Today, one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett, left this ball of rock hurled into space.
My friend Alex over at Google Plus asked for pointers about where to start reading his Discworld books, since he never really got into them, and I figured I’d save what I wrote here for later.
So, let’s talk about Discworld, and how and where to approach it (if you so want), like I promised to +Alex Mayo.
The many Discworld novels share a world, and an evolving one at that, but they are not a “saga” or series, as such. Roughly, one can identify 6-7 series “inside” the lot: the linked map is a very useful tool to identify what goes where, and in which order. For the reader that wants to try Pratchett, or that wants to give it a try again after feeling it fell a bit flat, I’ll suggest something that will possibly sound a bit odd: avoid Rincewind and the other Wizards Academy books. I know, I know, Rincewind and the Luggage are amongst the most recognizable bits… but trust me. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are still a bit rough: Pratchett had not found his voice yet, I believe. If you then go back and read them, you’ll recognize the seeds, but as a starting point? Not his best writing.
So, where to start?
You got options:
The Witches books
I remember Equal Rites as still a bit unripe, but from then on it’s Witches time. The Witches books do a great job of playing around the tropes of stories, from fairy tales to Shakespeare. They have some _great_characters in the witches themselves, and oohboy be sure to read at least up to Lords and Ladies because man, Elves are fucking terrifying.
The Death books
Death is a character in Discworld, and a regular after his introduction in the first Rincewind novels and short stories. And he’s a damn good character. The Death books talk about life, death, love and hope, and more. Oh yes and Hogfather will really teach you the true meaning of Christmas. Oh, sorry, I meant Hogsfather’s Day.
The Watch novels
Ok, I lied, I’ll tell you. These are probably my favorite. They follow along the career of Vimes, who starts a drunk and in the gutter (literally) and becomes one of the best characters ever: lots of playing around the tropes of detective and hard boiled stories, but also lots of reflections about justice, morality, law, altruism, oppression, militarism, democracy, but also free will and the question of creating artificial life (no shit). Night Watch is, at times, a swift kick in the guts, and I found myself welling up many times reading it.
These novels are probably not the best to start with, because they show the impact of the changing world on society, and if you don’t really know that world you might lose a bit of oomph. That said, they are brilliant. I still have to read a couple because, honestly, when I learned about PTerry’s illness I feared running out and kept a few on reserve :(
Others (and “standalones”)
Pyramids is mostly standalone, and pretty funny, and Small Gods… dang, it’s one if the top 5 probably? A reflection on religion, faith, and how they affect people, and how they can be linked to morality… or not.
Oh, the “purple” ones in the map are more or less linked to the witches, but are YA novels with a young girl as a protagonist… and they are astounding. I would suggest these over… well, probably most of the YA novels I know about (Harry Potter very much included).
This is not all, but it’s already fucking long, so I’ll shut my trap.