Book Review: The Discworld Graphic Novels by Terry Pratchett

Author: Terry Pratchett
Title: The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic
Publication Info: New York : Harper, c2008.
The Colour of Magic

  • Originally published: Innovative, 1991
  • Illustrated by Steven Ross
  • Adapted by Scott Rockwell
  • Lettered by Vickie Williams
  • Edited by David Campiti

The Light Fantastic

  • Originally published: Innovative, 1992
  • Adapted by Scott Rockwell
  • Illustrated by Steven Ross
  • Painted by Mira Fairchild
  • Lettered by Michelle Beck

Other Books Read by the Same Author:


In this graphic novel introduces Terry Pratchett’s Discworld through an adaptation of the first two novels in the series.  The central character is the hapless wizard Rincewind who is charged with being the guide for Twoflower, the first tourist ever on Discworld.  The pair, along with Twoflower’s Luggage (a sentient chest that moves on tiny legs), have a series of adventures that play on the tropes of high fantasy and sword and sorcery stories.  Meanwhile the gods themselves and a powerful book of magic called Octavo have plans for them.

The adventures are ludicrous and fun and wonderfully illustrated. If there’s a flaw is that the story seems to skip around a bit making me wonder how much of the original novel’s story was abridged for space. Nevertheless, it’s serves as a delightful introduction to Discworld.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Author: Kevin Hearne
TitleHeir to the Jedi 
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio, 2015.

This Star Wars novel is set in between the original film and The Empire Strikes Back when the Rebel Alliance is looking for a new base of operations.  Luke Skywalker is dealing with the comedown after his initial success of destroying the Death Star and having no one to train him to use the Force.  Luke is assigned a mission to recover the brilliant cryptographer Drusil Bephorin (from a species who talk about math for fun) who is being forced to work for the Empire.  Accompanying him on his journey is the sharpshooter Nakari Kelen, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who supports the rebel cause.  They fly on her souped-up yacht, the Desert Jewel.

The narrative overall is episodic adventures of Luke, Nakari, and Drusil using their strengths to avoid entanglements with Imperials and bounty hunters.  Uniquely, the story is narrated from the first person point of view of Luke Skywalker, and does a good job of capturing his uncertainty and impulsiveness.  Luke’s relationship with Nakari helps him realize things about himself in his effort to learn more about becoming a Jedi.  They also have an amusing, quippy relationship that leads to romance.  The idea introduced in the prequels that Jedi were like Catholic priests who could have no romantic attachments always bothered me so it’s nice to see it subverted here.

While this novel is ultimately a light and frivolous thing, I did enjoy it.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Terry Pratchett: The BBC Radio Drama Collection by Terry Pratchett

Author: Terry Pratchett
Title: Terry Pratchett: The BBC Radio Drama Collection 
Narrator: Full cast performances (see links from descriptions of each radio drama for the names of cast & crew)
Other Books Read by the Same Author:

Publication Info:  BBC Books (2019)

I’ve been meaning to read more Terry Pratchett, so what better way to start than with seven of his novels dramatized by actors at the BBC.  Most of these novels are set in Pratchett’s Discworld, a flat planet on the back of four elephants on the back of a giant turtle.  The setting is similar to the medieval fantasy and fairy tale stories with comedic and satirical factors.

Mort (****)

Death, a recurring character in the Discworld stories, decides to take on the teenage Mort as an apprentice.  But when Mort prevents the assassination of Princess Keli he creates an alternate universe that threatens reality.  This is a really funny and clever novel.

Wyrd Sisters (**1/2)

One of the issues I had with these radio dramas is that the audio quality wasn’t always good and it was particularly hard to understand the Shakespearean stage whispers in this production.  That may have marred my enjoyment of this story about three witches and an acting troupe.  The play within a play  parodies elements of Macbeth, Hamlet, and other works of Shakespeare.

Guards! Guards! (***1/2)

This book introduces the City Watch, generally considered incompetent, but put to the test when a group of miscreants summon a dragon as part of a plot to put a new king on the throne.  Lead by Samuel Vines, and inspired by earnest newcomer Carrot, the  Watch rises to the occasion.

Eric (***)

A parody of Faust, thirteen-year-old demonologist, Eric Thursley accidentally rescues the wizard Rincewind from Dungeon Dimensions (a Discworld version of hell).  Eric is granted three wishes but they are fulfilled with “monkey’s paw” style consequences.

Small Gods (****)

The Great God Om manifests himself in the form of a tortoise to a simple religious novitiate named Brutha, who turns out to be the only human who truly believes in Om.  This book somehow works both as a skewering of religion but also shows the positive side of religious practice.

Night Watch (****)

Commander of the City Watch Samuel Vines is pursuing a dangerous criminal, Carcer, when they are both transported back in time.  Vimes must take on the identity of John Keel and mentor his younger self through the conflict that ensues.

Only You Can Save Mankind (**1/2)

The only story not set in Discworld, but instead in England during the time of the Gulf War in 1991.  12-year-old Johnny Maxwell is playing a video game about an alien attack, when the alien ScreeWee surrender to him.  In a reality-bending adventure Johnny is responsible for helping seemingly real-life aliens get back home.  This story seems to anticipate massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Breadfruit by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Around the World for a Good Book selection for French Polynesia

Author: Célestine Hitiura Vaite
Title: Breadfruit
Publication Info: Auckland, N.Z. : Vintage, 2000.

Set in Tahiti, this novel is the story of Materena, a young woman in Tahiti who lives with her somewhat shiftless boyfriend Pito and their children.  At the beginning of the book Pito drunkenly proposes to Materena and she dreams about the wedding while wondering if he really meant it.  The book is episodic linking together vignettes of everyday life in Tahiti, usually with Materena being visited by family and friends who share their adventures.  The novel is mostly light and funny, but there’s an undercurrent of the reveal poverty and effects of colonialism (which manifests in the book primarily through the French police officers).  It’s a delightful and charming book and Vaite does a great job in creating the characters and their dialogue.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Author: Ray Bradbury
Title: Dandelion Wine
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Publication Info: Tantor Media, Inc., 2010 [Originally published in 1957]
Other Books I’ve Read By the Same Author:


I read Dandelion Wine 30+ years ago and it swiftly became one of my all-time favorite books.  However, there’s actually very little I remember of the book. My main memory is the scene where the main character’s grandfather is indignant when someone tries to convince him to get a lawn where dandelions won’t grow, and thus lose the main ingredient in the titular beverage (By the way, since this book is set in 1928, does making dandelion wine violate the Volstead Act?).

This book is a more personal work for Ray Bradbury, based on his childhood memories of summers in his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois (which he calls “Green Town”). Bradbury admits in the introduction that Waukegan is an unattractive, industrial city but for a child it was full of wonders, something the jibes with my own experience of growing up in a mundane Connecticut suburb.  The main characters of the book are 12-year-old Douglas, his younger brother Tom, and their friend Charlie.  But it’s not a novel as much as it is an interconnected collection of short stories, several of which don’t involve the children at all.

The book is not science fiction or horror as it typical of Bradbury’s work, but contains aspects of these things.  Douglas finds magic in the feeling of being alive in the summer and an elderly neighbor is considered a “time machine” because of the stories he can tell.  While rooted in childhood, this book is very much an adult’s perspective on ideas of mortality.  An elderly woman is convinced by children who believe she was never young to let go of her memories, while Douglas’ great grandmother predicts the hour of her death.  There’s also the horror of a serial killer known as The Lonely One stalking the town.

Bradbury’s work is filled with nostalgia and poetic language, but it is not divorced from cold reality.  It embraces the magic of every day life while not shying away from the fact that one day everyone will die.  Through all the change, there are always things that will remain the same.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Boom! by Mark Haddon

Author: Mark Haddon 
Title: Boom!
Narrator: Julian Rhind-Tutt
Publication Info: Listening Library (2010)
Other Books Read by the Same Author:


Recommended books:


Book Review: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Narrator: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Publication Info: W. W. Norton & Company (2017)
Other Books I’ve Read By the Same Author:


As the title says, Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down big questions of the universe into a quick and comprehensible book. Topics include the Big Bang, dark matter and dark energy, and exoplanets.  For me this is a bit of a review of the awe-inspiring cosmology course I took in college.  Of course, I never fully understood it all back than so learning it again never hurts.  Tyson is probably the most well-known living public scientist, and his writing style (and narration on the audiobook) makes for an engaging book on complex topics.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***

Book Review: It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders and John Nichols

Author: Bernie Sanders and John Nichols
Title: It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism
Narrator: Bernie Sanders
Publication Info:  Crown (2023)

The latest book from America’s beloved socialist grandpa has a provocative title.  So I was a little disappointed when a good chunk of the book was a memoir of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, helping to get Joe Biden elected, and a frustrating two years where the Democratic party failed to take advantage of their congressional majority to advance a progressive agenda.  Basically it’s a sequel to Our Revolution.  Mind you, I have great memories of attending a Sanders’ presidential rally on Boston Common, which was the last big crowd I stood in before the pandemic started.

But the title implied that this was going to be more of an analysis of what is going wrong in our country/world and how to fix it.  And it does get down to it eventually with a good synthesis on how the corporate and wealthy elites have created intense economic inequality.  The solutions, of course, are the many proposals that he and others have been putting forward, many based on what has worked in other nations as well as in the United States past.  It’s all very well-written, but also not anything particularly new to me, as I’m the choir to Bernie’s preacher.  I’m not sure if their is an audience who is not aware of these solutions already who would be receptive to hearing it from Senator Sanders (because believe it or not,  our beloved socialist grandpa is not loved by all).  But if there is, this would be a good primer for them!

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2



Book Review: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

Author: Eric Idle
Title: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography
Narrator: Eric Idle
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2018

Eric Idle makes it clear that the purpose of a celebrity memoir is to drop the names of all the famous people one ever knew and the trouble one got into with them. At least he tells it in an entertaining way, especially since he narrates the audiobook.

Recommended books:

  • So, Anyway… by John Cleese
  • The First 20 Years of Monty Python by Kim “Howard” Johnson
  • The Life of Python : And Now for Something Completely Different by George Perry
  • Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin
  • Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray

Author: Claudia Gray
Title: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info:  Random House Audio (2022)

The third novel in The High Republic series sees the Nihil, a band of pirates lead by the opportunistic Marchion Ro, carry out their boldest attack yet to destabilize the Republic and injure the Jedi Order.  Starlight Beacon, a space station built in the galaxy’s Outer Rim as a symbol the Republic’s culture and unity, is bombed by saboteurs who leave few options for escape and rescue.  The station splits in half, and the better part of the novel involves the actions of the Jedi and others aboard the lower half (including the saboteurs and Nihil prisoners who were on board) to save themselves and others before it crashes on the planet below.  To make matters worse, Ro has placed creatures known as the Nameless aboard the space station who have the power to dampen the connections the Jedi have with the force, effectively making them fight blind.

The novel reads like a disaster movie, like The Poseidon Adventure or maybe even Apollo 13, as the protagonists work to find solutions to cascading failures. I feel like I’m getting a better sense of the main characters than I have before, although there are several new characters introduced who make the proceedings confusing.  Claudia Gray has the advantage of having the backstory established for her, but I also feel she’s the most engaging writer among the three books.  My two favorite characters, Jedi padawans Bell Zettifar and Burryaga Agaburry, get to team up in this book, and assuming the unclear fate of one of these characters is cleared up, I hope they get to be partners again in future novels.

This novel ends the trilogy on kind of a down note, with the biggest victory being that the people of the Republic come together to aid in the rescue and are unified by the disaster.  But it’s still a major defeat for the Republic and the Jedi.  I haven’t been able to figure out if the story is supposed to continue or how it fits in The High Republic extended universe which includes middle grade and early reader novels as well as comics (including one that has the story of what happens on the upper half of Starlight Beacon).  Not sure I have the time or interest in reading them all to see if I’m missing any of the story but I will look for additional novels in the adult line if and when they’re published.

Rating: ***1/2

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