Book Review: Sir Terry Pratchett’s A Blink of the Screen

Posted October 10, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

This book came from the library, and I will never give you less than an honest review, no matter its source. I do provide informational and purchase links to make it more convenient for you to access the book. I also receive a percentage of the sale if you use one of my links to buy it. And that's not enough money to be less than truthful *grin*.

Book Review: Sir Terry Pratchett’s A Blink of the Screen

A Blink of the Screen

by Sir Terry Pratchett

Illustrator: Josh Kirby, Terry Pratchett

four-stars

Series: Ankh-Morpork City Watch #1.5, Discword #10.5, Discword #14.5, Discword #16.5, Discword #23.5 Discword #37.5, The Witches

Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Wee Free Men, The Color of Magic, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, Eric, Equal Rites, Mort, The Shepherd's Crown, Wyrd Sisters, Pyramids, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, Reaper Man.

Genres: Anthology, Fantasy, Short Stories

This eBook has 368 pages and was published by Transworld Digital Publishing on October 11, 2012. Discover more about it at Goodreads.

A slew of short and even shorter stories in this fanciful anthology, some touch on Discworld, some make fun of it, and some are…just for the fun of it.

Do read A.S. Byatt’s foreword. As a writer, you’ll appreciate the insight she has on Pratchett and his world. As a reader, you’ll enjoy her reviews and the mini re-caps *grin* I also enjoyed Pratchett’s commentary before each of the short stories, although some of them almost seemed to be part of the story to come.

Those Shorts in the Discworld Series:

”FTB” (Evolved into Hogfather, DEATH, 4; Discworld, 20)
”Troll Bridge” (16.5)”
”Theatre of Cruelty” (Ankh-Morpork City Watch, 1.5; Discworld 14.5)
”The Sea and Little Fishes” (The Witches (before Tiffany appears))
”The Ankh-Morpork National Anthem”
”Medical Notes”
”Thud: A Historical Perspective”
”A Few Words from Lord Havelock Vetinari”
”Death and What Comes Next” (10.5)
”A Collegiate Casting-out of Devilish Devices”
“Minutes of the Meeting to Form the Proposed Ankh-Morpork Federation of Scouts” (23.5??)
“The Ankh-Morpork Football Association Hall of Fame Playing Cards” (37.5)

The Stories

The Hades Business” starts right off with one of the many things I adore about Pratchett’s writing: his descriptiveness.

”Imagine the interior of a storm cloud. Sprinkle liberally with ash and garnish with sulphur to taste.”

I am amazingly impressed with how well-educated Pratchett was at 13. I don’t know many kids who would already know who Dante was at that age. In this case, it’s the Devil, a man(?) who needs the Square Deal Advertising Company as run by Crucible. Seems Hell has gotten quite boring, and Nicholas Lucifer wants to liven things up. It’s so bad that even the demons have left, and you’ll believe Pratchett when he explains what those guys are doing these days!

First published in the Technical Cygnet, a high school magazine, and then in Science Fantasy magazine. No. 60, Vol. 20, August 1963.

Oops, looks like that ”Solution” wasn’t the one Pyecraft had planned on. Reminds me of the mine employee who was making a nice living with wheelbarrows, lol.

First published in the Technical Cygnet, a high school magazine.

The Picture” is just plain devious! Pratchett literally “paints” a picture with quite the forbidding, “escapist” ending.

First published in the Technical Cygnet, a high school magazine.

The Prince and the Partridge” is a fairytale that reveals the true origins of the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, as it developed from a courtship ritual.

First published in Bucks Free Press, 6, 13, 20 December 1968 under the pseudonym, Uncle Jim, as one of seventy-odd tales in the Children’s Circle.

Rincemangle, the Gnome of Even Moor” is a cute angle on the country dwarf who comes to the big city.

First published in Bucks Free Press, 16 March-18 May 1973 under the pseudonym, Uncle Jim, as one of seventy-odd tales in the Children’s Circle. Pratchett says it’s an earlier, shorter version of “Truckers”.

Kindly Breathe in Short, Thick Pants” made me think of our current presidential election campaign with the Rt. Hon. Duncan Disorderly, the member of Parliament, who has been made the new Fresh Air Supremo…that’s the man in charge of ensuring an equal sharing of fresh air. Yep, it’s a lot of stumping about, making silly demands with lots of harrumphing, and how to force those with more to suffer with those with less.

First published in the Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 9 October 1976.

The Glastonbury Tales” is a silly bit of poetry about a van driver who picks up assorted hitchhikers.

First published in the Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 16 June 1977.

There’s No Fool Like an Old Fool Found in an English Queue” continues the political theme with the Rt. Hon. Maurice Dancer who has been appointed the Minister for Queues. I think we need one of these in charge of slow traffic on the highway as well as for standing in lines. And for those queues where you wait forever only to find you’re waiting in the wrong line…driver’s license, anyone?

First published in the Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 14 January 1978.

Coo, They’ve Given Me the Bird” gives Communism and production lines in factories the bird.

First published in the Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 8 April 1978.

And Mind the Monoliths” cracked me up as Pratchett pokes away at reality shows (who knew Pratchett was omnisicient?) and theme parks.

First published in the Bath and West Evening Chronicle, 1 April 1978.

The High Meggas” slowly evolved into a terrifying futuristic apocalypse with a negative comparison to Daniel Boone and his preference to having no neighbors.

This evolved into the first book, The Long Earth, in The Long Earth series.

Twenty Pence with Envelope and Seasonal Greeting” starts with Pratchett’s prologue on how Dickens shaped Christmas, and now I’m wondering… A difficult story to delve into, I had to struggle with that combination of the terrified coach driver and his madness derived from a greeting card world of rectangles and giganto Christmas card metaphors that interfered with a very British Pratchett reality.

First published in Time Out, 16 December 1987.

Incubust” will have an unfortunate meaning for those who take that little blue pill, lol. Ooh, baby, Pratchett wasn’t kidding about that …bust…

First published in The Drabble Project, a 100-words or less story, through Beccon Publications, 1988.

Final Reward” is a close encounter between a writer and his hero. And what a crack-up this one is…! Somehow…somehow, Dogger has pulled his protagonist into his world, and how embarrassing is it to have this Neanderthal of a thug to have to deal with! Sure wish I could write my own ticket!

First published in G.M. The Independent Fantasy Roleplaying Magazine, October 1988.

Turntables of the Night” is a missing persons tale of a geek into records. A nice enough guy, as long as you wanted to talk recordings, vinyl.

First published in Hidden Turnings, 1989.

#IFDEFDEBUG + ‘World/Enough’ + ‘Time’” is a pip! And any geek’s idea of the perfect afterlife, lol.

First published in Digital Dreams.

Hollywood Chickens” had me thinking apocalypse and Animal Farm all rolled into one as Pratchett led me down the freeway of escaped — THINKING — chickens!

First published in More Tales from the Forbidden Planet.

The Secret Book of the Dead” is a short and nasty poem about the truth about our kids and pets.

First published in Now We are Sick.

Once and Future” is the truth about Mervin and how young Artie pulled the sword from the stone. (No, it was never Merlin. That was a typo.)

First published in Camelot.

FTB” is cute! It takes a Father Christmas to see the child in any, um, thing. And remember this the next time you call tech support!.

First published in the Western Daily Press, 24 December 1996, as “The Megabyte Drive to Believe in Santa Clause”. It has since evolved into Hogfather, Discworld, 20; DEATH, 4.

I love the idea that led to ”Sir Joshua Easement: A Biographical Note”. A clever marketing ploy to catch museum goers’ attentions! And, heck, isn’t that what we do when we step into a gallery of any sort…imagine what the subject’s life must have been like? Only…no one could imagine like Pratchett could, rofl.

Originally written for Imagined Lives for the National Portrait Gallery in London, 6 May 2010.

Troll Bridge” took a bit before I caught on, and then I couldn’t stop laughing and sympathizing with these poor souls. It’s what happens when Cohen the Barbarian, who just hadn’t realized what all that fighting would do for his world, meets up with the henpecked Mica who is such a traditionalist.

Cohen the Barbarian is looking to score. Mica is the troll in charge of Death Bridge. Beryl is Mica’s wife. Scree is Mica’s heir. Chert runs a sawmill and is Beryl’s brother.

First published in After the King.

The ”Theatre of Cruelty” where being dead makes you a suspect. And y’all know how careful and literal young Corporal Carrot is, so you can just imagine how Carrot looks upon DEATH when he shows up at a death bed… Uh-huh…

Captain Vimes is in charge in Ankh-Morpork. Sergeant Colon and Corporals Nobbs and Carrot are on the Night Watch. Chas Slumber is a children’s entertainer.

First published in Bookcase magazine, July/August 1993.

The Sea and Little Fishes” is a tale of envy by Granny Weatherwax’s fellow witches and of Nanny Ogg’s shame, as seen through the eyes of those who haven’t anything better to do. It’s both sad and funny. More sad, really, with all that envy hidden behind the backbiting. I did enjoy Pratchett showing them all up, but not at Granny’s expense.

Granny Esme Weatherwax is the unacknowledged head witch; Nanny Gytha Ogg is a fellow, indulgent, witch. Pewsey is Nanny’s youngest grandchild. Other witches include Gammer Beavis, Old Mother Beryl Dismass, and the nasty Letice Earwig (Mr. Earwig is a retired wizard) who are the new Trials committee; Charity Shimmy; Agnes Nitt; Letty Parkin; Winnie; Virago Johnson; Mrs. Weavitt has a whistling frog; and, Reena Trump. Percy Hopcroft is a premier grower whose wife does not want to move; Hoggett was a wife beater; William Poorchick is a dairyman with a good milker, Daphne, and Rummage is his son; and, Mr. Hampicker was digging a well. Zakzak Stronginthearm, is a dwarf and purveyor of knickknacks.

First published in Legends and also found in Once More* *with footnotes.

The Ankh-Morpork National Anthem” was a request from BBC Radio 4. Seems that Discworld didn’t have an anthem but Ankh-Morpork did. Right quick. In the story, Count Henrik Shline von Überwald, a vampire, had written it and the song was affectionately known as “We Can Rule You Wholesale”…now if that don’t sum up Ankh-Morpork, I don’t know what does.

”We bankrupt all invaders, we sell them souvenirs…”

Oh, god, then Pratchett, er, I mean, Überwald goes on to celebrate those words dear to everyone’s memo…, er, heart, ner, ner ner ner hner ner…, ROFLMAO.

Medical Notes” was an advertising bit Pratchett wrote for a Discworld Convention in August 2002. It’s a collection of short medical notes about various medical issues suffered in many worlds: Attention Surplus Syndrone (I do suffer this one unto others), Florabundi’s Syndrome, Annoia is also known as Paranoia Inversa, Planets (my sister’s dog suffers from this one, lol), Scroopism which can go either way with naughty bits in books, Signitus, and Bursaritis (chronic continence).

Thud: A Historical Perspective” was written to go along with Thud: The Discworld Board Game. It’s about the only game of which Pratchett approved, and in the story, is intended to replace fighting.

A Few Words From Lord Havelock Vetinari” cracked me up with Vetinari’s first words, reassuring the citizens of Ankh-Morpork that Wincanton really is a real city and had not been made up. Whew, I was so worried.

DEATH and What Comes Next” was written to go along with an online game, TimeHunt.

A Collegiate Casting-out of Devilish Devices” was another request, for the “Times Higher Education Supplement”, discussing issues about government telling schools how to use their money. I quite see the wizards’ point: How do you measure thinking? I had to laugh at the idea of Unseen U advertising for students.

Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully is in charge at Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork. Lord Vetinari rules Ankh-Morpork. Concerned wizards include Dean, Lecturer in Rcent Runes, Senior Wrangler, the Librarian is an orang-utang, and Ponder Stibbons is the Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic and the Praelector. Mr. A.E. Pessimal is the Inspector of Universities.

Minutes of the Meeting to Form the Proposed Ankh-Morpork Federation of Scouts” explores how to give the young people of Ankh-Morpork something to do, something that “did not actually involve the death of innocent, or presumably innocent, bystanders”.

Characters participating in the meeting include Captain Carrot (whoa, this must be in the distant future of Discworld!), Sergeant Angua, and Sergeant Detritus from the City Watch; Josiah Boggis of the Thieves’ Guild; Miss Alice Band of the Assassins’ Guild; Grag Bashful Bashfulsson, a dwarf community leader; Miss Estressa Partleigh from the Campaign for Equal Heights; Crysophrase from the Silicon Anti-Defamation League; John Smith from the Überwald League of Temperance; and, Lord Vetinari, the ruler of Ankh-Morpork.

The Anhk-Morpork Football Association Hall of Fame Playing Cards” is another marketing request for playing cards when the soccer satire, Unseen Academicals, 37 (RW, 8), was released.

Ah-hah! The Librarian is Dthau, a professor of L-space Studies.

The Cover and Title

The cover is of a be-hatted Terry Pratchett sitting at a desk, arms crossed, looking off to our right. Behind him is a book-laden set of shelves with a world of creatures swarming in the corners of the cover.

I think the title refers to how quickly those stories finish, in A Blink of the Screen.


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