Young Mort is unsuited to follow in his father's footsteps, so is put up to apprentice in another trade. Unexpectedly, Death himself decides to train up Mort as a neophyte Grim Reaper so he can have a few days off. After all, what could go wrong? Well, as it turns out...
Mort was the point that a lot of people started taking more notice of the Discworld series. Smaller in scale than the first three books, Mort features Death as a main character and some thoughts and meditations on the nature of death and what may (or may not) come after. This is Pratchett in a more thoughtful mood, but he doesn't neglect the comedy. There are quite a few funny moments and passages, and we meet some more soon-to-be-iconic Discworld characters like Albert as well. But it's the serious thinking about life and the place of people within it that makes Mort stand out a little bit more than some of the other early books. Pratchett is also quite disciplined here, with a focused and tight plot that doesn't ramble like some of his other novels (which is sometimes entertaining, sometimes not), and this works quite well.
Mort is also interesting as the Discworld book that has been optioned several times as a big-budget Hollywood movie, but Hollywood has so far been unable to make it as they decided they wanted to remove Death from the book as his presence would be too much of a downer for American audiences to handle. Unsurprisingly and possibly thankfully, the film has never been made.
Mort (***½) is a step-up in quality from the first three books, with Pratchett stretching his author's muscles and discovering some new and interesting tools in his writing box. The next phase of the Discworld series, a more solidly entertaining and interesting series of works leading up to the series' first undisputed classics, begins here. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.