In celebration of our Discworld announcement this week, we’ve done a round-up of Gollancz’s favourite Terry Pratchett books for our Friday Reads. Enjoy! The Discworld Collector’s Library starts publishing in November, so still a small window to catch up on all your favourite Pratchett works. Enjoy!
My favourite Discworld book is still, after all these years and subsequent volumes, Wyrd Sisters. This is not to say that I think Terry Pratchett peaked as a writer in 1988 – far from it! It was very clear as the series went on that Sir Terry was honing his already formidable skills almost on a book-by-book basis, and the Discworld novels reaching a level of sophistication and subtlety that, frankly, many a Booker Prize winner should look on with envy. I’m sure that many of the books that followed would be widely agreed to be superior novels to Wyrd Sisters – but Wyrd Sisters is still my favourite.
Why? A few reasons. The presence of the excellent Granny Weatherwax, to begin with. All three witches are great – maiden, mother and crone – but there’s a special place in my funny bone for Esme – not so much a character as a force of nature! And it’s very funny, of course. Then there’s the first appearance of the game that caused me to laugh out loud at a book for the first time since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Cripple Mister Onion. But most of all, I love Wyrd Sisters because it was the first Discworld book to riff off Shakespeare, and who doesn’t love a little Bard-ish humour:
“As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’
There was a pause.
Finally, another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well, I can do next Tuesday.’”
Magical: in all meanings of the word.
I was 13 when I had my first encounter with a Terry Pratchett novel. On a rather long road trip with my dad, I needed something to keep me occupied (read: quiet) in the car so at the next service station I had a nosey in the book section. A hardback with some funny blue men on the cover and a strange title caught my eye so I grabbed it along with another that had a wizard and a kangaroo on the front (such a bizarre combination surely needed investigation!). After that there wasn’t a peep from me for the whole journey…
The Wee Free Men and The Last Continent were my gateway Discworld novels and I’ve never looked back since. Rincewind’s charming incompetence and ability to find water in the desert by checking if his feet were wet coupled with Tiffany’s pragmatism when dealing with the unexpected had me hooked from the start but Pratchett’s warm humour, sharp wit and shrewd commentary on what makes us human kept me coming back. It’s so hard to choose but among my favourites are Thief of Time, Small Gods, Pyramids, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and the aforementioned The Last Continent. I could read them over and over and never get bored! It’s damn near impossible to put into words how much I adore the Disc, with its plethora of wonderful characters, almost-familiar geography and the greatest Library in the history of ever, but if cross-multiple-universe reincarnation were a thing, this is where I’d want to end up.
I’ve read all of Terry Pratchett’s books, I think – I certainly can’t think of any I haven’t read, if you see what I mean. It’s thrilling that we’re going to republish the first 21 Discworld books in a lovely hardback format soon, and I can’t wait to replace my tattered paperbacks. But we all know about the Discworld – I want to talk briefly about Strata. I remember buying Strata when I was about 11, and just getting into Discworld. There were only 6 or 7 books available then, and I got through them very quickly indeed, and went off on the hunt for other books by this madcap, funny writer.
It’s one of Terry’s earlier books, and in it you can see the seeds of what would later become one of the biggest and most-loved worlds in fantasy or, for that matter, fiction. Strata takes elements of classic SF – Niven’s Ringworld, especially – and spoofs them gently, much in the same way that the early Discworld novels spoofed classic fantasy (Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, for example, if you can call that series fantasy – but that’s a topic for another blog). It reads as a much more ‘straight’ book then Terry is normally known for, but his trademark sly wit and gentle humour is there, in the writing, the setting and, of course the characters. I’ve always thought that, for all the many joys in his work, his characters are the thing that makes Pratchett’s fiction sing, and there are some great ones here.
There’s also Dark Side of the Sun, Terry’s other early SF novel, which is also a lot of fun. Sadly, these two early books aren’t included in our collection. But if you’ve read the Discworld books and enjoyed them, but not explored the rest of Terry’s work, Strata is a great place to start.