Also known (in a very roundabout way) as Week Four in the 26-week book challenge. The title quote is my husband’s favourite, and I am using it to illustrate that, in a way, this week’s challenge is almost impossible to answer. The challenge is to name your favourite book of your favourite series.
Last week I established that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is my favourite, though I could just as easily have named Robin Hobb’s Assassin and Tawny Man trilogies, or my new best friends the Gentlemen Bastards. (As an aside, I’m about three-quarters of the way through Republic of Thieves and whenever I’m not reading it I’m getting twitchy. This is why I didn’t post yesterday, as I should. I adore that book so far.) In fact, I love the Gentlemen Bastards series so much, I want to marry it and have its babies. And I don’t even like babies.
Anyway, as usual I digress. I’m supposed to list my favourite Discworld novel, and at this point in time, after long deliberation, I have chosen Carpe Jugulum. Why? Ahh, so many reasons…
To start with, I love the title. The play on ‘carpe diem’ so that it applies to vampires is genius. I have a soft spot for Latin stuff anyway – my favourite joke in Monty Python’s Life of Brian is the bit where the Roman soldiers correct the grammar in the graffiti the People’s Front are painting on the walls. It probably stems from the sense of superiority I get from understanding jokes that are above the heads of the bulk of the rest of the audience. I’m a snob (with two years of education in Latin), sorry.
I also love this book because it is (to me) the culmination of the continuing story arc of the witches. All their individual books are strong, but this one brings it all together in such a fantastic way that I’m almost speechless with admiration. Granny Weatherwax’s application of Headology is as always amazing, and I love how at the end of the book she pretty much defeats the vampires with nothing but a cup of muddy water.
And yes, the vampires. I checked the publication date of this book, and it was first published in 1998, so eight years before the first Twilight novel hit the shelves. Bear that in mind, because in a way this book is almost hipster in its portrayal of vampires. They want to be liked, they try to be charming. There is a young vampire man trying to impress a young woman. Okay, the woman is Agnes, who may often be underestimated but who is still a witch, so that throws a bit of a spanner into the works, but still.
Yet here it is slowly brought home how insidious the vampires really are. They act all nice, but what they really want is to be in charge, and for the people to obey them without question. They want the people to be happy under the rule of the vampires, because surely that is better than living in constant fear of them? As always Terry holds up a mirror to our own lives, and sometimes what you see really doesn’t make you feel very comfortable.
Of course there is also the usual Pratchett levity. The naming ceremony for Magrat’s daughter is priceless:
Glassy faced, the priest handed the baby to Millie. Then he removed his hat, took a small scrap of paper from the lining, read it, moved his lips a few times as he said the words to himself, and then replaced the hat on his sweating forehead and took the baby again.
‘I name you … Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre!’
The shocked silence was suddenly filled.
‘Note Spelling?’ said Magrat and Agnes together.
Which then gives the subsequent discussion:
‘No, you can’t change it,’ said Nanny. ‘Look at old Moocow Poorchick over in Slice, for one.’
‘What happened to him then?’ said the King sharply.
‘His full name is James What The Hell’s That Cow Doing In Here Poorchick,’ said Magrat.
‘So I’ve got to take Esmerelda out to her people and tell them one of her middle names is Note Spelling?’ said Verence.
‘Well, we did once have a king called My God He’s Heavy the First,’ said Nanny.
I’ve slightly abridged it there, but that’s always been one of my favourite jokes in the whole series.
Now, as for the title to this post, the thing is that this is my favourite Discworld novel now. Had you asked me this question five years ago, I’d probably have said it was Small Gods. Which is still my favourite as far as the concept goes (Gods being as powerful as the number of their believers? Genius!), but which does have some boring bits like Brutha crossing the desert and stuff. Ten years ago I’d have said Witches Abroad, because of the way it makes you look at fairy tales.
The point I’m making is that what I like will always be fluent, so in another five years I’ll probably pick another one again. And in my opinion, that’s how it should be.
Do you agree or disagree? Either way I’d like to hear from you! That comment box ain’t gonna fill itself!