books

‘Carpe Jugulum’ by Terry Pratchett

*SPOILERS*

Okay, with this one, I not only feel late to the party. I feel like that kid who was told about the party two weeks later. I have watched some stage adaptations of the various Discworld novels, but I’ve never really got into them before my boyfriend kindly, but insistently, suggested I read it. Due to uni starting, my schedule has been crazy, so I decided to keep this one for bedtime reading, something which just meant my bedtime was delayed further and further because I just couldn’t stop laughing at the absolute hilarity contained in this book.

Here’s the summary from GoodReads:

In a fit of enlightenment democracy and ebullient goodwill, King Verence invites Uberwald’s undead, the Magpyrs, into Lancre to celebrate the birth of his daughter. But once ensconced within the castle, these wine-drinking, garlic-eating, sun-loving modern vampires have no intention of leaving. Ever.

Only an uneasy alliance between a nervous young priest and the argumentative local witches can save the country from being taken over by people with a cultivated bloodlust and bad taste in silk waistcoats. For them, there’s only one way to fight.

Go for the throat, or as the vampyres themselves say…Carpe Jugulum

Now, there are some things I would like to point out first thing. Agnes is probably my favourite character. She immediately struck a chord with me because I could see a small part of myself in her. The small child with an imaginary friend who eventually becomes real and who chatters away, mostly to insult Agnes herself. I think most of us can relate to this, more or less. The second is that I have a very obvious weakness for anything vampires, so I went into this expecting something great. And I got that.

Carpe Jugulum is hilarious because it functions as a great satire, not only on politics and the general stupidity of politicians (as characterised in Verence), but also on the tendency within fantasy literature to take myths and make them modern. If you take the vampire myth, for example, it has been bastardised and changed to the point where it now is almost unrecognisable from the Counts Orlok and Dracula of old. In a world of Edwards, Angels, and Louis’, Pratchett (though writing this before the arrival of Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), catches on to this shift and makes fun of it. The insistence on spelling vampires as ‘vampyres’ is an interesting one, because this is going back to the old spelling of the word, and thereby mocking Count Magpyr’s quest for modernity and innovation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the ways in which the various superstitions about vampires were used by the Magpyrs to combat their own weaknesses, but which effort, in the end, proves to cause their undoing.

However, for as much fun the vampires were, there were times in the book I thought were a bit of a slog. Before Mightily Oats travels with Granny Weatherwax, he is an incessant bore and any scene with him in it frustrated me because of his absolute inability to do anything worthwhile. Of course, this is just my personal view of his character and I greatly appreciated the shift he underwent on the way to Uberwald, but still. Not a fan. I also found it hard to sympathise with Granny herself, as she was never, until the latter part of the book, directly involved in anything. She is talked about, she is visited, but she herself does not contribute much until the final battle. For me, this made it hard to appreciate the subtlety of her character and the way she shows compassion and humanity underneath a veneer of snark and stubbornness. I also didn’t care much for Magrat, but this, again, is just my subjective opinion.

Where this novel shines is in its clever little sentences and quirks. It’s a mess of a book and I love it for it. It never takes itself serious and this is a very good thing, as it allows the reader to follow Pratchett as he plays and dances through his own story, giving the impression that nobody really knows where it’ll all end up, least of all himself. However, it also has some very deep and philosophical ideas about religion and life itself. I’ll post a few quotes below to show how this book jumps from silliness to seriousness and back, seemingly with no breaks.

You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just . . . is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors.

 

All witches who’d lived in her cottage were bookish types. They thought you could see life through books but you couldn’t, the reason being that the words got in the way.

 

Agnes felt that beauty was even more likely to be in the eye of the beholder if the feet of the beholder were on something solid. At ten thousand feet up, the eye of the beholder tends to water.

 

And my personal favourite:

She sang in harmony. Not, of course, with her reflection in the glass, because that kind of heroine will sooner or later end up singing a duet with Mr. Bluebird and other forest creatures and then there’s nothing for it but a flamethrower.

As you may be able to tell, this book will make you laugh, it will make you wonder what the hell is going on, it will make you frustrated at the silliness of some of the characters, and sometimes it even makes you think that there might be more to this book than a simple comic tale of witches and vampires. And in that, you would be right.

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