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on August 26, 2008
Let me say that I'm a big Terry Pratchett fan. I have all his books, and love them. Which is why I ordered The Unadulterated Cat sight-unseen.
I was only a few pages into it when I thought to myself, this doesn't feel like Terry Pratchett's writing. It's curiously flat. His other books give me the feeling that practically every sentence is well thought out, either advancing the plot, or showing some interesting aspect of someone's character, or giving us some (perhaps twisted, but valid) insight into how the world works. And yes, of course the humor.
But this doesn't feel that way to me at all. Yeah, there are a few truisms along the way. But precious few of them felt like they had any real depth. OK, we all know that cats stare at the refrigerator a lot. And he mentions that. Several times. And we know that cats will hide under beds, or in other out-of-the-way places. And scratch you if you try to get them out. But is any of this breaking news?
Another thing that's few and far between is the humor. Yes, there are Pratchett-lines occasionally. Very occasionally. For example, describing humans' evolutionary ancestors, they're described as "... little crouching shapes with hairy chests, no forehead and the intelligence of a gameshow audience."
To be honest (and undoubtedly quite unfair to Mr. Pratchett), it feels (not that I'm saying this is what happened, but it *feels*) like it's something he threw together one afternoon, without too much thought.
Another way of describing it is that I have problems shaking the feeling that someone else wrote this, then Terry Pratchett came in as a "script doctor" and punched it up with a few suggestions and some cute one-liners. Again, I'm not saying this happened. But if someone had given me this book to read, and I didn't know the author, I'd find it hard to believe it when they told me it was Pratchett's. (Although some of the pieces of humor would seem familiar.)
Pratchett has a partner on this, artist Gray Jolliffe who provides cartoons on almost every page. What an absolute waste of time and paper. I'm sorry, but I have absolutely nothing good to say about them.
* They lack any sense of elegance in the drawings (they verge on amateurish)
* They convey no real emotion (the expressions on their faces are all cartoonish)
* I got no sense of insight into cats from them.
* The drawings just plain aren't funny. In. The. Least.
Compare them with, for example, Pratchett's wonderful The Last Hero, with Paul Kidby's brilliant depictions of (among many others) the Mona Lisa, Rincewind and Lord Vetinari. Now, sure, Kidby's work is far more sophisticated than Jolliffe ever tries to be, but it's certainly possible to breathe life into even simple line sketches. But not here. For me, the drawings just got in the way.
So why did I give this book a two-star rating? It seems I'm more generous than I realized.
I guess the bottom line is that unlike any of Pratchett's other books, if I were to lend it to someone and never got it back, I wouldn't miss it in the least. Would I ever re-read it. Doubtful. Which is too bad.