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A Slip of the Keyboard    by Terry Pratchett order for
Slip of the Keyboard
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

My father and son were committed Terry Pratchett fans long before I was, but once I picked up Monstrous Regiment I was hooked too, ready to read anything he writes. A Slip of the Keyboard is a compendium of his musings on life (and how to end it with dignity), Discworld, and fantasy as a genre.

Start with Neil Gaiman's Foreword, which speaks of the author as a friend, of his rage against 'stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness' as well as his love 'for human beings, in all our fallibility'. Terry Pratchett's short pieces inside the book range from 1976 to 2011, from newspaper articles and book Forewords to SF convention and honorary degree acceptance speeches. Snippets of wisdom (always laced with humor) can be found in each and every one of them.

I loved his reasons for picking susurration as The Choice Word; his writing tips in How to Be a Professional Boxer; and his comment on creativity in A Scribbling Intruder - 'I think my brain is on time-share to a better author overnight.' On a book tour to Australia, he tells us after Day 1, 'Day 2 is confiscated by Customs when you arrive, but they give it back to you when you go.' He elaborates on the value of ignorance in Doctor Who?, explains the Hat, and tells us that his best book ever was Nation.

Pratchett speaks of our 'venal world run largely by men who count numbers and, because they can count people, they think people are numbers.' Wars are caused by 'mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.' And governments enact 'foreign policies that are little more than the taking of revenge for the revenge that was taken in revenge for the revenge last time.'

It's all worthwhile but I especially appreciated his comments on fantasy - 'The genre offers all the palettes of the other genres, and new colours besides ... It only takes a tweak to make the whole world new' - and on the debate over assisted dying. We 'should aim for a good and rich life well lived, and at the end of it, in the comfort of our own home, in the company of those who love us, have a death worth dying for.' Whether or not you're a Discworld fan (and who isn't?) this is a book worth reading for.

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