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Terry Pratchett
HarperPrism, 288 pages

Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

The SF Site's Terry Pratchett Reading List
ISFDB Bibliography
HarperCollins Maskerade page

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond


Discworld -- a flat, circular world carried through space on the back of four elephants who stand on the back of the Great A'tuin, a ten thousand mile long turtle hurtling through space. What can one expect from a world such as this? Previous Discworld books have taken us to the pyramids, explored the huge, festering metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, introduced us to the City Watch, a coven of witches, an inept wizard and his sentient luggage, and given us a look at Death and the creation of a god. So what could be next? Maskerade takes us to the opera. Specifically to the Opera House in Ankh-Morpork. As with many of his books, Terry Pratchett gives us a look at the opera through cynical eyes, laced with his uniquely outrageous humor.

Maskerade opens with Agnes Nitt, a.k.a., Perdita X, auditioning at the Opera House. Blessed with a singularly magnificent voice, Agnes is unfortunately not blessed with an extraordinary body. Or rather, her body is extraordinary -- extraordinarily large, that is. Still, there's no denying her talent and she's hired as a member of the opera company.

Meanwhile, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, two-thirds of a witches coven, are looking for a replacement for Magrat, who had the nerve to go off and marry a king. Covens consist of a maiden, a mother and a crone, and Nanny and Granny fit two of these three categories. Thinking that Agnes might be a perfect candidate for the third (now that Magrat no longer qualifies), Nanny pays a visit to Agnes, only to find that she has wandered off to the big city to seek her fortune. Fortunately, other business calls Nanny and Granny to Ankh-Morpork -- business dealing with the surprising success of Nanny's book, The Joye of Snacks. If you've read any of the other books which featured the witches of Lancre, you can guess that this particular book deals with more than just recipes (and I'm not talking about spells!).

Agnes is hired on with the opera as the voice of Christina, a lovely girl with marvelous stage presence...but no talent. So Christina provides the body and Agnes supplies the voice. Unfortunately, not everything is going smoothly. Nanny and Granny arrive in Ankh-Morpork to find that the Opera House is haunted by a ghost; a ghost that is killing people and ruining the show. They set out to rid the Opera House of the ghost and set things right. And, of course, they try to persuade Agnes to leave and come back to Lancre.

If, as you read along, the plot reminds you of "Phantom of the Opera", well, sit back and enjoy Pratchett's version. You'll meet Mr. Bucket, the new, unwitting owner of the Opera House, who wasn't told that his new purchase included a maniacal ghost, flooded cellars and a ledger that is more often red than black. As Mr. Salzella, the music director tells him:

"A catastrophe curve, Mr. Bucket, is what opera runs along. Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong, Mr. Bucket. It works because of hatred and love and nerves. All the time. This isn't cheese. This is opera. If you wanted a quiet retirement, Mr. Bucket, you shouldn't have bought the Opera House. You should have done something peaceful, like alligator dentistry."

You'll also meet Walter Plinge, the half-wit handyman and Enrico Basilica, who isn't quite what he seems. In fact, quite a few people have secrets. But you'll have to read the book to find out what they are.

As with many of Pratchett's books, Maskerade can be read all by itself. But you'll definitely enjoy it more if you know something about Pratchett's Discworld and have followed the previous exploits of the witches of Lancre. If you're a Discworld fan, run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up Maskerade. You won't regret it.

Copyright © 1997 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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