“I? KILL? said Death, obviously offended. CERTAINLY NOT. PEOPLE GET KILLED, BUT THAT’S THEIR BUSINESS. I JUST TAKE OVER FROM THEN ON. AFTER ALL, IT’D BE A BLOODY STUPID WORLD IF PEOPLE GOT KILLED WITHOUT DYING, WOULDN’T IT?”
Mort (Discworld #4)
By Terry Pratchett
In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory. As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life..
The Discworld is a strange place- it’s carried by giant elephants, on top of a giant turtle, has a sheen of octarine that causes light to become quite wonky, wizards, witches, and homicidal Luggage with hundreds of feet.
It also has Death. The “anthropomorphisised personification of a natural process” who goes around collecting the souls of the recently departed, and who has become one of my favorite literary characters… probably ever.
Though he has appeared in the previous novels, this book places him front and center, focusing on his interactions with his new apprentice (the titular Mort), his adopted daughter Ysabel, and with the numerous other people and places he comes across in his line of work. It also, hilariously, deals with his own personal mid-life (mid-death?) crisis. What could Death do if he wasn’t Death?
At the same time, this is also the story of Mort himself, a lad who stands out so little that no one ever calls him by his own name. (The tick he develops to deal with always being called “boy” is a running gag throughout the story) Mort’s unlikely apprenticeship makes him feel skilled for the first time in his life… but he messes it up. Because of course he does. It wouldn’t be much of a story without some bumbling. His attempts to fix things take the reader through places in the Discworld both old and new and gives new information on how fate, magic, and reality intertwine on the back of Great A’Tuin.
Mort is my favorite of the series thus far, balancing humor with fantasy, adventure, and oddly relatable plotlines about what it means to be human, to find a passion in life (or death), and to not completely muck things up while doing so.
Should You Read This?
Absolutely. And the best part is that you don’t even need to read the previous three titles in order for it to work.
Of course, you’d be missing out on some pieces of information that deal with the general absurdity of the Discworld- there are callbacks to previously mentioned characters, concepts that were previously explained do not get massive definitions again, etc. – but you’d be able to fair quite well I’d suspect. My paperback copy even had a small glossary in the back, which was delightfully silly.
Mort was an incredibly fun read, and has only strengthened my desire to continue this epically long series. Next up? Sourcery!
Summary from Goodreads