Sell me on Discworld, please

Waaaay back in the dark ages, I tried a book by this author Terry Pratchett that I’d been hearing about. He was supposed to be great fun, and very clever.

So, my sister and I found a copy of Equal Rites. We would often share books. We didn’t share tastes exceptionally well, even then I was far more forgiving of hard SF than she ever had been. I didn’t care much for some of the things she liked, especially horror or mystery. But we were both voracious readers, and found that we did share tastes enough that some books were good to consider as combined purchases.

So we tried Equal Rites.

We both finished it.

Which is probably about the most that could be said about the book. Certainly twenty years later, I remember nothing about the book, other than it wasn’t exactly something I ran out to read again. Neither of us found much in the book to lead us to want to read more of this Pratchett dude. However, it didn’t get burned as truly vile books would sometimes be done to save the world from Things Man (or Woman) Was Not Meant to Read.

Since then I have kept hearing that Terry Pratchett, or Pterry as I’ve sometimes heard him called, is a comic genius. And I keep shaking my head, wondering just what people found so thrilling about him.

Now, I grant humor is perhaps the most subjective of all tastes. So I’d like to include a list of some books that I found very pleasing in a humorous vien. And some that I expected to be funny that were… painful. And I’m hoping some kind Dopers will tell me whether I should give this Pterry dude another try.

[li]Robert Asprin’s earlier Myth books (and the original Phule’s Company)[/li][li]Alan Dean Foster’s collections of humorous short fantasy and SF[/li][li]Esther Friesner, both her light fantasy and her Chicks collections[/li][li]Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books, esp Billy the Kid, and Help, I am Being Held Prisoner[/li][li]Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, mostly the earlier ones, though.[/li][li]Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners. (Or is that losers?)[/li][/ul]

[li]Craig Shaw Gardener I’ve tried several of his, and while there are funny parts, overall, I end up not caring what happens to the characters. Which is vital for a good novel to meet my standards.[/li][li]Conspiracy of Dunces It was painful to even try to read, and I didn’t finish. [/li][li]Star Wrecked and it’s numerous sequels. Part of it, of course, I never was all that fond of ST:TNG, so some of the jokes went over my head, but also it was too frenetic, I found. [/li][li]Hocus Pocus Actually, a well-written book. However I picked it up after reading the blurbs on the cover about how hilliarious a book it was. Somehow I don’t view irony as being necessarily humorous. It can be, or it can be painful. In this case I found it extremely painful. [/li][/ul]

Discworld’s quality has increased immensely since Pratchett started writing the books- and “Equal Rites” is one of the early ones. You could dislike it and still like Pratchett’s books in general. Some of the first few Discworld books are just godawful.

Try"Guards! Guards!" or “Wyrd Sisters.” If you still don’t like it, then you probably just don’t like it.

I think Pratchett is a god who walks among us, spreading joy to all the people, and who may well bring about world peace and universal fulfillment… but I don’t really care for “Equal Rites” either.

I don’t think I’d go so far as to call Pratchett a genius, but he is very good and generally writes a pretty entertaining tale. I would agree that with a few exceptions, the later ones tend to be better. My two favorites are Hogfather and Small Gods, but Thief of Time was pretty good, too. And I found the Watch series books to be a fun read. I can take or leave a lot of the others.

I’ve always found the claims that Pratchett is some sort of super satirist skewering the sacred cows of the world to be fairly overblown. What he can do is come up with a tight plot, interesting characters and I’ve found his dialogue to be top-class wit.

Let’s see…I recently stuck the first 27 books in my MP3 player. I’ve not been travelling as much as usual so I’ve only make it took book 5 so far.

(all gross misspellings should be blamed on my lack of every actually having read the books)

The first two I really liked, with Two-Flower and Rincewynd being quite entertaining.

Equal Rites was pretty good, and I really loved Esc and especially Granny Weatherwax.

Mort, while having some entertaining bits with DEATH, seemed to be very…samey.

Sourcery, I’m only a little ways into it and I’m finding myself having a hard time caring. I think I’m at the point where our Sourcerer is about to arrive at Unseen University.

I’m also pretty sure that I don’t care…I know the opening sequence sometimes take a bit to get to actualy happenings, and not just repititions about the World Turtle, Rims, Hubs, and cigarette-addiction among wizards…bit I’m really having trouble caring on this book.



You’re still in the early books. They get better, overall.

Oh, and at this stage, there’s no real continuity, so if you want to skip ahead to Mort, you’re fine. After that, the different story arcs have their own internal continuity, but they don’t really have much to do with each other, so you can read, for example, all of the Guards books at once, or all of the Witches books at once, without running into any really confusing breaks in continuity.

My advice is to skip it. Sourcery was pretty weak. Move on to Wyrd Sisters (which I never read, but it has Granny Weatherwax) or Pyramids, which was pretty good.

You can find a complete listing (chronological by date of publication) of Discworld books here:

The book I start all of my students on is Wyrd Sisters. That hooks them, and then we move on to Guards! Guards! and Mort. After that they can pursue all of the arcs in their own way. I usually tell them to skip everything before that until they have a solid handle on the Disc. Interesting Times is better with a background of Twoflower and Rincewind, but it isn’t necessary. Eric needs Sourcery first.

Other than that, just know that Pterry is often said to be committing Literature these days, and know that it just keeps getting better and better.

And check out Good Omens while you are at it. Different, hilarious, and thought-provoking.

I DON’T CARE WHAT IT SAYS, said the tall biker in the helmet, I NEVER LAID A FINGER ON HIM.

– (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens)

I agree that his technique gets smoother as you go through the series.

For me it’s not just the humour (both puns such as ‘Thunder rolled. He rolled a 6.’ and situational humour, but the fact that his characters (even in a fantasy world) have depth.
My favourite character, Vimes (the chief of police) struggles with alcoholism, has to cope with snooty aristocrats and sneaky lawyers and maintain his principles even when dealing with serial killers (who may be lycanthropes!).

Actually, I have already read Good Omens. I enjoyed it, but think of it as a Neil Gaiman book, not Pterry. I ought to correct that thinking.

Though, right now, the only thing that really sticks out in my mind about it was the scene when the nuclear plant goes to the candy standard. Of course, part of that is the resonance with just how freaked I’d have been if such had happened to one of my reactors aboard ship.

Lots of the early books are straight-up satire/parody of the fantasy genre and its conventions and archetypes, little else. Good for a giggle, but, IMHO, lacking in depth.

In the later books, characters are a little more fleshed out and the plots can stand on their own - they’re not just scenarios based on the “what-if-magic-was real” gags from the early books. (And before the fans demand that I be strung up by the city hall, I liked the early books a lot. I just think the later ones are better.)

I’d skip the early books and take a look at “Small Gods”, “Guards, Guards” or “Mort”.

I don’t know that you’re going to find any but the most rabid Pterry fans who disagree with you here. The first few books aren’t horrible, but they’re nowhere near the quality of the post-Mort ones.

Oh, come on. Can’t we string him up just a little? :smiley: