Finished listening to Carpe Jugulum and moved straight on to Maskerade. Both are read by Nigel Planer whom, it astonished me to notice, seems to be partially channelling Oliver Postage in his reading voice. This is high praise.
Both books are witch-based, Maskerade set in Ankhmorpork for the most part and working around the Phantom of the Opera in that particular style that Pratchett has – parodying something whilst giving a genuine story, fine characters, humour and some tidbits of information that one sometimes doesn’t notice are real due to the Discworld setting (Walter Plinge, for example).
With the witches reduced to two in number, Magrat Garlick now to be queen, Nanny Ogg is concerned for Granny Weatherwax succumbing to her darkness and boredom and knows there really needs to be three witches for a coven. But Agnes Nitt doesn’t want to be a witch, natural fit that she is, and has taken her marvellous singing voice (and inner Perdita, the “her” that doesn’t have a wonderful personality, great hair and, well, largeness) to the big city.
Manipulations and mishaps later, due in large part to an unusual cook book that Nanny Ogg has written (“The Joy of Snacks”), Granny and Nanny are also city-bound, where they may accidentally run in to Agnes, and to solve the situation at the opera, without interfering of course, where a once harmless ghost appears to have begun murdering folk…
The centre point of Carpe Jugulum (“sieze the throat”) is vampirism and it’s set after Maskerade. But Granny Weatherwax’s dark side is still a problem and this time, its sway and pull will be tested to breaking point.
King Verence has made the mistake of inviting vampires to Lancre in an attempt to be more modern and outreaching. The vampires are happy to come – but these aren’t the vampires with whom you know where you stand (behind a religious symbol, in daylight, with a mouthful of garlic, if you’re wise). These vampires are modern. The usual tricks won’t work on them but they still have all theirs. In abundance. It will take no time and little blood to assume rule, turn Lancre into a human farm and, worst of all, most of the populace’s minds will be so easily influenced out of shape, they’ll barely care. Even Nanny Ogg isn’t immune and Granny Weatherwax knows that her considerable great gifts are no match for the vampires.
But maybe her guile is…
Great tales, wonderfully read: Planer really “gets” the witches and is adept at giving distinct voices to each as well as all and sundry other characters – aided by Pratchett’s language and characterisation. The books are read with an understanding of the humour but without treating it as evertly humorous; the words and scenarios, evoked clearly, do that.
I’ve long thought that Terry Pratchett has become a better writer as he has gotten older, whilst at the same time becoming less funny. That is, less laugh-out-loud funny. The humour is drier, knowing, sometimes quite ascerbic in its parody but is always wrapped around a tight narrative. I wasn’t even a fan of the first two books but since the Discworld really gained a solid identity, better described and more consistent and coherent than in those two books, there’s been no looking back.
Fine stuff. And excellent narration by Mr. Planer (though don’t be put off by Stephen Briggs who is also excellent!)