Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #136 - Guards! Guards!

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. This book can be found on the BBC Book List.

Guards! Guards! is the 8th book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and the third to be featured on the BBC's 100 Greatest Books list. That should tell you something about the quality of writing that appears in the Discworld series. However, since the BBC 100 Greatest Book list is a reader chosen list, this could just mean that he is popular in England, but not really worthy of being placed on the list (I'm looking at you Wilson), however that is not the case. Each of Pratchett's entries into the Discworld series (as of the first eight entries that I have read) have been works of literary art. He crafts language in such a way that many authors try to imitate but never get the full gist of. Of the first eight novels, six have been a standalone stories (Books 1 and 2 form one continuous story-line). However, the way that Pratchett crafts his novels, produces a reading experience that does not force you to read the stories in order. This is also a draw back for the series as well though, where one story does not have many (if any) impact on future stories. Even world altering events, which can occur in one book, are barely referenced, if at all, in future novels. For this reason, the timeline is also very difficult to pin down, even though several characters appear throughout different story-lines within the overall series. The Discworld series is broken up into character subsets, where every few books he returns to a character or group of characters (i.e. Rincewind, or the Witches) and focuses on them. And it seems that for the first few books, the kickoff stories seem to be his most popular, with all three out of the four Discworld books on the 100 Greatest Books listed being a kickoff story.

Guards! Guards! takes place following the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork, a group that basically has gone defunct since the Patrician came into power some couple hundred years ago, but the group still persists. The story begins as a sect of people are trying to take over the government by calling a dragon from who-knows-where, to scare the city. This will allow a long lost heir to the throne to come, save the city, and be crowned king, therefore kicking the Patrician out of power. Things obviously don't go as planned and the Night Watch is left to save the day. Out of the three current Discworld stories on the list (that I have read), I would say this one has the most plot, which is definitely a great thing in a book to have. I felt in Pratchett's other books, the story-line could be summed up in just a couple of pages. It was the satire and the way Pratchett describes things though that really made those books worth reading. But with the addition of a worthwhile plot, it elevates this story to one of his better among great stories. His humor, as always, is spot on in this story, with nothing lost through his continuing to write in this series. If anything, his books have become better and better. I would have to say, out of the three books, this book is my second favorite after the first in the series, The Colour of Magic. And that's only because nothing has come close to the humor in that book, of which I don't think he has even tried since. With Pratchett's approach of changing his writing style and character focus through the Discworld series, he has continually made the series feel fresh with each entry. So far, I would say that if for some reason you don't like one book in the Discworld series, try a different book, it is likely going to feel completely different. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

2016 Personal Goals - Month 4 Update

Four months in...

1. Finish 1st Draft of my Novel
Start - Again on the list.

2. Drop weight to 167
Start - This has also been on the list since the beginning. Starting at 179.7
Month 1 - 179.0

3. Read 1 of the Top Ten Books on Zane's List
Start - In the middle of The Stories of Anton Chekhov.

4. Read 6 books on the Sybervision Book List (including 2 in the Science or Philosophy sections)
Start - Current count is at 89.
Month 1 - In the middle of The World as Will and Idea

5. Read a total of 12 books on my book list. (need to get to 200 books by my 40th birthday)
Start - Currently my total count is at 131.
Month 1 - Finished Artemis Fowl. 11 to go.
Month 2 - Finished Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 10 to go.
Month 3 - Finished Mort. 9 to go.

6. Finish 1 more Geological Movie Review
Start - Earthquake still looks like the best bet.

7. Watch 10 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
Start - Current count is at 75.

8. Finish 50 things on the Blog/Website, with 25 specifically on my To Do list.
Start - My To Do list currently has ~150 things on it.
Month 1 - Finished 5. 45 to go.
Month 2 - Finished 6. 44 to go.
Month 3 - Finished 8. 42 to go.
Month 4 - Finished 10. 40 to go.

9. Finish 8 things on the House Things to do List
Start - The list currently has 27 things on it.
Month 1 - In the middle of the kitchen remodel still.
Month 2 - Finished 1 item, installing new furnace. 7 to go.

10. Finish skinning the top of the hovercraft
Start - Hopefully I can make some time to get to it this year.

11. Get my 5K time under 25 minutes
Start - My current best is 28:32

12. Collect and photograph all of the Star Wars Comics
Start - I got most of this done last year. It's time to finish this up and move on this year.
Month 1 - Only one comic left to go. Photographed box 5.

13. Submit my Masters Thesis for Publication
Start - Last year was actually spent getting a chapter of my dissertation published. Let's move on and get this done this year. This was the last big thing I had left to get published which I wrote before.

14. Get caught up on my Star Wars to read pile
Start -  Right now I have more than a bookshelf full of books that I am behind on reading.
Month 1 - Slowly working through my pile of stuff to read when I get the chance.
Month 2 - Still reading through the pile.

15. Watch and re-review an entire list of one of the 10 Top Ten Movies
Start - I finished one set of 10 last year. I plan on doing another set this year.

16. Collect, photograph, and organize my Star Wars novel collection
Start - I have it mostly set with paperbacks but I would like to get the collection organized and get the first release hardcovers.

-----------------------------------------------Other items of note-------------------------------------------------

Continuing to work on the kitchen/dining room remodel which has since expanded into the front entryway and to the downstairs stairwell. Also spending most of my other "blogging" time digitizing old geology notes. I have 9 binders or notes to go through. I am currently half way through Binder 5, so about halfway done in total. I will do more blog posts when those are done but this is a time issue and needs to be done sooner than later.