Bick's thoughts on the Discworld novels

The Ace

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(6) Wyrd Sisters (1988)

This is good book in the series. The plotting is good, Pratchett seems to be honing his storytelling skills with each book, and overall it was a highly satisfying read. The prior books all had a zany charm, but did not (in the main) have the depth that is frequently referenced in positive criticism of the Discworld novels. This is probably the first one where the plot and jokes consistently carry that extra depth and cleverness. Here, Pratchett references Shakespeare a awful lot and he does it well, but also numerous other literary and worldly sources. The characters are good, and in this volume the story finally has a very satisfying arc. I'm undecided whether to go 4½ or 5 stars, but as there is still far to go in the series I don't think I should go the whole hog just yet, as others may conceivably surpass it in quality. Recommended ****½
I found this one interesting because the Duke tried to re-write History with a play. What actually happened was that Shakespeare turned History on its head in, "MacBeth," to flatter the new king (James VI and I) and to clean up the history of illegitimate, traitor and double regicide Malcolm III Canmore, the king's ancestor (as Pratchett himself said, "The true king is the one that gets crowned.").
 

Bick

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I found this one interesting because the Duke tried to re-write History with a play. What actually happened was that Shakespeare turned History on its head in, "MacBeth," to flatter the new king (James VI and I) and to clean up the history of illegitimate, traitor and double regicide Malcolm III Canmore, the king's ancestor (as Pratchett himself said, "The true king is the one that gets crowned.").
Yes, for those reasons, its probably the cleverest novel thus far in my reading... and very nicely done too, I agree.

But Guards! Guards! contains "its a million to one shot... but it might just work", which is not especially clever... just comedy genius.
 

Bick

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(9) Moving Pictures (1990)

For those who might be wondering what happened to Eric, I understand its possibly a YA shorter work, originally published as a 'Tale from Discworld', rather than a main series novel, and I don't have it. So I moved right on to the next published main series novel, Moving Pictures, which is pretty good. It also perhaps marks the start of Pratchett using his Discworld to enable him to make humorous reference to the absurdities of the real world. While Wyrd Sisters is clever and literary, and Guards! Guards! is warm and wittily observant, this is predominately comic allegory with a sending up of modern life. Hollywood gets the Discworld treatment here, and its done rather well. A lot of the jokes are very good and the observations are often sublime. Characters are good, and I'm enjoying how characters return from previous volumes to gradually create a full and rich world. Its a hard book not to enjoy. And yet... its not a five star book for me. The film concept is shoe-horned into Discworld in a manner that doesn't sit quite right. Pratchett brings an aspect of modern world into Discworld in a rather literal and direct way that for me isn't entirely appealing from an aesthetic perspective. Its a minor gripe though - this is pretty good and is recommended. ****
 

The Big Peat

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I'm undecided whether to go 4½ or 5 stars, but as there is still far to go in the series I don't think I should go the whole hog just yet, as others may conceivably surpass it in quality. Recommended ****½
Snowdon may be smaller than Everest, but they're still both mountains ;)


Your reviews remain very in-line with how I rate the books myself so far. It took me a few tries to like Pyramids as the veer from Tom Brown's Days At Assassin School to the Pyramids themselves throws me every time. Agree whole-heartedly about Moving Pictures not truly fitting and the deeper meanings behind Wyrd Sisters' jokes making it a step forwards. I still think Wyrd Sisters might be one of his cleverest books, although a fair way from his best.
 

HareBrain

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I've never got into the Discworld books like a lot of people have, but I have enjoyed the few that I've read -- except Moving Pictures. I had so little investment in any part of it, it's one of the very few books I've abandoned mere pages from the end.

And yet... its not a five star book for me. The film concept is shoe-horned into Discworld in a manner that doesn't sit quite right. Pratchett brings an aspect of modern world into Discworld in a rather literal and direct way that for me isn't entirely appealing from an aesthetic perspective.
I think this is what I found too, but for me there wasn't enough good stuff to balance it.
 

Bick

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I've never got into the Discworld books like a lot of people have, but I have enjoyed the few that I've read -- except Moving Pictures. I had so little investment in any part of it, it's one of the very few books I've abandoned mere pages from the end.
That's interesting - I liked the end as it happens (the inverted King Kong scenes etc.). But it did drag a bit in the middle which is unusual, and I think this is probably because characters such as Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler became less interesting in the middle section when they were affected by 'magic of Holy Wood'. He's funnier and more engaging when he's just selling sausages in Ankh. I did like the role the Librarian plays here though, and the wizards were funny. I believe its better than the first few and worked better on the whole than Pyramids, but only just. Not his very best, I agree.
 

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(10) Reaper Man (1991)

Reaper Man represents a bit of a return to form following Moving Pictures, I think. In retrospect, I think Moving Pictures is probably a ***½ star book (I was perhaps a touch generous in my prior review), whereas this is a definite improvement. Many Pratchett readers seem to be big fans of DEATH in the Discworld books, whereas I suspect I'm more of a watch fan, but in this book, Pratchett his doesn't actually overplay DEATH, and he spends most of time as an alter ego, Bill Door, and his scenes were very good. I liked the general concept here, I really liked the undead support group, and the wizards' silliness. I liked the snow globe-shopping trolley stuff much less, though and felt that part of the story detracted from my satisfaction with the book. Sometimes, I feel Pratchett's silliness goes to far, especially in his endings. So, this was a solid effort, enjoyable to read, but not perfect. ****
 

The Big Peat

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Good to see you back at it Bick! I love Reaper Man and for me, this is the start of classic Discworld. I am a big Death fan, but generally as a camero character rather than a main... but this is his book. Here he makes sense as the star of the show and I love the message - “What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?”. And he carries it well enough I can overlook some of the silliness.
 

.matthew.

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Pratchett said:
Bjorn didn't waste time asking questions. A lot of things become a shade urgent when you're dead.

"I believe in reincarnation," he said.

I KNOW

"I tried to live a good life. Does that help?"

THAT IS NOT UP TO ME. Death coughed. OF COURSE.... SINCE YOU BELIEVE IN REINCARNATION.... YOU'LL BE BJORN AGAIN.

He waited.
 

Bick

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(11) Witches Abroad (1991)

Witches Abroad sees a return of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, as the eponymous witches, here travelling far and wide to parts 'forein' in their quest to set things straight. Pratchett generally takes a theme for each book and runs with it and in this instance, its 'Discworld does fairy tales'. Revolving around the idea that stories have an inevitable arc and life of their own, Witches Abroad enables Pratchett to riff off many old stories and fairy tales to spin his yarn. Here are Hammer Horror-styled vampires, the Wizard of Oz, the three little pigs, little red riding hood and most notably, Cinderella. Its a nice enough idea, and fits within the Discworld perfectly well, but the jokes here are mostly in the scenarios, rather than the one-liners. This book has fewer outright witty jokes than some, though the plot is stronger than many. To compare directly with the previous witches book is interesting. While Wyrd Sisters was very clever in its use of literary quotes and play on Shakespeare, this one is less clever and insightful for me. Wyrd Sisters is a better book, with more depth. That said, this is an enjoyable fantasy romp, and the characters of granny, nanny (especially) and Magrat are always entertaining. ****
 

Bick

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As I slowly make my way through these enjoyable books, I occasionally slightly reevaluate my scores, and have commented already that I should have given Moving Pictures ***½. I also find it useful to keep a list altogether. So, with those things in mind, and to bring things up to date, these are my ratings so far:

1. Colour of Magic ***
2. The Light Fantastic ***
3. Equal Rites ***½
4. Mort ****
5. Sourcery ****
6. Wyrd Sisters ****½
7. Pyramids ***½
8. Guards! Guards! *****
9. Moving Pictures ***½
10. Reaper Man ****
11. Witches Abroad ****
 
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