Fantasy Review: ‘Carpe Jugulum’ by Terry Pratchett

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23)Part 23 of The Complete Discworld Reread

And this, my friends, is why I have to do this whole reread thing. My memories have scrambled, perhaps even been merged with general consensus in places, and I have forgotten which books are which within this long series I have been plugging through for the past year and a half.

Case in point, Carpe Jugulum, yet another in the sub series dealing with Granny Weatherwax and her coven of not so evil (but certainly not nice) witches of Lancre. Considered by many to be the weakest of the witches’ books and it very well could be, but I was mistaken when I had written it off as a weak Discworld book. No my friends, this is just one more very good book for fans of Granny to go giddy over.

‘It’s a Johnson,’ she breathed. ‘I haven’t got my hands on a Johnson for ages.’

Oh believe me I understand why it is not as well loved. It is accused of recycling the plot of Lords and Ladies. In a way I can see this. Put Granny against seemingly immortal monsters, have her dance in circles around them, rinse and repeat. Vampires instead of elves this time, and it lacks the Shakespearian guide posts that Lords and Ladies had to keep it on its path. Without the well-defined goal posts it occasionally wanders into the pure parody territory that I tend to think of as Prachett’s weakest writing; lots of easy jokes making fun of some old horror clichés. Is this the first time we see an Igor? Not sure anyone will ever do Igor as funny as Mel Brooks did, all the other jokes seem tired now. And wow, as cool as the Nac Mac Feegle become later on in the series their entire plotline in this one added absolutely nothing.

It is also a bit preachy; not something Pratchett is known for and kind of surprising. Small Gods, many books before this one, already dealt with religion perfectly. It was certainly critical of aspects of the Christian faith but never did it try to preach something as the right way. But in Carpe Jugulum, where religion only played a small part of one subplot, it was handled with all the subtlety of a large hammer. The complete one eighty that the Omian priest makes in thinking through the book was presented as the only right path; Small Gods never made such a forceful assumption.

‘So we develop insights and pull together and learn valuable lessons,” said Magrat.

Nanny paused with her pipe halfway to her lips. “No,” she said, “I don’t reckon Granny’d be thinking like that, because that’s soppy garbage.”

But despite its flaws I found myself flying through the book because it is so…damn..funny. Really funny. For every bad Dracula joke there is two or three classic Pratchett one liners. It is also damn dirty. My man Mr. P can throw in some innuendo at times, it is true, but this one ups it quite a bit. Light on cursing, but we are closer to PG-13 territory than most of the series. Nanny has some of her best moments of the series while Granny spends some time missing in action. And Ms Nitt with her two strong personalities is a fine addition to the coven.

Oh look, it isn’t a perfect book. There are a few things that absolutely stink of just trying too hard; vampires pretending to be human because it’s cool I am talking to you. But taken as a whole there really isn’t that much to complain about. With the exception of the King and the Feegles the plotting is strong. It is funny as hell. The vampires are suitably nasty; thinkers rather than mindless beasts, and they have a plan much worse than the typical bloodsucker. Nanny gets to shine for a while. And Granny finally strikes in the most Granny way possible.

I am not sure why this book gets so much flack within the series. I certainly don’t think it is the most memorable outing Granny sets out on, but I was entertained throughout.

3 stars

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