Terry Pratchett isn’t jolly. He’s angry
September 24, 2014 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Terry looked at me. He said: “Do not underestimate this anger. This anger was the engine that powered Good Omens.” I thought of the driven way that Terry wrote, and of the way that he drove the rest of us with him, and I knew that he was right. Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett.
posted by Ghostride The Whip (101 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
God, I hope this doesn't mean what I think it means.
posted by jrochest at 2:06 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Good Omens is the only Pratchett I've ever read. I liked it so much that I thought it was a good place to stop.
posted by michaelh at 2:15 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


And it's only half Pratchett's. Please read Reaper Man. Please.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:16 PM on September 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


I can't imagine the joy of having the entire Discworld series still ahead of me, unread.

Seriously. You are missing so much fun.
posted by jrochest at 2:25 PM on September 24, 2014 [40 favorites]


God, I hope this doesn't mean what I think it means.

If you're worried that it means that the Guardian published Neil Gaiman's introduction to Pratchett's new book, A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-fiction, as a separate article, then your worst fears have come true.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:25 PM on September 24, 2014 [30 favorites]


HE ATEN'T DEAD.

With that out of the way... this is from the intro to a just released collection of pTerry's nonfiction writings, A Slip of the Keyboard.

It's something which is sort of obvious in retrospect (that Pratchett has a lot of righteous anger in him) but which I've never really thought of in those terms. The Summoning Dark might be the most explicit manifestation of this idea, but it's present throughout the books. Thinking especially of Vimes and Granny, characters whose fury at the injustice in the world is steel. But also exhibited at times by Death, Vetinari, or Tiffany.
posted by kmz at 2:26 PM on September 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


I thought we agreed we would preface all Pratchett posts with NOT DEAD.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2014 [46 favorites]


Turtles have a size
Giant beings of space time
Small Gods in a shell
posted by Mblue at 2:28 PM on September 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


You're saying I should be glad I have this ahead of me?

(I believe you.)
posted by michaelh at 2:29 PM on September 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


You know, I think you can take on faith that if Pratchett dies, the post reporting it will probably lead with that, so it's pretty safe to assume he's not dead unless otherwise specified
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:31 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is this not also true of 99% of the great humorists? The world is shit, you can laugh about it or you can succumb to it.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:31 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Re: Discworld, skip to the middle. Start with Guards Guards maybe. IMO the early books in the series are uneven, the later ones are way, way better. And it doesn't matter too much what order you read them in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:32 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Those of you who want a disclaimer included in every write-up on the subject, to be removed when there is a change in status..

..do you realize that you're asking for a Terry Canary?
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:35 PM on September 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


i think i have to start reading this dude.
posted by angrycat at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I personally would start with Equal Rites. I love me some Granny Weatherwax.
posted by Pendragon at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


If one were to want to eventually read all the Discworld volumes, no matter what "thread" they were in, would publishing-date chronological be an okay approach, starting with The Colour of Magic (1983)?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It helps explain the hopefulness of Diskworld. Anger is hope's sister, the functional equivalent of hope for the grim and determined. The future is going to be better than the past because we will damn well make it so.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2014 [24 favorites]


Yes.

All paths lead to the end, or the history monks.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


First I read Colour of Magic, wasn't terribly impressed.

Then I read Night Watch, and I wept and read it again.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:42 PM on September 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


The Wee Free Men is a great intro to Discworld, IMNSHO...
posted by mikelieman at 2:43 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


If one were to want to eventually read all the Discworld volumes, no matter what "thread" they were in, would publishing-date chronological be an okay approach, starting with The Colour of Magic (1983)?


I mean, yes, but also no.

I'm a huge Pratchett fan who still hasn't read Colour of Magic all the way through, or even started Light Fantastic. I was very "meh" on both Sourcery and Equal Rites. But Night Watch and Thief of Time are two of my favorite books.

I personally think the DEATH and Night Watch "series" are the best; I would recommend picking either Mort or Guards, Guards! and going from there.
posted by damayanti at 2:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I started with Going Postal and I regret nothing.

Any randomly selected book would be a better place to start into Diskworld than sitting there reading a metafilter thread about it. Don't walk, run to your nearest bookatorium.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


If one were to want to eventually read all the Discworld volumes, no matter what "thread" they were in, would publishing-date chronological be an okay approach, starting with The Colour of Magic (1983)?

Any order is ok, except an order "starting with The Colour of Magic" - it's the first book, and it's not very good compared to the later ones, and might put you off reading further. You might think it would set the scene, but Discworld wasn't very thought-out at that point, so it sets a vaguely similar scene that is also sort of the wrong scene :)

If you're ok with plowing through it, and won't be deterred, and want to be completionist, then start at the early book, but otherwise, skip ahead. (IMHO)
posted by anonymisc at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Celsius1414, I'd advise treating the earliest novels as historical documents to be examined later if you turn into a completist. You can start trying a purely chronological approach starting with, say, Guards! Guards!, but there's a good chance you'll be disappointed with the earliest novels. My ex INSISTED on reading what I plainly told him was the worst novel first. We both regretted it.
posted by maudlin at 2:50 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Alternatively, you could watch 'The Colour of Magic' instead of reading it to get it out of the way, since the mini-series is informed by the rest of the discworld books in a way that the actual book isn't, but Colour of Magic is such weak sauce that even the mini-series is a bit boring and predictable compared to the the mini-series of 'The Hogfather'.
posted by anonymisc at 2:53 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I didn't know there was a mini-series of Hogfather (which, coincidentally, was my first Diskworld book). Thanks for that.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with reading chronologically as long as you keep this thought in your head:

"Every single person who has read these books has said that the earlier books can't hold a candle to the genius of the later books. When I get to The Book1 that makes me stop, and think, and perhaps cry or laugh out loud, and then think some more, and maybe have to walk away in anger, but I come back, I will know where the dividing line that separates 'the later books' from 'the earlier books' is."

1. The Book varies by reader.
posted by tzikeh at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2014 [27 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with damayanti. I've read the earliest Discworld books and they aren't terrible, but I doubt I'd have kept reading the series if I hadn't already read Mort (IMO only, the earliest one to gel) and some of the later Death books.

My starting suggestions for each thread:
Death: Mort
City Watch: Guards! Guards!
Witches: Wyrd Sisters, or jump ahead to the YA Tiffany Aching novels starting with Wee Free Men
Rincewind/the Wizards: Interesting Times, maybe? To be honest, I like the Wizards best as supporting characters or in The Science of Discworld
Industrial Revolution/Moist van Lipwig: Going Postal
One-offs: Small Gods, The Truth or Monstrous Regiment

YMMV, etc. tzikeh's philosophy is definitely not a bad one.
posted by bettafish at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


I can't believe I didn't know there was a mini-series of Hogfather

Susan is the Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey :D
posted by anonymisc at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just dive in. Maybe start with Going Postal, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters, or Night Watch.

I liked Colour of Magic when I was 12 or so, but I am no longer 12 or so.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:00 PM on September 24, 2014


Is this not also true of 99% of the great humorists? The world is shit, you can laugh about it or you can succumb to it.

I'm going to say no. That is to say, sure, plenty of humorists, and particularly English humorists, go the anger route (Evelyn Waugh, Tom Sharpe, Kingsley Amis, John Cleese), particularly since the end of the war. But plenty of others did, do, not (Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, E.F. Benson, Michael Palin). I've no idea what the break down would be, but not 99/1.

(One of the comments comes from a bookstore clerk who found Pratchett charming to the punters and really nasty to the bookstore employees.

Anyone else out there bad-mouthing the fellow?)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:04 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am a completionist and I started with Colour of Magic and I regret absolutely nothing! I think I read the whole book in one day while traveling; like all the Discworld books it's great for planes and trains. Certainly no worse than a lot of things one might buy to pass the time and definitely better than most fantasy of similar length. I had brought with me about seven of the other Discworld books at the time for that trip and it was fantastic. Reading the first one was improved by knowing there would be more - so I didn't feel like I had to focus too hard on it. Admittedly I was 17 at the time.
posted by Mizu at 3:17 PM on September 24, 2014


If one were to want to eventually read all the Discworld volumes, no matter what "thread" they were in, would publishing-date chronological be an okay approach, starting with The Colour of Magic (1983)?

You've gotten other answers and I basically agree - mostly chronological is fine, but probably best to skip just the first handful of books and then go chronologically from there. You definitely don't have to worry about reading anything else in order particularly, or reading strands all together, or whatever. But Rincewind, the main character of the first couple, is - to me - a really uninteresting character and it is just a slog to read about him. Whereas starting a few books later, the focus switches to other main characters that are all a lot more interesting and fun to read about.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read Colour of Magic a few years ago for the first time. I thought it was kinda wonderful and had an absolutely solid ending. Surprised to see so much dislike or "meh" for the book in this thread. I've read very little of the Discworld books, so perhaps the later ones are much better, but the first one is a great opener to the series.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's only been in the last month that I've read my first Discworld book, and I found this guide very helpful in deciding how to go about it.

(I'm now on my fourth book; I started with Colour of Magic — knowing full well that many feel it is not representative of his genius. I enjoyed the hell out of it nonetheless.)
posted by iamkimiam at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Boy, this Gaiman piece really makes it sound like things are coming to a swift conclusion for Pratchett. I had thought most recently that he was doing better than he'd initially thought, that the disease was going after certain parts of his brain but not others, but maybe that was false hope.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:42 PM on September 24, 2014


Everything people have said about The Colour of Magic is true, but I still have a special fondness for the first two books because Rincewind and Twoflower are a good comedy team, and I love Rincewind himself, and Nethack's Tourist role is a direct homage to Twoflower, to the extent that the Tourist quest takes you to Ankh-Morpork. One of the tragedies of that game's dotage is that this quest is pretty much locked as a reference to those original two books, and hasn't been updated as Discworld has turned into a thing of beauty, so that quest still reflects a very Colour-of-Magic outlook on the Discworld. (Nethack refers to all kinds of things BTW, including Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.)
posted by JHarris at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I found this guide very helpful in deciding how to go about it.

Oh, good, someone posted that. It's really the best thing.

I think, sadly enough, I may be done reading new Pratchett, as I thought the latest Discworld was sadly meh. OTOH, rereading older stuff is also a pleasure.
posted by suelac at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2014


I read in an order based on what's available for digital download from my library. So far, so good.
posted by Area Man at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tend to start people in One Offs of the series, like Pyramids or Small Gods. I do this only because I enjoyed reading about the University, The Night Watch, and The Witches in somewhat chronological order. I feel like I should allow others to do the same.

Besides, the One Offs are just as fun.
posted by The Power Nap at 3:56 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I suspect 7 years of comparatively high functioning is doing better than expected for any early-onset Alzheimer's patient, so he could be both that and still very near the end, sadly.
posted by tavella at 4:01 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


My introduction to reading Discworld itself was Small Gods. Personal favorites include that one, and also Soul Music, Reaper Man, Interesting Times, and Watch novels in general. I've wanted to read the Moist novels (Industrial Revolution in the chart) but haven't been able to lately.

For some reason the Witches novels have yet to click with me. It might be because my first one was Lords and Ladies, which I had a negative reaction to.
posted by JHarris at 4:03 PM on September 24, 2014


Some will say it's a mistake but what worked for me was reading the first six or seven in order. Only because I could tell from other peoples' descriptions that I was going to be into the whole series.

It's true that they aren't very good compared to the others, but for me at least it gave me a feeling of understanding the author and where he was coming from.

Then when I did read Small Gods, it was a revelation- the author now mastered the Disc World instead of the other way 'round. He literally seems lost himself in the first two books! Since then I've been cherry picking based on the characters and those two, for me at least, are best read in order.

The turtle moves.
posted by cell divide at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Alternatively, I found reading (and, years later, re-reading) the books in date-of-publication order to work very well, because each new book is a fresh change from the characters in the last one, and - especially if I really liked the central character - after numerous fresh changes, the future book with that character is a gratifying reunion.

In conclusion: whatever order you read them in, you'll be glad you read them!
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:09 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


From the article ...

anger at pompous critics, and at those who think serious is the opposite of funny;

this a million times. As someone who loves to work in the realm of humor, please don't ever assume what I'm doing isn't serious. What it isn't (when I'm doing it right) is sober*, but it's always serious.
posted by philip-random at 4:09 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had thought most recently that he was doing better than he'd initially thought

He did, for longer than expected. But he canceled the last of his scheduled appearances. The last thing I read said he's still writing, with at least one more Tiffany Aching book to be finished, but entirely by dictation and having it read back to him.

I'm not sure this piece is meant to read so much like a eulogy today, but it was written knowing that it will be one, sooner or sooner. And written with anger, appropriate to the subject and the occasion.

But then again, is it unusual to have a book's introduction pre-released in the Guardian? Is this just promotion for the book's release, or does it mean something else?

Small Gods was my first. I have no idea where it came from, I didn't know anything about it or Discworld or Pratchett. I was about halfway through the book before I figured out the joke and that I was in on it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:11 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


is it unusual to have a book's introduction pre-released in the Guardian? Is this just promotion for the book's release,

No it is not unusual, yes it is just standard book promotion.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:13 PM on September 24, 2014


This far into the thread, and only two mentions of turtles !?

I thought it was going to be turtles all the way down.
posted by yohko at 4:14 PM on September 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


I thought it was going to be turtles all the way down

Ah - a pune or play on words!
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:25 PM on September 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


colour and magic was ok but i'm literally an amoeba so idk
posted by blue t-shirt at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I read the Discworld books in chronological order (mostly: I came back to Tiffany Aching and read those in order, and read The Amazing Maurice after all the rest) and would agree with most that the early books are not the best, but they get better. That stretch from The Truth to Night Watch (The Truth, Thief of Time, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Night Watch) is really good, I think; if I were to publish four books as good as those I'd die convinced I had at least done some work worth doing.

My favorite Discwold book is probably Going Postal, but Thief of Time and Wintersmith are close behind it.

Better still, in my opinion, is Nation, which is far and away my favorite Pratchett book.
posted by johnofjack at 4:39 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Like Itaxpica, my first Pratchett book was Hogsfather. It was confusing to a 13-year old, but I loved it. My favorite would be Small Gods, although I liked Maskerade a lot when everyone was crazy about Phantom of the Opera (I've lost at LEAST 2 copies of Maskerade...)

I haven't read much of new Pratchett in a while, but they didn't touch me like some of his slightly older works. Wintersmith and Nation are still great reads, but they don't pull me into the world(s) like his earlier works.
posted by halifix at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2014


I wish I could remember this quote correctly, or even who said it, but it was an author to a critic who complained of inappropriate humour: "I beg you, sir, just because I am being witty do not think I am not serious in what I say, and in return I will not think that, just because you're being pompous, you are not."
posted by Devonian at 4:45 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Color of Magic was a fantastic read when it first came out, given that in most mainstream bookstores the only fantasy books were clunky, derivative sagas by Terry Brooks and Stephen Donaldson, consigned to an sf&f ghetto consisting of 2m of shelf space.
posted by um at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've always considered the Rincewind/Wizard books to be on the lower tier, and I guess I would still consider them such, but reading along with Mark (he's doing the entire series in publication order) has given me a new appreciation for the early Disc books. Maybe it's just that he's so enthusiastic about everything and it's infectious.
posted by kmz at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's worth reading "The Color of Magic" because it he informs the character development later on. It's the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the unfolding of a new world. Yes, it pales in comparison to later books but is an absolute delight and adds so much to how you perceive the characters later on.

My advice would be to have the discipline and read the first few books even if they aren't perfect. The later books become so wonderful. But I feel like there would be a hole missing had I not read the earlier books.

The audiobooks are all so delightful. My husband and I have been listening to them on and off in the car. It's the type of thing that will find ourselves sitting in a parking lot driveway for an extended period of time just to hear what happens next. Doesn't matter if it's something we've read before. It becomes something new again.

The only really tough part was when narrators switched. Nigel Planer was brilliant; and the switch to Stephen Briggs was jarring . . . Until we had a couple bucks under about and then I could imagine the books any other way.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2014


Nigel Planer was brilliant; and the switch to Stephen Briggs was jarring . . .

I've listened to so much of Stephen Briggs that I can't imagine the characters' voices any other way. He was born to read Pratchett.
posted by suelac at 5:20 PM on September 24, 2014


I always try to hook people with Mort. My personal copy finally fell apart after about 15 such loanings. I say, "if you like this, you're golden".

It's funny how the various narrative threads grab people. I like Death and Guards, my wife likes Witches, hates Death. My best friend at work is totally enamored of the later ones (truth, postal, money etc) which I think are great but frankly don't feel like discworld books. They are like, alternate history with discworld set in Dickens-theme.
posted by hearthpig at 5:48 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Color of Magic is like looking at pencil sketches a sculptor made before beginning the work. If we're talking about a great artist the sketches have value in themselves. I'm quite fond of proto-Vetinari (the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Patrician).
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:54 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


My high school had some of the early Discworld books, and I know for a fact that I read Mort, Equal Rites, and Sourcery – I may have also read The Colour of Magic but I honestly can't recall. Then I checked out Guards! Guards! from the county library and didn't get into it at all, and gave up on Discworld. The only one I really liked from that was Mort and that was a touch too precious. The rest were amusing at best, but nothing to write home about.

So it's always been sort of mystifying to me that Discworld has this tremendous following. I read four or five books and wasn't won over; did Pratchett get so much better in the '90s that it's worth digging back into them at some point? Or is it probably just not my kind of thing?
posted by graymouser at 5:54 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I cannot recommend enough Mark Reads Discworld if you're iffy about the first books. He is delightful and I believe most of the way through the forth book now. If you like spoilers, bring rot13 to read the comments - otherwise it's spoiler free.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I haven't quite got my head around the Moist books. They're good. But they feel a bit strangely paced, driving towards an inevitable conclusion. But I think they could grow on me, with a few more of them. Which, of course, is unlikely to happen. And now I'm sad again.

Reading Monsterous Regiment for the first time at the moment. Damn it's good.
posted by Jimbob at 6:32 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Going Postal was the first Pratchett book I read and so far it's only one of a few that I've liked (Thud being another one). But I like them quite a lot, so I'm not dissing.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Monstrous Regiment is _so_ good. I was lucky enough to catch a stage adaptation in Chicago this summer and it was awesome... I only wish we'd have gone multiple times!
posted by kmz at 6:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thing about Colour and Fantastic is that they're pretty much wacky parodies of other fantasy literature. Examples from memory: Cohen's a fairly direct parody of Conan, the dragon rider segment has a lot of Pern, and Bel-Shamharoth is very much a Lovecraftian entity. Rincewind and Twoflower travel at high speed across much of the Disc, and the places they visit are there mostly to be reacted to more than considered and empathized with.

What is most important about them is that they were popular. They gave Pratchett a pretty much guaranteed audience for the next book or two, and so he could devote more time towards thinking his world out. And, dare I say it, he came to like the place he had created, came to like many of the characters in it, and set down to making them interesting for their own sakes and relateable. He managed to turn Death, of all things, into a profoundly interesting and likeable character while retaining HIS fundamental alienness. Maybe an even greater trick was making the Patrician great.
posted by JHarris at 6:49 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


"I'm not dead!

'Ere. He says he's not dead!

Yes, he is.

I'm not!

He isn't?

Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.

I'm getting better!

No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.

I can't take him like that. It's against regulations!

posted by markkraft at 6:54 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am not at all surprised to see the love for Small Gods, but I am sad to see so little appreciation for Pyramids. With Night Watch, that is my essential Discworld.
posted by wintermind at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I also started with the one-offs, Small Gods and The Truth; I don't remember which one came first, but since they are both way, way high in my book pantheon I don't think it matters. Then I found the chart posted above and read the subseries in chronological order. My favourites now are the Watch, three stand-alones (those two plus Monstrous Regiment), the Moist Industrial Revolution, Death and Witches sub-series, roughly and very wobbly-ly in that order.

I think people sometimes hesitate to recommend other people to read these out of chronological order because they worry about all the goodness that would inevitably fall through the lines---with The Truth, William's interactions with Vimes and the Watch went totally over my head---but I don't think it matters that much.

Because you will reread them, that's why, and when the reread comes after you've delved into some of the other series you'll catch everything you'd missed anyway.

(One exception I would make is Night Watch. It is a masterpiece. And for the love of everything that is holy to you don't let that be your first Vimes/Watch book. It will lose impact and become merely amazing instead of stunning and what-did-I-just-read-flail-y.)

I am glad that johnofjack brought up Nation, because it is wonderful, and it's also the ultimate Hey-I've-Got-Your-Anger-At-An-Unjust-Universe-Right-Here. Which makes it fit Gaiman's article perfectly.

Finally, I've had the honor to attend one dinner with Sir Terry. He really did not strike me as a jolly elf or anything, and it would never have occurred to me that he could have just because he's written things that made me hold my belly aching from laughter. Humor is serious business; the best humor traditions in Turkey (where I'm from) have a tint of black humor in them always. Satire is even more serious business. The most serious business of all is that of those who set out to create a mirror within which we can view our own world "through a mirror, darkly;" guess what The Discworld is?
posted by seyirci at 7:19 PM on September 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Small Gods was my first Pratchett. Even though I read ever book as they come out, I've still not managed to go back and read all of the earlier wizards or witches books. When I get a bout of insomnia and know I'll be up all night I'll grab one of my dog-eared Pratchett paperbacks and tear through it in one sitting.

Where to start with Terry Pratchett:
I love the guards books, and how Terry's writing grew along with Sam Vimes, so I'd start with Guards! Guards! I also love Terry's take on history seen through the lens of his fantasy world, but prefer the structure of the Moist stories over the one offs about rock'n'roll or Hollywood, so if that seems up your alley go with Going Postal. If you love a little Highland chaos in your coming of age YA, start things off with Wee Free Men. And if you want something self contained to give you a taste of the Discworld, and want to see how even though he can get shoehorned into a subgenre Terry is more forward thinking and progressive than any other best selling fantasy author I can think of, sit down with Monstrous Regiment.
posted by thecjm at 7:23 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm so very thankful that Terry Pratchett first put pen to paper and let us in on his thoughts. He's a world treasure and I'm going to be achingly sad when we lose him, but for as long as I'm around, at least, I'll have his brilliance to settle me down and give me perspective. I'm right at home in Discworld and I can go there whenever I want, thanks again to Sir Terry and that pen.

I started with Colour of Magic; I mentioned to the librarian that I enjoyed Douglas Adams' books and would like something similar and she recommended Pratchett. She said his first book, Colour of Magic, was one place to start but his later books were probably better, and I decided to begin at the beginning. I loved Colour of Magic - it was a delightful world with Rincewind and the Luggage and the wizards and all - and that was the beginning. I love the Commander Vimes books - they're like the real meat of the Discworld books, and the Death books are fantastic, but Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are still my favorites.

As for the oddballs, I still think Small Gods is the best book I ever read - that and Jingo hit home nicely. Going Postal, Thud, The Truth, and Moving Pictures didn't do much for me, but they deserve a second run because Terry Pratchett doesn't write junk, thank you very much. Monstrous Regiment is outstanding and I loves me the Wee Free Men.

I've found that different books appeal to be at different ages/stages of my life, which is another reason to try again later for the ones that I called duds but probably just went over my head.

I was born with a tin ear and without an imagination; I'm eternally grateful to outstanding musicians for making my spirit soar and to brilliant authors, especially Terry Pratchett, for sharing the link to other worlds with little old me.

I wish this good man a gentle passing and a fantastic journey.
posted by aryma at 8:11 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am sad to see so little appreciation for Pyramids

Pyramids was my introduction to Terry Pratchett, suggested as a good introductory book and lent to me by a friend of mine with what was at the point in time the full collection of his works.

This was quite literally my introduction to his books, as I'd never heard of any of them before perusing my friend's bookshelf.
posted by yohko at 8:36 PM on September 24, 2014


You could do worse than start with my favorite Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, and work backwards. And, perhaps, this would not displease Sir Terry.
posted by SPrintF at 9:59 PM on September 24, 2014


I have always introduced new readers into the Discworld universe with Small Gods; it takes place before all the others, so there are no spoilers, it's far enough into the series that Pratchett had really found his groove, and the storytelling is pitch-perfect. And it is both funny and profound, a trait that I think people seem to underestimate in Pratchett.

Small Gods is always a precursor book, I tell readers that it is just to introduce them to the world. The best best bestest stuff happens earlier and later. Mostly later, and mostly in books that directly relate to the guards and my person hero, Samuel Vimes, the perfect avatar for an angry writer to pour his wrath into.

As to Pratchett being jolly, well I never thought that. I mean, the pictures with the grey hair and the big hat may be deceptive, but anyone who reads his work will quickly see that there is a serious thread of darkness and runs through all his books. I've always said, it's because you can't enjoy the funny bits without something to contrast it to.

And if you doubt his resolve to go dark, read his young adult series Tiffany Aching. There are things that happen in there that would shock an unprepared reader if they caught what was happening.

These are all reasons that I love Pratchett and consider him one of the finest writers creating today.
posted by quin at 10:05 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


If one were to want to eventually read all the Discworld volumes, no matter what "thread" they were in, would publishing-date chronological be an okay approach, starting with The Colour of Magic (1983)?

Of course. That's after all how pTerry got so popular in the first place. It's just that the Discworld in those first two to four books is a very small place, existing mainly for parody and slowly gets better.

In general with every series I always go for publication order if I can; this avoids unintentional spoilers and should match up well with reading them as they come out.

(A few years ago I reviewed all the early Discworld novels up to FaustEric; you may want to take a look.)
posted by MartinWisse at 10:38 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am sad to see so little appreciation for Pyramids

Pyramids is great; if you don't want to start at the very beginning of the Discworld series, it's the best starting point in it: standalone, as good if not better than his best novels (better than Small Gods which was too didactic to me) and drenched in Pratchett's humanism.

And it has a wicked parody of Tom Brown's Schooldays.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:41 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The unspoken volumes between Carrot and Vetinari are one of the most amazing things I've read anywhere, ever. I'd start with Guards, Guards too.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:11 PM on September 24, 2014


Terry Pratchett's books are one of the few that I have always bought as soon as they came out, in hardback. They're worth keeping and they're worth buying in a nice, resilient physical form as I am certain every single one I own will be read multiple times.

I started reading his books in my mid-teens and I think they did more to help me form a sense of justice, fairness and appreciation for the absurdity in the world than almost any other cultural influence on me. Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler (and his various cultural cousins) are a wonderful introduction to the ideas of profit and the unique oddities of what we'll say to each other to get shiny bits of metal. Vetinari and the other rulers of the Discworld are a profound study in statecraft, ruthlessness and strategy. And the Vimes books are basically a handbook to the British class system (via the ever-so-slight distortion of Ankh-Morpork), from lowly street policeman to lord of the manor.

But it's that anger, that Neil Gaiman talks about in this article, that always brought me back. Because some of the most profound truths I've ever come across about who we are and why we do the things we do and why people are shitty to each other have been illuminated for me by Terry Pratchett's writing. Some of his best passages are simply eye-bleedingly funny, biting satire that eviscerates pomposity and flenses snobbery and injustice. He has a remarkable and powerful body of work. And if you want to get a real picture of the cultural undercurrents of the United Kingdom generally and England specifically over the last forty years, you could do a lot worse than reading Terry Pratchett. He's a biographer of our worst and best sides.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:17 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I Shall Wear Midnight is in the very select company of maybe 2 or 3 books whose ending literally made me cry. I was 44 at the time, and this had not happened in a good long time. But, for prolonged enjoyment, I would recommend reading the Tiffany Aching books in sequence. They are all great.
posted by holist at 11:29 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Coming back to this thread: I wasn't inferring that Pterry was dead, but that this piece sounds like he soon will be. We will never know at what point Pratchett will make the decision. Gaiman sounds like he's losing his friend, and that breaks my heart.

Godsdammit all.

And my 'best book' is Small Gods: my shabby paperback copy is signed, with a turtle, and I'm seriously considering being buried with it. :)

I pingpong off the others in sequence, and sometimes I love Granny Weatherwax more than Death and sometimes Susan more than Sam Vimes, and sometimes the other way about. The later ones can be profound but can feel turgid and over written, and sometimes they're absolutely perfect. Interesting Times is probably the one I like least; I've never really gotten Monstrous Regiment.

One standalone (not really but almost) that no-one has yet mentioned is Feet of Clay, which has an ethical core that I love.
posted by jrochest at 12:25 AM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


One of the weird things for me is that I'm a huge fan of Pratchett (I found him through Good Omens, randomly picked up at Tower Books when it was still a new release) but I really didn't like Small Gods the first time I read it, but I'm hostile about organized religion so a lot of that may have been me. I did enjoy it upon a re-read a few years ago.

About the only book I've found disappointing was the last one, Raising Steam, which I did not feel did anything which made me go "well, right, duh, plain as day" like you do when someone points out the retrospectively obvious. I read it in a sitting, none-the-less, because even "not 100%" Terry is good stuff.
posted by maxwelton at 1:56 AM on September 25, 2014


Read Colour of Magic at some point in my teens. Totally unimpressed and remained baffled for the next 20 years about why people loved Terry Pratchett so. Reading through all the enthusiasm in this thread makes me want to give him another go, thanks. :)
posted by Acarpous at 4:02 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the subject of Neil and Terry's attempt to walk from a bookstore to a radio station, I have this to say: never, ever, trust a book tour itinerary prepared by someone you don't know personally. Because unless you luck out and get the marketing director's attention, the job will be delegated to an energetic and enthusiastic 22 year old intern from New York who has never travelled, has a very weird idea of geography, and is playing tourist by proxy with fifty-something hypertensive introverts.

No, seriously. Trust me on this.

(I really ought to write up that blog entry about why signing tours are a special form of hell invented specifically to punish over-optimistic authors with a taste of what they thought they craved ... but I've got a book to finish first.)
posted by cstross at 4:29 AM on September 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


My introduction to Discworld was Reaper Man.

I quite liked it as a starting point because Death shows up in so many of the rest of the books.

This is making me want to re-read them all. It's been a while.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:07 AM on September 25, 2014


NOT "THOU SHALT NOT." SAY "I WILL NOT."

jrochest: Yes. Oh, my, yes.
posted by seyirci at 6:15 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine the joy of having the entire Discworld series still ahead of me, unread.

Seriously. You are missing so much fun.


I just bought "The Color of Magic" this past weekend. Have never read any of his work before, and I'm so excited about getting into it.
posted by jbickers at 6:20 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Read Colour of Magic at some point in my teens. Totally unimpressed and remained baffled for the next 20 years

The Colour of Magic (and its sequel The Light Fantastic- it's really the only direct sequel in the series taking place almost immediately after the events of the first one and using the same characters) are both good books,

But in my experience, they are good books in the sense that, once you have a bit more of the Disc under your belt, you'll enjoy them more. I know it's heresy to say, but the first six book or so are all fairly mediocre from a Pratchett-Writing-Standpoint. They are still head and shoulders above most other stuff out there, but I don't really think he truly hit his stride in the series until Pyramids. That was the first one where everything really, really started working.

That doesn't mean that tCoM and tLF aren't worth reading, but just be aware that if you like them, you'll love what is still to come, and if you don't like them, it might be because he was still developing the universe.
posted by quin at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2014


You could do worse than start with my favorite Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, and work backwards. And, perhaps, this would not displease Sir Terry.

I wrote Wintersmith above but I meant I Shall Wear Midnight. >.< I thought each book in that subseries was better than the last, maybe because they dealt more and more with the darkness in people and society as a whole.

I didn't mention Pyramids above but I'm happy to see the love for it here. I bounced off it a few times, and when I finally got past whatever point it was I kept sticking on (somewhere around trying to figure out pay for time-travelling workers), I liked it a lot. By the end of it I thought it was brilliant.
posted by johnofjack at 7:02 AM on September 25, 2014


Agree with the comment far above that the last several books - everything since Monstrous Regiment - just seem tonally off. They are set in Ankh-Morpork, but it's not the Ankh-Morpork of earlier volumes. The Patrician, in particular, is a considerably different character.

They aren't *bad*, but they just aren't quite right.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:02 AM on September 25, 2014


I can't imagine the joy of having the entire Discworld series still ahead of me, unread. Seriously. You are missing so much fun.

OK.

It's been what, 25 years since my stubborn, insecure, easily wounded antecedent self swore never to read these books because X liked them and X was an intellectual bully who wielded entirely too much influence over unformed me. I can't even remember the precise cuts and slights, and he and they, like everything else, seem small now and insignificant. For a long time, the residue of resentment was sticky on the things he loved, that I vowed to hate—because I was vulnerable and impotent, and it was the only revenge I had at hand—but even that wore off long ago, and these last years I've held out purely on inertia. It's time to let go, because I've ached to read these for so long.

Growing up: You're never too old.
posted by echocollate at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's a shame that FanFare doesn't include books yet, because these would be just perfect for it.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:56 AM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have no reading order suggestions. I read them in publication order, as they came out. I think. I might have started with Equal Rites, from the freebie table at a SF convention? I'm really not sure. I know it had a cover by the Melty Lumpy Art guy.

I have not re-read most of them for a long time, what with losing most of my library to Katrina in 2005. In the past few weeks, I've been remedying this - I'm doing three conventions in as many weekends, and "re-reading Discworld" feels about right for the amount of brain I have available during all this travel and stress. I'm doing it in publication order, and am up to #6, Wyrd Sisters.

You can really see Terry maturing as a writer over the first few books. Color of Magic (1) is essentially a collection of novellas, all piss-takes on existing fantasy - Pern, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Conan, etc. The Light Fantastic (2) picks up a few dangling plot threads from CoM and tells a novel-length tale, then Equal Rites (3) starts out as a riff on gender politics of magic and turns into something about how massive magical power can break people; I submit that this theme continues through Mort (4) and Sourcery (5). They're all about people getting massive amounts of magical power, and failing to make a meaningful change in the world with it. And slowly, the Discworld is becoming a particular place, instead of the narrative equivalent of Diana Wynne Jones' "The Rough Guide to Fantasyland".

I'm looking forwards to Pyramids (7). It meant a lot to me and my friends when I was an awkward twentysomething boy. I wonder how I'll respond to it as a fortysomething woman? I mean, I'm still basically a very polite assassin and a dedicated edificeer in most open-world video games...

Early Discworld feels strange to me. The revolving door at the top of Unseen University, especially - Pratchett really emphasized how backstabby the hierarchy of magicians was, and something like 2/3 of all the named magicians we're introduced to in the early books die messily. Maybe more, I haven't counted.

Really, there's a hell of a lot of death in these books, and it feels kind of jarringly at odds with my memory of them as light, jaunty fantasy parody. But, well, like Neil said in the article this post is supposedly about: Terry's angrier than he looks.
posted by egypturnash at 9:24 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


they are good books in the sense that, once you have a bit more of the Disc under your belt, you'll enjoy them more.

I think this is true for so many of these books! For instance, Making Money was enjoyable only because it was a sequel to Going Postal, and I was already invested in the main characters. On its own it was pretty damn boring.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2014


I started reading the Discworld series because Hogfather was playing on Netflix, and I was thoroughly impressed. Going Postal also had a Netflix run, which got me going on the Moist series. However, The Colour of Magic (which was compressed along with The Light Fantastic) didn't stick with me much.

Since then I've read all of the Watch series, which are my favorite of the bunch. I've just started on the Witches of Lancre. The Discworld series is perhaps the only one where I've happily read books in the order of their main subjects.

I read Where's My Cow? to my 2-yr-old at bedtime and he loves it. Later I hope to introduce him to The World of Poo.

And now, thanks to many in this thread, I've got Small Gods and Monstrous Regiment on my wish list.
posted by CancerMan at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


jrochest: One standalone (not really but almost) that no-one has yet mentioned is Feet of Clay, which has an ethical core that I love.

Oh, Feet of Clay made me weep.
posted by tzikeh at 10:45 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Really, there's a hell of a lot of death in these books

AT LEAST ONE IN EVERY BOOK, OR I'D GET LEFT OUT.

SQUEEK!

HIM TOO.

posted by quin at 10:52 AM on September 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Going to chime in with 'yes read them in chronological order.'

Two reasons:

1) Avoiding spoilers/watching the world grow
2) Colour of Magic is weak only compared to other Pratchett, and it only goes uphill from there.

Save Night Watch for last. It's so, so unbelievably good.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 PM on September 25, 2014


Yeah, I'm getting to the end of Sourcery now with Mark and holy shit it's already super dark and Rincewind is actually sort of totally awesome in a way that I don't remember at all. Like... he's set up to be this huge coward, and in a way he is, but when the chips fall down he does the right thing, for self-preservation if nothing else. Goddamnit, I don't remember all the feels from Sourcery!
posted by kmz at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2014


one reason I'm going to read this guy is because my boyfriend has a painting done by his niece I think of some sort of suitcase or wardrobe on his living room wall. Not having read any Pratchett, I was like 'um. okay.'

I always strive to be the one in the relationship with the greatest knowledge of Things that are Good, and I may have met my match.
posted by angrycat at 7:37 AM on September 26, 2014


That's The Luggage.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:04 AM on September 26, 2014


Yep, if you want to know about The Luggage, start with the first book and go from there.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:55 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just started reading these, after putting them off for basically my entire teenage and adult life.

I always suspected I would really like them, but I was just always reluctant to start reading them. Partially it was just how many of them there were, and partially it was because I find the really hardcore fans a little exhausting, but mostly it was because of something else: that sort of dread you experience at the thought of taking the plunge into something you know you'll enjoy to a possibly life-changing extent.

Anyway, one thing that has surprised me about The Colour Of Magic and now The Light Fantastic is how much Pratchett's tone reminds me of early Pynchon. I knew it would have a Douglas Adams quality, of course, and be a bit Monty Python and a little PG Wodehouse, but I wasn't expecting the loopy exuberance of Pynchon at his most manic. I've found it very refreshing.

I don't see a lot of other people making the same connection, but that's mostly because their names are so close together on author lists that it's hard to Google, though here's somebody suggesting in jest (?) that Pratchett and Pynchon are the same person.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:21 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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