The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

Werthead

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So begins my attempt to reread all of the Discworld books to date (apart from MAKING MONEY, which I read fairly recently, and the YA books, which I haven't read before).

The Colour of Magic

Ankh-Morpork is the greatest city on the Discworld - a flat planet carried through space on the back of four elephants standing astride a giant turtle - and has seen fire, flood, famine and even the odd barbarian invasion during its long history, but even it is unprepared for the arrival of a much more devastating threat: tourism. Twoflower is the first visitor to the city from the distant Agatean Empire, and is happy wandering around taking 'pictures' of the 'sights' with his magic box and soaking up the 'authentic' atmosphere. This behaviour in Ankh-Morpork would normally result in him having the lifespan of a mayfly confronted by a supernova, but luckily the wizard Rincewind has kindly 'volunteered' to be his guide and protector in return for not having his extremities removed by the city's Patrician, who is anxious to avoid insulting a foreign power with an army in the millions.

Unfortunately, Twoflower's attempts to introduce the concept of fire insurance to the hardy and creative business-owners of Ankh-Morpork results in an enforced flight from the burning metropolis and the beginning of a long and very strange journey across the Disc, taking in dragons, spaceships and the fabled temple of Bel-Shamharoth along the way. All the while the only spell that has ever managed to lodge itself in Rincewind's mind is very keen to get itself said, which could be a very bad idea indeed...

Published in 1983, The Colour of Magic was the fourth novel by Terry Pratchett. His debut book, The Carpet People (1971), had been a modest success, but The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981) had both been remaindered and it looked possible that this might be Pratchett's last published novel unless it took off in a big way. It didn't look too original either, being a fantasy rewrite of Strata (which saw a spaceship from Earth discover a mysteriously flat planet and investigate it). Of course, it was a big success, buoyed by good reviews, and became an eventual bestseller. Pratchett wrote a direct sequel, The Light Fantastic, and then more books set in the same world with different casts of characters. As of this time of writing the Discworld series consists of thirty-six novels with the thirty-seventh due in a couple of months and Pratchett is the world's biggest-selling living fantasy author after J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. Not bad for such humble beginnings.

The Colour of Magic, as the first book in the series, of course shows the Discworld in a far more embryonic state than later books. The subtler, satirical streak that develops over the first half-dozen books or so is also missing. Instead, the novel is a much broader and somewhat more obvious pastiche of swords 'n' sorcery. The targets that Pratchett goes after are interesting as Rincewind and Twoflower encounter cultures and monsters that Lovecraft, Howard and Leiber would have found quite familiar.

For all its distance from the later Discworld books, The Colour of Magic is still an entertaining and funny book. Pratchett's previous two novels had funny elements, but had broadly been trying to be more serious, 'proper' SF books. The Colour of Magic is clearly written with more confidence and in a more relaxed style. Even today it still raises a smile, possibly as some of Pratchett's targets have come back into vogue (the Cthulu-esque section resonates a bit more these days, especially), and taken on its own merits the book is solidly entertaining. Pratchett's characterisation still needs some work and his interpretations here of Death and the Patrician are notably different from the later books, but it was from this seed that the author began his ascent to becoming one of the dominating forces of modern fantasy, and it still holds up.

The Colour of Magic (***) is a bit old-school, but still amusing and entertaining, much faster-paced than his later work but at the same time lacking some of the subtlety and intelligence of other books in the series. It is available now in the UK and USA. Sky One broadcast a television adaption of the book and its sequel, The Light Fantastic, last year, which is now available on DVD in the UK and USA and on Blu-Ray in the UK.
 

Rinman

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I'm a very picky novel reader, yet I have endless
When I was at McNally on the 9th I bumped into a couple of people who were talking about the Discworld series and I asked them about the series...they said (summarized) that you have to like British humour, that the series is based where the world is flat, there's like a turtle (I can't remember the turtle part of what they said) - and my mind was just going...uhm...okay...flat world, based on turtles...that sounds like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the Christopher Columbus age...then add in some more science fiction. Ugh...
 

AE35Unit

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Rin,best way to understand a Discworld book is to read one! Go on,give one a try! Its kind of like Harry Potter but deliberately funny,full of wonderful and memorable characters,including an inept Wizard, a piece of sentient luggage called err Luggage and a librarian that just happens to be an Orang Utan!
Oh and the Grim Reaper who takes his job quite seriously.
 

Werthead

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When I was at McNally on the 9th I bumped into a couple of people who were talking about the Discworld series and I asked them about the series...they said (summarized) that you have to like British humour, that the series is based where the world is flat, there's like a turtle (I can't remember the turtle part of what they said) - and my mind was just going...uhm...okay...flat world, based on turtles...that sounds like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the Christopher Columbus age...then add in some more science fiction. Ugh...
It's an old creation myth, that the world is flat and sits on the back of a turtle (other cultures later in threw the elephants for a laugh). The world itself is a secondary fantasy world through and through, the set-up is just there to show you this isn't going to be your average fantasy series.

As for the British humour, I don't think so. At least, I've seen people complaining about the 'Britishness' of the humour a lot less than with people like Douglas Adams. The stuff Pratchett addresses is a lot more international than that. The tenth book, Moving Pictures, is a riff on the birth of Hollywood in America and features a lot of homages to old-school Hollywood movies and stars that British readers probably didn't relate to, whilst The Last Continent was aimed squarely at his Australian fanbase.

It's also nothing like Harry Potter. Book 3 had a female student trying to get a place at Unseen University but that's probably the closest the series ever comes to a HP-style plot. The series also doesn't have a continuing plot or cast of characters. Instead Pratchett moves back and forth over a wide range of locales and moves between the casts as he feels he needs to, and each book is more or less totally self-contained.
 

Rinman

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Whether or not it's like Potter, I wouldn't be able to read it. I've tried reading the Potter series and it just doesn't go with me. Potter is just to slow for me, not enough action or anything like that. I highly doubt I'd be able to read this DW series.
 

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Whether or not it's like Potter, I wouldn't be able to read it. I've tried reading the Potter series and it just doesn't go with me. Potter is just to slow for me, not enough action or anything like that. I highly doubt I'd be able to read this DW series.
Forget the whole Potter thing-its only similarity to that is the fact that its a fantasy setting rather than a SF setting. And Discworld books aren't slow,they flow nicely along.
I'm not a big fantasy reader but I love Discworld. There's just something about it.
 

Urien

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Rinsman,

The only way to know for sure whether you (a visitor to a SFF site) like the world's third best selling fantasy author is to read one of his books. I suggest "Guards Guards", fast paced, clever and amusing. Hope you like it.
 

Rinman

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I'm a very picky novel reader, yet I have endless
But what kind of things go on in the book? That's what I mean. Whether it's a givaway or not, I don't want to go spend money on a book that I'll read ten pages and leave it. At least the books that I do have do in fact have a chance of being read - only series that'll be hard is the Hitchhiker's Guide...but before we go off topic on that.

Like is there any fighting, action, or anything of the sort on this Discworld series?
 

The Ace

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Well, 'Guards, Guards,' is about city watchmen fighting a dragon, 'Jingo' is about a war and both include many of the same characters, including Sam Vimes, a natural policeman.

Another arc concerns the witch, Granny Weatherwax, forced to be the good one and resenting every minute of it and yet another concerns Death (yes, he really is a seven-foot tall skeleton carrying a scythe and wearing a robe of absolute darkness).

How these can be funny is difficult to explain, you're best just to try them for yourself.
 

Werthead

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http://thewertzone.blogspot.com/2009/07/light-fantastic-by-terry-pratchett.htmlThe Light Fantastic

At the Unseen University, the wizards are disturbed by the sudden appearance of a blood-red star in the sky, which is getting slowly bigger. With the people 'concerned', the wizards mount an investigation and learn that all eight of the Great Spells must be united to save the Disc from a flaming death. Unfortunately, one of the spells is lodged in the head of the spectacularly inept wizard Rincewind, who was last seen plummeting to his doom...

The Light Fantastic picks up after the end of The Colour of Magic and is the only direct continuation of a storyline in the entire Discworld series, resolving the cliffhanger from the ending of the first book. The resolution to that cliffhanger is slightly disappointing, to be honest, but given that Pratchett's goal here was to get the story moving again as fast possible, it's not too much of an issue. After that it's pretty much business as usual from the first book, with Rincewind and Twoflower's travelling around the Disc as they meet various eccentric people, almost die, have various misadventures and almost die. You know the drill.

The storyline is a bit more focused this time. Whilst the first book was divided into four smaller chunks, The Light Fantastic is one big story (starting Pratchett's habit of refusing to use chapters) which flows quite well. As with the first book, Pratchett's targets here remain common fantasy tropes, with perhaps a bit more of a focus on taking the mickey out of fairy tales. Again, it lacks the subtlety of the later books and the humour is fairly broad, but again it's fairly entertaining. Pratchett also starts laying the foundation of the Discworld mythology here, with the first appearances of Cohen the Barbarian, the Librarian, Ysabel and the Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse. Events build to one of the most memorable conclusions in the series' history, a widescreen epic of a finale which I suspect Pratchett created just in case the success of the first book was a fluke and the series was not going to continue. Obviously it was a big success, and the rest is history.

The Light Fantastic (***) is a satisfying sequel to The Colour of Magic and remains fast-paced, funny and entertaining. It's still fairly obvious in places, however, and lacks much of the depth the later books bring to the world. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
 

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But what kind of things go on in the book? That's what I mean. Whether it's a givaway or not, I don't want to go spend money on a book that I'll read ten pages and leave it. At least the books that I do have do in fact have a chance of being read - only series that'll be hard is the Hitchhiker's Guide...but before we go off topic on that.

Like is there any fighting, action, or anything of the sort on this Discworld series?
Isn't there a public lending library near you?
 

Marky Lazer

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I tried it too, to write reviews about 'em all, but failed keeping it up. I'm reading Going Postal now. Only a few to go for the re-reads truly begin.
 

Werthead

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Equal Rites

The Unseen University, the centre of magical learning on the Discworld, a building whose endless rooftops make Gormenghast look like a toolshed on a railway allotment and whose faculty are the guardians of magic for the whole world. Of course, wizards are renowned for being incredibly intelligent but not very smart, and when Drum Billet realises his time is almost up he decides to pass on his staff to the eighth son of a poor blacksmith, himself an eighth son. Unfortunately, he neglects to check the baby's gender first...

Nine years later, Eskarina is a happy and normal nine-year-old child, happily terrorising her older brothers and learning the ways of the world. Local witch Granny Weatherwax is less happy about the magical staff left to her by the wizard. When Esk's burgeoning magical powers threaten to cause chaos, Granny realises she has to get Esk enrolled at Unseen University, which given that the university specifically prohibits women from joining (on the grounds they'd probably be too good at magic) could be rather problematic.

Equal Rites sees Terry Pratchett setting out his vision of what the Discworld series is going to be. No previous characters from the first two books turn up (with one orange-furred and banana-stained exception), and there isn't even any mention of those events. Instead we have new characters having new adventures. Pratchett also starts to use his creation to address real-world concerns here, in this case feminism. He doesn't go too overboard and the humour remains fairly broad, but you can almost sense the author thinking that maybe the funny planet with the turtle and elephants can be used for something more interesting than just poking fun at Lovecraft and Conan, amusing as that may be. Unfortunately, this idea falters a bit since Esk's story is meant to make Unseen University a co-ed establishment, bringing in female wizards and making it more equal. As later books show, none of this happens, Esk is never mentioned again and UU remains a male-only establishment in the latest novels, twenty-odd years after Esk's time. Given how well Pratchett develops his world, this lack of evolution is disappointing and seems to contradict the book's pro-feminist theme.

It's also the first appearance of Granny Weatherwax, one of his most iconic characters. She's a mere embryonic shadow of her later self here, but already some of the character's more intriguing traits are developing. We also continue to get through the revolving door of Unseen University Archchancellors with Cutangle becoming an interesting character as the story develops. As usual with these earlier books there are some weaknesses, most notably that Pratchett is re-using the idea that the fate of the whole Disc is at stake as creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions attempt to break through the fabric of reality, which he uses rather a lot in these first dozen or so books.

Equal Rites (***) is another funny and fast-paced read, but you can start to see Pratchett developing some more sophisticated ideas of what he can use the Discworld series for. The book suffers from being somewhat slight and insignificant (aside from Granny Weatherwax's first appearance, the events of the book have next to no impact on the wider world and series) but is still moderately entertaining. However, from the next book Pratchett is starting to roll out much bigger and more intriguing guns.
 

Werthead

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Mort

Young Mort is unsuited to follow in his father's footsteps, so is put up to apprentice in another trade. Unexpectedly, Death himself decides to train up Mort as a neophyte Grim Reaper so he can have a few days off. After all, what could go wrong? Well, as it turns out...

Mort was the point that a lot of people started taking more notice of the Discworld series. Smaller in scale than the first three books, Mort features Death as a main character and some thoughts and meditations on the nature of death and what may (or may not) come after. This is Pratchett in a more thoughtful mood, but he doesn't neglect the comedy. There are quite a few funny moments and passages, and we meet some more soon-to-be-iconic Discworld characters like Albert as well. But it's the serious thinking about life and the place of people within it that makes Mort stand out a little bit more than some of the other early books. Pratchett is also quite disciplined here, with a focused and tight plot that doesn't ramble like some of his other novels (which is sometimes entertaining, sometimes not), and this works quite well.

Mort is also interesting as the Discworld book that has been optioned several times as a big-budget Hollywood movie, but Hollywood has so far been unable to make it as they decided they wanted to remove Death from the book as his presence would be too much of a downer for American audiences to handle. Unsurprisingly and possibly thankfully, the film has never been made.

Mort (***½) is a step-up in quality from the first three books, with Pratchett stretching his author's muscles and discovering some new and interesting tools in his writing box. The next phase of the Discworld series, a more solidly entertaining and interesting series of works leading up to the series' first undisputed classics, begins here. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
(apparently this post is too short (!) so I'm sticking this bit down here to make it long enough to post)
 

pyan

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Good summings-up, Wert, and (so far!) you're in tune with my thoughts on the series...:)


Werthead said:
(apparently this post is too short (!) so I'm sticking this bit down here to make it long enough to post)
Because there's a seven-character minimum posting limit, but as anything in (quotes) doesn't count toward it, the software only saw Mort...
 

Allegra

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Good summings-up, Wert, and (so far!) you're in tune with my thoughts on the series...:)
I second pyan, except I'd rate The Light Fantastic higher because I like Twoflower and the Luggage too much! :D
 

SpaceShip

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I, like Rinman, didn't really like the look of any of Pratchett's books and left them alone for YEARS - but a friend twisted my arm - now, even with my arm completely twisted, I can't put them down. Thanks goodness he has written so many because it means that they can be re-read and enjoyed all over again.
 

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Okay so I was going through my Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer's Edition 2009, and I noticed there was some Discworld stuff made, so I read the info on it, so I read it, four elephants, a giant turtle...that's just...weird...
Yea basically the world rides on the back of a giant turtle supported by 4 elephants. Simple really ;)
 
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