Terry Pratchett Tribute: Part II
A few weeks ago Book Worm posted her review of Nation in honor of esteemed author Terry Pratchett, who passed away in March 2015. Today it is my turn to pay tribute to Sir Pratchett.
Until recently, I hadn’t read any of Pratchett’s books — with the exception of Good Omens, a book he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Why? To say I read a lot is an understatement. And because I read a lot, I have a large TBR shelf and I’m constantly trying to decide which book to read next in my seemingly never-ending pile. I’m always hesitant to begin new series because: a) I have a compulsive need to finish what I start (even if the series is terrible — case in point, I read all of the Twilight books despite loathing every minute of them), b) I’m impatient and don’t like waiting for the next book to come out, and c) Unless I read a series of books back to back, I forget about what happened in the previous books.
So, knowing that there already are 41 Discworld books was pretty daunting. Friends have been telling me for years that I should read Pratchett’s books because I would love them. Deep down, part of me was also concerned that if I loved them, I’d be heartbroken by the fact that Pratchett would never finish the series in his lifetime.
But, after much reflection, I decided that I needed to at least try. So, in tribute to Pratchett, I have started the Discworld books and have finished the first two. They are quite a project to tackle. I first had to try and figure out where to start. Just Google “discworld reading order” and you’ll soon see how passionate people are about these books and the “correct” way to read them.
For those who don’t know, Discworld is a comic fantasy book series consisting of 41 books with 4 primary story lines (Rincewind novels, Witches novels, city watch novels, and death novels). The Discworld books consist of traditional novels, short stories, science novels, illustrated novels, and young adult. The stories are set on the Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on a giant turtle moving through space. Sound ridiculous? It is wonderfully ridiculous – that’s the point. The books parody traditional fantasy books and are known for their humorous way tackling of social, cultural, political, and religious issues.
While everyone says the first couple books are lacking, I decided to read in chronological order based on date the books were published. Below are some brief thoughts about those first two books.
The Colour of Magic: The first book in the series was published in 1983 and begins the Rincewind novels. According to Wikipedia, Pratchett described this book as an “attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns.” Rincewind, the protagonist, is an incompetent wizard who inadvertently becomes a guide to Twoflower, a naive tourist and his magical luggage (the best character of the book). It was a 3 star read for me. It made me laugh a few times and smile many times. It was humorous, but with none of the deeper themes that I have heard are part of the later books. It was entertaining enough to pull me into the next book.
He pointed down the road to where his traveling companion was still approaching having adopted a method of riding that involved falling out of the saddle every few seconds.
Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant, ‘idiot.’
Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring- do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.
Find it/buy it here: The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic: Published in 1986, book two is a direct continuation of book one, picking up where the former’s cliffhanger left off. The end of the world is approaching, and the only person who can save it is an incompetent wizard who can’t perform magic. This book was significantly better than the first one and it gets 4 stars from me. The characters are more interesting (Cohen the Barbarian, Death), the world is slightly more developed, and the humor is better. There are hints of social commentary (about religion and feminism), albeit still weak.
Rincewind had generally reckoned by his tutors to be a natural wizard in the same way that fish are natural mountaineers.
Well, some say that the Creator of the Universe made the Disc and everything on it, others say that its all a very complicated story involving the testicles of the Sky Goat and the milk of the Celestial Cow, and some even hold that we’re all just due to the total random accretion of probability particles.
Death didn’t answer. He was looking at Spold in the same way that a dog looks at a bone, only in this case things were more or less the other way around.
Find it/Buy it here: The Light Fantastic
The Verdict? I plan to plod along and read the rest over time. Over the years, I have found the bulk of my reading falls into the genre of literary fiction. The books I read are often heavy, thought-provoking, and often not very uplifting. I love the snarky sense of humor that I already see emerging in the Discworld books. His style reminds of a fantasy version of Douglas Adams, only funnier. I like fantasy, but I found his parody of many fantasy cliches to be hilarious and I look forward to getting into the other books with deeper commentary on religion and socio-political issues.
The problem? My fear of being heart-broken may come true.
R.I.P. Sir Pratchett.