Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I Have Now Read Every Discworld Novel (Well, Almost)

This summer, my goal was to read all the Discworld novels that I skipped over. The main series has 42 books; I had read 23 so far. My first Discworld book was Witches Abroad (1991), and after that I got my paws on every single story featuring Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and the other witches up in the mountains. I was also a huge fan of Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, so I was fully informed of their fictional exploits up to Sir Terry Pratchett’s death.

So I hadn’t read the one-offs, the Rincewind the wizard stories, and the Death/Susan books. This meant I had to go all the way back to the eighties:

The Colour of Magic (1983)
The Light Fantastic (1986)
Mort (1987)
Sourcery (1988)
Pyramids (1989)

Hot take: All interesting reads, but nowhere near the quality of Pratchett’s later works, where he baked searing social commentary right into the absurd hilarity of the narrative flow. These earliest works certainly explore social themes (e.g. tourism vs. urbanism equality and power, fate, etc.) but the madcap adventures tend to hog the limelight.

So then I moved on to works from the nineties that I missed:

Eric (1990)
Moving Pictures (1990)
Reaper Man (1991)
Small Gods (1992)
Soul Music (1994)
Interesting Times (1994)
Hogfather (1996)
The Last Continent (1998)

By this point, Pratchett really delves into his created universe and the characters inhabiting it.

*Favorite: Hogfather, where Death takes over for the Hogfather (Santa Claus) and his adopted daughter Susan needs to step in.

*Least favorite: Soul Music, which is a commentary on rock ‘n roll, because the main character Imp has no personality. Possibly this points to the music becoming such a phenomenon that the frontman is swallowed by it? Did I miss that?

I now turned to the only two books that I missed from the aughts:

Thief of Time (2001)
Unseen Academicals (2009)

Both are terrific. Thief of Time, which follows the history monk Lu-Tze’s attempt to stop the building of a clock that will trap time, has excellent antagonists that go through their own arcs as the story progresses. Meanwhile, Unseen Academicals is particularly brilliant in its thematic skewerings: bigotry and fear, mob mentality and tribalism, sports and politics, and unlikely attractions. The protagonist in the novel reminds me of Hubby – an unabashed geek, an inspired builder and voracious reader who talks/explains reflexively, sometimes with awkward results.

(Love you, babe! flirtykiss emoji)

Finally, I was ready to tackle Pratchett’s final two works:

Raising Steam (2013)
The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)

Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. I remember wondering if this degenerative disease affected Snuff (2011), because when I read it, my impression was that it was excessively dense and sometimes repetitive.

However, his last two books proved that Snuff is the one exception, or possibly I sniffed too many permanent markers after entering the real world (thanks to Markers Anonymous for their support! Clean for 8 years!!! Well, maybe a little sniff now and then.).  

Raising Steam, starring Moist von Lipwig, is the perfect Discworld novel: there’s a plucky protagonist, strong supporting players, sinister villains, tense action, and important social themes (progress versus tradition, the exacting nature of engineering, immigration/citizenship, and more). The Shepherd’s Crown, while clearly incomplete (as confirmed by the afterword), is good enough to stand on its own against any of the other fantastic entries in the Discworld series. In many ways, it was the perfect ending for this Discworld fan. In the novel, Granny Weatherwax, foremost among all witches, passes on, and transfers the mantle to Tiffany Aching, a hardworking young prodigy. The inextricability of responsibility, self-confidence and self-care is a major theme here, but of course Pratchett inserts other thought-provoking concepts, such as the man-shed for husbands.

In conclusion: I haven’t read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, which I understand is a satire of the Pied Piper tale, because reasons. But yeah, I achieved my summer reading goal. Go me!

TL;DR: I read 18 Discworld novels this summer. 


This post brought to you by rain! FINALLY!

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