Mort is a novel by Terry Pratchett and his fourth book set in Discworld. It is his seventh book and was published in 1987, the same year as Equal Rites.
The story concerns a young gangly boy, by name of Mort. Mort's uncle and father confer that Mort is unfit for the family trade of farming, due to his innate ineptitude. So Mort is brought to the local career fair in hope of landing an apprenticeship with a tradesman. Nobody there seems interested in Mort and things begin to look bleak. That is, until the very last minute when Death touches down in the town square and takes an interest in Mort.
Mort agrees to become Death's apprentice and thus the adventure begins. Turns out that Death would like a break from his job—even an "anthropomorphic personification" needs some time off after eons.
Death describes himself thusly:
I USHERED SOULS INTO THE NEXT WORLD.
I WAS THE GRAVE OF ALL HOPE.
I WAS THE ULTIMATE REALITY.
I WAS THE ASSASSIN AGAINST WHOM NO HOPE WOULD HOLD.
As you can see, even when Death tries to be stern, all he really wants is a good cuddle. This is made problematic as people generally don't notice him.
Despite nobody ever learning his name, Mort manages to learn the ropes quick. But, being human and all, he's got a wee bit of compassion that manages to muck things up rather well.
Pratchett makes some reference to quantum theory in order to explain how Death is able to walk through walls and exist outside of time. Not having an understanding of quantum theory would by no means inhibit the enjoyment of this book.
There were moments at which I was a little unsure about what to think about Pratchett's choice of metaphors. Particularly his practice of comparing things in Discworld to things in our world: making mention of toasters or Walkmen or Lord Nelson was at first distracting. Distracting until I gave it all a good think and decided that Pratchett was making good use of the afore-mentioned quantum stuff in order to allow Discworld to coexist with ours in the same multiverse.
At times the narration was a little chatty, aside from the real world references. But the word choices were always superb—for example, when describing a bad part of town, Pratchett specifies that those living therein were "not inhabitants but denizens" as that was the sort of place where there were only denizens.
This novel is a quick read, clocking in at 236 pages. It was my first foray into Pratchett's worlds and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sharp wit bristling in nearly every scene was delightful.
This book is suitable for teenagers and adults alike. It contains no swearing but is at times mildly suggestive. Nothing worse than most television shows.
Recommended—even for those ambivalent towards fantasy.