Posts tagged ‘pastiche/homage’

The Girl Detective

Fortune Cookie Magnifying Glass
“There are three kinds of food.”
Secret origins of the girl detective

Firstly, let me apologize for the long hiatus. I’ll try not to do that again. Secondly, this review will be a little different than many of my others. This is a review of a short story that, in addition to being in print, is also available as a free pdf. Therefore, this is going to be less of a spoiler-free review and more of a spoiler-filled dissection. I recommend that before you read this review, you read the story. You can download it here: http://smallbeerpress.com/creative-commons/?did=30 , and “The Girl Detective” is on p. 251 of the pdf. (The rest of the pdf is filled with the rest of the stories from the anthology Stranger Things Happen. It’s a great collection, and I heartily recommend it all!)

Alright, I’m hoping that everyone (if anyone is still reading this) has now read “The Girl Detective”. First off, this is my favorite Kelly Link story yet. It is thick with references, as you can probably tell. Nancy Drew, which seems to be the main influence, but also chinese restaurants, fortune cookies, and
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
are all overt references, but what else? There’s a Hades reference (the fourth kind of food is from the Underworld) and of course the whole Underworld. There’s also some oedipal influences and gender role confusion, as the Girl Detective represents our mothers, our daughters, our wives, our lovers. The Girl Detective could even be a man, says the narrator, or the narrator himself/herself, it actually doesn’t say which gender the narrator is, although I seem to picture the narrator as male on first impression. And there could well be more than one narrator, for all we know. I think that the “DANCE WITH BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” section is from a different point of view. I think that could be the fat man, who is also a detective, and who, we know has a dead wife. At the end of the “DANCE WITH BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” section, the narrator of that section marries one of the twelve daughters. So if there are two narrators, why not more? At least two, the main narrator, who sits in the tree, and the second narrator. Or maybe they are one.

And then there’s the housekeeper, who we know nothing about, but who seems similar to the getaway driver and the stern nightclub woman. And they seem to almost all represent the Girl Detective’s mother, or at the least the mother figure. Are they the same? Perhaps…

So there’s the Girl Detective, the stern getaway driver/housekeeper/nightclub woman/mother, the twelve princesses/daughters/bank robbers/dancers, the waiters, the fat man, the father, and the narrator. Any and all of whom could be the Girl Detective. She shares the same Day of the Week underwear as the bank robbers, she’s a detective like the fat man, she could be her own mother, as she’s certainly, at least sometimes, a mother figure, and she could be the narrator as well. After all, the Girl Detective is a master of disguises…

January 19, 2010 at 10:27 PM Leave a comment

The Light Fantastic

“You said you could fly one of these things!” “No I didn’t; I just said you couldn’t!”

Cohen was shocked. “Bonfires of books?” “Yes. Horrible, isn’t it?” “Right,” said Cohen. He thought it was appalling. Someone who spent his life living rough under the sky knew the value of a good thick book, which ought to outlast at least a season of cooking fires if you were careful how you tore the pages out. Many a life had been saved by a handful of sodden kindling and a really dry book. If you felt like a smoke and couldn’t find a pipe, a book was your man every time. Cohen realized people wrote things in books. It had always seemed to him to be a frivolous waste of paper.

The Light Fantastic is the second of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It, unusually for a Pratchett book, takes off from directly where its predecessor left off. The last book, The Color of Magic, left Twoflower and Rincewind falling off of the world, via spaceship. However, that has all changed. This is because the whole world is being changed, using a giant change spell, so as to stop Rincewind from dying. In the last book, it was established Rincewind could not cast spells because of the Great Spell left in his head from a bet. In this book, the Great Spells are revealed to be sentient, and working to keep Rincewind alive until they need him to say the Spell in his head. Rincewind and Twoflower continue to explore the Discworld, discovering new flora and fauna in places such as the Forest of Skund, the Vortex Plains, and even Death’s Domain. But trouble is brewing. A red star has appeared above the Discworld, and no one knows what it will do. Some of the wizards at the Unseen University want to use the spell in Rincewind’s head to stop the problems. Unfortunately for him, this would require either his cooperation with the corrupt and/or bureaucratic head wizards, or his death at their hands. He’s not too keen about either of these ideas, so he decides to solve this like he solves all his other problems. That is, by running away.

This book ups the quality of the Discworld series from the last book in several ways. For one, the humor has improved. Pratchett is no longer simply poking fun at other fantasies in specific, he’s now both poking fun at the general aspects of fantasy, and creating humor through his characters. The second thing that’s better about this book is that it has a plot! I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. It has a storyline that weaves throughout the book, as opposed to just meandering adventures without a thread tying them together, like The Color of Magic is. Along with Twoflower and Rincewind, the other character in this book who appears in later books is Cohen the Barbarian. Cohen is a parody of Conan the Barbarian. Except for the fact that he’s an octogenarian librarian. Actually, nix the librarian part. That was just a rhyme. No, he’s really like Conan, but older. And with dentures made from troll teeth, which are diamond. This book also features an evil villain named Ymper Trymon, and the first appearance of the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions. (But more on them later…) This is a good Discworld book, but it’s nowhere near Pratchett’s full potential.

My Rating: 76/100

Next Up in Pratchett Reviews: Equal Rites

April 28, 2009 at 5:45 PM Leave a comment

The Colour of Magic

“It is forbidden to fight on the Killing Ground,” he said, and paused while he considered the sense of this. “You know what I mean, anyway.”

“I wish to be directed to an hotel, tavern, lodging house, inn, hospice, caravanserai,” he said. “What, all of them?” said Hugh, taken aback.

The Colour of Magic is the first of Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed Discworld series. The book’s main character is the inept wizard Rincewind, a master at languages, running away from things, and survival and a failure at most else. Rincewind lives (at least at the book’s start) in the city of Ankh-Morpork, a loosely defined fantasy city full of thieves, assassins, barbarian heroes and the rest of the fantasy stock types. The book begins (after a brief introduction) with a pair of heroes, parodies of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, watching the city of Ankh-Morpork burn down. They see Rincewind gallop out of the city, followed by a mysterious figure attempting to ride a horse. The two heroes accost him, and ask who the figure is. Rincewind explains to them, in exchange for food. The person is Twoflower, a visitor to Ankh-Morpork. He comes from a seemingly more modern land, as he himself is a clerk for an insurance company. (Although in Rincewind’s tongue, this is pronounced. reflected-sounds-of-underground-spirits.) Twoflower thinks he is poor, but his money is gold, which is common in Twoflower’s home but valuable in Ankh-Morpork. Rincewind becomes his tour guide, and helps him survive in a city where even the cockroaches had an unerring instinct for gold. Twoflower tours the city, taking pictures with his demon-operated camera and having a good time. It begins to go downhill when Twoflower offers the owner of the tavern/inn that he is staying in a fire insurance policy. The owner decides to burn down the inn, and the city burns as a result. When this story ends, the heroes ride away, leaving Rincewind and Twoflower to explore.

From here on, Rincewind and Twoflower explore the continent. The book is really more like a set of chronological novellas than it is a single united story. Rincewind and Twoflower are playing pieces in an intensely complicated game run by the Gods which is suspiciously like the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. They tangle with a Lovecraftian horror from beyond the boundaries of space and time. (Twoflower kills it with his camera.) They get involved with a parody of the famous Dragonriders of Pern series. They even take a brief journey into our world!

This is not one of Pratchett’s best works, at least in my opinion. Most of it is purely a parody of other famous fantasies, with very little of the originality of his later works. It does introduce Rincewind, one of his most beloved protagonists whom often appears. Nevertheless, it does not possess the same degree of plot or humor as even its immediate successor, The Light Fantastic. If you enjoy starting at the beginning of a series, this is the place to start. If you want a representative sample of Pratchett’s work, a better place to start would be Guards, Guards, the ninth book and the start of the City Watch subseries. This, merged with The Light Fantastic was recently made into a movie.

My Rating: 73/100

Next Up In Pratchett Reviews: The Light Fantastic

April 20, 2009 at 7:18 AM 2 comments


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