Time and again…

imageShe(Time) has told me everything,’ Wen went on. ‘I know that time was made for men, not the other way around. I have learnt how to shape it and bend it. I know how to make a moment last forever, because it already has. And I can teach these skills even to you, Clodpool. I have heard the heartbeat of the universe. I know the answers to many questions. Ask me.’

The apprentice gave him a bleary look…

‘Er…what does the master want for breakfast?’ he said.

Wen looked down from their camp and across the snowfields and purple mountains to the golden daylight creating the world, and mused upon certain aspects of humanity. ‘Ah,’ he said ‘one of the difficult ones.’ (Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett)

After a quote like that, we feel we could end the blog post there. Just those few words say volumes about life, time, humanity and, about Terry Pratchett’s writing. We have been feeling a bit lost the last few weeks as normally around this time of the year a new Discworld book would have come out and we would have been rubbing our hands with glee and pushing everything else aside to devote ourselves completely to it. With a sigh we discussed how that is no longer going to happen and as a consolation we decided to return to one of our favourites and reread(to the power of zillion) the book we keep returning to time and again. Time being the operative word here because the Thief of Time is about the personification of Time.

The Auditors of reality are recurring villains in the Discworld books. These grey drab beings, the bureaucrats of the Universe, hate life and want to put an end to Discworld because it is disorderly and messes up the paperwork. They want the son of Time who is a clock maker to build the ultimate clock which will stop time and bring the world to a standstill. Death who has become involved in life, along with the other horsemen of the Apocalypse, who against their own nature have been corrupted by the human body personifications they have taken on, does not want the Apocalypse to happen. But they are prevented from interfering directly, so those who are mostly mortal but outside of humanity, like Death’s granddaughter Susan and Lobsang/Jeremy, the son of Time with a very split personality (literally), assisted by Lu-Tze the eight hundred year old History monk and the renegade auditor Myra Le Jean, combine forces to save the world and stop it from coming to an end on Wednesday at 1 o’clock. Their main ammunition against the Auditors being chocolate.

If all of this does not sound mad enough, there is also a regenerating Yeti and a reincarnated Abbot (who remembers his previous lives but unfortunately has to live through the embarrassment of being a baby in each re birth, and demanding ‘bikkits’ and his potty in the middle of very serious conversations). Then there is Qu, the monk who keeps developing exploding begging bowls and equips the History monks going out into the world. Not to forget the mysterious milkman who was part of the Apocalypse band but then decided to take off on a solo career.

Subtly woven into all this chaos (or Kaos) is a heavy dose of philosophy, the nature of death and time, the interaction between the two and their inability to be disentangled from life. ‘The way of Mrs. Cosmopolite’ that Lu-Tze follows is made up of standard everyday sayings but all true philosophers know that it is the simple statements like ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’, ‘a little soap and water never killed anyone’ and ‘I haven’t got all day, you know’, that provide the guidelines for dealing with the difficulties of life and the universe. There are portents in a swirl and deep, complex instructions in mundane words. Similarly, what may appear to be an amusing tale contains paradoxes galore. The son of Time who later takes over the job from his mother, is apprenticed to a sweeper/ History monk. But who is truly the master and who is the one learning? Is it the sweeper who can even sweep away time, the master of the arts of Okidoki and Deja-fu  or is it Time who can easily turn the sweeper to dust with a flick of his hand?

This is a book absolutely worth reading, even for people who are not Terry Pratchett or Discworld or fantasy fans, because it has everything that one could want in a book. There are layers to be unravelled and with each reading one goes deeper and deeper into the book. It’s a thrilling race to save the world with (possibly)high tech gadgets, superheroes of a sort, monks who can bend time, serious amounts of humour, irony, ‘punes’, oodles of interesting characters and a valley of permanently blooming cherry trees. Susan Sto Helit, in our opinion, is one of the most amazing characters ever written. After all, how many people do we know who have the ability to fade into the foreground, walk through walls, ride the Pale Horse and live outside time? Although Susan’s mother was adopted by Death, Susan has inherited certain family traits as “some genetics are passed on via the soul.”

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