Terry Pratchett

I first read The Dark Side of the Sun in the mid-1970's, I think (I remember taking it out of the Prince George Public Library from its old location ... actually I can't remember the street name now but it's now a Senior's Activity Centre or something, and the Library is now in a beautifully well-lit and spacious building that has the unfortunate appearance of an oil-rig rising above the parking lot south of the police station.

Anyway I liked Pratchett then and looked for more books by him, in vain, except possibly for Strata which I think I read sometime in the mid-eighties, for years, until The Colour of Magic came across my path in about 1988, shortly followed by The Light Fantastic and Mort .

The first book in a trilogy (series) is always the best. Well, almost always. The Light Fantastic is better than The Colour of Magic , which is an astonishing feat. Ok, the second book is always better than the third. Hmm. Almost always. All right, all right, Mort is better than The Light Fantastic . That's not just astonishing, it's impossible. How could he have topped "Cohen the Barbarian"? Well... I still wake up laughing about Mort, maybe 8 or 9 years after having read it.

There are now twenty Discworld books; more if you count odd things like graphic novels (Dammit, who has my copy of Eric?!! I should record who I loan things to---a habit I've never got into I'm afraid). Here is a more-or-less complete list, with commentary, in order. I'll give a separate list of other books by Pratchett afterwards.

  1. The Colour of Magic. Really it's two short novels stuck together---Rincewind makes his first appearance, as does Twoflower and the Luggage. Read it first---it's a scream but it gets better later, and so you're best to start here.
  2. The Light Fantastic. The chick in chainmail on the cover is the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian. She really wants to be a beautician or hairdresser, but a thousand generations of bloodthirsty barbarian ancestry really has an effect on a girl.
  3. Mort. "Something small brown and warty known as the Klatchian migratory bog truffle" ... oh, oh, oh, my aching sides....
  4. Equal Rites. Ok, this one is listed before Mort in my Companion, but I read it after Mort, ok? It worked for me. Granny Weatherwax makes her first appearance here, but she isn't quite the character we learn to love later; read this one and treat it as an experiment. Hey, it's still great, but they get better later.
  5. Sourcery. Rincewind returns, and saves the universe by defeating the most powerful being on the Disc, with only a half-brick in a sock. Well, sort of.
  6. Wyrd Sisters. This one is my favourite, even above Mort. Granny Weatherwax snaps into focus in this book...
  7. Pyramids. The greatest mathematicians in the universe are...wait for it...camels! Unfortunately Terry Pratchett tends to get his mathematics absolutely correct (speaking as a professional, I really admire how accurate his picture of university life and the contents of scientific thought are). So I look at camels differently than I used to.
  8. Guards! Guards! --- who but Terry Pratchett could make a six-foot-six dwarf (well, adopted) work? Captain Carrot rules! Or, rather, could if he wanted to. Well in this one he's just a corporal but he's a captain later...
  9. Eric. Ok, I have a new copy now (no pictures---my edition with Josh Kirby's pictures is in the hands of one of my (possibly ex-) friends). I think this is a new version---there certainly is stuff in this one I didn't remember from before... Rincewind as a demon? Hur, hur, hur!
  10. Moving Pictures. This one was merely wonderful (though I loved the dog, and Dibbler certainly gets some flesh on his character).
  11. Reaper Man. Susan Sto Helit is yet another superb character. I'm glad she's back.
  12. Witches Abroad. Ok, THIS is my favourite. I have read it a dozen times...the absinthe scene still cracks me up...but the thought of Granny Weatherwax being good in complete spite of her nature is a terrifying one. "Lily would hav bin a Picnic by comparisen"---Nanny Ogg.
  13. Small Gods. The turtle-bomb is a killer! And the philosophers...oh my aching sides...Eureka means "Someone get me a towel!"
  14. Lords and Ladies --- Magrat's book (although she's got a brilliant scene in the Witches Abroad). Excellent!
  15. Men at Arms. I like Vimes, though Angua is pretty damn good too.
  16. Soul Music. Watch out for dreadful punes or plays on words (contrary to popular belief, especially among Pratchett imitators, there are not than many in the Discworld series---and the ones that are there are really made by the characters, not the author---it makes a difference). But there's a few on the names of musical groups that are really painful here. [But it's a good pain---really.]
  17. Interesting Times. The saying this title is based on is probably apocryphal, but welcome back Twoflower! I love the ending, too.
  18. Maskerade. Ok, I started going hardback about this time. Couldn't wait. Glad I didn't. Granny Weatherwax is the best .
  19. Feet of Clay. More watchmen---lots to say here. Good stuff.
  20. Hogfather. I read it last night in a sitting, and I'm reading it again now. I am laughing out loud at the same damn observations I read last night, and the same damn jokes---I nearly choked on the cucumber---this is as good as Mort, as good as Wyrd Sisters, as good as The Witches Abroad. Susan Sto Helit is back, and her way with bogeymen is ... shut up shut up shut up no spoilers...go out and buy this book it's brilliant. Thank you to the University of Toronto Bookstore for having it in.
I also own a signed copy of The Discworld Companion (with Stephen Briggs). Terry Pratchett stamped it "Ex Libris Mortis" and inscribed it "To Rob and Sumaya, In your heart you know it's real". Too damn right.

I have "The Streets of Ankh-Morpork" also---it's a map, it's ok, if you like maps. I like looking things up on it.

I bought a copy of The Pratchett Portfolio , which has text by Terry Pratchett and illustrations by Paul Kidby . These drawings are right . The covers of the Pratchett books (especially The Witches Abroad) are absurd---Magrat is not beautiful (or big-chested) and Granny Weatherwax does not have curls in her hair. What was that artist thinking of? The paycheck? Go back to Chalker covers---those are mostly right.

Anyway Kidby's illustrations are so good I could pick out everyone, and I mean everyone in the group illustration of the Faculty at Unseen University. Ridcully was easy, as was the Bursar (just thinking of his expression makes me laugh again) but Ponder Stibbons---hell, I know that guy---hell, I know them all ! Oh, ok, I had to be told which was the Chair of Indefinite Studies and which was the Lecturer in Recent Runes, but I got everybody else (even the Senior Wrangler---the horsey look is there!). And on his own pages, Rincewind looks just like some of the students I used to know...

I bought this in the bookstore here at Western. As I paid for it, everyone in the store was looking at me. I mean, I do have rather a loud laugh, I'm used to that, but tears of laughter at 3 in the afternoon? For real! It was a present for Sumaya. Really. She's even read it now.

Other books

Ok, we have already mentioned "The Dark Side of the Sun"---read it, it's worth it---and Strata---clearly working out some of the Discworld ideas mechanistically (I'm glad we're not going back to that universe, it works better as fantasy). Then there are
  1. Diggers
  2. Truckers
  3. Wings --- a delightful children's fantasy trilogy
  4. The Carpet People---a collaboration between the 17 year old Pratchett and his older self---it works very well.
  5. Only You Can Save Mankind---computer games as they should really be
  6. Johnny and the Dead
Those are all good, short books. Worth buying and reading. But I have been saving perhaps the best for last. The book Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch , by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is perhaps the funniest book ever written. I didn't know who Neil Gaiman was before I read this; now I am a devoted Sandman fan---if you don't know the World Fantasy Award winning Sandman, you should (yes it's a "comic", in the loosest sense---it's actually art, or literature, or something, and damn serious).

But after reading Good Omens, I will never again be able to think of Mars/Ares as a male god. Of course she's female, and red-headed. That is the mark of greatness---a simple and unforgettable concept that you know at once is true.