by Terry Pratchett
HD edition: ISBN (0-06-105158-6)
Pub Harper Prism, $24
Review by Sparrow.
The Nitty Gritty:
Agnes Nitt: Also known as Perdita.
Agnes is practical and down-to-earth. Perdita tends towards overly
romantic thoughts involving lots of black lace.
Mightily Oats: His full name
is Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om Oats. Don't laugh--he's
named such because he's an Omnian priest. They're quite religious,
although they've reformed from burning the unrepentant and merely
give them leaflets. Oats has the Other Oats (ie, the Bad Oats).
"Agnes told herself she'd simply invented the name Perdita
as some convenient label for all those thoughts and desires she
knew she shouldn't have, as a name for that troublesome little commentator
that lives on everyone's shoulder and sneers. But sometimes she
thought Perdita had created Agnes for something to pummel."
Perdita's raison d'être is that Agnes, as a small girl, originally
had an imaginary friend that she would blame small misfortunes (read,
that formerly precious vase from Aunt Sally) upon. Unfortunately,
Agnes also had the potential to be a witch even at that age, and
unwittingly invested Perdita with enough life that she stayed around.
Perdita actually first arrived in Maskerade, but it
is in Carpe Jugulum that Pratchett more fully develops the division
between her and Agnes.
Oats was never helped by his inquisitive mind, which lent him
to do serious research into other religions than Omnism. Add into
that the fact that his religion was terminally gripped by schism
wars, and it's almost to be expected that Oats was, quite literally,
in two minds about everything. In his case, his other half never
develops to be more than the simple, nagging voice that says, 'But
how do you know if it's true?', and is not religious at all.
Pratchett actually has a refreshingly apt take on the Agnes/Perdita
group. Not only does he pull it off within the confines of a humorous
fantasy novel without becoming too unrealistic (that very context,
we know, gives him the right to make it so... yet he doesn't. Not
that it would matter to anyone save sticklers like ourselves though)
but he presents a healthy range of the benefits and negatives to
having another personality.
"It was not pleasant. It was like sensing someone standing
right behind you, and then feeling them take one step forward."
In this case, the strongest point to be made for how useful having
more than one person in your skull can be is the presence of vampires,
who generally get their way by affecting the minds of the people
around them. We've always been advocates of the theory, that in
the case of such things, multiples would be slightly more resistant
due to sheer numbers alone. And, as it turns out, Agnes and Oats
are the only ones who are capable of ignoring the influence that
makes everyone else nod and bare their throats. Reason being that
once Agnes is affected, Perdita comes to the front, and, should
she be targeted, Agnes can just rise up again.
"'Now, I recall that old bellringer down in Ohulan,' said Nanny,
leading the way. "He had no fewer than seven personalities in his
head. Three of 'em were women and four of 'em were men. Poor old
chap. He said he was always the odd one out.. He said they let him
get on with all the work and the breathin' and eatin' and they had
all the fun. Remember? He said it was hellish when he had a drink
and they all started fightin' for a tastebud."
Overall, Pratchett leaves the impression that multiplicity is neither
strictly good nor bad; it is useful and annoying, and in the end,
neutral. He displays a range while avoiding sensationalism. We appreciate
it when multiplicity isn't drawn out and overanalyzed in literature--as
if the author must someone display their ability to write a doctoral
thesis on the subject--and Pratchett handles the subject well.
And, frankly, the book is an excellent read on its own.
We like this. Overall, we like Pratchett, and originally feared
that he would come up with far too much tripe in his portrayal of
a multiple. But... Perdita and Agnes are extremely fun to read about,
and the books themselves don't focus on their state of being in
some sort of sensationalist manner. It's just another trait, Pratchett
says. That's all. And we like that.