Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ach! Crivens!

Since Terry Pratchett has written dozens of novels, it's been an easy thing to procure stacks of them from the library. Within the last few weeks I've enjoyed Wyrd Sisters, Mort, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and The Wee Free Men. Of those, I thought Wryd Sisters the most clever, Amazing Maurice (a retelling of the Pied Piper tale) the sweetest, and TWFM the funniest. Mort featured Death (who often makes amusing appearances in Pratchett's world) and a boy named Mort who served as his apprentice, and although diverting, I didn't enjoy it quite as well as the others.

Currently I'm reading A Hat Full of Sky, which I think is a rather spectacular title. It's the second in the series featuring young witch Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men, little blue pictsies with thick Scottish accents and a love of stealing, fighting, and drinking. Last night when I was up at 4 am nursing Big Ben, I laughed so hard I was afraid I'd dislodge the boy. When the pictsies start their energetic cursing and bickering in their thick Scottish brogue, I can barely contain myself. It's good to have something to help me wile away the drowsy hours of midnight breastfeeding, especially since Ben appears to be having another growth spurt (the boy is all growth spurts). Next I plan to read Wintersmith, the third Tiffany Aching story.

I highly recommend everything I've read by Pratchett. It's great fun to see his memorable characters appearing among the interweaving plots of his novels.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

If truth is not always stranger than fiction, it is on occasion more interesting. Such is the case with Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre, the true story of perhaps the greatest spy ever known. Macintyre chronicles the adventures of Eddie Chapman, a gentleman thief, masterful liar, serial womanizer, and shameless pickpocket who is impossible not to like. A young English thief imprisoned in France, Chapman makes a deal with German occupiers during World War II to serve as an agent. Once in England, he counteroffers his services to British MI5 as a double agent.

Though Chapman often seemed devoted to persons and sincere about his actions, it was impossible to predict his behavior or to determine his loyalties. It's never clear whether he worked as a double agent for the money, out of patriotism, or simply for the thrill of it. In addition to his adventures, Chapman's affairs and friendships are explored in great detail, and none is more captivating than his deep friendship with his German handler.

It's enlightening to learn about the real life of a secret agent and the WWII intrigues, but Chapman's enigmatic personality is the real fascination here. I've never read a more exciting spy story with a more amusingly inexplicable protagonist. The James Bond types are so utterly bland by comparison.