Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents...random thoughts

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.

Let me say right off the top here that there is no way I will ever do this book justice. It is simply so utterly brilliant.

Okay, so I'd been on a streak of reading rather depressing things. Good stuff, but depressing stuff. I was craving something fun and light. For the last couple years, I'd been wanting to give Discworld a try, but balked because I just didn't know where to start. Nymeth kindly put up with all my questions about where to start and whatnot, and suggested that this book was the perfect choice, being a good stand-alone. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally put her advice to use. And did it meet my expectations? Well, yes and no. (In the sheer awesomeness category it surpassed them by like half a gazillion miles.) But as for fun and light... Well, fun gets a yes, yes, YES! Light, well, not so much. And by that, I don't for a single minute mean that it's heavy, tedious reading, or that it's obscure or pretentious...I just mean that it really has a lot to say. And in retrospect, I have to say I was an idiot for ever imagining that it would be a light, "fluffy" story...because Nymeth has the most remarkable gift for finding books that satisfy and delight and challenge on a number of levels. And that is exactly what this book does!

So what's it about? Well, let me quote from page 1, where that very question is addressed:

They fought the dogs and killed the cats, and--

But there was more to it that that. As the Amazing Maurice said it was just a story about people and rats. And the difficult part of it was deciding who the people were, and who were the rats.

But Malicia Grim said it was a story about stories.

Doesn't seem to tell you much, does it? Of course, after you read it, you realize just how much it says. I'm sorry. I'm really not trying to be so obtuse here. I'm just having a hard time putting this all into words.

Okay. Let's try this again.

The Amazing Maurice is a cat. A talking cat, who is sort of the unofficial leader of an odd group of con artists. The rest of this band consists of a boy named Keith and a bunch of educated rodents. Only I'm not sure "educated" is precisely the correct word. Thinking rodents. And it's not that all cats and rodents can think and talk. No, this is not the norm. (How they came to be this way, I'll leave for you to discover when you read this book. Because you should read this book.) Anyway, this little group has perfected a scam. They head into an unsuspecting town. The rats wreak havoc. And do so in ways that no ordinary rats would even dream of doing. Seriously, how would you react if a rat went tap-dancing across your table before "widdling" in your cream? Okay, so not all the rats are fabulous dancers, but Sardines is quite proud of his talent. Anyway, so the rats put the town in an uproar, and in comes Keith, a piper, and offers to lead the rats away. For a price, of course.

Now this unlikely gang makes quite a fine living at this for a while. Until they come to the town of Bad Blintz. And it is here that the story really takes place. And this is where it turns dark. I don't want to give away any more of the actual story, but I've got all these really cool things floating around in my head that I really wish I could talk about. *sigh* So, I'll just add a couple of disconnected thoughts here, and then urge you once again to go read this yourself.

*I love the names of the rats, and the story of how they got their names. I won't tell you the story. Think you can guess if I tell you some of my favorite names? Hamnpork, Bestbefore, Nourishing, Additives, Inbrine. And my very favorite of all...Dangerous Beans (though I'm dying for someone to explain the "circumstances" of that one).

*This is the PERFECT book for Once Upon a Time. It fills nearly all the categories at once. :) Fantasy--check. Fairy tale--yep, definitely a cool retelling of the Pied Piper. Folklore--again yep, rat kings. *shudder* And you know, someone more learned on such matters might be able to find a way to stick this under myth, too.

*It's loaded with humor, sometimes subtle, always smart.

*And finally, let me leave you with this question:

What is it that defines "civilized"?

Oops, sorry, I'm not really going to leave it at that. But don't worry...I've got a good reason for continuing. See, I have a copy of this wonderful little treasure to give away. NO, not mine--this is a keeper! But a brand new copy, because I accidentally bought two. Want it? Just say so...and I'll do the random draw thingie sometime Monday.


Other views:

Annie at Words by Annie
Jennifer at Jennifer's Book Blog
Lara at Lara's YA Reading Log
Nate at The Chronicles of Nate-ia
Rebecca at Just One More Page
Jenclair at A Garden Carried in the Pocket

Oh, and it won the Carnegie I'm guessing the judges loved it, too. :)

I'm sure there must be other reviews out there, so if you've got one, please feel free to leave a link in the comments, and I'll add it here. Thanks.


Chris said...

OMG I need to read this like now! It sounds so good :D I've been looking for another Pratchett standalone and it doesn't sound like it gets much better than this one! What a fantastic review Debi :D

Nymeth said...

You are not an idiot (OUR DEAL, DEBI, OUR DEAL), but yeah, this is definitely NOT light :P

But let me tell you, even I, mostly knowing what to expect from Pterry (though the best authors surprise me, and I love that) did not expect this to be so dark. It's even...claustrophobic at times. But I loved that about it. And of course, I love that it's also intelligent and funny and serious and sad and subtle and brilliant. I'd list it in my top five Discworld books, and you know how much that means.

I'm so happy you loved it. And you're awesome for giving away a copy and spreading the love even further :D

So...Nation next? :P

Debi said...

Chris, I'm putting your name in the drawing, okay? I think you read this before I remembered to add the bit about the giveaway.

Debi said...

Definitely Nation next! Well, once I finish all the dang books I have started. Think I'm probably going to end up returning a bunch of library books unread, because I just want to get to some of the books I bought! Like Nation!

I seriously can't thank you enough for suggesting this book to me. You know, if I'd finished this before I made my Herding Cats list, it would have gone on my list! Next year.

Megan said...

I've been reading a bunch of depressing things lately myself. Like yours, not bad - just depressing. This sounds like a very nifty read and one I'll definitely be putting on my wish list. I'd love to have my name in the hat for your extra copy, too! Thanks, Debi!

Amanda said...

My cousin recommended this one to me, and I've never read any Pratchett, so I'm glad to see it lives up to expectations. I'd love to enter the contest, too!

Debi said...

I think like you, it's not really that I mind depressing reads, but too much at once can be overwhelming! I got you entered. :)

I definitely think your cousin pointed you in the right direction! Your name's in the proverbial hat. :)

Kailana said...

I am looking forward to this book coming in for me at the library! I have read Pratchett before but a bit haphazordously! I have Nation out from the library... Should read that in this century, too!

DesLily said...

it's sounding like Mr Pratchett will soon have his own little section of your book shelf!

Jodie said...

I really want to read this - it's one of the few Pratchett's I don't own and you've made it sound fabulous.

Shelley said...

I really want to read this one. Maybe I'll add it to my Once Upon a Time list!

Masha said...

Oh yes, I also loved that book. If you found the whole diskworld thing a bit daunting, you might like to try Terry Pratchett's "Johnny" books. There are three of them - "Johnny and the Dead", Johnny and the Bomb" and "Only You Can Save Mankind"

Not sure which comes first, but it does not really matter. I think you will enjoy them. They have that same mix of really funny and also quite serious, actually!

Dont enter me into your draw I live too far away...

Staci said...

I've been trying to decide how to slip into Discworld but haven't really had any success. But now I feel that I can get this book off my library shelf and finally get a feel for Pratchett!! Thanks Debi!!

Chris said...

I did indeed miss the giveaway part! Could luck strike thrice? lol

And I agree with Nymeth's first paragraph :p And it made me laugh....a lot.

Shelley said...

I did not realize until Chris' comment that you had an extra copy to give away! Count me in!