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Start with Pyramids
January 21, 2013 1:45 PM   Subscribe

A handy infographic to determine which order to read the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels in. As a bonus, some alternative suggestions and much more courtesy of Lspace.
posted by MartinWisse (96 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fantastic! Being just about done with all the Magic:The Gathering novels, my New Year's Resolution this year is to Read all the Discworld books. I had intended to go in publication order, but this might just be better.
posted by Twain Device at 1:48 PM on January 21, 2013


iwillnotclickonLspaceandloose2hoursreadingtheannotationsIwillnotIwillnotohdamn
posted by The Whelk at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was expecting the first link to be a single serve website that just said "Small Gods".
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Or you could employ my method of buying whichever one is in the airport every time you fly until you run out or stop being afraid of planes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:51 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had intended to go in publication order, but this might just be better.

The series does a pivot heel turn around the time of Guards! Guards! I find the books previous to that are pretty different in tone and style then the ones that come later, plus the gradual increasing seriousness and complexity. I like to start total first timers with The Truth! Cause it's got a nice mix of whimsey and seriousness and doesn't really require any previous knowledge.
posted by The Whelk at 1:52 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually don't think Small Gods is all that good as an introduction to the Discworld; it's somewhat more serious and bit more bitter than most of the books, with the comedic elements in the second half feeling somewhat intrusive; it's slightly overrated as a novel as well.

Like I put in my title, try Pyramids first: it's just as good, is partially set in Ankh Morpork, is funnier and is still drenched in Pratchett's philosophy and humanity.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


More accurately, "A handy infographic to determine which six orders to read the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels in," which is only slightly more handy than Potomac Avenue's method.
posted by Etrigan at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The series does a pivot heel turn around the time of Guards! Guards! I find the books previous to that are pretty different in tone and style then the ones that come later, plus the gradual increasing seriousness and complexity. I like to start total first timers with The Truth! Cause it's got a nice mix of whimsey and seriousness and doesn't really require any previous knowledge.

For better or worse, the only Discworld novel I have currently read IS Guards! Guards!
posted by Twain Device at 1:56 PM on January 21, 2013


The series does a pivot heel turn around the time of Guards! Guards!

This, yes. The series had been steadily evolving from the slapstick fantasy satire of the first novels and by this time it had been relatively well established, but this was a foreboding of what the series has so far mutated into. It really is the first novel in which Ankh Morpork becomes more than a background, becomes a proper city and of course it's the first to feature the Patrician (other than in cameos), Carrot and Sam Vimes.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh dear, I've been doing it all wrong. Or maybe half right.

OK, to be honest, I'm not wholly sure how to decypher this infographic. There are no directional arrows, and there's the issue of orders that appear to run parallel. I guess it makes sense, being Pratchett and all.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just sending a thank you to the woman in the London bookshop in 1990, who when my mom asked for recommendations for a 13 year old girl, suggested that she buy Terry Pratchett, and that further she should start with Guards, Guards and Equal Rites. Perfect!
posted by peacheater at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, to be honest, I'm not wholly sure how to decypher this infographic. There are no directional arrows, and there's the issue of orders that appear to run parallel. I guess it makes sense, being Pratchett and all.

Generally left to right. If it helps, think of Diskworld similar to a massive comic book universe that has multiple narratives running in parallel that occasionally cross over in weird ways, only with one author and a slight bit less obvious retconning.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2013


I read them in order but there was a bunch of mediocre books in the middle like "Discworld does Australia". So whatever order you use, read the description first.
posted by smackfu at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2013


Nah, start with The Colour of Magic when you're 11 years old. When Guards! Guards! comes out six years later, you'll be at a really good age for the change in tone.

... Well it worked for me.
posted by kyrademon at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Perfect, thanks! I read a few of the Discworld books several years ago and was just recently thinking about picking them back up again, but had no idea where to start.
posted by skycrashesdown at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2013


Glad to see The Wee Free Men listed as a starter novel - I really think it's overlooked as the single best way to jump into Pratchett's mature style (and neatly sidesteps the Small Gods vs. Mort vs. Guards! Guards! debate we old-timers have been chewing over for the past decade). It's not even really a "Witches" novel per se, although there's enough Weatherwax & Ogg business in the sequels to justify the OP grouping the series there.
posted by ormondsacker at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My personal starting points (favoring what I think are the better books).

Wee Free Men
Guards! Guards! (actually I started with Night Watch and worked back)
Wyrd Sisters
Monstrous Regiment
Going Postal

I think I'd pick Wyrd Sisters over Equal Rites as an entrypoint for Witches, then go back to Equal Rites if you're hooked. Equal Rites isn't a bad novel, it just feels to me more like an early Wizards novel with a lot of magic as a THING, while Wyrd Sisters kicks off with his ideas of narrative as the most powerful magical force in Diskworld.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:48 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always liked the Witches best. My daughter loves the Guards. (When I introduced her to Pratchett, suddenly all the Pratchett books somehow became hers and migrated to her shelves, and her writing abruptly got a lot funnier.)
posted by Michael Roberts at 2:56 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have tried reading them out of publication order and it just makes me uncomfortable, like new pants that keep riding up. I JUST CAN'T OKAY.
posted by elizardbits at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't have much to add to this conversation, just this:

Yay Pratchett!

I need to get Unseen Academicals and Snuff.
posted by The Power Nap at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2013


Also I found Small Gods really tedious and I just don't care.
posted by elizardbits at 2:58 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


ALSO I NEVER LIKED RIVER TAM

oh god nerd catharsis
posted by elizardbits at 2:59 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I never liked Mort there i said it
posted by The Whelk at 3:02 PM on January 21, 2013


I accidentally started with Guards and Guards and have been a fan of Vimes (and Mr. Pratchett, natch) ever since.
posted by Mojojojo at 3:07 PM on January 21, 2013


This seems like a good place to ask: how is Snuff? The Watch are definitely my favourite storyline (except maybe Moist), but I have a huge backlog of books to read. I'm tempted to let this skip the queue because hey, Discworld - is it worth it?
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:11 PM on January 21, 2013


Snuff was a bit of a disappointment to me. Better than a fair number of other books I read last year, but a disappointment overall.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:12 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


If someone ever releases the Guards books in a box set, I will totally buy it.

(Although I just realised that that would most like happen after Pratchett's death. Now I'm sad :/)
posted by anaximander at 3:13 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


ALSO I NEVER LIKED RIVER TAM

What's not to like? Something-something ass-kicker...something-something legs!
posted by Mojojojo at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2013


The way I read them is by mood. Sometimes because I am in one and sometimes because I want a new one often to avoid one. My recommendation is to read them all in any order then reread them once a year in the order your mind chooses* This is what I have been doing for almost 30 years it is not a waste of time.

*A mind is a terrible thing to let do this, so, maybe your big toe instead.
posted by mrgroweler at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read Colour of Magic and thought it was Ok. Then I read Night Watch , which was life changing. Vimes is my people.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:22 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's like ... okay. This isn't a reading order. This is a sorted chronology, this is "How might I organize the books in a method other than publication?" There's no start point to say "Okay, start reading here" except in so far as one might decide "I want to read specifically all the Rincewind books in order". And that's a TERRIBLE way to approach the series for the first time. A reading order is useful for a person who has never read Pratchett, and thus isn't gonna exclaim "I'm on an Egypt kick, I think I'll go re-read Pyramids today!" So, start from there.

You have a prospective reader. Is this reader open-minded or reluctant? I feel like if you have a reader who is interested in reading All Of Discworld, having read none of it, then publication order is just fine. They get to watch things grow and evolve, and they have your word that yes, Equal Rites is a pretty weak book, the whole thing skyrockets in quality soon.

The problem is that Color of Magic, Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, and Mort are not good introductions to a series with this kind of breadth, and if someone has doubts, hitting those four all in a row as their first experience might turn them off. If this is a reluctant reader, someone you're trying to get into Discworld but who really has to be sold on the prospect, then ... well, as said, this chart is entirely useless. In this situation, I'd start a person the way I accidentally got started - with a couple of the stronger standalones, which triggered a desire to read the entire thing and an awareness that even with clunky early books, it'll get better. In my case, the first Discworld book I ever touched was Small Gods, and in retrospect that might be the perfect introduction to the series.

Were I bringing a new person into the series who might need convincing to stick it out, I'd start with Small Gods, and follow it with Wyrd Sisters and Guards, Guards. The best standalone, followed with the actual* starts to the two best sub-serieses within the canon. If that gets them fired up, then I'd give them a publication list and tell them to start at the beginning. If it doesn't, then call it quits. You can't force someone to like something.

*I feel like I've been picking on Equal Rites a lot. It's not even that bad of a book, it's just very shaky in contrast to what develops, and it's a awkward introduction to as rich a character as Granny Weatherwax. Maybe slip that one in much later. As long as you fit it in before I Shall Wear Midnight and understanding that it's before Pratchett really landed on his voice, it's fine.
posted by kafziel at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I want a Discworld Omnibus - the complete works! Paperback sized, 3 feet thick!
posted by anonymisc at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I NEVER LIKED RIVER TAM

Me neither. But I'm not so sure it's unusual.
posted by anonymisc at 3:38 PM on January 21, 2013


Yeah, uh, nobody really actually likes River Tam. At least nobody I've ever met.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:43 PM on January 21, 2013


I like River Tam.

Of course I started Discworld with "Moving Pictures", and I enjoyed the "Discworld In Australia" novel, although I remain confused by its focus on the pie-floater, which I had not heard of before and have never seen in the wild.
posted by Mezentian at 3:44 PM on January 21, 2013


This seems like a good place to ask: how is Snuff?

I thought the prose didn't read like Pratchett, and the characterisation of Vimes, Sybil and Willikins seemed off. There are some good moments, but not enough to make it a good book.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:46 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read Sorcery first, when it had just come out, and then went to the start and read from there.*

Isn't the Tiffany stuff for kids?

Also - Eric! I have lost my copy so haven't read it in years, but I seem to recall it being pretty funny.

*I lived in a shared house and a guy in the house found it on the bus and gave it to me, as I liked Sci-fi. To think that back then (88/9) I turned it down as it was fantasy, but he gave it to me anyway. Gave it a go and never looked back.
posted by marienbad at 3:48 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh they're a little simpler but not really for "kids"
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


reading order - just don't actually start with The Colour of magic or Light Fantastic - they were mostly written as a gag, and he doesn't really try much serious storytelling, or cohesive satire in them. They are fun to read, but aren't a good introduction to what the rest of the series is going to be like. Publication order is pretty good after that, except that putting Pyramids or Small Gods near the top of the list is good, as they are really strong books and don't need any previous knowledge of characters or plot.

the Watch novels should definitely be read in publication order, because they really build on each other.

and Snuff, unfortunately, could have been so much better - I think he needed a good editor - there's a few contradictions, overlong speeches, and repetitiveness. This makes me sad.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with a lot that has been said about Small Gods on here, it being one of my least favorite of Pratchett's, despite also being the first Discworld novel I read. To my tastes, Pratchett is at his best when satirizing (particularly) British ideas the world and its people(s), by dabbling in stereotype and placing among the simple, machine-like characters that result some dumbfound innocent who is unhappy with the whole story and wants badly for it to change. Often, of course, change hits them over the head, or somebody does at any rate. Rincewind works perfectly in this role, even at his most slapstick—maybe especially then. He plays a lightly grim part, and that brand of light grimness is, to me at least, Pratchett's best gift to fiction and to comedy. But when Pratchett has a strongly worded argument to make, the comedy fails for me: as in much of Small Gods, it doesn't quite come off. The grim takes over, and it is as if all has already been thought, and needs only now to be said. Whereas I laugh and think on why I did when reading Thief of Time, for instance (only mention it because it is my favorite), I do little of either with Small Gods.

On another point: one answer to the question of where to start in the series is "anywhere." I've been asked this question before, and the best I've ever done is to suggest reading a few book jackets and seeing which one interests you most by its blurb. Although I've also recommended not beginning with Eric—or to start in a "middle" book, rather than at either end of the publication timeline.
posted by mcoo at 3:54 PM on January 21, 2013


I have tried reading them out of publication order and it just makes me uncomfortable, like new pants that keep riding up. I JUST CAN'T OKAY.

Try reading more than two Rincewind books in a rowtotal.
posted by DU at 3:56 PM on January 21, 2013


This seems like a good place to ask: how is Snuff?

By Discworld standards, I thought it was awful. The plot was, in broad strokes, way too reminiscent of previous Discworld books (Snuff : goblins :: Unseen Academicals : orcs), and I thought it did a great disservice to two of my favorite characters. Vetinari talked too damn much; and Vimes, in addition to talking too damn much, started to come across as the Perfect Man, a superhero capable of doing no wrong. At no point did I feel he was in any danger, and by the end of the book he started to feel reminiscent of Richard Rahl in the Sword of Truth series—probably the #1 work of fiction I'm most embarrassed about having used to like—due to his ham-handed lecturing of secondary characters.

Sorry, didn't mean for that to turn into a screed. Suffice to say I was very disappointed.
posted by valrus at 4:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


OH AND THE GODDAMN COVER IS TEAL AND ORANGE
posted by valrus at 4:12 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh hey I found an e-mail I sent to someone trying to get them to read the Discworld Books.

oh god Rincewind is the worst.

The Moist Von Lepwig books, GOING POSTAL and MAKING MONEY, with RAISING TAXES coming out soon MY FAVORITES, and mostly self-contained.

THE TRUTH, which is about publishing.

HOGFATHER is a standalone about Death's granddaughter Susan and it's BASICALLY WHAT NEIL GAIMAN HAS BASED HIS ENTIRE FUCKING CAREER AROUND. THIEF OF TIME is another Susan book and while i FUCKING LOVE SUSAN I didn't really like this one.

SOUL MUSIC is also a kind of a Susan book, in that middle period where the joke was "Hey what if Modern Idea X entered Discworld" and then lots and lots and lots of puns. MOVING PICTURES and MASKERADE is also in here. They're kind of okay. For modern ideas, it's Soul music=rock and roll, Moving Pictures=movies and Maskarade=Opera/musicals. The last one is basically a parody of Phantom of the Opera.

CARPE JUGULEM, which I'm reading now, is VERY fun but I'm not sure how much sense it would make if you hadn't read all about Lancre and the witches, etc

GUARDS! GUARDS! is the start of the modern Discworld books, where it's not about fantasy parody too much and more about the workings of the city's police force, The Watch. These are basically police procedurals in a magic universe. Follow with THE FIFTH ELEPHANT, NIGHT WATCH, and THUD! SNUFF is a part of it but I haven't read it yet. The main character is the guff, royal-hating, teetotaling Sam Vimes and his accidental rise through society

MONSTROUS REGIMENT is an odd little stand alone war story about a young girl who dresses like man to fight for her country and runs like the funniest war novel ever and all about gender identity and roles and is just super fun and not stupid about it .

SMALL GODS is a stand alone set a few hundred years before the start of other books about the reformation of the Ominan religion and it's kind of a perfect fantasy novel.

UNSEEN ACADEMICALS is about soccer, basically, but also about Being Poor and the Class System and Racism. It's the longest and the strangest of the Discworld books, and I wouldn't start there, but once you know what's going on it is so, so rewarding.

posted by The Whelk at 4:28 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]



OH AND THE GODDAMN COVER IS TEAL AND ORANGE


and the scene depicted on the cover didn't happen!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:29 PM on January 21, 2013


It's a bit of a relief to hear that other people thought there were problems with Snuff - I love the rest of discworld so much that I was actually feeling guilty for not liking it. I think what might have happened is that because of his difficulties with typing he's using a different method to get the words down, so some of his other writing methods need to change too; like a more rigorous editing and rewriting process. It's weird that there is such a difference in style between Snuff and Unseen Academicals, which is such a fantastic book, full of great satire and nuanced social commentary.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, uh, nobody really actually likes River Tam.

Or River Song. Right? Right? Guys?

Big fan of River Ankh though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


iwillnotclickonLspaceandloose2hoursreadingtheannotationsIwillnotIwillnotohdamn

NO, GO AHEAD. I CAN WAIT.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:00 PM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I somehow missed out on Men At Arms in my list there which a shame cause of how much page time Carrot Ironfoundersson gets and he is my favorite.
posted by The Whelk at 5:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many Prattchet pastiches the editors at like Tor Books have to put up with......
posted by The Whelk at 5:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adding my vote for whichever you happen to find at the local libraries annual used book benefit sale.
posted by sammyo at 5:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't read "Where's My Cow?" Should I, I mean, as a grown woman and everything?
posted by droplet at 5:31 PM on January 21, 2013


Just grab them randomly. That's how I mostly read them! Organizing things takes some of the fun out of them. That said, the earlier Rincewind books are much less serious than the later ones, which seem to be about Omnipotent Characters bumping up against each other.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:47 PM on January 21, 2013


FFS, guys, I JUST checked out Snuff from the library and was going to start reading it tonight. Please don't tell me I won't enjoy it (although I felt that Unseen Academicals seemed -- off, and I did worry a bit about this one.)

Anyway, Small Gods, Hogfather, and almost any Night Watch or Witches novel would be great starters. No, no, that wasn't to be questioned /miranda p.

Keep in mind that I'm another random reader, and if I had started with the earliest books, I probably wouldn't have gone on. As much as I love Pratchett, I know there are probably still one or two books that I've missed. I think the universe is just making me read them when I need to read them, you know?
posted by maudlin at 5:51 PM on January 21, 2013


I think Snuff could have done with about four fewer "Vimes is happy" moments, but keep the bathtub scene. Willikins is possibly the best character in the story, somewhat undermining the idea that Vimes could be really, really (Mr. Teatime bad) bad if he didn't have faith in law.

It also feels like Pratchett is forcing his big thesis that modernity is based on a shared mythology a bit further than is wise. It works very well for him to say that monarchies, police, militaries, communication systems, and banking are based on a largely arbitrary mass belief in their effectiveness. It doesn't work quite as well when applied to the notion that people are not vermin or chattel.

maudlin: I think it mostly suffers due to comparison to superlative Pratchett works. It's still better than a fair number of other books I read last year.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:55 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we confessing things here? If so: I haven't been able to get through Snuff.

On the recommendation of our previous Pratchett conversation, I've been reading the Tiffany Aching books to my son as bedtime stories. I'd dismissed them before, but I was wrong. They're good. And my Nac Mac Feegle accent is wonderful, thank you very much. We just started I Shall Wear Midnight and it's getting rather dark for a 10-year-old, but I think the really bleak things are going over his head... or not, and that's okay too.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, my favorite book, despite the stuff with the wizards and the shopping mall, is probably Reaper Man, which develops Death wonderfully. I do wonder what happened to the last shopping cart though, last seen hurrying away from the scene. Kind of sad.

I'm probably alone in that I don't particularly like the Witches novels, although I've mostly read the earlier ones. I think Rincewind stories are okay but very light and trivial compared to the later books. He's such a fun character. I wish there were kind of some way to use Rincewind in a stronger story; Interesting Times might be that story actually, and he's pretty good in The Last Hero.

But yeah, nthing everyone's comments about Vimes and the Watch novels. They're kind of the core of the series.
posted by JHarris at 6:10 PM on January 21, 2013


I dunno, my favorite book, despite the stuff with the wizards and the shopping mall, is probably Reaper Man, which develops Death wonderfully.

I just heard the titular line in my head and got chills.

What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the reaper man?
posted by Sebmojo at 6:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Holy shit, that whole passage is incredible:

LORD, WE KNOW THERE IS NO GOOD ORDER EXCEPT THAT WHICH WE CREATE...

THERE IS NO HOPE BUT US. THERE IS NO MERCY BUT US. THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS JUST US.

ALL THINGS THAT ARE, ARE OURS. BUT WE MUST CARE. FOR IF WE DO NOT CARE, WE DO NOT EXIST. IF WE DO NOT EXIST, THEN THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLIND OBLIVION.

AND EVEN OBLIVION MUST END ONE DAY. LORD, WILL YOU GRANT ME JUST A LITTLE TIME? FOR THE PROPER BALANCE OF THINGS. TO RETURN WHAT WAS GIVEN. FOR THE SAKE OF PRISONERS AND THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS.

LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?"
posted by Sebmojo at 6:37 PM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


YOU WANT SMALL CAPS.
posted by ersatz at 6:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, and to whomever asked about Tiffany Aching books, IIRC Pterry had completed the manuscript of the first and his publisher decided to repurpose it as YA. The beginning of I Shall Wear Midnight (the fourth book) is one of the darkest things I read last year (and quite good).

I also liked Sourcery with its terrible pun and its depiction of a middle-manager's approach to magic even though it isn't one of his best.
posted by ersatz at 6:57 PM on January 21, 2013


I've never thought Pratchett hits it out of the park 100% of the time. (Does anyone, honestly?) But one thing I've found worth noting about him is that, in the course of a long career and dozens of books, he never seemed to have a point where he had an obvious peak and trail off.

Don't try to match these to titles because I'm just remembering emotional reactions from decades ago, but I recall the pattern started something vageuly like Good Book, Good Book, Dull Book, GREAT BOOK, GREAT BOOK, Good Book, Dull Book, Dull Book, Dull Book and then I thought, oh well, he's lost it, but still he had something like a decade long run any writer would be proud of - GREAT BOOK - er, where did that come from? I guess must have been wro - Dull Book - Oh, I guess he only had one more in him then, still that's very - Good Book - or maybe not, that wasn't bad at all - Good Book - well, maybe he's going to hold steady at - GREAT BOOK - screw it, this guy is amazing, how could I have ever thought he might have - Dull Book - and so on and so on ad infinitim.

So I certainly don't love everything he's written, but there's simply never been a point in his career where I found it possible to say, eh, Pratchett? He used to be good.
posted by kyrademon at 7:00 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also I found Small Gods really tedious and I just don't care.

And to think I used to respect you.

Seriously, I love Small Gods, and not just because it is Sir Pterry's personal favorite and he signed my copy for me (!!!). When my boys were little, I read the eagle and turtle story from the beginning of the book aloud to them, and to this day my 17 year old loves to quote from it:
And a minute later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five hundred feet above it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the eagle.

And then the eagle lets go.
That's...perfect. How can anyone not love the book, picturing that scene in your head?

And Vorbis is so EVIL! He's the epitome of all that Mefites love to hate, the narrow-minded religious zealot, demanding the world change to suit his ugly and unchangeable Beliefs. I really think it just gets better upon rereading (I have shelves of paperback and hard cover Discworld books, with Rincewind and the Librarian bookends, and I read them all over and over*).

My personal Discworld favorites are Guards, Guards, which reigned supreme until The Fifth Elephant because 'Vimes meets werewolves' is just delicious, and then Night Watch came out and surpassed them both, with nothing more than sprigs of lilac.

I have a special soft spot for The Last Hero, because Cohen the Barbarian is unparalleled, and I have the lovely illustrated version that brings it to life.

But then I also enjoy Pyramids! And parts of Eric are SO funny, in the same way that scene from Django Unchained, the one with the guys in the hoods, is funny.

The Patrician fascinates me. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are my role models. I want to hug the Bursar and comfort him and feed him his dried frog pills. I need a best friend like Angua. I am charmed by Death's old worldly ways. And I am utterly infatuated with the Postmaster from Going Postal, despite his incredibly unfortunate first name.

But yeah, sadly Snuff is not...well, up to snuff for Pratchett. Sorry, maudlin.

*I could quit any time I want, you guys. I totally could.


posted by misha at 7:20 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


LORD, WE KNOW THERE IS NO GOOD ORDER EXCEPT THAT WHICH WE CREATE...

And it works for the immediate subject of the thread, too.
posted by eruonna at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Readers, I may have SCREAMED when I was re-reading Small Gods and noticed there is a reference to a "brother Whelk". I hadn't even thought of that when it made my screen name so it feels like I got RETCONNED INTO A NOVEL.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Also the structure of Carpe Jugulum is kind of inspired even if the book is a slight Witches adventure, it's a very well done slight witches adventure and I say this as someone who .....kinda...doesn't like the Witches (Tiffany excepted, Tiffany is a FOREVER CHARACTER.)
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I started with HOGFATHER. Was a Christmas gift from an ex-girlfriend's sister.
Thought it was brilliant.
I've been tempted to pick up MORT, but REAPER MAN seems much better ...
So ...
Can I just ...
Skip it?
posted by grabbingsand at 8:32 PM on January 21, 2013


THAT'S MORTALS FOR YOU. THEY'VE ONLY GOT A FEW YEARS IN THIS WORLD AND THEY SPEND THEM ALL IN MAKING THINGS COMPLICATED FOR THEMSELVES.
posted by RobotHero at 8:39 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I recall reading Pratchett being nonplussed by fan mail stating that they hope to see Death when they die, but I really do hope that when I die, there will be someone like Death to come by and usher me to the next place....
posted by Alnedra at 9:03 PM on January 21, 2013


Yes Sebmojo that's great! The only thing better is the single word that follows in response. You know what it is. Everyone who's read Reaper Man remembers that. (I'd repeat it here, but it's not the same without 20 nested <big> tags.)
posted by JHarris at 9:08 PM on January 21, 2013


On Mort, not as good as Reaper Man, but it's the first book that really introduces Death as a character. He's not super likeable in it, but you should read it before Soul Music, which directly refers to it.
posted by JHarris at 9:28 PM on January 21, 2013


I dunno, my favorite book, despite the stuff with the wizards and the shopping mall, is probably Reaper Man, which develops Death wonderfully

I just reread that, as I've been rereading the whole series in publication order (for the first time) and whereas last time it was just a funny Death novel, now that ending made me cry. It's a novel for people who have know grief and been through the death of a loved one.

There have actually been quite a few moments like that in the series, where rereading them somewhat older, revealed how much depth I'd missed in them the first time, even in the Rincewind books.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:39 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read them in order because I first was introduced to Pratchett by a boyfriend who was a rabid fan and ordered them all from England.

What I would do to introduce someone to the series, though, would be to pick a mini-series-- Guards, Witches/Tiffany, Death/Susan, Going Postal/Making Money are my favorites--and start them off by getting addicted to one of those themes and then branch them out. I would definitely not start anyone with Rincewind, sorry. Still the weakest of the bunch, since he's pretty much a one-joke wonder.

Solo books I have not been into as much, other than The Truth.

Actually, I think this suggested order thing is pretty good. But I would put the Rincewind/wizard books toward the end of the reading list, so that by the time the reader gets to them they're so addicted that they'll care less that Pratchett was working his way up there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:39 PM on January 21, 2013


I wonder if there's a difference in personal favourites/order between US & UK (&/or Commonwealth) readers? Or people who came to Pratchett early on vs later on? Because, while I've long agreed with Pyramids as a (or, one of several) starting points, I'd happily argue with almost all the other suggestions here or in the link.

e.g. Susan? Good idea, tedious character - the best of those is Thief of Time, which is a great book if you treat it as a History Monks rather than Susan book. Unseen Academicals? Boring, tedious, and read more like somebody trying badly to emulate Pratchett; the satire fell badly flat and the social commentary somebody upthread cited as 'nuanced' was obvious, heavy-handed, and dragged the whole book down. Snuff? Much better, but the total re-characterisation of one particular central character jarred all the way through the book. Small Gods? It's one of the few books I've read by any writer that gets better the more times you read it - but it's hardly a good intro, or even a representative Discworld story.
posted by Pinback at 12:25 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


'By the way, the words "nothing personal" could have so easily been added to that last sentence.'
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:17 AM on January 22, 2013


I think Snuff could have done with about four fewer "Vimes is happy" moments

Yes! Because when the second or third of those rolled around, I thought "Oh god, he's going to kill Vimes! That's what the book's title was referencing!" I was absolutely convinced Vimes wasn't going to survive the book, because no character who has that many moments of apotheotic joy ever does.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:49 AM on January 22, 2013


If you read them in order, eventually you get to Eric which is an odd duck since it was originally released illustrated and is much shorter than the normal novels. And weird.
posted by smackfu at 6:01 AM on January 22, 2013


I just started reading these a few weeks ago. My reading order has, so far, been determined by what's on the library shelf. (Hmm, can't help wondering if that means I'm reading the least popular ones first. Anyhoo!) Thus:
Making Money
Night Watch
Fifth Elephant
Last Continent

Moist hooked me, and now I discover he's in only a handful of these? Aaauugh!
posted by underthehat at 6:11 AM on January 22, 2013


I always read just one half of Reaper Man, but oh what a wonderful half it is. So many great moments, including the one referenced above but so many more.

Small Gods was my first Discworld and it got me hooked and good. It's still one of my favorites, even though it's perhaps a bit non-subtle, but whatever.
I. THIS IS NOT A GAME.
II. HERE AND NOW, YOU ARE ALIVE.
And if "And I'm me" doesn't reduce you to a ball of tears... well, you're made of sterner stuff than me.

My favorite overall still has to be Night Watch. Just... perfection.
posted by kmz at 6:39 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I always feel like an outcast in these threads-I LIKE the Rincewind books. Yeah, 30 of them would have been a bit much, but I thought they were fun. And the Watch books...well, I don't dislike them, but after the first couple, they really feel a bit samey to me ("this time, we add a werewolf to the Watch!"). It just seemed that, between "Guards! Guards!" and "Night Watch", that's all that really needs to be said about Vimes.

Also, I don't like the direction Vetinari has taken in the last couple of books, he's getting much too chatty.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:44 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd repeat it here, but it's not the same without 20 nested <big> tags.

YYYYYYY       YYYYYYY EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE    SSSSSSSSSSSSSSS 
Y:::::Y       Y:::::Y E::::::::::::::::::::E  SS:::::::::::::::S
Y:::::Y       Y:::::Y E::::::::::::::::::::E S:::::SSSSSS::::::S
Y::::::Y     Y::::::Y EE::::::EEEEEEEEE::::E S:::::S     SSSSSSS
YYY:::::Y   Y:::::YYY   E:::::E       EEEEEE S:::::S            
   Y:::::Y Y:::::Y      E:::::E              S:::::S            
    Y:::::Y:::::Y       E::::::EEEEEEEEEE     S::::SSSS         
     Y:::::::::Y        E:::::::::::::::E      SS::::::SSSSS    
      Y:::::::Y         E:::::::::::::::E        SSS::::::::SS  
       Y:::::Y          E::::::EEEEEEEEEE           SSSSSS::::S 
       Y:::::Y          E:::::E                          S:::::S
       Y:::::Y          E:::::E       EEEEEE             S:::::S
       Y:::::Y        EE::::::EEEEEEEE:::::E SSSSSSS     S:::::S
    YYYY:::::YYYY     E::::::::::::::::::::E S::::::SSSSSS:::::S
    Y:::::::::::Y     E::::::::::::::::::::E S:::::::::::::::SS 
    YYYYYYYYYYYYY     EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE  SSSSSSSSSSSSSSS   
                                        

posted by eriko at 7:08 AM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Twain Device: "The series does a pivot heel turn around the time of Guards! Guards! I find the books previous to that are pretty different in tone and style then the ones that come later, plus the gradual increasing seriousness and complexity. I like to start total first timers with The Truth! Cause it's got a nice mix of whimsey and seriousness and doesn't really require any previous knowledge.

For better or worse, the only Discworld novel I have currently read IS Guards! Guards!
"

Fix that. Now.

You owe it to yourself. He's the author that puts fun in footnotes, among other things.
posted by Samizdata at 7:16 AM on January 22, 2013


MartinWisse: "The series does a pivot heel turn around the time of Guards! Guards!

This, yes. The series had been steadily evolving from the slapstick fantasy satire of the first novels and by this time it had been relatively well established, but this was a foreboding of what the series has so far mutated into. It really is the first novel in which Ankh Morpork becomes more than a background, becomes a proper city and of course it's the first to feature the Patrician (other than in cameos), Carrot and Sam Vimes.
"

Some day I hope to grow up to be Sam Vimes.
posted by Samizdata at 7:18 AM on January 22, 2013


Mojojojo: "ALSO I NEVER LIKED RIVER TAM

What's not to like? Something-something ass-kicker...something-something legs!
"

Don't forget something-something really graceful.
posted by Samizdata at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's another reading order on L Space, but a bit more linear than the one linked in the OP.

I had heard of Pratchett for years, and never delved into his works until a friend was staying over and he had Night Watch. I loved it, then made a checklist of all the novels and started ordering them from used book sellers. I think I started reading the books in the order published, jumping ahead for the picture books when I finally found those. Sadly, Night Watch set my expectations, and the rest of the books have been enjoyable, but not to the same level. Maybe I'll continue reading them after finally finishing Wheel of Time, but there's so much more on my book shelves.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2013


misha: "And a minute later the tortoise"

Good eating on one of those.
posted by Samizdata at 7:26 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


And the Watch books...well, I don't dislike them, but after the first couple, they really feel a bit samey to me ("this time, we add a werewolf to the Watch!"). It just seemed that, between "Guards! Guards!" and "Night Watch", that's all that really needs to be said about Vimes.

In one of the early Watch books, they discussed how old coppers kind of hang around the station, maybe take some sort of administrative or janitorial job just to kind of "keep an eye on the new kids," and end up dying decades later, always a few days away from actually enjoying their retirement. I've seen the last several Watch/Vimes books as Pratchett returning to that theme -- Vimes can't ever not be a copper, and he's going to die in that station. They're pretty good stories in and of themselves, but on the other hand, we get it, Sir Terry, and we know you're never going to kill Sam off, so you can move back to, say, a Carrot series now.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on January 22, 2013


I started as a nerdy 12-year-old, when there were three of them, and read them in order until there were around 20, when I had to stop because he was just writing the same book every time. Ironically, I moved on to Bernard Cornwell.
posted by Soulfather at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2013


I agree that Vetinari has gotten too chatty, which is another reason I didn't care much for Snuff. I got the definite feeling someone, like Pratchett's editor or his wife or something, wanted to understand Vetinari better, so they kept pushing him to put in more dialogue from the character, but that's the worst way to go about it.

My favorite scenes with Vetinari are the ones that leave me wondering, like when he meekly hands over command to Lord Rust, or goads Vimes into punchng a new dent in his wall. You come to accept that Vetinari is playing this big chess match where he's thinking several steps ahead of the rest of the characters all the time. He's fine with letting someone else play the part of the King for a while, because even a pawn can win the game for the skilled chess player.

Occasionally, you'll get glimpses of how his mind actually works, like in Night Watch, where he's experimenting with camouflage in the Assasin's Guild. But he still doesn't tip his hand, because winning the game requires knowing more than your opponent about how the game is played to begin with.

So, by necessity, Vetinari is a man of efficiency and economy, in word and actions. His trademark is leaving uncomfortable silences for others to fill in. Small talk is not his style, it's not in keeping with his character, and I'm annoyed that Pratchett either forgot that or let himself be convinced differently.
posted by misha at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Funny to see this, I have just now embarked on my Discworld reading after putting it off for, oh, about two decades now. I read the start of The Color of Magic years and years ago, but I wasn't pulled in and gave up rather quickly. Recently I gave it another shot and liked it quite well. The pacing and editing are both a bit wonky, and the plot is all over the place, but it's got me interested. I saw that chart a while ago and for my second book I'm currently reading is Last Rites. It's smaller in scope (at least the first 40 pages are) but the writing is much more focused. Now maybe I can finish all of the books in...five years?
posted by zardoz at 1:50 PM on January 22, 2013


I wonder if you could start a new reader on Monsterous Regiment, or is it too far apart from the rest? It's a beautiful little book...
posted by Iteki at 2:12 PM on January 22, 2013


I thought "Oh god, he's going to kill Vimes! That's what the book's title was referencing!"

that's a really interesting point - maybe what we're seeing in snuff is actually the death of Vimes' moral character, under the influence of the summoning dark - because Vimes isn't really as good of a guy as he used to be - he's mostly still going by the book, but there's a number of times when he's all "well I can't do anything to you, but I'll just turn my back and let Willikins do it for me"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:29 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are the books sold in the USA still edited/rewritten for US audiences, or is Discworld enough of a thing in the US now that they don't bother with a special edition?

Same question: Harry Potter?
posted by anonymisc at 4:48 PM on January 22, 2013


There are differences between US and UK versions. I noticed some words were spelled differently.
posted by RussHy at 9:43 AM on January 23, 2013


anonymisc--don't know about Discworld but the Harry Potter books have a U.S. version...it's right in the title of the first one: "Philosopher's Stone" (U.K.) vs "Sorcerer's Stone" (U.S.). I imagine it's just when the U.K. colloquialisms and slang are over the head of American kids.

Discworld is for all ages so I doubt there was/is much reason to "translate"...and are there really British Britishisms in Discworld?
posted by zardoz at 1:48 PM on January 23, 2013


Zardoz, I think Unseen Academicals has a bit more Britishism, or at least Europism(?) to it than some of the others.

I wasn't familiar with the Mallard Song satirized in the book, for instance, or the connection between bananas and racism in football, which helps explain both why Pratchett chose to make Nutt a goblin and this bit:
'Someone threw a banana and I saw who did it and I think it's poisoned', said Glenda, all in one breath.

'He's breathing very heavily,' said Ridcully. The comment was unnecessary as the snores were making the goal rattle. He crouched down and put his ear to the Librarian's chest. 'I don't think he's been poisoned,' he said.

'Why's that, Archchancellor?' said Ponder.

'Because if anyone has poisoned our Librarian,' said Ridcully, 'then, although I am not, by nature, a vindictive man, I will see to it that this university hunts down the poisoner by every thaumic, mystic and occult means available and makes the rest of their life not only as horrible as they can imagine it, but as horrible as I can imagine it. And you can depend on it, gentlemen, that I have already started work on it.'
And I never even knew of the existence of "mob" football before the book!
posted by misha at 4:13 PM on January 23, 2013


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