Mort by Terry Pratchett. ★★★1/2
At the apprenticing fair, Mort waits and waits until finally he’s the last boy left in the town square. Then the clock strikes midnight and Death himself comes to offer Mort a job.
Mort is the fourth Discworld book and a fairly reasonable one to start with. While it may not be quite as polished as some latter books, it is better plotted than the previous three and begins the “arc” (sort of a series within a series) of the books about Death, the grim reaper who rides a white horse and carries a scythe.
In Mort, you can see the Discworld begin to fall into the shape of the latter books. There are still some inconsistencies – fans have long argued on whether the Patrician of the first four books is Vetinari or not – but in general, Mort is much more consistent with the latter books. The biggest difference is probably the character of Death himself. However, the events of Mort and the next Death book, Reaper Man, go a long way as to showing how and why Death’s character changed.
Death is a wonderful character. He has this fascination with human kind but is unable to completely understand us.
“It struck Mort with sudden, terrible poignancy that Death must be the loneliest creature in the universe. In the great party of Creation, he was always in the kitchen.”
Mort is eager and more keen on following his heart than the rules. I liked him well enough, but I didn’t find him particularly noteworthy. He’s still more memorable than the secondary characters (besides Death). Ysabell and Albert stand out because they are important to latter books, but Princess Keli and the wizard are completely forgettable.
The plot was quick moving and stayed together well. It’s differently an improvement over the last three. The humor was, as always, remarkably witty. It’s one of those books where you just want to read large swaths of it aloud to share it with anyone in the vicinity.
Mort, however, does have a failing common to the first ten Discworld books. While it may be very funny and entertaining to read, it doesn’t go beyond that the way the more recent novels such as the Watch arc (Guards! Guards!), Small Gods, or Monstrous Regiment have done. So while I do recommend Mort, I would suggest trying one of the previously mentioned books first, so you come in knowing the best Discworld has to offer.