There’s not much glory in the life of a witch.
September 8, 2015 5:50 PM   Subscribe

The Final Discworld Book Is Bittersweet For Many Reasons. "The latest Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, doesn’t just have the task of wrapping up the story of Tiffany Aching, trainee witch. It’s also the very last Discworld book, since author Terry Pratchett sadly passed away earlier this year. The good news is, this is a solid ending to both stories." Although Pratchett friend and collaborator Neil Gaiman notes that the story is unfinished (major spoilers in that link!!). Tasha Robinson, writing at NPR, says the book shows us how to mourn Pratchett (spoilers), and Karin Kross at Tor also strikes an elegiac tone in her review. An excerpt is available at NPR, and the book was released in full last week. (Previously) (Also previously.)
posted by leesh (51 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I had . . . strongly mixed feelings, but strong ones. It's not at all like the sadness and disappointment of Raising Steam. ROT13 for spoilers.

V grnerq hc ng gur qrngu bs Tenaal Jrngurejnk. V ernq fybjyl, guvaxvat bs gur rneyl 1990f jura V svefg ortna gb ernq gur Jvgpu obbxf, bs ubj ybat guvf punenpgre unq orra n cneg bs zl yvsr. Vg jnf jbaqreshy.

Gur erfg bs gur obbx jnf jrnx naq harira, ohg V rkcrpgrq gung. V bsgra sbhaq gung V qvqa'g ernyvmr jurer fprarf jrer fhccbfrq gb or gnxvat cynpr. Gurer jrer srjre wbxrf naq funec bofreingvbaf guna rire orsber, naq znal gung jrer gurer qvqa'g ynaq sbe zr. V jnf engure nznmrq ng gur sngr bs gur Dhrra bs gur Ryirf, naq V pbhyqa'g svther bhg jurgure V nccebirq bs ure snpr-ghea be abg. Fur jnf fhccbfrq gb or gur urneg bs pehrygl, n cher cnenfvgr. Jung V guvax Cengpurgg jnagrq jnf abg gb yrnir n enpr bs punenpgref va gur Qvfpjbeyq gung pbhyq or gubhtug bs nf vagevafvpnyyl rivy. Ubj jryy vg jbexrq, V qba'g xabj, ohg V nz fher vg jbhyq unir jbexrq bhg jryy vs ur jrer urnygul naq pbagvahrq gb jevgr nobhg gur fhowrpg.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:11 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have it downloaded to my library right now, and I've just not been able to bring myself to start reading yet, because I know that once I finish it, I'll never, ever again be able to read a Discworld book that I haven't read before.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:12 PM on September 8, 2015 [21 favorites]

I thought it was a really good goodbye to the Discworld, really a loving kind of look from Pratchett. Countess Elena, I agree that it definitely needed one last Pratchett pass--he didn't get the chance, sadly.
posted by leesh at 6:18 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I miss Terry greatly.
posted by schmod at 6:29 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think i'll ever read further than Making Money. I flicked through Raising Steam and it looked like someone else's prose.

Ave atque vale, pterry. You gave so very much more than you took.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:29 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I finished the book this afternoon - parts of it made me tear up, for different reasons.

RIP, Pterry.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I couldn't get more than a handful of chapters into Raising Steam. It just... didn't feel like Pratchett's writing. Nothing flowed right, the characters' voices had changed - it felt like it was badly ghostwritten by someone else (and maybe parts of it were?) I put it down and haven't looked back.

I don't think I can bear the disappointment if this one is more of the same (and it sounds like it may be). Then again, I loved the ending of Wintersmith so much that the fourth book already felt like unnecessary overkill for me, so I think if I don't read it I'll be okay. I think.

Nothing makes me want to believe in an afterlife more than the death of a writer I loved - just to be able to hear one more new story in that voice. I hate that Pratchett had so much more he wanted to give, only to have it stolen out from under him.
posted by Mchelly at 6:33 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I loved it. In a grim way I'm glad to know that Terry had a different idea for the ending, but it worked for me anyway.

The bit where so many characters react to a very significant occurence in a series of small cameos was just sublime, the book is worth reading for that alone. (As a side note, this outstanding piece of writing was linked in one of the articles - a stunning tribute to Pratchett).

I'm slowly making my way through the Discworld books, mostly out of order except for the Tiffany Aching ones, and as soon as I've got every last one I'll be starting from the beginning (I'm yet to read Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic).

The Tiffany Aching books all by themselves are a phenomenal gift from Terry Pratchett to us, this one may not be as polished as its predecessors but it's still wonderful.
posted by h00py at 6:41 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed it, even though it did feel unfinished. In the same vein as strangely stunted trees, I had intended to take it slowly and savor it, just because I knew it was the last new Pratchett ever. But I couldn't help myself. I blew through it in two sittings, just like I have with his books since I first caught up and had to wait on them to be released - sometime around 1994 or so, I recon. I guess I'll take that as a tribute to him and his world.

posted by gemmy at 6:57 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It was good. You can tell it is unfinished if you've read any Pratchett, but it's a good book as it is.

The nice thing is that my mind loves this universe so much that it filled in some of the missing nuance for me. I cried buckets when I was done reading it. It's also the first physical book I've bought and read in years.
posted by annathea at 6:58 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

ROT13 for spoilers.

ELI5. This witchcraft is brilliant but eludes me and I love spoilers.
posted by 3urypteris at 7:02 PM on September 8, 2015

The first four chapters just tore me to pieces, because yes, the book provides an opportunity to go through his death and say goodbye as a very personal experience. And then I lost it at the end of the story, again in the afterword, and during the acknowledgements.

I listened to the audiobook - I do eventually read them, but I feel like the Tiffany Aching books in particular are best as audiobooks - and sort of overdid it this weekend, preparing about 25 meals for the week, just to have something to do while I listened.

I actually thought a lot about the witches, and Tiffany, during the emotional labor thread. This book was kind of about that. It was especially interesting in that context.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:04 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

LA LA LA no spoilers I'm reading it now
posted by Foosnark at 7:07 PM on September 8, 2015

3urypteris: ELI5. This witchcraft is brilliant but eludes me and I love spoilers.

rot13 is a type of cypher, based on the Caesar cypher (it stands for "rotate alphabet 13 places"). Just find a coder/decoder such as, input the text, and decode.

MeFi usually discourages usage of rot13 and other cyphers, because if you don't know what to do with the coded text, it just adds a lot of noise to the discussion.
posted by gemmy at 7:15 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was on a MOO once where we had a rot13 verb that we used for posting spoilers. The problem is that if you see it enough, you get so you can translate it in your head. Thankfully, I appear to have lost this ability over the years.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:23 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aww damn. This just brings back the sadness. Sir Terry is gone. There will be no more disc world novels. I just bought my copy, now to find out if it's available at the library.
posted by evilDoug at 7:23 PM on September 8, 2015

After Snuff, Making Money, and Raising Steam I can't bring myself to read it. He wrote many, many good books, and what happened to his work at the end cannot taint that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:46 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll defend Raising Steam. I liked it and thought it was relatively together, compared to Unseen Academicals or Snuff, though I'll agree it's the weakest of the Moist von Lipwig trilogy. But, I also really like trains, so I definitely see that YMMV.

I'm looking forward to reading this last novel. It does seem suitable that it's a Tiffany Aching one. But I can't say I'm sad that there won't be any more - there'll be so much to revisit! It really is a fantastic legacy. And sure, it was often good rather than great, and in hindsight not always the amazing perfect genius I saw when I was a teenager. But there's so just much fun that he gave us.
posted by other barry at 7:54 PM on September 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

IT IS AGONY IT IS UNBEARABLE the only thing that has made me able to cope with it is that everyone else i know is also ugly crying on public transpo because of it

also just when it starts to get less agonizing you realize you are close to the end, the end not just of the book but of all the books that will ever be, forever, the end of discworld, forever.

and then you read the afterword and fill your sleeves with stones and walk into the sea
posted by poffin boffin at 7:58 PM on September 8, 2015 [18 favorites]

I read it in one great big gulp, because that's how I've read every other book he's ever written. It felt very unpolished and I can't help but pull at the loose threads: there are so many things I suspect Pratchett must have wanted to expand on or embroider or change.

I thought I had mostly worked through my Pratchett feelings a few years ago, when I wrote 30k+ of fanfic in about a month. That turned out to not be true in March, when he died, and it's still not true now. I think I may go reread Nation, which is the book he wrote just after diagnosis and which I still think is the most incandescently angry thing he ever wrote, while at the same time being one of the most hopeful.

I know he hasn't really gone to become a dolphin, or cross a moonlit desert, but his books got an awful lot of things right over the years and this last book got one last thing right: he's everywhere. He's in all of us who loved him and his words and his worlds. And he always will be.
posted by nonasuch at 8:10 PM on September 8, 2015 [13 favorites]

i had to hide it when i was done because just looking at it would make me sad
posted by poffin boffin at 8:15 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Great post, leesh! You have almost convinced me to give Terry Pratchett a go...
posted by Athanassiel at 8:20 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found Snuff weak (repeated phrases like Mrs X's little boy, various solecisms I attribute to dictation) and mawkish, Raising Steam all that and lacking in plot as well, and it made me so sad. I don't know if I can handle this last one if it's going to make me think of his decline.

Will defend Unseen Academicals to the death, however.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:21 PM on September 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love Tiffany and the witches best of all (though Sam Vimes has been moving up in the rankings lately), and thought this an excellent, though sad, end to the Discworld. If nothing else, it reminds us to take care of each other...and that You, like all cats, may be somewhat more than meets the eye. (Damn it, Gaiman).
posted by at 8:27 PM on September 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

(Because audiobook, I did not know until now that she was called You, rather than Hew or Mew or Yew. Aaaaand now I'm all sniffly again.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:10 PM on September 8, 2015

The greatest compliment that I ever received was that my writing was reminiscent of Terry Pratchett.
posted by SPrintF at 9:18 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just started it last night and reached A Difficult Part as my husband was getting ready for bed. By the time he came into the room, I was full-on ugly crying, with the big, deep shuddering breaths and everything. I pulled myself together and read another chapter and then had to put it down.

We took our son to college 500 miles away about three weeks ago, my favorite uncle died just before that, I turned 45 on Sunday, and I just cannot bear more loss right now. Once I read it, I can't read it for the first time. So I'm going to wait a little while and start it again. I don't know how long it will take, or how many re-starts I'll have to do, before I finish it.

My daughter is just getting into Discworld. I'm looking forward to sharing it with her.
posted by cooker girl at 9:49 PM on September 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I have been putting off buying this so far, because I know that when I do, I will read it immediately and I rather like the idea of not having read all of pTerry's Discworld novels just quite yet.

He's been such an important part of my life for almost three decades now, starting with reading his books in Dutch translation back in the late eighties, which had its own challenges, to getting into fandom, to meeting my wife through it. All along that one constant was the publication of a new Discworld novel each year. It'll be hard to get used to that not happening anymore.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:26 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I got so mad when I read this garbage the other day.

Luckily I then read this.
posted by Pendragon at 11:46 PM on September 8, 2015

There will be no more disc world novels.

No, but I bet some bastard like Eoin Colfer has a couple of pitches ready.
posted by Segundus at 1:25 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not even sure I trust Neil Gaiman, actually.
posted by Segundus at 1:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Say, Terry Brooks hasn't written much lately ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:31 AM on September 9, 2015

Of that Guardian piece it's quite sufficient to read the 2nd and 3rd sentence: I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short . All right, we're done here.

Although I'm a bit reluctant to read the last. Snuff was a bit disappointing, basically a straight crime novel, Raising Steam was a mess, although I have read just about a fifth of it, but it sounded not like Terry pratchett at all - that conversation between Vetinari and the countess was painful to read, for example.

Last year I started to re-read all of his books, in chronological order (amongst others), so I'm quite happily in the middle of Moving Pictures, and I guess I'll wait to finish Raising Steam and start The Shepherd’s Crown when I get to them...

On another note, I've always found that people who dismiss Terry Pratchett completely were, I dunno, borderline nasty snobbish persons, or somewhat lacking empathy or humanity. Kind of a litmus test.
posted by ojemine at 1:54 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Will defend Unseen Academicals to the death, however

yes, I loved that one
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:13 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I got so mad when I read this garbage the other day.

Jonathan Jones is consistenly one of the most ignorant, banal and deeply obliviously stupid critics I've ever seen, but this is possibly his greatest achievement yet.

" I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short.

No offence, but Pratchett is so low on my list of books to read before I die that I would have to live a million years before getting round to him. I did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.

Which is, essentially, beyond parody
posted by dng at 3:19 AM on September 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

I am not yet ready to live in a world with no more Discworld books, so I have yet to buy it. I will have to give in soon though as I love the chalk books but, right now, the grief is still too near.
posted by halcyonday at 5:02 AM on September 9, 2015

Unseen academicals was a very British book.

His latest writing may not have always been his best (how could it), but I shall wear midnight is some of the best angry writing I've read.

Feel better knowing that he left behind a vast corpus and memories in millions of people - other people suffering and dying from such diseases sadly only leave behind a handful of people treasuring their memory.
posted by ersatz at 5:26 AM on September 9, 2015

I just crumpled into a sobbing mess at my desk reading Kross's review. I'm going to have to pick a very special long weekend to read the actual book.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:35 AM on September 9, 2015

Ugh, so many feelings. I am not at all reconciled to the fact of Terry's death and reading this book was painful for me. Agree with the many excellent points made by others above: Shepherd's Crown feels unfinished, unpolished, but was enjoyable nevertheless. I thought I Shall Wear Midnight was such a perfect cap on Tiffany's series that I was skeptical of a fifth book but for all he was sometimes schmaltzy Terry was always suspicious of happily ever afters and it's nice to see that Tiffany's life continues to be complicated and challenging just like everyone's. One of the threads that definitely felt unresolved was the Preston storyline, but the skeleton of what he wanted to say about it was there and I think it was important that he included it.

Strongly agree with nonasuch about Nation.

One other point that's spoilery enough I will rot13 it: V jnf n ovg abacyhffrq ol gur rys dhrra'f qrngu ohg ba ersyrpgvba V jbaqrerq vs vg jnfa'g fhccbfrq gb or n pbhagrecbvag gb Tenaal Jrngurejnk'f. Bar rkcrpgrq naq cercnerq sbe, gur bgure fhqqra, arvgure nibvqnoyr. Pbzzragnel ba zbegnyvgl naq nyy gung.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:38 AM on September 9, 2015

I revere Pterry more than I love his books - I've read a few, enjoyed some, never got hooked, yet hugely admired his abilities, his sensibilities and his sheer unbridled humanity.

I understand the "How could he die so soon, he had so more more in him" feeling, but - my god, people! Look at what he did! How many words! As they say on Antiques Roadshow when they're presented with some particularly unusual piece that has no equal: "Find me another". If he'd stopped at ten, or fifteen, it'dve been a massive gift to humanity. But really - 40 plus of the things? You spoil us, Ambassador.

If you love Terry Pratchett's work, you have been gifted with more quantity of quality than anyone else on the planet, with the exception of the millions of your fellow fans.

More would have been welcome. I feel the man's passing with great sadness and regret that he's not still here, gracing the planet as a better presence.

But really - you are lucky, lucky bastards. Remember that.
posted by Devonian at 7:08 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Raising Steam felt off to me because it was the first Discworld book I've encountered that covered such a large breadth of time. The story takes place over years and is filled with vignettes. It felt more like a final piece of world-building than a novel. The Lipwig series was about the Discworld hurling into the modern age, and in Raising Steam he had to compress the conclusion of that process into one book.
posted by thecjm at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can relate to the mindset that reads Pratchett and doesn't enjoy it. Tastes are personal. Not everybody needs to love wordplay, clever plotting, or quick development, and there are other literary values that the Discworld books have to trade off against those achievements. Plus, I'm not even halfway through the books myself; I thought the first couple Rincewind novels had a few flaws, and I'm bracing myself for the possibility that his later novels will derail in some other way.

I can also sympathize with the mindset that thinks, "Pratchett is too easy to read, so it must not be very good." We tend to avoid obviously costly-and-worthless things, and we pay no more attention to any cheap-but-valuable thing than we do to tap water or fresh air. So Berkson's paradox creates a positive correlation between cost and value among the things we don't ignore, and since our tiny brains don't handle probability distributions very well, we tend to oversimplify that to "nothing easy is worthwhile" and its similarly foolish inverse. Those might even be good heuristics overall, aside from the occasional embarrassing failure when one is confronted by overpriced jewelry or smoothly dancing prose.

I can even understand the mindset that thinks, "I don't read Pratchett, so it must not be very good." I can't even come up with a half-rational justification for "those grapes must be sour!", but if it's been plaguing humanity since Aesop it must not be the easiest disease to cure.

What I don't believe I understand is the mindset that thinks, "Instead of just subconsciously slandering something I don't read, I should do so in a national publication for the whole world to witness." Is there some terminal level of illness at which a diseased mind not only stops recognizing its own disease, but even starts becoming proud of it? That Guardian article was like watching a raving pantsless madman proudly thrusting a swollen venereal infection at passers-by under the illusion that it means he's "giant". No; screaming "Look at me! Huge dick here!" doesn't make one more of a man, and although nobody wants to see any more of that I hope it receives medically responsible therapy anyway.
posted by roystgnr at 7:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Nation" was fantastic, and (for me) more than makes up for "Raising Steam". I found it to be an incredibly moving book. I'm a little behind on the Aching series, so at least I have that small comfort to look forward to. But I think that the most enduring legacy of Pratchett is, as Devonian noted, his humanity. Few authors -- perhaps no other authors that I can think of off the top of my head, maybe Twain or Dickens? -- have advocated so powerfully for normal people in the face of institutions and cultural practices that would use those people for their own benefit, usually at the expense of those people. He certainly set a goal to which we can aspire, even if most of us will never quite reach it. But if we learned anything from Discworld it's about the power of aspiration.
posted by wintermind at 7:35 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I picture a forum for flower sellers, all posting puzzled comments on March 12, 2016, when a sudden surge of people coming in for lilacs clears out all their selection.
posted by Jacen at 7:41 AM on September 9, 2015 [14 favorites]

i rather liked the most recent ones which people seem unhappy with, but yes, they did seem to have a different, vaguely unsatisfying, feel to them. i'm not sure how much of that is colored by my own distress over the knowledge that it was all ending soon, though.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do not own a digital device that doesn't have Night Watch on it. Sometimes in more than one format. Because you *earn* that one.
posted by Cyrano at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

my mom bought me a copy of the shepherd's crown as a gift and i haven't met up with her to get it yet and honestly i'm scared to because i know i'll read it in one sitting and cry and cry and then i will never have the experience of reading a new discworld novel ever again.

i keep at least 3 or 4 pratchett books on my kindle at all times just to reread them when i'm feeling sad or need some comfort. even the ones that weren't my favorites are still tinged with that comfortable aura i associate with his writing.

unrelated to this post in particular, but related to terry in general, i got a scythe tattoo shortly after he died as a little tribute to him, particularly with death's "LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?" quote in mind (which still gives me chills every time i read it)
posted by burgerrr at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm chiming in again because cyrano's comment about Night Watch made me think back to when I first read it, and I remembered it was about ten or eleven years ago, when I was taking care of my terminally ill mom and shocked and sad and completely unable to finish any literature longer than a page.

Until somebody brought me Night Watch. Then I bought Wee Free Men. Then Monstrous Regiment. I generally read anywhere from 50-100 books per year but in 2006 I read three, cover to cover, over and over again.
posted by annathea at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

It is a testament to Sir Terry's skills in characterization, storytelling and teaching that when I encountered the first bit of Shepherd's Crown that needed another pass—Vetinari's confused conversation with Drumknott—my mind mentally rewrote it so that of course the Tyrant already knew Tiffany Aching's vital stats and reputation (he is, after all, very good at Paying Attention).

Of all the beings on the disc, Vetinari suffered most from Pratchett's decline, I think.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:41 AM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Vetinari is too much of a sharp, calculating machine to manage under the onslaught of the Embuggerance, but I also suspect there's a bit of Pratchett's cynicism in him that wore away quite sharply as he faced his end. It's like that vessel for bitter thought was less needed and was reshaped.

My own spoilery thoughts on the Big Thing:

V'ir xvaq bs fhfcrpgrq gung Gvss jnf tbvat gb jvaq hc fhpprrqvat Tenaal sbe n juvyr abj. Tenaal vf n syvag, gbb - funec naq uneq, ohg znqr funecre naq uneqre ol vzcnpgf, naq fur'f orra puvccrq njnl ng sbe n ybat gvzr. Gur ynfg nqhyg jvgpurf obbx jnf Pnecr Whthyhz, naq Tenaal gbbx n ernyyl, znwbe cbhaqvat va gung bar - jbea qbja sebz pna gb pna'g. Rira gur fprar sebz Zvqavtug jvgu Tenaal funevat unz naq crn fbhc jvgu Zvff Gvpx "fur pbhyq funir n frpbaq bss n zvahgr" znqr zr guvax gurer jnf ab zber puvccvat gb or qbar ng Tenaal jvgubhg qrfgeblvat ure, gur ynfg synxr bs syvag yrsg gb ure.

Naq fur jnf bbbbbbbbbbyq. Fur jnf byq ng gur ortvaavat bs obbx guerr, sbe urniraf fnxr. Nf fbba nf Gvss fubjrq hc naq gur cnenyryyf ortna gb fgnpx orgjrra gurz gur jevgvat jnf ba gur jnyy, V guvax, fb jura vg unccrarq vg jnfa'g nf zhpu bs n fubpx sbe zr nf vg pbhyq unir orra.

Gung qrngu jnf n ybir yrggre, gubhtu. Whfg fb graqre naq tragyr. Rirelguvat nsgre jnf n zrff. Vg jnf yvxr ur jnf ynlvat bhg sbe hf ubj vg jbhyq or sbe uvz - n erq evooba va gur sberfg, naq n zrrgvat jvgu na byq sevraq zhpu nagvpvcngrq.

(I'm using this, btw, to shift from ROT13 and back again.)
posted by Jilder at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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