Pros: The camel, the assassin and the gods.
Cons: I could have happily read more of this story.
One of the best things about 2011 was that I finally discovered the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I've learned to pick up one of these novels when I need a good cheering up, and have usually found them to be side-splitting funny to boot. After a few missteps, I finally wised up and started the series from the start.
Pyramids, the seventh book in the series, begins in the great city of Ankh-Morpork, in the Assassin's Guild. A class of students is about to graduate, but first they need to pass the final. And it's not quite as simple as talking some tests and a few orals. Oh no. It's even simpler than that -- you live, you pass. For one particular student, Teppic, skilled in all of the things a young assassin should know -- music, dancing, literary arts, and of course, weapons and skulking about, along with a killer fashion sense (all black, of course), it's an easy thing to do in between dangling from roofs and avoiding deadfalls. And once everything is completed, Teppic and his two surviving classmates suddenly find themselves at loose ends.
In the faraway land of Djelibeybi, the Kingdom of the Sun, the Pharaoh, Teppicymon XXVII has just died, setting off a bit of turmoil. Turns out that his one legitimate heir is none other than the teenaged assassin who has just graduated. Pausing on his one way journey to the afterlife -- after all, there's the mummification to be done -- Teppicymon finds out to his horror that a great deal of what he thought was true is actually wrong. Including his trusty advisor and high priest, Dios. Unfortunately for the kingdom and the new Pharaoh, there really isn't away for Teppicymon to pass this vital information along.
When Teppic arrives in his new realm, he suddenly finds out that being a pharaoh isn't that great of a job either. His life is so hemmed in by rites, proprieties and other bits of busy work that he can't really get anything done. And suggesting to Dios that maybe things out to be shifted around a little is enough to send the priesthood into apoleptic shock. He also doesn't have a lot of help either, as it seems that most have fled, but there is a little handmaiden named Ptraci who seems to be willing to help him out.
Finally, unknown to everyone, the greatest mathematician in the Discworld is nearby, doing as most mathematics do, ruminating. Going by the charming moniker of You Bastard, he is going to play an inportant part in the drama that threatens not just all of Djelibeybi, but a good portion of the Discworld as well...
And then there are the pyramids, discharging their energy every night in a brilliant lightshow along the river. The secret of the pyramids need to be uncovered before the kingdom can be saved, but that's going to take some doing. Not to mention the getting the grandiose tomb of Teppicymon XXVII built as well.
As Cheops put it in his famous law: nothing ever gets built on time or within budget...
I had a grand time with this one, being not just an Egyptian geek since an early age, but also a math major, so I was able to catch quite a few of the jokes and puns that the story contained. For fellow Egyptian fans, this one is really a treat, as Mr. Pratchett trots out every cliche, supposition and mythic idea about pyramids, not to mention what happens when the gods become quite literal. It's a fun romp, and I was very sorry to see it end. The plot was rather simplistic, but I was laughing too hard to mind that. The usual bad jokes, outrageous puns and other delights are here as well, and this all winds up into a clever conclusion and a reminder that algebra and calculus is never a waste if applied properly.
Out of the various characters, my favourite had to be You Bastard. I don't want to divulge much here about YB as I don't want to ruin the story for anyone else, but it is terrifically funny when he shows up. I do hope that the characters of You Bastard and Teppic show up in later novels, as they were both rather fun to read about.
This one is, as with nearly all of the Discworld novels, a stand alone, and worth reading. It fits in between Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! in the series, but does not seem to have any connections (yet) with other books in the series. I had a good laugh over it, and enjoyed myself very much. Five stars overall, and very enjoyable. Recommended.
Discworld Novels that I have reviewed:
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Pyramids -- you are here
Lords and Ladies
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
The Fifth Elephant
1989; HarperCollins Publishers