Review: Mort (Discworld Hardback Library) / Author: Terry Pratchett / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
The Discworld novels are slowly being re-released in a smart new format; illustrated, dust cover-free hardbacks of the sort often used for books saddled with the name ‘classic’. They’re well produced and clearly the sort of thing that will survive being dragged around endlessly in a school bag or over-sized coat pocket. These re-releases also happen to be a good excuse to take another look at one of Terry Pratchett’s most fondly regarded books, even though it first came out in 1987.
Mort is the fourth book in the Discworld series, and arguably the first one where the series really starts to take shape. The previous three books all revolved around the world of wizards in some way or another, whereas Mort begins in the broader world. The rough plot follows the exploits of the titular Mort, a young boy looking for a good trade. Unfortunately, he becomes an apprentice to the anthropomorphic personification of Death itself.
Though Death had appeared in the earlier books, Mort is the first time we meet him in the flesh, or rather, lack thereof. Death, of course, has an agenda of his own, and is motivated mostly by curiosity and a desire to do the right thing. As you may expect, things do not go at all to plan, and it all gets a little bit sticky for the apprentice. Pratchett defines the character of Death here and lays the groundwork for some of the finer moments that appear later on in the series.
Pratchett’s unique brand of sardonic humour mixed with a down-to-earth sort of philosophy shines through, and it’s interesting to note that though the author has grown in skill and strength over the decades, his core appeal has not changed since the early years. Nevertheless, Mort is the book in which this now great author moved from being simply a witty writer to one of the premier fantasy writers of our age, and if you have not read it, perhaps now is the time to find out what all the fuss is about whilst enjoying a spiffy new cover.