchett’s. I’ve been reading the Discworld novels for a very long time and, like many of his fans, I have read each and every one. The series is not without its ups and downs and some of the novels are, in my opinion, not that good (I’m looking at you, Monstrous Regiment!). But they are the exceptions and not the rule and the quality of the series in its entirety is very impressive. So, without any further ado, here is my (brief) review.

In short, I loved this novel, which I guess is unsurprising. It begins with a dramatic event which I am now going to describe so if you don’t want to know what it is then I suggest you stop reading. Seriously, I’m going to talk about it so don’t keep reading! So, the book begins with the death of Granny Weatherwax, one of the longest standing Discworld characters. Now, I knew this was going to happen because I had it spoiled for me by another review, but it happens so early in the book that it is not really a spoiler to say that it occurs. Her death is told with remarkable grace and care and I was very moved by its handling and by the reactions to her passing from the other characters. It is beautifully written with brilliant character work that is absolutely heartbreaking but then I would have expected nothing less.

Now, I do not wish to spoil the rest of the book so I’m not going to explain much more about the story, merely tease it. What I will say is that we follow Tiffany Aching as she becomes the ‘head witch’, not that witches have leaders as such, and then as she deals with the ups and downs of trying to do far too much. And the glorious Nac Mac Feegles are there causing mayhem as usual. Then Tiffany tangles with the dark elves that featured in her previous books and that is as much as I will say. As expected the book is filled with the typical Pratchett wit and humanity and I enjoyed the story and the themes that it explores including responsibility and how you deal with your enemies. Also unsurprisingly, I thoroughly recommend that you read it. I also can’t help but speculate as to whether Mr. Pratchett was preparing his readers for his impending death with the death of Granny Weatherwax. I don’t know when this book was finished but it was reported that there were other books in preparation when he died so maybe I am wrong. The way the death is handled makes me wonder, and I might be reading too much into it, but that is what occurred to me as I read it.

Now, it was known for some time that Mr. Pratchett was unwell and that this series would not continue forever but it was still heartbreaking to finish the final Discworld novel and to read the words ‘The End’ one last time. And unless someone else is given permission to continue his legacy I suspect that this book really is the last one. Besides his daughter, or maybe Neil Gaiman, I have no idea who else would dare to touch this incredible series and the uproar from fans should it fail to meet expectations, as it surely would, would be considerable. It is likely best left as it is, an incredible series and a remarkable legacy of one of our finest writers. And now I have only one more thing to say: Mr. Pratchett, you will be missed.

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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