Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Book Review; The Pharaoh's Secret by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

I stumbled upon The Pharaoh's Secret at my local library. This thriller novel stood on the “rapid read” shelf with a big, round sticker on the book's cover that says: “ 10 day loan, no reservations, no renewals, high demand titles, and overdue fine $1 per day”.

The set-up in the library attracted my attention. I picked up this book to have a closer look at it. Two things about The Pharaoh's Secret incited my interest: 1) The famous Clive Cussler wrote (co-authored) this book. I have yet to read his works so perhaps this is a good introduction to his novels, 2) This book looks like it is telling an Indiana-Jones-like thriller story, with lots of ancient mysteries surrounding archeological digs. In other words, this book looks like it's right up my alley.

I extracted my library card from the wallet. After a swipe at the checkout counter, I borrowed this book and bore it home. I finished reading The Pharaoh's Secret in 3 sittings, and today I offer to share my opinion about this book in a review.


In 1791, during Battle of The Nile, the French Navy's flag ship, the mighty Orient, exploded in a spectacular destruction. As Orient sank and drowned, it carried her secret down to the bottom of the Nile. A secret that can be traced back to 1300 B.C, to a time when the infamous rebel Pharaoh, Akheaten, reigned supreme in Egypt.

At the present day, a mysterious ship arrived at Lampedusa island. Upon its arrival, the ship released a lethal toxin, wiping out most resident on the island. Kurt and Joe from NUMA team responded to the survivors' distress call, only to find themselves entangled in a much larger conspiracy. This is a conspiracy powered by a thing that lie dormant in the City of the Dead, but awakened by a mad man to tip the balance of power in Africa and Europe. This time, NUMA team must take on a mission that will drive them racing against the clock to prevent the outburst of a global disaster...

My thoughts on this book:

The Pharaoh's Secret disappointed me, this book did not live up to the hypes. When I closed this book, I thought this was a mediocre thriller that tells a forgettable story because it was told too many times in the past.

None of the characters in this book grabbed me, and they didn't make impressions on my mind. The characterization felt flat and their portrayals lackluster. Both heroes and villains in this book are cardboard cutouts. I couldn't find any distinctive quality in these characters that could dent my impression. Granted, this genre doesn't thrive on characterizations but rather on action and suspense. However, some of the better works in this genre still feature some sort of 2D characters, characters who have at least something that made them memorable. In The Pharaoh's Secret, however, the characters are 1D, giving off a sense that they exist in the book solely to drive the actions forward.

The Pharoah's Secret is action packed. It is stuffed and overabundant with gun fights, explosions, fist fights, and vehicle chases. Clive Cussler deserves credits for imbuing a cinematic quality into the action scenes in this book. However, despite all the adrenaline pumping actions, The Pharaoh's Secret still bored me half way into its story. In my opinion, the major flaw of this book lies in its storytelling.

Allow me to explain. Some of the better novels in the “treasure-hunt thriller” genre such as: The Sigma Force series, Robert Langdon series, or Cotton Malone series, the stories in these books are gripping because they build stories of mystery and suspense based on archeological finds and ancient mysteries. The action scenes, in the books I mentioned above, exist to add flavors and excitement to the story. They tell interesting and memorable stories that are fun to read, and that's why they are page-turners.

In The Pharaoh's Secret, however, the storytelling is not done in the same way. In this book, action scenes are the major focus, and the mystery and suspense exist to flavor the action scenes. The result? For me, the experience of reading The Pharaoh's Secret was akin to playing a 1980s video game. Where you have some story texts to connect one action-packed mission to the next. It was all action and the story was bland and uninteresting. Admittedly, I browsed through the last 100 pages because by that time, I just wanted the book to finish and that is not a good sign.

In disappointment, I returned The Pharaoh's Secret back to my local library. My introduction to the works of Clive Cussler has not been a memorable one. I don't know, perhaps Mr. Cussler's earlier books were different to this book, and I am still hoping to pick up his earlier novels. But for me, The Pharaoh's Secret didn't scratch my itch for a good treasure-hunt thriller.

A Book Review: Turn Coat by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #11)

With a great sense of sanctification, I returned Turn Coat, the 11th The Dresden Files novel, back on my bookshelf. The series' author, Jim Butcher, is indisputably, one of the proficient sci-fi/fantasy writers of our time. Yet, despite Jim Butcher's quality writing, I always thought The Dresden Files series lacks a touch of originality, and it falls a step short from being a truly wondrous fantasy masterpiece. After reading the first 10 novels, I digressed the hindrance lies in Jim Butcher's use of recycled plot devices in his books. Finally, with Turn Coat, Jim Butcher broke the mould and is offering his readers something different and refreshing.


A lot of people have enemies. This is especially true for Chicago's professional wizard, Harry Dresden. Harry is a wizard working as a paranormal investigator. He goes out night after night, pouncing at supernatural baddies lurking in Chicago's dark alleys. This also means, Harry tends to meddle in affairs too big for him. In his short PI career, Harry collected more than a handful of dangerous enemies. However, none of Harry's enemies are as lethal as Donald Morgan, a warden in the society of wizard that Harry belongs to.

For more than a decade, Donald Morgan discriminated against Harry with extreme prejudice. The reason? Harry has a troubled past, and most members of the wizard order consider Harry as a wild card, someone who can turn rogue in a nick of time. No other wizard is more suspicious about Harry's allegiance than Morgan, who, in the past, has sought Harry's death on numerous occasions.

Yet, life often brings unexpected tidings. On a quiet night, when Harry sat in the comfort of his home, someone knocked on his door. Harry opened the door, and beheld a most strange sight; in the door way, stood Donald Morgan in a pool of his own blood. What came next shocked Harry even more. Morgan opened his mouth and pleaded for Harry's help. Now, that is paranormal!

Turned out, someone killed a senior member of the wizard council and framed Morgan as the murderer. The entire wizard order is after Morgan, and he sustained serious injuries during his escape. Morgan needs someone to help clearing his name, and Harry happens to be his best option. Why? Harry tends to back underdogs.

Harry took the case and promised to clear Morgan's name. With a solid quarterstaff in hand and a trusty black leather duster draping across his shoulders, Harry set out to uncover the turncoat in the wizard's council. But this time, Harry needs to be careful. A single mistake could ruin not only Morgan's innocent name, but also bring death upon Harry's friends and himself.

My thoughts on this book:

The Dresden Files series is supposed to be detective fictions set an urban fantasy world. However, as this series went on, Harry's adventures began to follow a formulaic structure, and every installment began to resemble TV episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Granted, Jim Butcher is a proficient writer, but good prose does not automatically warrant a good book. Good prose won't help alleviating the sense of boredom and staleness, if a story is repetitive and predictable.

Thankfully, things changed in Turn Coat.

In Turn Coat, Jim Butcher is finally letting his character, Harry Dresden, doing what he does best. That is, being a detective. Turn Coat packs plenty of mysteries, suspense, and detective works into its story. In doing so, Jim Butcher not only returned the series back to its root, but he also injected fresh air into the series. Gone are the repetitive, predictable fight scenes that dominated the previous novels. Instead, in Turn Coat, Jim Butcher build his story on a murder case, then cloaking the identity of the killer behind a shadow of mystery. A mystery that kept the readers guessing until the very end. (Having said this, I worked out the identity of the killer about 2/3 into the book, but this does not detract the refreshing feeling that Turncoat introduced to the series)

In other words, Turn Coat's story is actually interesting and fun to read. This book grips its readers with an intriguing story. In this story, the characters sustain real hurts, then go on to fight another day carrying the scars with them. In this sense, the story of Turn Coat feels like it has some real character development, i.e. things happened, and people change. I like the character development in this novel, it is very well written. Furthermore, for the first time since reading Dead Beat, I am itching for the next installment of Harry's adventure.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Book Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #10)

Two months ago, I read White Night, the 9th novel in The Dresden Files series. When I turned to the last page of that book, I experienced a “Harry Dresden burnt out”. It's not that White Night was a badly written book. No, in fact, Jim Butcher wrote a good book and it was fun. Jim Butcher injected into White Night, all ingredients that made The Dresden Files novels successful. However, that, for me, was also why I got tired reading this series: White Night felt like “another” The Dresden Files book, a book I have already read in the past.

Indeed, my biggest qualm with this series lies with its episodic, repetitive narratives. It seems to me in each novel, Jim Butcher just recycled the plot devices, substituting them with new characters or creatures, then spit it back out to compose a “new” novel. Suffice to say, after I finished reading White Night, I needed a break from The Dresden Files series.

Two months passed, I have somewhat recovered from this “Harry Dresden burnt out”. With a great anticipation, I returned to Harry Dresden's adventure. I opened the first page to Small Favor, the 10th installment in the series and read it with a renewed vigor. Is Small Favor still plagued by the repetitiveness of story found in its predecessors? Or has this novel finally broke the trend of recycled plotting? Today, I would like to share my thoughts about Small Favor in this book review.


“A promise made is a promise kept.”

This saying holds more weight on denizens from Chicago's supernatural community than on the city's normal citizens. In the supernatural community, a broken promise comes with dire consequences that aren't natural. Consequences that could get you killed. In the case of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, this saying needs to be devised in plural. You see, Harry Dresden owes Mab, the fairy queen of Winter Court, 3 promises. This time, Mab comes knocking on Harry's door like a debt collector.

So what's the deal? Chicago's master of the underworld, gentleman Johnny Macrone, was abducted by unknown assailants while Johnny sat and chilled in his safe house. The disappearance of Marcone is playing against Mab's interest, so she charged Harry with a mission; recover Marcone and return him to Mab, in one piece.

Harry has no choice but to oblige to Mab's request for this “small favor”. The problem is, he has no idea where to start this search...

My thoughts on this book:

I had fun reading Small Favor. Unfortunately, history appears to have repeated itself in this book, and I feel that Small Favor, is nothing more than “another” episode in Harry Dresden's outing. Make no mistake, Small Favor is a well written book. One cannot find fault in Jim Butcher's writings. Every moment is perfectly executed with a good timing, and the story moves fluidly at a fast pace. In other words, Small Favor succeeded in keeping the crown on the head The Dresden Files series as the king of the urban fantasy genre.

Having said this, Small Favor also rouse a sense of deja vu in the minds of long time readers of this series. The story in Small Favor has nothing new or revolutionary about it. If you have read the previous 9 books in this series, then you know what to expect in Small Favor. The story consists of a series of events following this pattern:

  • Harry got a new case.
  • Harry found some clues on the crime scene
  • Harry encountered some supernatural goons on the crime scene and fought for his life
  • Harry almost lose the fight but his loyal friends saved him
  • Harry discovered an additional clue X
  • Harry and his friends perused clue X, encountered more supernatural goons.
  • Another big fight.
  • Harry and his friend won the day, and discovered an additional clue Y, leading to the big mastermind behind this evil plan.
  • Harry and his friend arrived at location Z and confronted the mastermind. They fought, Harry and his gang almost lost the fight, but somehow won the day, again.
  • The end. But remember, the next episode of The Dresden Files is waiting for you on the bookshelf, and it will tell you a story that you have just read in this book, except with different characters.

When I closed this book, my two months break from this series was the only reason I did not respond to this book as negatively as I did with White Night. If Small Favor is the your first time reading the adventure of Harry Dresden, then you will find plenty of things to love in this book; actions, thrills, suspense, and a fun story drenched in the flavor of neo noir. However, for a long time reader of the series, Small Favor is a story that Jim Butcher already told in other books, and therefore, leaving much to be desired at its conclusion.

A Book Review: The Exorcist by William Blatty - 40th Anniversary edition

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)

                                                                    - Luke 8:26-29

William Blatty opened his supernatural thriller, The Exoricst, with the above quote from the 8th Chapter in the Gospel of Luke. The Exorcism of the Grasene Demoniac is one of the most memorable stories in the Bible. However, this is not the only occasion when Jesus of Nazareth performed an exorcism. In fact, the Gospels accounted in Jesus' life time, he performed at least, 9 individual exorcisms. While theological implications exist behind these stories, but given the fact that Jesus and his disciples clearly believed the reality of demonic possession, one would have expected that 2000 years later, the followers of Jesus should also believe it, right?

Ok, imagine this scenario. A strange, unexplainable mental illness struck a 12 years old girl. The girl's mother, who is an atheist, consulted numerous medical professionals to no avail. All signs point to a demonic-possession. This is a paranormal phenomenon believed by many ancient cultures, recorded in holy books around the world, but ridiculed in the modern day as superstitions. Out of desperation, the girl's mother approached a priest for help, pleading for an exorcism, but the priest palmed her off (back) to the doctor. Why? As it turned out, the priest, who is supposed to believe this stuff doesn't believe it himself!

For the priest, faith has become a matter of philosophical, academic pursuit only. For the priest, the demonic possessions only happened in the holy book, it probably doesn't happen today. But even then, the priest argues, the demonic possessions in the holy book should be interpreted with sophisticated hermeneutics, to downplay the supernatural reality while emphasizing the philosophical, and theological meanings behind the miracles. This approach will somehow, bring his religious worldview up to scratch with a world that seeks rational explanations for everything. Meanwhile, perhaps the truth is, the priest doesn't really have faith anymore? In this case, when the faithfuls don't even have faith themselves, who can help this demon-possessed girl? (As a side note, I thought this premise sounds very familiar to a story narrated in the 17th chapter in the book of Matthew) 

With this premise (described above), William Blatty wrote a most captivating tale about faith. Indeed, after I finished reading this brilliantly written, fast-paced novel. I realized this novel is not just some horror story trying to entertain its readers with spooks. Instead, The Exorcist is a allegory about the internal struggles for modern-day religious believers, who, wrestle to adapt their own perception about faith to a world where everything is being rationalized.

I thought The Exorcist is an intriguing novel. This novel, counting to 400 pages, directs its theme and messages more at those with a religious persuasion than those who are without it. This novel has 4 major characters; 1) Regan McNeil, a 12 years old girl who was possessed by a demon, 2) Chris McNeil, who is Regan't mother, an established movie actress and an atheist, 3) Father Damien Karras, a priest with a wayward religious faith, whose background is psychiatry, and 4) Father Merrin, the exorcist and a renowned archaeologist.

The protagonist in this book, however, is Father Damien Karras. In the story, Damien was asked by Chris to help her daughter, Regan. Damien was highly skeptical about this alleged demonic possession. He examined Regan, and despite seeing many strange signs and paranormal evidence with his own eyes, Damien still rejected Regan's condition was an authentic case of demonic possession. Instead, Damien, with his background in psychiatry, insisted seeking naturalistic explanations for Regan's condition. Damien's reluctance to accept the fact Regan was possessed by a demon, is a manifestation of his own struggling faith in a modern world. On the surface, Damien wore the iconic, priestly collars, he symbolizes a faithful believer. However, when a supernatural event, one that was documented in his holy book, materialized in front of his eyes, then strangely he was unable to believe it is true. At this point, the story creates an ironic, fascinating scenario where a non-believer such as Chris was ready to believe based on the paranormal signs, but a believer such as Father Damien rejected these signs because he tried so very hard to rationalize his faith.

For an irreligious reader, this book may be a very interesting reading experience, where one may look at the story of Damien and become frustrated at him for being a believer yet denying the obvious evidence in front of him. Furthermore, The Exorcist story also raised an interesting question for the modern-day religious believers, who, based on their holy book, subscribe to the belief of a supernatural reality - when something unexplainable happens today, why do they often default to a naturalistic explanation over a supernatural one like the non-believers do?

Out of the 4 major characters in this book, Father Merrin stood out as a striking character. After Damien requested the church to grant an exorcism, Merrin was chosen by the church to perform the rite. During this episode, Merrin acted and spoke out of certitude and faith (not to be confused with certainty) that Damien found admirable. Damien reflected, that Merrin had a trusting faith that Damien did not have in himself. For Merrin, Regan's demonic possession was as real as the gravity pulling an apple down to the ground, but for Damien, Regan's demonic possession was his chance for testing if his god was real. Damien, was the doubting Thomas that most people can easily relate to.

At this point, one may ask, why read this novel if you have already seen the movie? My answer is this; if you have seen the movie and liked it, or if my review has roused your interest in this book, then reading this novel is going to worth every minute of your time, for two reasons: A) This novel explained the origin of the demon, which was omitted in the film, B) The novel, as a written medium, described and captured, vividly, characters' thoughts and emotions. This vital information was not communicated effectively in the motion picture adaptation.

I found The Exorcist to be an excellent book. This book is well-written, and it tells a fast-paced, engrossing story. This book is often dubbed "The scariest book ever written", but I did not find this book scary, it did not scare me at all. Instead, I was most intrigued by this book's theme and its underlying message. This novel's ending generated some controversy, if you have seen the movie then you probably have an idea what is this controversy. However, I think that controversy belongs to a different discussion, and it is unrelated to the central theme of this book. Meanwhile, at its core, The Exorcist explores the thought-provoking topic about the perception for the nature of faith in the modern world, and it does so brilliantly by telling a spectacular and entertaining story.

P.S. This review is based on 40th anniversary edition for The Exorcist. Apparently, in this edition, the author restored some contents that were previous omitted in the original edition.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Book Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Cabinets of curiosities – Also known as “wonder rooms”, were small collections of extra-orindary objects which, like today's museum, attempted to categorize and tell stories about the wonders and oddities of the natural world.

Douglas Preston and Lincolon Child, these 2 authors' names should ring bells for lovers of crime thrillers and detective fictions. In 1995, this duo published their first collaborative work, Relic, an atmospheric, techno-thriller novel set in New York Museum of Natural History. Relic became an instant success and an international best-seller. Furthermore, Relic began a saga for one of the most memorable fictional detectives in the 21th century, Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, a formidable FBI special agent.

Up to date, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have written 15 thriller novels featuring the adventures of agent Pendergast. Readers around the world received all 15 novels positively. However, a quick search on Goodreads reveals that The Cabinet of Curiosities, the 3rd book in the series, has the best rating out of all Agent Pendergast novels. In fact, The Cabinet of Curiosities currently scores a stunning 4.25 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, which is an unusually high score for a thriller novel.

At this point, I am going to jump ahead, and say The Cabinet of Curiosities deserves these high praises and the good reviews. In my time as a reader, I have yet to feast my imaginations upon a thriller novel that is more gripping, and more thrilling, than The Cabinet of Curiosities. Today, on Daniel's Corner Unlimited, I would like to provide a review for this mesmerizing novel.


A construction site in downtown Manhattan unearthed a blood chilling discovery. Buried underneath New York's buzzing metropolis lay a charnel house. It stored 36 mutilated corpses belonging to victims who were murdered in the 19th century. This is the biggest serial murder in US history, its grotesqueness is rivaled only by the horrendous legend of Jack the Ripper in England.

FBI special agent Pendergast expressed unusual interests in this ancient murder case. He circled this one century old crime scene as a winter wolf homing on its prey. Pendergast also enlisted the expert skills of a young archeologist, Dr. Kelly, to aid his private investigations. Yet, the reason behind Pendergast's interests in this 120 years old crime remains a mystery. Together, Pendergast and Dr. Kelly reconstructed the killer's bizarre modus operandi, while piecing together the killer's motive, a motive so ridiculous it is almost laughable: The murderer was trying to prolong his/her life.

Meanwhile, the public watched on at this 100 years old murder case with morbid fascinations. After all, the killings took place 120 years ago so the killer must be long dead. However, after journalist Bill Smithback published a newspaper article on the murder case, a new killing spree, fashioned after the old killings, suddenly sprouted on the city streets, sending New York into a mass hysteria and panic. At this desperate time, agent Pendergast must bend his formidable power at deduction to solving both the new and old murder cases by all means, lest Dr. Kelly, Bill Smithback, and Pendergast himself should also taste the cold, cutting edge descending from the killer's cruel knife...

My thoughts on this book:

Many books tell stories about serial killers, but very few of them tell a serial killer's story as gripping, creepy, and suspenseful as The Cabinet of Curiosities. While this may sound like an overstatement, but I can say with confidence, that after you have read this book, you will probably agree with at least half of my statement (that is, the creepy and suspenseful parts of it). Indeed, lovers of the thriller genre will adore The Cabinet of Curiosities. This novel blends elements from detective fictions, horror, and mystery, into a wonderful thriller that will glue a reader to his/her seat for the duration of its reading.

The Cabinet of Curiosities immerses its readers into a haunting tale, where a sense of sinisterness and dread, creeps, constantly, in the background of the story. When I was reading this book, my heart throbbed at the perils threatening to engulf the book's main characters. The story took surprising twists and turns, it had me guessing and sweating over the suspense hanging at the end of every chapter. In turn, the suspense kept me turning the pages. This book, is simply unputdownable. The best description that comes to my mind, is comparing this book to the classic psychological thriller film, Se7en. I hope this description will give you an idea for the type of reading experience you will get from this book.

However, The Cabinet of Curiosities is not a flawless novel. Despite its brilliance, this book does have some minor drawbacks. I do not wish to spoil the story, so let me just say, some parts of the story had deus ex machina moments. Yet, these small drawbacks did not diminish the excellence, or the entertainment value of this book.

This book casts its spotlight on Agent Pendergast. The authors gave this charismatic, but eccentric FBI special agent a portrayal worthy of Sherlock Holmes. In this book, Pendergast's intellectual prowess and deductive abilities were off the charts. Having said this, Pendergast was far from being god-like. In this book, he made mistakes and paid heavy prices for his errors. I think Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child did an excellent job at writing Pendergast's character, a character who is both memorable and believable at the same time.

An intriguing story needs a memorable hero, and an equally impressive villain. Especially, a villain whose prowess can match that of the hero's. In The Cabinets of Curiosities, agent Pendergast met his match. The villain in this book is just as formidable as Pendergast in every aspect. While the villain appeared quite early in the book, but the authors masterfully cloaked the villain's identity behind a shadow of mystery, only to be unveiled at the end of the book. Furthermore, the depiction for the villain is so horrifyingly vivid that it will surely send chills down your spine.

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a very well-written thriller. It may not be a perfect thriller, but it certainly ranks as one of the best in the genre. This book extracts the finest ingredients from detective fictions, horror, and mystery, rendering a fast-paced, suspenseful novel that will keep you turning the pages from the moment you open the book until you close it. I had a great time reading it, and I recommend this book to fans of (fictional) crime thrillers, especially to those who like having a horror twist in their crime thrillers.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Book Review: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #7)

Amazon is selling a book called “1000Things People Believe That Aren't True”. As its title suggests, this book clarifies 1000 misconceptions many people believe in. Indeed, in our world, people have a lot beliefs and practice many traditions. However, if we ask “why do you believe this?” or “why are things done this way?” Then somewhere down the line of our investigations, we often find the reason many people subscribe to some popular beliefs and traditions, is simply because “people have always believed it”, or “people have always done things this way”. And if may I add, rational arguments often hold little sway over persuading people to alter practices for certain traditions or beliefs.

I offer an example to illuminate this observation. In a few weeks, Christmas will visit us once more. In the minds of many people, 25th December is the birthday of Jesus. However, even the most conservative Bible scholar will tell you, biblical evidence places the time for Jesus' birth to anywhere but December. Instead, some scholars have argued the birthday of Jesus probably fall somewhere in September, at the time for Feast of Tabernacles. Why do we celebrate Christmas on 25th December? This is because the Roman Catholic Church chose this day, and it became a tradition throughout Christendom (and passed down to modern day). Having said this, I speculate a proposal to change Christmas from December to September will attract little support, despite the knowledge we have in our hands.

If you have read this far, then I want to thank you for your patience. I hope you found my introduction interesting. At this point, you are probably wondering, does this have anything to do with the book I will be reviewing today? The answer is yes! Sir Terry Pratchett's 7th Discworld novel, titled Pyramids, invites readers on a journey to the ancient kingdom of Djelibeybi, where questions about beliefs and traditions await in the shadow-haunted pyramids, laying spread across the lands like blue mantles beneath the stars.

Without further delay, allow me to provide a synopsis for this book.


For seven thousand years, Pharaohs ruled supreme in the desert kingdom of Djelibeybi, a kingdom rich with ancient traditions. In Djellibeybi beliefs, the Pharaoh makes Discworld go around. When a Pharaoh passed away, royal embalmers mummify his body. The new Pharaoh then build a magnificent pyramid to house the mummy, where the dead Pharaoh is believed to go on living forever.

Teppic is a Djelibeybi prince. Yet, he is unlike all Djelibeybi princes who came before him. Teppic grew up in Ankh Morpork, and is educated at the city's prestigious assassin's school. When his father died, Teppic returned to his place of birth and inherited the throne. While assassin's school may have taught Teppic thousands of ways to inhume a person, but its education does not extend to preparing one to be a Pharoah.

In other words, Teppic found the whole “being a Pharoah” business rather difficult. Adding frost to snow, Teppic also has to deal with die-hard-traditionalist priests and sacred crocodiles. But none of these problems bring as much ache to poor Teppic's head as his number one priority; building a mother of all pyramid in honor of his dead father. However, with a great pyramid comes greater havocs. Things are about to go pear-shaped, big time...

My thoughts on this book:

Pyramids belongs to “Ancient Civilization” series in Discworld. It is witty, funny, and philosophical at the same time. This book shares some similarities with Small Gods, where both books explored religion, and the nature of belief. However, Pyramids is not an empiricist refutation to beliefs and traditions. It does not criticize religious belief system. Instead, Terry Pratchett packed the theme of the book inside a gripping, humorous story. Through a tale of intrigues, Terry Pratchett provoked his readers to start asking the right questions. Questions such as “Why do we believe this?” and “Where did this belief come from?” These questions are invaluable keys to critical thinking.

This book is very well written. It made numerous references to tropes in the fantasy genre, and poking fun at them by blowing these tropes out of proportion. Meanwhile, the story features a cast of eccentric, over-exaggerated but very memorable characters. Each character has a distinct personality of his/her own, brought to life by Terry Pratchett's vivid writings. The most fitting description that comes to my mind, if I may say, is comparing Pyramids to Monty Python movies.

However, while Pyramids does provoke a handful of questions about the nature of religion and traditions, but it does so in a non-offensive fashion. Meanwhile, the humor in Pyramids is not crude but genuine, and Terry Pratchett once again showed a big-hearted attitude towards the things that he wished to challenge. Let me sum this all up in a quote from Oscar Wilde:

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, or they will kill you.

In Pyramids, Terry Pratchett authored a living embodiment for Oscar Wilde's timeless quote, and I would say this book could even earn a smile or two from the staunchest conservatives.

Having said the above, I must also say, while Pyramids is certainly a good novel, but in my opinion it is not the best Discworld novel. In this book, some places, especially the middle of the book, moved at a slow pace. The ending, on the other hand, was not as climatic as it could have been (I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic). So in terms of storytelling, I think other Discworld novels, such as the books from Ankh Morpork City Watch series, Moist Von Lipwig series, Witches series, or Death Series, tell better yarns than the one in Pyramids.

My reading of Pyramids proved to be another rewarding venture in Discworld. The storytelling in Pyramids may not be as well-paced as in the later Discworld novels. Yet, its wellspring of comedic reliefs, coupled with a philosophical backdrop exploring the nature of belief, made Pyramids a solid entry to Discworld, and a worthy book to spend a few hours of your time on. Furthermore, Pyramids is a stand alone novel. This can be a very good place for newcomers to enter Discworld, and discovering for the first time, the spellbinding charm that have enchanted millions of readers across the world.