Tag Archives: humor

Witches Abroad

513Bs4HYbmLI seem to be reading more lately? I dunno. House is more unpacked than not, and things that are left to do, I cannot really progress on without outside interference. Either way, I’ve also been reading more of the partial series I have scattered all over the map, instead of new stuff. In a way that’s good, because progress, in a way it’s bad because there’s so many things I still have no idea about even though they’ve been talked about lately. That is the problem of lacking infinite free time, I suppose.

So I read another Pratchett. In Witches Abroad, he studies the nature of fairy tales, mirrors, and family relationships[1]. Mostly the nature of fairy tales, though the characters say it’s the nature of stories. That said, the characters are analogues for the Fates, so any story they’d be in would have fairy tale elements nearly by definition. See, this one fairy godmother (only distinguishable from any other witch, so far as I can tell, by her possession of a magic wand) died prior to handling all her affairs, so she sets the witches from Wyrd Sisters[2] on a quest to wrap things up. So they head off to Genua, which is to say New Orleans, and proceed about their appointed tasks.

I know I’m very near the threshold where these books are basically always of high quality, so it’s nice to be able to say that yep, this one was really quite good, very funny throughout and with the characters who are currently my favorites. Yay, Discworld!

[1] The last one is a bit of a stretch, in that it’s not untrue but also in that most of these books have been about family to some degree, especially if you accept “the family you choose” as fitting the paradigm.
[2] Who I suppose will be henceforth known as the witches in any of the Discworld “witches” books.

Unicorn Being a Jerk

51rt0NUfXwLMy girlfriend got this book for Christmas from her brother, and I read it myself over the course of about five or ten horrified minutes. You see, on the one hand, Unicorn Being a Jerk is an extremely accurate title. On the other hand… every time I thought I had a handle on how big of a jerk Unicorn was, I would turn a page and learn that I was the Jon Snow of this book.

If your reaction to things too horrible to look at is laughter, this is the book for you. If not… at least it’s short and there isn’t a whole lot of text? I suppose if you were kidnapped and forced to read it against your will, you could kill time figuring out the correct timeline of Unicorn’s life and how all the events relate to each other.

But, yeah, it was pretty funny.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

51wAAzcD2uLAs you probably know if you’ve spent much time on the internet over the last five years, there’s a bizarrely drawn website about (mostly) childhood, dogs, and/or mental health called Hyperbole and a Half. What there’s a slight chance you don’t know is that the creator of that site has also released a book compiled partially from what’s already on the internet and partially from new essays.

She’s funny, often relatable, and the book reads quickly. I’m not sure you’ll get a deeper insight into the human condition, although if you’ve never dealt with depression, maybe you would learn something? But people often don’t, if they haven’t seen it themselves, so maybe not. By and large, it’s a humorous essay book, and they all cover the same thematic ground. The specific circumstances of this one? Yep, funny.

I do really wonder about her self-image, though. Her drawings are all on par with each other, rough but good enough that you can tell there’s some real talent going into them. The dogs start out looking like caricatures of bad dog drawings until you realize how well she captures different poses and moods. All of the people look like people, and so forth. Except, her self portrait is of a worm with a blonde sharkfin, wearing a tubesock. This is universally true, every time, even amidst other perfectly normally (but still roughly) drawn people. It’s obviously a stylistic choice, I just… like I said, I cannot help wondering what it means, on the inside. The answer to that question does not, as far as I can tell, reside within this book.

But it’s still worth reading!

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories

Remember that time when you watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and it was funny and poignant even though Felicia Day’s character ended up being wasted? And then nothing else ever happened, since it was a writer’s strike project for fun that didn’t really go anywhere, despite solid DVD sales? And you wished the story could continue? Well, albeit in prequel format, that very thing has occurred! Although perhaps a little pricey for the speed of the read, it was consistently interesting and funny both, and I hope to see more of the same sooner rather than later. The best of a good lot followed the Evil League of Evil’s rampage through the city, while the superheroes were all off on a forest retreat, getting back to nature or something.

If none of the premises in the previous paragraph are valid, I have the show on DVD and will happily watch it with you at any time. You’ll be glad you did!

The Order of the Stick: On the Origin of PCs

The convenient thing about having a friend who owns and is willing to lend out the second Order of the Stick prequel novel is the increased likelihood with which he will own and be willing to lend out the first one. (Signed by the author with a drawing of Belkar, no less! Which, if you knew the guy, Belkar was definitely requested art.) The upshot of which is that I snagged and read it as well. And will return the book no later than Friday, if you happen to see this, Ryan. And, y’know, because of the borrowing, I read it way out of the order I would otherwise employ. Which is cool, as it provided good perspective between the books.

On the Origin of PCs does the same thing as Start of Darkness, except for the good guys. What motivates them? How did they meet? Why are they on the trail of a douchebag lich? The stories are every bit as funny as in the other book and in the comics themselves, but there’s one stark difference between the books that also highlights a difference in the comics. When the PC prequel was written, the comic was a lot more about humor and a lot less about story depth. Which is not to say that the comics have grown less funny, only that the plot has become increasingly more important. But it happened so gradually that, without a comparison point such as between these, highlighting how much better of a story was present in the other book, it would be difficult to see how much the main sequence comic has improved.

Still, though: this one was funny and had nuggets of pretty awesome information that have yet to pay off in the comic itself, years later now. That is pretty good news, if you ask me.

The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness

OOTS99_7in72dpi_RGBdsFirst of all: if you now or have ever played Dungeons and Dragons, why aren’t you reading the Order of the Stick? It’s a long running webcomic that combines humor based on the role-playing game, actual humor, and a globe-spanning epic quest to save or destroy the world, depending upon what character viewpoint any given comic is following. And the art, you will be retrospectively unsurprised to learn, is based around stick figures. So now you know, and you should read it!

But you probably already are, and like me, you probably never got around to buying the prequel graphic novels that are only available in published book form. Luckily for me, I know people who did, and I performed a borrowing of opportunity while at a fireworks show a couple of days ago. Start of Darkness is a quick (if not light) read chronicling the rise of the douchebag lich and the sympathetic but ultimately flawed goblins who follow him in his quest to destroy some gates that will in turn destroy the world. You know how these evil mastermind plans go. The point is, though, the stories here are just as funny, though a bit grimmer than the online version. It is about bad guys, and all. And the stories are definitely as affecting as the online version. (Did I mention that between the humor and the D&Dness of it all, there’s a genuine story here, with emotional highs and lows? My hand to God.)

Plus, secret bonus for long-time readers: Rich finally turns a spotlight on the scary monster that’s always hiding in the dark!

Wyrd Sisters

510tZcYWM+LI’ve just spent some time[1] looking over my past several Discworld reviews. And my memory matched the apparent reality, which is that Wyrd Sisters is definitely the first one that I’ve liked almost without reservation. It is notably the first one since Mort (my previous favorite) that lends itself to thoughtful examination and analysis. Also, it marks the first book to be populated with characters that seemed real and interesting to me right from the start.

The titular witches, who have recently formed a coven at the dreadfully modern urgings of their youngest member, are accidentally embroiled in politics when the infant heir to the throne of Lancre is deposited at their feet by loyalists fleeing from the scene of the king’s recent murder. They immediately deliver the child to a troupe of actors passing by, by way of removing the political odor as quickly as possible, only to discover that the duke who has taken the throne is bent on ruining their lives anyway. At which point, it’s time to get the heir-turned-actor back onto his rightful seat by any means imaginable.

Plus there’s a lot more and a fair bit funnier that I can’t easily shoehorn into a paragraph of plot description. I was definitely moved to laughter aloud now and then. But as I said, the depth was the best draw for me. On the surface, there are glaring parallels with Macbeth, Hamlet, and the actual life of William Shakespeare, all used to the comedic effect for which Pratchett is justifiably famous. But, and speaking as quite a fan of the Bard, the most interesting piece by far was the witches themselves.

I’ve only ever heard ‘wyrd’ in the context of witches and fortune tellers and the like, and I thought I knew that it meant something generally pertaining to that kind of job. To my surprise yesterday, wiktionary defined it as ‘fate’. Which fit very well in that the witches, despite their best efforts, are being forced to take a hand in the destiny of the entire kingdom, if only to maintain their own reasonably comfortable lives. But it fit far better as and pulled sharply together for me what a profound (if unconventional) fit they are for the Fates. Magrat the newly confirmed Wiccan, painfully naive in the ways of the world, eager to be accepted by her sisters, and entangled in a hilarious romantic subplot, is clearly the Maiden. Nanny Ogg can hardly go two sentences without reference to one of her seemingly infinite brood, and she’s as bawdy as they come. And Granny Weatherwax, despite not seeming to be old enough for the role, definitely contains the no-nonsense attitude, certainty of her own superiority in all things, and barely held-back ire that… okay, these qualities are not automatically what I would have expected from the Crone before today, but they work so very well that the urge to say I did is almost overwhelming.

All of which to say this: in addition to being as funny as he’s been yet and providing his best characters yet, this is the book where Pratchett became not just funny, but also very clever in subtly high-brow ways. I don’t think he’s quite where I expect him to be on coherent plotting, but the odds and ends that seemed off to me are partially explicable by the oddness of his world, certainly less glaring than in some previous volumes, and for the most part have already faded from my mind, replaced by everything I was happy about. So they can’t have been as bad as all that.

[1] Okay, not just; more like several hours ago. It’s not like you’d ever find out, or even know the difference. But I could never lie to you, baby, you know that.

John Dies at the End

For the last few days, I’ve been reading a book online. As it happens, it’s available offline, almost.[1] But not quite. Which is somewhat of a pity, because I would have bought it already if I could have, instead of reading the whole thing online. However, I still figure I’m going to do the pre-order thing, early next month. Because I’d kind of like to have a copy available for loans as needed, and because I want to see more out of the guy.

John Dies at the End is the story of David Wong and his friend John, who accidentally discover the terrible secret that underlies reality and then spend their lives fighting against it and trying to stay sane and generally having a hell of a time.[2] It’s equal parts Lovecraft done as well as I’ve seen anybody do it and dry humor, with a ton of blood thrown in for good measure. And with characters whose well-being I cared about a good bit more than average. So, y’know, that sounds like a book, basically. And on top of that, I’m forced to admit that the plotting is a little loose towards the beginning and that some of the schtick is more dumb than funny. Still, though, that caring about the characters thing really did stick out more than I’m used to. There are several moments in a row, near the end, when my heart fell at the tragedy and then the sheer horror of the situation they were in. I guess what I’m saying is, the guy has real talent (albeit slightly unpolished), and I want to see him succeed and write more books and get better at it, because I’m pretty much going to love them. I mean, unless this was a fluke.

That would suck.

[1] You know. As a book. With pages and things.
[2] I should point out that the title of the book could be considered a spoiler by some people. Those people are pretty dumb, though. I should point that out, too.

Mort

41Q2E9H3D0LI have purchased more than half of the Discworld books by now, but I haven’t read any in a long while, because of a continued failure to find the actual next one. Then, last month, I finally did, which means books and books stretch before me before I need to have found the next missing link. Which is nice. I like it when little stresses disappear. I mean, it shouldn’t be a stressor at all, except that I wanted to read the books. So, then.

Also good is the book itself, Mort. For one thing, it is unquestionably funnier than its predecessors, relying a lot more heavily on situational humor rather than bits of random oddness. The random oddness is there, as it should be; it just isn’t the centerpiece. Also and perhaps due to the same root cause, the story is a bit deeper than at least the first two, if not necessarily Equal Rites. In Mort, our titular hero takes a most unusual apprenticeship and learns that even the least common of jobs can have their ups and downs.

Okay, that was trite even for cover-copy, much less a review. It’s like this. Death (the anthropomorphic personification, thin fellow, carries a scythe) opts to take on an apprentice, pass on the trade as it were. Mort learns the importance of the job that might one day be his, Death learns the importance of a vacation, and the reader learns, at excruciating repetition, the way that light and dark work on the Disc. But really, other than that (which I’m sensitive to after the last Anita Blake book), this was a fun, breezy book. The breeziest examination of causality and predestination I’ve ever read, in fact.

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror

The Stupidest Angel41sZwL1CraL is another entry in the set of books that can be read over the course of a mostly lazy midafternoon, or a one timezone flight, say. On top of which, it’s reliably funny almost throughout. It’s recommendable on those bases alone, but it even has a few other things going for it, such as quirky characters who, due to the length of the book, cannot possibly have time to wear out their welcome, plus a plot twist tailor-made for my personal enjoyment.

By and large, though, the plot isn’t the point; the point is just the laughing along the way. In sum, it’s a week in the life of a forested NoCal village on final approach toward Christmas as the characters deal with murder and the romantic problems it can bring to couples, the violent and bloody loss of a child’s seasonal innocence, a dysfunctional nod to O. Henry, and of course an angel with perhaps the worst plan ever to fix things. If you have an empty hour or three, check it out. Sometime later, I’m going to glance at the author’s (Christopher Moore) other books, I think.