Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Discworld

Finally, it's my turn! And for my first A-Z post, I'm writing about my favorite all-time book series: Discworld by Terry Pratchett. Here are the reasons that these are some of the most awesome books ever.

The Characters

I think one of my favorite things about Sir Terry's characters are that they resemble actual people rather than the general tropes of fantasy. No Mary Sues here. And the secondary characters are wonderfully developed.  There are four main groups of characters that the books follow (Rincewind and the wizards; Granny Weatherwax and the witches of Lancre; Death and his granddaughter Susan, the City Watch), with various characters popping up in every novel.

Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch is one of my very favorites. I even named my kitten after him:

Close resemblance

The Humor

Pratchett’s humor ranges from dry to silly to pure satire. Rewards are given to those who pay attention. For example, a joke first mentioned in the early part of the book may be resurrected 100 pages later. For the most part, the humor is situational and builds over the course of the story, which to some degree makes quoting hard. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Bad spelling can be lethal. For example, the greedy seraph of Al-Ybi was once cursed by a badly-educated deity and for some days everything he touched turned to Glod, which happened to be the name of a small dwarf from a mountain community hundreds of miles away who found himself magically dragged to the kingdom and relentlessly duplicated. Some two thousand Glods later the spell wore off. These days, the people of Al-Ybi are renowned for being unusually short and bad-tempered.”
-Witches Abroad

“Artists and writers have always had a rather exaggerated idea about what goes on a witches’ sabbat. This comes from spending too much time in small rooms with the curtains drawn, instead of getting out in the healthy fresh air.”
-Witches Abroad
::surreptitiously gets up and opens curtains::

“Drinking in The Drum has been likened to diving in a swamp, except in the swamp the alligators don’t pick your pockets first.”
-Interesting Times

"King Verence was very keen that someone should compose a national anthem for Lancre... Nanny Ogg figured that it would be easy money because national anthems only ever have one verse, or rather, they all have the same second verse, which goes, "nurr... hnur... mur... nur nur, hnurr... nur... nur, hnur" at some length until everyone remembers the last line of the first verse and sings it as loudly as they can."
-Carpe Jugulum 

The Footnotes

This is one of my favorite parts about reading a Pratchett novel. Frequent readers of the blog (all three of you) may note that I copy this technique in my posts, because it's awesome. Here, again are some examples:

Talking about one of the witches (Witches Abroad):
“People like Nanny Ogg turn up everywhere. It’s as if there’s some special morphic generator dedicated to the production of old women who like a laugh and aren’t averse to the odd pint, especially of some drink normally sold in very small glasses. You find them all over the place, often in pairs.*
 *In front of you in any queue, for a start.” 

Discussing chaos theory  (Interesting Times):
“And instead of getting on with proper science* scientists suddenly went around saying how impossible was to know anything, and that there wasn’t really anything you could call reality to know anything about.

*Like finding that bloody butterfly whose flapping wings cause all these storms we’ve been having lately and getting it to stop.”

When the Archchancellor of the Unseen University (a school for mages) wants to have a meeting (Lords and Ladies):
“A less direct Archchancellor would have wandered around looking for everyone. His policy was to find one person and make their life difficult everything happened the way he wanted it too*.”
 *A policy adapted by almost all managers and several notable gods.

All that sounds great! What novel should I start with?

I’m a firm believer in reading series in order. But the thing is, I don’t like some of the earliest Discworld books. They’re too dense for my liking (and Rincewind is not my favorite character). You miss some context from starting a little later in the adventures of a particular group of characters, but not too much. I recommend starting with the slightly later books, like Guards! Guards! (#5), Witches Abroad (#12), or Sourcery (#5).  My personal favorite Discworld books are Men at Arms (#15), Hogfather (#20), Night Watch (#29) and Monstrous Regiment (#31).

There's a (reverse) chronological list of books at Terry Pratchett's website.  Go on, give one a try. Guaranteed you'll like it or your money back!*

*But only if you go to a library and don't put any money down in the first place. 


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  2. Book #31. Really??? I know about Discworld, but I had NO idea there were that many stories. A quick google tells me there are 39?!? Though another site says just 32. Still. Wow. You are not the first person to tell me not to start with the Rincewind books. I'm officially adding Guards! Guards! to my list. Thanks Sabrina!

    1. The difference in number comes from whether or not you're counting the straightforward Discworld novels, or if you add in the YA series and the graphic novels. Sheena mentioned the Tiffany Aching books, which are a ton of fun. Tiffany is a witch in training, assisted by a group of small blue men six inch tall who love to steal cows; one per foot. :) Just don't call them pixies!

      But my favorite YA books of his is The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

      Hope you enjoy Guards! Guards!. Let me know. :)

  3. My first Discworld was Equal Rites, (about a seventh son of a seventh son, who ended up being a daughter.) and it holds a special place in my heart. I also LOVED Carpe Jugularum, and anything Tiffany Aching. Wee Free Men, Ach! Love.

    But, truthfully, my favorite Prachett books, are outside of the Discworld universe. Bromiliade Trilogy is brilliant and my top five books ever. I loved Nation, and Good Omens is half the best book ever and half written by Neil Gaiman.*

    * that's not a craxk at Neil Gaiman, whom I adore, but at a slightly lower level than Prachett.

    1. It's funny, because you and I apparently like the opposite Terry Pratchett books; none of those are my favorites. Though it has been ages since I read either Good Omens or the Bromeliad Trilogy!

      Have you read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents?

  4. Strangely, I've never read any of these. They sound great, so pulling out my library card and adding it to my list!

  5. Before I looked at the calendar to figure out my letters for the month, I decided to post about authors, and I told myself if I got P, I was going for Pratchett!

    In high school, while other girls were stealing their boyfriend's favorite baseball cap or pair of sunglasses, I was sneaking in a chapter here and there from my boyfriend's Discworld books. It's hard to remember because it's been so long, but I think Thief of Time was my favorite. Now I have to go back and re-read (and catch up on!) this series.


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