Monday, January 08, 2007

Book Review: Carpe Jugulum

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic had been posting selected quotes from this book for weeks. Since I'm a sucker for a clever title, I had to check it out.

Carpe Jugulum takes place in Discworld, a flat world held up by four elephants resting on the back of a giant turtle. Why? Because it's Terry Pratchett's world and he can pretty much write it any way he likes it!

I had never read a Discworld novel before and, I'm happy to say, that lack didn't seem to matter. Mr. Pratchett's humor is of the British sort--think of it is as kind of a written Monty Python sketch. If you're willing to jump right in and go along with things, you'll enjoy it. If you need sensible explanations, well, you're not going to get them.

The King and Queen of Lancre, one of the countries on Discworld, are having a Naming Ceremony for their new daughter. The King, not wishing to offend anyone important, has invited everyone on Discworld, including the Count and Countess of Uberwald. Who happen to be vampires. The Count--a rather modern, forward-thinking vampire--excuse me, vampyre--has decided that he should rule Lancre. So he takes it over in a bloodless coup by controlling the King's mind.

Fortunately, there are witches in Lancre. One, Granny Weatherwax, is not present as her invitation was stolen by magpies. One is the Queen, who "gave up" witchcraft when she married. The remaining two are Nanny Ogg, related to most of the population of Lancre, and Agnes, who is of two minds about everything because there really is another personality (Perdita) inside her.

Granny, thinking she had not been invited, leaves her cottage and goes out to the moors, which is gnarly ground. Nanny Ogg, not happy at being the "crone" in the witches coven (crone, mother, maiden), tries to roust the vampires from the castle. But these vampires have desensitized themselves from all the normal tricks that can be used to get rid of vampires. So Nanny and the Queen set off to find Granny.

Agnes, meanwhile, is left to distract the vampires in the castle. The son of the Count has taken an interest in Agnes because he cannot control her mind. What he doesn't realize is that he can control Agnes, but he can't control Perdita.

And then there is Mightily Oats, a priest of Om, who is unsure of his faith, especially since it seems to be fracturing into different denominations daily.

Other characters who play important roles are a phoenix, Igor (servant to the vampires and who misses the Old Count and the Old Ways), and the "Pictsies" (Pixies) who are fierce and vaguely-celtic.

"Carpe Jugulum" means, of course, seize the jugular, and is the family motto of the vampires.

There be magic in Discworld, but it is not used much. The witches seem rather normal, really, relying more on their wits to rid Lancre of vampires than any magic potions. There is much discussion about "what everybody knows who knows anything about {fill in the blank}." "What everybody knows" usually turns out to be mistaken. Discussions about good vs. evil, the nature of sin, belief and faith are scattered throughout the novel. The novel ends with some questions that may--or may not--be answered in subsequent novels. Afterall, this is not a "straight line" series.

But it is a fun read if you're ready to pop through the Rabbit Hole.

On the March Hare scale: Three out of five Golden Bookmarks.