Discworld Reading Club 4: Mort

There are no inconsistencies in the Discworld books; ocassionally, however, there are alternate pasts.
- Terry Pratchett, alt-fan-pratchett

Discworld Reading club 1: The Colour of Magic
Discworld Reading club 2: The Light Fantastic
Discworld Reading club 3: Equal Rites

Current book and character development for future books need no spoiler boxes, only plot development of future books.

I suspect we’re gonna get more favorable votes on this one. The DEATH books seem to have quite a following, second only to the Guards books. So after Rincewind x2 and Granny Weatherwax, we finally get to a book that has a lot of fans.
Mort is yet another story about a young person trying to find himself and his place in life and the world, a common theme for Pratchett. Being the apprentice of DEATH does not involve selling your soul, though as it does with Trump. As we see, Mortimer gains from the apprenticeship.

One thing that stands out, as compared to later books, is the relatively poor characterization of young females. Both Keli and Ysabel are cardboard figures, not real humans. It makes me wonder how Pterry developed the gift which is clearly evident from **Susan Sto Helit ** and Tiffany Aching. Ysabel is very annoying and it doesn’t seem plausible that Mort does a 180 and gives up his longing for Keli

DEATH is, ahaha, getting much more fleshed out. There is however a great big plot hole. Early in the book he hints, in non too subtle ways, that Mort might be in line to inherit the business and that he will look favorably upon a union between Mort and Ysabel. But when DEATH comes back for the big showdown, his pissed off that Mort has taken the liberty to run his house, business and gotten involved with Ysabel.

This is also, think, the only time we see Albert acting like a wizard when he returns to the Disc. In the other books, he’s just Albert, not Alberto. I suspect that the cameo by Rincewind is mercifully short for all who hates reading about him. Since I like Rincewind, I think Pterry passed up some perfectly good opportunities at humor, when he let Rincewind just slide through, but that’s me.

I like Mort, but I still put it in the lower 50 % of DW books. DEATH, by himself, is not interesting enough to carry a whole book. And Mort is too much of a twit, with the rest of the cast being uninspired. Reaper Man and Hogfather are much better at looking at DEATH and those involved with him – mostly because the characters around him are a lot more interesting.


he he.

I’m only a few pages in, back later.

While I can’t dispute that Mort is one of the lesser Diskworld novels, it is also the linchpin on which the entire series turned. The writing is still clunky (I think Pratchett doesn’t really hit his narative stride until Guards, Guards) and the characters are a bit rough but the big ideas are showing up now.

Compare Mort to the previous three books; The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Equal Rites were essentially light fluff. They’re humorous takes on traditional fantasy tropes but not much more than that. There’s an occasional clever idea but its rarely explored as anything more than a throw away line. Mort, on the other hand, stands on its own. The closest thing to Mort’s story that I can think of is Death Takes a Holiday but it’s not much of a correlation. About the only classic fantasy concept that Pratchett turns over here is the rescue of the princess, but the real meat of the story is Death and Mort’s relationship.

Expanding on the character of Death one of the obvious big shifts in this book and it’s interesting to note that Pratchett’s Death and his friend Neil Gaiman’s character Death from Sandman tend to use a lot of the same concepts. Gaiman’s is more personable and friendly while Pratchett’s Death has a remoteness from humanity that comes up a lot, but I get the impression that the two of them shortly before this book came out had a long conversation about the nature of an anthropomorphic personification and exactly what Death as a character would be like and the end results of that show up in both Discworld and Sandman.

I’m not sure that the conflicting actions by Death are really a plot hole in this situation. My reading of it was that Death took Mort on to both give Ysabell a living companion (though he’s oblivious to how they react to each other) and to give himself oportunity to see more of humanity. Death is longing for that companionship and he can’t have it due to the nature of his job. The problem is for Death that like many of his other ventures he didn’t understand humanity well enough to think it through. He doesn’t considder what will happen and when things turn out the way he initially planned he decides that isn’t what he wanted after all and gets angry about it.

I wrote earlier that Pratchett’s writing is still rough at this point but it is noticiably better than the previous book. Two passages stand out in my mind. The first being Mort confronting Albert with Ysabell reading the naration out of Albert’s book. It’s a gimmick that can’t be used for long but Pratchett keeps it at barely a page and you’ve got well crafted dialog, humor, and plot advancement all tied up together very neatly. The other is the climax where the progress of Death and Mort’s duel is very skillfully done and can be followed well. It’s the first time in the series where I felt the climax was something other than “And suddenly everything was okay again.”

Also, I’ve got to say I’m happy that the creatures from the dungeon dimensions were only mentioned in passing in this book. It’s not going to last but I’m already sick of them.

All I wish to say is that I was so disappointed in “Mort” that I stopped reading it and did not pick up any other Pratchett for nearly fifteen years.

I’ve caught up a lot over the past two years but have not yet tried “Mort” again.

Just Some Guy took the words out of my keyboard; in the transition from “Early Discworld” to “Modern Discworld,” Mort is the start, and carries the switch two-thirds of the way through. There are a few minor inconsistencies, but for the most part this is establishing the tone and the approach of subsequent Discworld novels, IMO.

I disagree that Keli and Ysabell are cardboard characters, though I agree they aren’t as deep as some of Pratchett’s later females. Ysabell is a good continuation of her earlier appearance in The Color of Magic, and her depiction as a closet romantic works for me. Keli is almost a one-note stereotype, but her iron determination for regality gives enough laughs that I don’t mind too much. Mort’s switch from Keli to Ysabell could have been better developed, though.

Death is a bit more emotional (heh) in this novel than in later novels, though I’m sure one can handwave it away as simply because his daughter was involved. It’s also worth reminding that Pratchett retconned (IMO) Death’s motivations for hiring Mort in Soul Music.

Mort: a good read, and a sign of better things to come.

This thread has gone quiet so I thought I would toss in a discussion point.

I believe that Mort takes place after the events of Wyrd Sisters.

Spoilers for Wyrd Sisters follow:

In Wyrd Sisters the acting troop creates the play MacBeth and in Mort there are distinct references to Mort having seen a play that is close to MacBeth. He also happens to be in the Ramtops which is where they would have performed this play. Since the play is performed for the first time at the climax of Wyrd Sisters that also means that Mort has to take place after the 16-year gap that book introduces.

This is extremely convenient for the rest of the time line since this also pushes Equal Rites back in the time line while allowing the Rincewind books to come forward.[/spoiler]

There’s been a lot of debate about this, i.e. the timeline. L-space has a good article about it.

I think Pterry got in trouble, becuase some of the characters he loves to write about now exist at the same time. Since they were set up at different times, I bet he said: “Blow this for a lark”. I mean, if we can suspend or disbelief to accepts a world riding on four elephants, standing on a turtle, time discrepncies of a decade or a century shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, that hasn’t proved to be the case.
I don’t care, but many seem to do.

I think a lot of potential contributors are busy with the Half-Blood Prince. Bummer.

Two points.

First you need to remember that Death and Mort-as-death are not ‘of time’. That’s made clear in Mort itself as well as in all other novels where death appears. Time is purely a matter of choice and things don’t happen one after the other for those characters. As a result Mort could have seen Hwels’ version of Macbeth even if it hadn’t been written until long after his death. Alternatively the world that Mort was put back into after resigning as Death’s apprentice could easily have been several centuries before or after his birth.

And of course we need to remeber that Pratchett resolved all the temporal inconsistencies with “Thief of Time”. After that story it’s quite impossible for the Discorld to have any temporal inonsistencies, or more correctly it is full of temporal inconsistencies and is meant to be.

Yes, it is pointless to argue about this but its fun to nitpick these things.

Mort saw the play before he became Death’s apprentice so just skipping around in time doesn’t affect it. And I don’t think we saw Death and Mort jumping forward and backward in time (in fact some of the conclusion of Mort was dependant on them rescuing Keli before it was too late). Now in Death’s realm obviously time is subjective and you don’t know how much time has passed before you come out again but we’ve never seen anyone leave Death’s realm the day before yesterday.

I’m sorry, I didn’t notice this thread. I loved Mort…it was what originally really got me into TP, I believe. It wasn’t the story, or anything, I just really liked the character Mort, and of course Death is one of my all-time favorites.

I haven’t read it in a long time. I know exactly where it is, maybe I’ll go get it. But I think it & Grim Reaper are vital to TP in that you need them to understand all the Death references that come throughout the books…the eggtimers, Death himself, the little Rat Death, and Death’s occasional discontent with his job.

I’m just jumping in to say that the Death of Rats is one of my favorite TP characters.


That would be Reaper Man, which leads me to:

Another Doper with a Pterry handle. Welcome to the boards. And the Death of rats comes on stage in Reaper Man.

Next time :shudder: Sourcery. I really don’t like that and I’m dreading about writing the OP.


The Grim Reaper is my handle on some first-person shooter games I occasionally indulge in. While I did get it from TP, it’s everywhere else too.


Mort was the first TP I read and got me hooked. My favourite character is Granny Weatherwax, least fave; Rincewind. Unfortunately don’t have time to reread Mort at the mo, will try and get up to speed for Sourcery!

Well, I finally finished it. I don’t have much to say except to ask if any other character ever said Mort’s first name. I know I would have noticed it if it happened at the end, when the joke was well established, but if his father or someone said it at the beginning, I probably wouldn’t have, and I don’t want to read it again, just to look for that. Also, the fact that no one ever calls him Mort leads me to wonder why he said “Mortimer…sir. They call me Mort.”

And while finding that quote, I discovered that his father did call him Mort. Bringing my entire post to naught. Oh well.

Obviously, since it’s a week late. :smiley:

Did we want to skip it, and jump into (IIRC) Pyramids?

I dunno about the rest of you, but I’m already back up to Eric (with a skip-ahead to The Pratchett Portfolio and The Last Hero :slight_smile: ).

I’m up to Witches Abroad myself.
Here it is, though.Sourcery, that is.

I don’t think it’s a plot hole so much as unstated assumptions made by the Big D and an internal conflict. I think he expected Mort to come into his own slowly and under his own eye; instead, Mort suddenly starts interfering with everything. Also, he might have been hit in the gut with the realization that Mort taking over really does mean Mort taking over and him not being in charge anymore.

Yeah, I read that in a “care what you wish for” sort of way.