Mort by Terry Pratchett
Illustrations by Omar Rayyan
Published in 1987; 2016 Edition by The Folio Society
Genre: Fantasy, satire
Disclaimer: This review will be different from the norm in that it is split into two parts: a standard, albeit shorter, book review and a specific review of this Folio Society edition. I am endorsing this product through my own volition and belief in its high quality.
Part I: The Story
“This is the bright candlelit room where the lifetimers are stored – shelf upon shelf of them, squat hourglasses, one for every living person, pouring their fine sand from the future into the past.”
The eponymous character of Mort, by Terry Pratchett, is an awkward, lanky, redheaded teen sent by his father to learn a trade because, well, that’s what parents do with children who can’t really contribute at home. When no one else picks him, Discworld’s anthropomorphic manifestation of Death appears and chooses Mort as his apprentice.
Mort is taken to Death’s realm, which houses hourglasses that show how much time is left in a person’s life; there are also books that continually write until someone’s life ends. Mort also meets Ysabell, Death’s adopted daughter, and his servant Albert; both of which have not aged since they were brought to Death’s abode. Death and Mort travel to the city of Ankh-Morpork to train; it is here that Mort learns that only wizards, cats and those who have died can see Death. Everyone else has a normal mind which diverts their attention when they come in contact with the skeletal specter (or spectre).
During Mort’s first solo mission, he saves a princess instead of letting her die which causes an upset in the balance in the universe. This splits the world into two realities – in Sto Lat, Princess Keli is alive; everywhere else, she is dead. As the “real” reality begins to close in on Sto Lat, Mort starts acting more like his master while Death is away trying to be more human. The danger in this is that Mort will become Death, but with memories of vengeance and the depths his humanity. He threatens Albert into helping him slow reality to save the princess again and when Death learns of this, he duels Mort.
The ending ties up neatly, but it works since we are dealing with different realities and, as paradoxical as it may seem, comes off as believable. The heavy content in the book is juxtaposed by the humor (or humour); it’s a bit refreshing since this novel is literally about Death. We see Death at a party as he tries to join a conga line, he has a bag of coins and when Mort asks how he gets them, Death replies “IN PAIRS,” and his magnificent horse is named Binky.
Part II: The Book Itself
The illustrations in this edition are absolutely gorgeous. One can see that the bones in Death’s skeleton and Binky’s white coat surpass their descriptions and are made of multiple hues that add depth. Each illustration is intricately detailed; one of the best examples of this is a picture which includes the dry fly that Death has made. Rather than simply being bait, it grasps the fish with its multitude of legs and teeth.
Though the book is cloth-bound, it has a felt-like texture that makes it a pleasure to hold while reading. The cover art is breathtaking with Mort holding the scythe and riding Binky while the grinning visage of Death fishes below. The scythe slices the picture into black and white, referencing the split realities in the story and adding another layer to the minute detail given.
The original first printing of this edition was a facsimile of the book Mort receives at the end of the novel and limited to 500 copies; not surprisingly, it sold out in 13 hours. Though this is the standard edition, there is still plenty of artistic care and work that went into the product, and I prefer the fantastic cover image to a simple leather binding.
Here are some specifications taken from The Folio Society web page:
- Bound in cloth with an inset paper label printed with an image by the artist
- Set in Caslon
- 240 pages
- Black & white title-page illustration; 7 colour illustrations
- Printed endpapers and slipcase
- 9 ½” x 6 ¼”
There are some obvious differences between the Folio Society edition of American Gods and Mort. Though the latter is still high quality, it is shorter and contains less images. There is a definite difference in price range, but each is appropriate to both the size of the book and the amount of images/art commissioned for the final product. As I have stated on the blog before, Mort served as my introduction to the Discworld series, and though I enjoyed The Color (or Colour) of Magic, I don’t know that I would have been as enticed by the series if I had started with it. This was a gift given to me for my birthday last month and it was what I most hoped to receive; this edition lived (or died) up to my expectation of quality from the Folio Society and I am very grateful to have a copy.
Verdict: 5 morbidly funny Folio Editions out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of Terry Pratchett, those who enjoy silly references to the macabre, fans of humor (or humour), people who are looking to be entertained by their literature, those reading the Discworld series, and you!
Not recommended for: Enemies of Terry Pratchett, people who don’t want to spend almost $70 for a beautiful edition of a fan favorite, those who dislike reading fantasy novels, people who don’t enjoy silly references to the macabre, the Duke of Sto Helit, or those afraid of confronting the anthropomorphic manifestation of Discworld’s Death.