Although we haven’t plunged too far into Terry Pratchett’s (1948 – 2015) Discworld series, Mort was one we read ages back as teenagers.
In French, “mort” means death so you can see where the title came from. Eh? Humour is a big deal in his works and the author later said this was the first work he was really pleased with.
Published in November 1987, it’s the fourth work from the series and follows the various adventures of a young bloke whom Death takes on as an apprentice. Nice of it, eh?
Mort is a teenager who’s not really suitable for his family business. His father, despairing, takes him to a hiring fair to get something out of the lad.
Death turns up and sees something in the young man, although Mort’s father thinks the individual is an overly dramatic undertaker.
Under Death’s bony arm, Mort enters a new domain and meets Albert (the manservant) and Ysabell (Death’s adopted daughter).
Mort’s job is to help out as Death goes about doing his death-based things. During one such mission, Mort intervenes.
Death warns the teenager all deaths must come about naturally as they’re on a predetermined basis. In other words, don’t mess with fate.
Mort agrees to that and Death later, impressed enough with his apprentice’s abilities, hands him the task of collecting a princesses’ soul.
Mort screws that up and kills the assassin sent to wipe out the princess.
This action creates an alternate reality and he teams up with Ysabell to correct the problem. Death is mightily annoyed and it’s up to the youngsters to get the issue sorted.
Okay, so that’s the synopsis in summary. It’s a good fun book and we enjoyed it a lot ages back when we read. It’s stuck with us over the years.
Although we think Pratchett honed his skills to a greater degree after this (particularly for the Nome Trilogy) it’s still an amusing and fine effort.
His sense of imagination, and the characterisation, are strong. Death, for example, has a weirdly comical persona and is the highlight of the book.
So, if you’re still to get involved in the Discworld stuff then this is a good place to start. The author said so himself!
Death & Other Things
The depiction of Death in Mort had us thinking of other times the character crops up.
In the world of culture, he (as it’s usually got a male voice) turns up in many and varied shows such as Family Guy.
But it’s Monty Python’s consideration from the comedy troop’s final film that sticks with us.
The darkest production the team ever did, The Meaning of Life has many highlights (despite being a bit disjointed in places).
And the arrival of Death is one of the most disturbing things they ever did. Bravo!