Terry Pratchett

(split from https://intfiction.org/t/mike-snyders-ifcomp-2006-reviews/162/1)

Peter, that reminds me of a Hallmark card I read awhile back, or might have dreamed I read, I’m not sure. I think it went, kind of like, “Even though we all have different skin colors outside, inside, we’re all the same pulpy bits of multi-colored goo attached to grinning bags of bones.” Or something like that. It’s what relates us all that counts, right?

“Grinning bags of bones”? I like that. It rings Pratchettesque to my ears.

:laughing: And here I thought I was being too morbid. Gallows humor is only one side of this equation. I think I’ll expand my feeling in the other direction, by allowing someone much wiser to speak for me.

And if anyone is still feeling down in the dumps, please look at this link. 39 million views – and at least 18 million of them are mine.


…and the next day Pratchett dies.

Dang. He was my favourite author alive and possibly my favourite author ever. Nowadays, 66 is too young to die.

EDIT - xkcd.com/1498/

Dude – this whole year has been like that. Mention something, and minutes later you see it appear. I’m almost getting paranoid about these synchronicities.

I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett, but I always meant too. I was a big fan of Douglas Adams. Any books you would recommend?

They’re all good. Among my personal favourites are Small Gods, Night Watch, Thief of Time. Jingo is curiously relevant to this thread! Then again, so is Thud! and Raising Steam. Going Postal is very good, and soo is Monstruous Regiment.

These are just off the top of my head. They’re all great, though. Seriously.

(I’m only listing the Discworld novels because I don’t know why. Nation and The Long Earth are seriously worth taking a look at. The Long War didn’t grab me as much, though it’s an interesting sociological study)

Those are good suggestions, though I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to read a few of the other watch books before Night Watch. While all Discworld books (except the two first - The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) stand alone, I think that Night Watch benefits from knowing the characters (and Vimes in particular) before reading it. I also strongly recommend reading his books in English if you’re not a native speaker, rather than going with a translation. He had a way with words, so these books lose a bit in translation.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to read them all in order anyway. The first books are a bit heavy on the silly, but as a Douglas Adams fan you probably won’t mind that. While I generally prefer his later books, I probably laughed more when reading the earlier ones. (I’m not sure if that’s because they’re funnier or because I’d gotten used to Pratchett’s style after 20 books.)

Outside of the Discworld books I can also very much recommend “The Unadulterated Cat” with is a very funny cat book. (It’s not a novel, but a book full of cat “facts”.)

Night Watch was one of the first Discworld books I read, so while I agree that knowing Vimes and the Monks of History is important, you can enjoy it stand-alone. :slight_smile:

Re his earlier vs later works, I find his first few books have a vibrancy, an energy, a vitality, that ebbs away as the Discworld becomes less and less wild. Rincewind stops being in strange adventures and stays at the UU; Gaspode ceases his wonderings and becomes Foul Ole Ron’s dog; things settle.

Doesn’t make his later books any less funny. But they are less vibrant and more throughtful. More mature, you could say. Raising Steam I found to be rather dull, to be honest, although several moments gave me pause and made me think about important issues.

And yeah - original version. Don’t read a translation. Oh boy don’t.

That’s good then. When Night Watch came out, I’d already reached the stage where I’d read all Discworld books and bought the new ones as soon as they were released in softcover, so my comment was pure speculation.

I haven’t re-read the early books. That might be interesting to do, as it’s been twenty years since I first discovered Pratchett in the local library. (I started playing the graphical adventure game first - it was my first adventure game - but it took me a long time to finish, so I’d read many of the books before I reached the end of it.)

I re-read my Pratchett collection occasionally, and I think I can safely say that going back to the beginning will be a treat for you. :slight_smile:

I love the graphical game, but I agree with almost everyone - it’s beyond hard, it’s evil. And I find some of the puzzles frankly dubious. DW3 is the Discworld game I’d really recommend, though DW2 is a very funny romp.

I’m not a fan of DW2. This is partly because it’s the game that made me stop trusting games (a game breaking bug in it had me stuck for a long while until I gave up and went for a walkthrough and found that my next move was to talk to a character that wasn’t there in my game!) and partly because it steals too much from various movies, and partly because it over-used the initially great song until I ended up hating it.

DW Noir, I’m with you on the recommendation.

Regarding the first game, I have to concede that it is unfair in some of its puzzles, but it still remains one of my favourite games and not only because it was my first. It does a lot things right. The way it opens up from the beginning is good - I’d even say that they got the whole structure of the game just right. It has a satisfying ending. It has great music. Wonderful background paintings! The characters suffer from from the low resolution, but the background graphics still look good today (some scenes are even great), and it was unbelievable to find that my computer back then could display something like that. It’s really funny.

Oh, very important note - I really recommend NOT starting with the first two books, especially not Colour of Magic. It feels like a draft of what Discworld were to become. Might as well start with Equal Rites, Wyrd Systers or Mort. Go back to Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic (its direct sequel) afterwards, or you might get the wrong idea about the series.

I have a fondness for all Watch/Vimes novels. Dragons is great, but Feet of Clay is superb. IMHO.

EDIT: “Dragons”? I think I meant Guards! Guards!.

I liked a lot of the earlier Discworld novels but felt they lost their way in the later ones. When I got to the 4th or 5th one with Vimes and the city watch, I just groaned. I mean, I like Vimes so a character but he got less interesting the more I read about him and with so many books about the same characters, it just seemed at time like Pratchett had ran out of ideas.

That’s funny, I though of the repeated-character motif as a way for Pratchett to explore different sort of stories within his creation. The wizards’ stories are very different from the witches’ stories (which develop into being almost meta-fiction, concerning themselves with stories and how they shape the world, rather than the other way around), which are also very different from the Vimes stories, arguably the most realistic, which are very different from the Susan/Death stories.

As for his running out of ideas… I will admit to feeling something similar, but much, much, much later. I thought Thud! had an unnerving finality to it, like it was the final chapter of something grandiose. I felt that Unseen Academicals, Snuff and Raising Steam in particular were less interesting, even though they were still quirky, charming, and thought-provoking (the image of the bucket of crabs from Unseen Academicals remains with me to this day, and I often think of it when I look around me and see people being put down for striving to be better).

But then again, this is nothing new, and I felt that even in the earlier books there were greats and there were not-so-greats - Pyramids and Eric are two of my least favourites.

What I mean, I guess, is that Pratchett always had less-inspired books (exactly which will depend on whom you talk to, I’m sure!), so I’m not sure that the issue is running out of ideas. Possibly, in his maturity, he wasn’t quite as silly as before. Not only that, as the Discworld itself evolved, it became closer and closer to our world, and suddenly there was less and less space for the Dungeon Dimensions and more and more space for the clacks, the post office, the mint, the steam engine.

Moist Von Lipwig is arguably his most interesting character, not by himself but because of what this character does to the Discworld. It is in the MvL books that the Discworld definitely starts advancing technologically similarly to Roundworld’s technological developments. MvL is a catalyst, and after Going Postal Ankh-Morpork can’t be the same, and this eventually expands to the rest of the Discworld.

As I said, things started to settle. I always felt as though, with and after Thud!, Pratchess was mostly tying up loose ends - most extraordinarily with Esk’s intervention in I Shall Wear Midnight. But he still made me laugh, and he still made me think, and that’s why I loved him.

EDIT - Oh dear me, how could I possibly forget Good Omens? It’s a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s probably the mustest-read must-read of them all. If you never read another Terry Pratchett book, read Good Omens.

Vetinari is the chemist.

It was the increasingly ordinary theme of the later books that put me off Discworld in many ways. At the beginning you had a flat world carried on the back of four elephants which is in turn on the back of a giant tortoise; at the end, you had a postal service, newspapers, steam trains and the like. The magic of Discworld was steadily being replaced with science and I preferred the magic.

Whereas I loved the explicit acknowledgement that Discworld is not a stage setting; it’s a place, and places change, and we tell stories about that too.

Vetinari has been modernizing Ankh-Morpork from the moment we meet him. Well, from Guards, Guards, which isn’t the moment we meet him but is still early in the series. That book is all about the tension between fairy-tale tropes (the Returning King) and what it means to actually govern actual people. Moist von Lipwig’s adventures spin that theme out, but it’s not something that started late in the series.

(I’ve always figured that Vetinari’s prime motivation was to create a city that could survive without him.)

(Tangential note: the whole point of the clacks system is that it could only work on a flat world. They can put the towers as far apart as a telescope can see, because there’s no horizon. The magic never goes away.)

And from the very beginning of the series we see a patrician* lecturing Rincewind about what would happen if everyone had lots of gold, and Rincewind theorizing about the special magic of gold… which is economics.

*I understand that the consensus is this isn’t Vetinari?

It looks like the Bromeliad trilogy (Diggers, Truckers, Wings) hasn’t been recommended yet. That, and the Johnny Maxwell series. If you get a bit tired of the issues Pratchett addresses, these are wonderful pick me ups. I suspect many Pratchett fans don’t know about these, though (or because–since this is before the Internet age) they were published in 1990.

Those, and the Tiffany Aching books (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith), are children’s books (or at least published by such a label: “First published in Great Britain by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books”) but they are well worth reading by adults too, so I second your recommendation without hesitation.

The Last Hero is also fun. It’s a shorter story (176 pages) about Cohen the Barbarian, illustrated by Paul Kidby. I imagine that one might be appreciated by those who prefer the early books as well as people like me who like how the Discworld series evolved. It is a Rincewind story, and has many of those elements, and is really funny, but it also has heart.