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Terry Pratchett

book review Terry Pratchett Bromeliad, Discworld(1948- 2015)
Terry Pratchett was the U.K.’s best-selling author during the 1990s until J.K. Rowling snatched his title. But, he still holds the record for most books shoplifted. (That is, his books were shoplifted most, not that he shoplifted the most books — we have no idea how many books Mr. Pratchett has shoplifted). Terry Pratchett has also written a sci/fi children’s trilogy called Johnny Maxwell. Terry Pratchett died on March 12, 2015. He had been battling early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Here is Terry Pratchett’s website.

The Color of Magic: Non-stop quirky adventure

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic, published in 1983, is the first book in Sir Terry Pratchett’s enormously popular DISCWORLD series. The Disworld is a flat world which rides on the back of four elephants which ride on the back of a giant turtle named Great A’Tuin. The DISCWORLD novels are humorous, satirical and spoofy, often making fun of their own genre and various real-world cultural and political issues and institutions. Before HARRY POTTER, Terry Pratchett was the UK’s top selling author.

The Color of Magic introduces Rincewind who is technically a wizard because one dangerous spell attached itself to his brain when Rincewind opened a forbidden book. Rincewind doesn’t know what the spell does or how to cast it, and he doesn... Read More

The Light Fantastic: Early DISCWORLD

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic is a direct sequel to Terry Pratchett’s first DISCWORLD novel, The Color of Magic, in which we met the failed and cowardly wizard Rincewind, his traveling companion Twoflower (a rich and naively brave tourist), and Twoflower’s animated sentient Luggage. I believe that The Light Fantastic is the only DISCWORLD novel that’s a direct sequel of a previous novel.

The reason Rincewind is such a poor wizard is that he’s got a dark powerful spell (“the eighth spell”) lodged in his brain and it won’t let him memorize any other spells. Nobody knows what the eight spell is for, but Rincewind is pretty sure that nobody wants to find out. At the end of The Color of Magic, Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage had tumbled off the edge of the Discworld which is a flat disc held up by four elephants standing on the bac... Read More

Equal Rites: Discworld gets a visit from the Equal Opportunities people

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

When a wizard on the Discworld knows he’s about to die, he passes on his staff and magical powers to the eighth son of an eighth son who is being born at that time. So, that’s what the wizard Drum Billet does just before his death — he passes on his powers to the baby who’s just been born to the Smith family. But nobody notices in time that Eskarina Smith is not a boy... Several years later Esk realizes she’s got some uncontrollable powers so she, along with her friend Granny Weatherwax, the local witch, sets out to find her place in a world where women do not have equal rights.

Equal Rites is the third book in Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD series and the first in which Rincewind the cowardly wizard is not the protagonist. Though the focus here is on Eskarina, the first female wizard on the Discworld, the real star is Granny Weatherwax, the indomitable witch who features more promi... Read More

Mort: A good place for new Discworld readers to start

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Mort is the fourth of Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD novels. It stands alone, meaning that you don’t need to read the previous novels to enjoy Mort. It’s better than the previous novels, too, so it might be a good place for new readers to start.

Mortimer is a naïve but pensive — and therefore slightly odd — young man who doesn’t fit in with his farming community. It looks like he’s going to be jobless until Death arrives and chooses him as an apprentice. Why does Death need an apprentice? He has become bored with his immortal life and wants to travel to Ankh-Morpork so he can experience some humanity.

After only a little bit of training, Mort is left in charge. His job is to collect the souls of people who are about to depart the mortal world. When Mort becomes infatuated with a princess who’s about to die, he can’t stop himself from interfering with her... Read More

Sourcery: Wizardry vs. Sourcery

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery begins as Ipslore the Red is about to die — or, more accurately — it begins as Death is coming to collect Ipslore’s soul. Wizards can see Death, so some plan to negotiate terms before departing.

Ipslore is an eighth son and a wizard. Banished from Unseen University for marrying and having children, Ipslore manages to create a magic staff for his own eighth son, a newborn he has named Coin, just before he dies. Coin, being the eighth son of an eighth son, is not just a wizard — he’s a sourcerer. And instead of dying, Ipslore transfers his being into the staff, cheating Death, so that he can guide Coin’s destiny.

What’s the difference between a sourcerer and a wizard? It’s not that sourcerers are more powerful than wizards so much as wizards are not particularly powerful at all. Sourcerers are powerful like gods. According to the L... Read More

Wyrd Sisters: Fun and Endearing

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Wyrd Sisters (1988) is a fun, lively book. It’s definitely a bit on the light side compared to some of Terry Pratchett’s later works – more parody and less satire, if you like – but there’s nothing wrong with a jocular, easy-going read. Indeed, while it perhaps lacks something of the punch one might find in Mort or Small Gods, this installment is probably one of the better entry points for DISCWORLD, readable and endearing.

This is of course especially true if you’re a Shakespeare fan, in which case Wyrd Sisters easily eclipses Guards! Guards! as the definitive Square One for the series. As hinted by the title, Wyrd Sisters is basically Pratche... Read More

Pyramids: A stomach-jiggling delight

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

It seems there is no subject too big or too small, too esoteric or too familiar, that Terry Pratchett won’t tackle in DISCWORLD. His 1989 Pyramids, seventh in the series, sees the author exploring Egypt and just entering the groove that would become more than forty novels in the DISCWORLD setting. The humor in Pyramids is some of Pratchett’s best, but the book still leaves something to be desired for plot. As such, I’m guessing it won the 1989 British Science Fiction Award for historical grounding, wordplay, stabs at theme, and accomplishments to date, rather than consistent storytelling or characterization.

Pyramids is the tale of Teppic, son of Teppicymon XXVII who is king of the desert land Djelibeybi. Teppic was sent to the Assassin’s Guild in Ankh-Morpork for grooming into an “e... Read More

Guards! Guards!: A must-read Discworld novel

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! is Terry Pratchett’s eighth Discworld novel and the first to feature the Anhk-Morpork City Watch. Guards! Guards! is among the best of the Discworld novels and is a possible entry point for readers new to Pratchett’s body of work.

Underfunded and disrespected, Captain Vimes’ City Watch has seen better days, but new recruit Carrot Ironfoundersson is about to change all of that. Raised by dwarves, Carrot hopes to make a difference in Discworld’s corrupt city, and even goes so far as to arrest members of the Thieves’ Guild. Though he often makes life difficult for Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, and Corporal Nobbs, Carrot’s loyalty to law and order inspires the Watch with the p... Read More

Eric: Pratchett’s retelling of Faust

Eric by Terry Pratchett

Up to this point I’ve always enjoyed Terry Pratchett's DISCWORLD books, and Faust Eric was no exception in that regard. It was a fun read. Still, I'm not as big of a fan of the Rincewind books as I am of some of the other DISCWORLD books centered around his other characters. Nothing against the cowardly, inept wizard Rincewind, I mean, Lord knows I'd probably react to the dangers of Discworld the same way he does, which is to turn tail and run whenever possible. However, overall I prefer the Witches books, or the Guards, or the Moist von Lipwig books to most of the Rincewind books.

Eric is a quick, enjoyable read, based on a premise that I absolutely loved, a re-telling of the Faust legend. At the beginning of the novel, Rincewind is summoned b... Read More

Moving Pictures: One of the most pleasant stops on the Discworld tour

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Citizen Kane is considered by many connoisseurs to be the greatest film of all time. Channeling the idea of empire through the life of a mysterious magnate, it is a drama telling the bittersweet story of the glory days of wealth, the inevitable fall, and how its biggest dreams are left unfulfilled. Half a century later, with numerous new forms of media having been adopted into mainstream culture, comes Terry Pratchett. Practically creating a new form of media of his own, he decided to overlay Hollywood onto the template of Citizen Kane. The weight of elephants behind it, 1990’s Moving Pictures is the same bittersweet result.

Capturing the magic and innocence of the burgeoning film industry in Ankh-Morpork, at the outset of Moving Pictures the Guild of Alchemists discover the secret to capturing pictures on film. Studio... Read More

Reaper Man: The demise of Death

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Reading Reaper Man in light of Terry Pratchett’s recent passing was particularly poignant. It is a book all about death, both figuratively and literally speaking. DISCWORLD fans will be familiar with the character of Death, who this book is largely about. Then, of course, there are the blustering wizards of the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, but that is not to say that readers new to the Discworld can’t pick this up as a stand-alone novel. So, what happens when Death is sacked? Utter chaos, apparently…

The mystical forces of the universe (who very specifically have no personalities or individual qualities to them) are not happy. Death has become too much of a character (a he, not an it) and it is simply not proper for the impersonal forces o... Read More

Witches Abroad: A fine DISCWORLD novel

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

People have been telling me to read Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD books for ages, but I was always a bit intimidated by the sheer number of books he has produced. Finally, I decided to just start reading them in publication order. I have advanced to Witches Abroad, the twelfth book in publication order and the third book featuring the witches. At this point Pratchett’s got me firmly hooked. The Witches are not my favourite set of characters — I consider Guards! Guards! the best DISCWORLD novel I have read so far — but I enjoyed this particular book a lot.

The book opens with the Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Grammar Brevis and Old Mother Dismass discussing the recent death of their colleague and fairy godmother Desiderata Hollow. There don’t seem to be enough Witches arou... Read More

Small Gods: A nice message and some smartypants good fun

Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett

Small Gods (1992) was the first DISCWORLD book I read, and it made me love the series. I reread it recently, and, allowing for certain themes that repeat in all the DISCWORLD books, I found I still enjoyed it. Pratchett delivers a message on the nature of hypocrisy, fanaticism and faith, with lots of smartypants good fun along the way.

Brutha is a novice at the Temple of the Great God Om. While Brutha is a hard worker and a well-meaning lad, he neither reads nor writes and he’s kind of a simple soul. Only two things make Brutha different; an amazing memory, and an unalloyed, bright-burning belief in the Great God Om. These two things will make him the most important person in Discworld… at least to Om.

The Great God Om is usually depicted as a huge bull, so when Brutha finds him in the temple garden the form of a torto... Read More

Lords and Ladies: Pratchett does A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

“If cats looked like frogs, we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember. They remember the glamour.”

In Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett’s fourteenth DISCWORLD novel, we get to see what happened to the land of Lancre after Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick stirred things up and changed its fate in Wyrd Sisters. You don’t need to read Wyrd Sisters first to enjoy Lord and Ladies, but some familiarity with the witchy ladies might add to the enjoyment. Please note that in writing this review, I can’t help but spoil one aspect of the ending of Wyrd Sisters.

So (and here is the spoiler for Wyrd Sisters), Magrat Garlick, the youngest... Read More

Men at Arms: The Watch is Growing

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Odd though it may be, most people agree that Ankh-Morpork is a city that works. Its citizens pay dues to the Thieves Guild so that they will not be robbed, and because the city’s leader, Havelock Vetinari, was a member of the Assassin’s Guild, there is little chance that he will be overthrown through assassination. (The assassins would of course kill Vetinari, but the price they have listed for his head is prohibitive). The guilds all agree that they would be worse off without Vetinari, which is odd considering that he seeks to modernize almost every aspect of the city.

He even believes that the City Watch should represent every species in Ankh-Morkpork. Angua, a werewolf, seems like she might fit in: she’s so beautiful that Carrot thinks criminals will line up to be arrested by her. However, now Sergeant Colon and Nobby Nobbs are training trolls and dwarfs. Unfortunately, dwarfs and trolls hate each other... Read More

Interesting Times: Rincewind goes to the “Aurient”

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

Lord Vetinari receives a message from the Counterweight Continent — which isn’t China — demanding that Ankh-Morpork send the “Great Wizzard” at once. Vetinari, hoping to avoid a conflict, summons Mustrum Ridcully, the Archchancellor of Unseen University, to a top-secret meeting. Who do they want? Ridcully figures the Dean is the biggest wizard at the university — could they just send him? Of course, longtime DISCWORLD readers already know that “Wizzard” means Rincewind, and, of course, that he is going to the “Aurient.”

It takes some convincing, but Rincewind reluctantly agrees to the plan. Ponder programs Hex to send Rincewind to the Counterweight Continent, and, though the calculations are rough, Rincewind arrives more or less safely. Once there, he meets Cohen the Barbarian, who, at ninety-maybe-ninety-five, is aging like oak. Unhappy with the tide of po... Read More

Maskerade: Pratchett does The Phantom of the Opera

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Marion and I both read Maskerade around the same time. I listened to Nigel Planer narrate the audio version (he's so good) while Marion read the book in print format. She joins me here as we discuss this DISCWORLD story featuring the witches of Lancre.

Kat: After Magrat Garlick married the king in Lord and Ladies, there were only two real witches in Lancre: Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. This isn’t right; everyone knows you need three witches. Granny realizes that their best prospect for a replacement for Magrat is Agnes, a girl who is known for having a nice personality (which means she’s unattractive). Agnes is full-bodied (to put it nicely), but she knows there’s a skinny girl inside. Unfortunately, that skinny girl has a name (i... Read More

Feet of Clay: Golems, vampires, and succession

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

The City Watch is growing, and its new members bring new skills and talents to help stop crime in Ankh-Morpork. Angua, a werewolf, can trace criminals by their smell, while Detritus, a troll, interrogates suspects by “screaming angrily at people until they give in.” Cheery Longbottom is Vimes’ newest recruit, an alchemist, and perhaps the only dwarf in Ankh-Morpork who does not enjoy rowdiness. The criminals had better be careful.

In fact, the Watch has become so effective that the rich and powerful are hiring assassins to kill Commander Samuel Vimes. Fortunately, now that Vimes is married to the wealthiest woman in the city, he can afford the best crossbows and bear traps.

Sadly, even the most effective City Watch armed with the most powerful crossbows and bear traps would struggle to stop all crime in a city like Ankh-Morpork. A golem has begun to kill people, someone has attempted to poi... Read More

Hogfather: Happy Hogswatch!

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Up, Gouger! Up, Rooter! Up, Tusker! Up, Snouter!

Apparently they celebrate something like Christmas – Hogswatch – on the Disc. Why not? Children write letters to the Hogfather, who travels around the world delivering presents in a sleigh pulled by hogs. But no one really believes in the Hogfather, right?

Sadly, the Auditors have decided to hire Ankh-Morpork’s Assassins Guild to delete Discworld’s Hogfather, or the Fat Man, as they call him. It’s an unusual assignment, thinks Lord Downey, since the assassins don’t believe that the Hogfather exists. How can they fulfill the contract? However, a particularly ingenious (and psychopathic) assassin, Teatime, thinks he can do the job.

Meanwhile, Death has taken over the Hogfather’s duties. He’s up to the task, though he carries it out in his own way. For the most part, he takes the role to heart:... Read More

Jingo: Veni, vidi… Vetinari

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Sam Vimes has changed a great deal since he was introduced in Guards! Guards!, the first DISCWORLD novel to feature the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. He has given up booze, he is happily married, and he is now wealthy. The Watch has grown under his leadership as well. Its ranks now include werewolves, gargoyles, dwarves, trolls, and even zombies. As Commander, Vimes should devote most of his time to paperwork, but he prefers to spend his time on the streets, which have grown restless.

War is at hand. Tensions begin when Solid Jackson and his son discover an island rising out of the sea while they are fishing for Curious Squid. Both Ankh-Morpork and Klatch claim the island because, as one politician explains, it’s “a few square miles of uninhabited fertile ground with superb anchorage in an unsurpassed strategic position.” War has come, and the people of Ankh-Morpork and Klatch are ready... Read More

The Last Continent: No worries in Australia, Mate

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

In The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett sends Rincewind and the Unseen University wizards to Xxxx (Fourecks), which, the narrator explains, is not Australia.

In Interesting Times, Unseen University wizards inadvertently sent Rincewind to the Counterweight Continent (China), and now they inadvertently travel into the past of Fourecks — the Last Continent being created on the Discworld — while trying to figure out the Librarian’s name. Ponder Stibbins is the first to realize that the wizards have traveled into the past, and he warns the wizards that they must be careful to not change the future. Certainly, they must not kill one of their ancestors. But why would they want to do that? interrupts Ridcully. The Archchancellor argues that they’re already in the past, changing things, so the changes have already happened. And so a continent is created. The wizards meet t... Read More

Carpe Jugulum: DISCWORLD gets dark

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Carpe Jugulum (1998) is book 23 in Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD series. Like most of his books, this one could stand alone, but it will be most appreciated by those who are familiar with the Discworld and, in this case, Pratchett’s loveable witches — Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Agnes Nitt. I’d advise reading Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade first.

Magrat, who is now queen of Lancre, has just given birth to a princess. Her husband, King Verence, a good natured man who is always reading books to learn how to be a good king, has diplomatically invited some foreigners to the celebration. Unfortunately,... Read More

The Fifth Elephant: The Watch goes to Uberwald

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Lord Vetinari is dragging Ankh-Morpork and its City Watch into the modern age, but not everyone is happy. Now, instead of just leaving their carriages on the street, people that stop traffic and business will have to watch as a troop of trolls hauls their carriage away (unless they can afford to bribe Sergeant Colon). And although many of Ankh-Morpork’s dwarfs still cling to the old ways, others have begun to act radically: female dwarfs like Cheery Littlebottom not only admit that they are women but have also begun to wear… dresses!

Times are changing, but crime continues. Commander Sam Vimes and his team discover that a replica Scone of Stone has been stolen. The Scone is a Dwarf artifact — a piece of rock-hard bread that the Low King of the Dwarfs requires for coronation. As he inspects the sce... Read More

The Truth: This by-the-numbers Discworld outing failed to satisfy

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

The truth about Sir Terry Pratchett’s novel The Truth is that for the first time a DISCWORLD book failed to satisfy me. While there is nothing seriously wrong with the story, the feeling that Pratchett was bolting set pieces together to make a whole overwhelmed the general fun of the book.

First published in 2000, The Truth is 25th in a 49-book series according to Wikipedia. The DISCWORLD books break into definable categories, even if fans give those categories different names; my name for Going Postal, Making Money and The Truth Read More

The Last Hero: Funny and deep

The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

Note: Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero works without the illustrations, but you don’t want to miss out on Paul Kidby's fabulous Discworld art.

The Last Hero follows the trail of several popular Discworld characters and this is the closest you'll get to a world-spanning crossover. There's no real villain in the story — simply lots of good guys working on opposite ends.

As typical of a Discworld novel, Pratchett pokes fun at the convention of fantasy and what makes a hero a hero. Comedy aside though, the book contains depth and, at the end of al... Read More

Thief of Time: Trademark storytelling, symbolism, setting, and wit

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

Thief of Time is Terry Pratchett’s 26th official entry into the DISCWORLD series. Published roughly six months after The Truth and six months before The Last Hero, Thief of Time finds Pratchett in good form, extemporizing on the scientific quest to put time in a bottle versus more transcendental ideologies revolving around passive regard to the great clock of life (pun intended for those who’ve read the book!).

Thief of Time opens at a monastery where the History Monks keep the spindles of time greased and spinning eternally. Lobsang Lud, a common monk, averts a major disaster one day and earns himself an apprenticeship with the master, Lu-tze. Meanwhile in Ankh-Morpork, a down-on-his-luck clockmaker, Jeremy Clockson, is commissioned by an Auditor-in-disguise to build the world’s first glass clock, and is not told that the giant... Read More

Night Watch: You can’t repeat the past (Of course you can)

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch has all but arrested Carcer, a serial killer who specifically targets members of the Watch, when they are thrown back in time.

Time travel is always inconvenient, but it is particularly trying for Sam Vimes, who is about to become a father. Worse, Vimes soon realizes this time in Ankh-Morpork’s history is especially awful because the city is about to revolt against the Patrician, Lord Winder. The people will revolt, Vimes remembers, and cavalrymen will put them down.

Vimes had only just joined the Watch when he first lived through the revolution, but he remembers many of the details, especially his old mentor, Sergeant John Keel. Keel taught Sam how to be a copper, and he saved lives during the revolution by maintaining order around the Treacle Mine Road watch house. In this past, however, Carcer has already murdered Keel.

The... Read More

Going Postal: Learning how to hope

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

When searching for a strong conflict to anchor a story, most fantasy authors rely on dragons, invading hordes of orcs, and universe-ending supernatural beings and phenomena. In Going Postal, Terry Pratchett tries to save Ankh-Morpork’s post office.

Oddly, by aiming lower – just saving the post office? – I felt that Pratchett had taken more of a gamble than his more bombastic peers. Then again, Going Postal is the thirty-third novel in Pratchett’s spectacularly successful DISCWORLD series, so he has little to lose. Why not write a novel about what must be the most mundane premise fantasy has ever seen?

Moist von Lipwig, our hero, is a conman and a swindler who has the good fortune of also having an utterly forgettable face. However, when we meet him, his crimes have finally caught up... Read More

Thud: If you’re not a Discword fan, you will be now

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Finally the origins of Koom Valley are explained. Commander Vimes of the City Watch, and Duke of Ankh-Morpork, is desperatly trying to solve the mystery of one dead dwarf. And who is Mr. Shine? What does he have to do with the death of Grag Hamcrusher? And what, oh what, is he to do about the vampire in the watch? Commader Vimes solves the crime in his usual no-nonsense, magic-is-not-part-of-crime-solving, politics-is-for-politicians-not-coppers way.

Terry Pratchett has once again created a hilarious story with twists and turns and answers no one would have dreamed. If you are not a Dsicworld fan, you will become one once you read this book.

FanLit thanks John Ottinger III from Grasping for the Wind for contributing this guest... Read More

Monstrous Regiment: If you’re looking for grief, look to the ladies

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

“If you’re looking for grief, look to the ladies”

Borogravia is at war with Zlobenia, and the war is going badly for the Borogravians. Polly has stayed home to run her family’s pub, The Duchess, while her brother Paul has been away at the front. It’s been weeks since Polly has heard from her brother, and she worries that since women cannot inherit property in Borogravia, her family might lose The Duchess if her brother is lost. Besides, there’s no one else left to enlist, so young Polly decides it’s time to join the army. Unfortunately, given that women in Borogravia are not allowed to own property, it is no surprise that they are also prohibited from enlisting in the army. Polly disguises herself as a boy and signs on with Sergeant Jackrum’s Ins and Outs. In order to fit in, Polly practices belching, picking her nose, and scratching herself.

She joins the regiment... Read More

Making Money: Not as good as Going Postal

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett’s Making Money is the thirty sixth Discworld novel, and the second to feature Moist von Lipwig as its hero. Traditionalists will point out that Moist is not very heroic. In fact, he is a conman. Then again, in a city led by an assassin, perhaps a conman is the perfect candidate to run an institution like the Post Office. That was the premise of Going Postal, which introduced us to Moist. Although Moist’s struggle to save the post from the crooked Grand Trunk Company was surprisingly adventurous, he finds that the post office has become a bit dull after a year of smooth operation.

So we might expect Moist to be thrilled when Lord Vetinari, Ankh-Morpork’s Patrician, offers the Postmaster the chance to take over the city’s bank and mint. Surprisingly, Moist is reluctant to trust the city’s to... Read More

Unseen Academicals: Comfort food

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Many Terry Pratchett fans will tell you that his DISCWORLD novels are really social satire masquerading as fantasy. With the more recent installments, this has become even more apparent, as they have often taken on a very specific subject or theme. The Truth: Terry Pratchett about journalism. Making Money: banking. Going Postal: well... the postal service. The most recent addition to the series, Unseen Academicals, is another example of this, as it takes on sports, with a minor focus on the fashion industry.

In Ankh-Morpork, the slightly grubby and always fascinating metropolis that's the setting for many DISCWORLD novels, the ancient sport of foot-the-ball is not just the main entertainment of the working classes, it's practically a way of ... Read More

Snuff: A City Watch novel without the City Watch

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff is Terry Pratchett’s latest DISCWORLD novel to feature the City Watch. Well, actually, the City Watch is largely absent. Lady Sybil, insists that she and Commander Sam Vimes take their son, Young Sam, to the countryside for a vacation.

The vacation begins smoothly. Vimes and his family retreat to the country, where Vimes encounters Sybil’s well-to-do peers. Vimes hobnobs, or tries to, but he finds the nobility a bit stuffy. Still, he is the Duke of Ankh and does not want to disappoint Sybil, so he tries to fit in. The awkwardness of these exchanges makes up the much of the humor of the novel’s opening scenes. The rest of the humor in the novel consists of Young Sam’s enthusiasm for “poo,” a word that Young Sam and Pratchett can’t get enough of in Snuff.

Vimes has moved up in the world, ... Read More

Raising Steam: A low point in the DISCWORLD series

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

The latest entry in Terry Pratchett’s sprawling DISCWORLD series, Raising Steam, is an example of what I call the “innovation” series-within-the-series. Just like there are sets of books that focus on specific characters and areas of the Discworld, there’s an increasingly large set of books that take on specific technological innovations entering the fabric of Discworld society.

We’ve seen this as far back as 1990’s Moving Pictures (in which the movie industry hit the Discworld) and 1994’s Soul Music (rock and roll, or as Pratchett calls it, “music with rocks in it”). Recently, Pratchett seems to be on a roll with this type of narrative, having introduced the character Moist Von Lipwig and then covered, in relatively short order, the postal system (Going Postal... Read More

The Wee Free Men: A humorous quest with serious themes

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is a young witch-in-the-making on the DISCWORLD, Terry Pratchett’s flat world which is carried along by four giant elephants who ride on the back of the Great Star Turtle A’Tuin. Tiffany’s young brother has been kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies. In her quest to save him, Tiffany ends up with some odd allies. The Nac Mac Feegle (six-inch-high tattooed blue guys who self-style themselves as “The Wee Free Men,” and who could give the Fremen of Arrakis from Frank Herbert ’s Dune a run for their money in a fight) are with her in her quest, along with her familiar on loan, a toad who, in a previous life, seems to have been a lawyer who helped folks find grounds to sue. Tiffany’s adventure while trying to rescue her bothersome little brother from Fairyl... Read More

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: YA Discworld

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Given the light-hearted yet poignant nature of Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD, it is surprising that so few of the dozens of books in the series are Young Adult oriented. One of these is The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and it can readily be enjoyed by adults, as well.

Playing with the legend of the Pied Piper, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is the story of Maurice the cat, his band of talking rats, and the teenager Keith with whom they travel city to city. Running a scam, the preening, egotistical Maurice works as a middle man for Keith and the rats, the former earning money by playing the pipe to eliminate the rats who have made themselves a nuisance under Maurice’s guidance, the group sharing in the spoils.

Coming to the city of Bad Blintz in Uberwald, however, their plan runs afoul when they encount... Read More

A Hat Full of Sky: With great power….

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany is not convinced when her peer Annagramma explains that magic is a power that signals one’s status. In Annagramma’s view, the witches study arcane and obscure subjects in order to set themselves apart from society, and all of the other young witches seem convinced by her reasoning. Tiffany may not admit it, but she is insecure about her status among the young witches. Secretly, she wishes to reveal her power to them. The hiver understands Tiffany, and when it takes over her mind, Tiffany makes her wishes come true.

In A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany travels to join her new mentor, Miss Level. Like all old witches, Miss Level is a unique sort. She has two bodies, and a spirit named Oswald cleans up around her cottage. Miss Level may be strange, but she has a kind heart, and she takes care of her villagers. Tiffany’s lessons are going well, though she does not like to wear black, she h... Read More

Wintersmith: Among Pratchett’s best work

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

The older witches warn Tiffany Aching not to join in the dark Morris dance, but the soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old, who is usually so sensible, suddenly finds that she cannot resist her feet’s urging. Swept away in the heat of the moment, the young witch joins the magical dance before anyone can stop her.

She afterwards learns that she has danced with the Wintersmith. Winter himself becomes fascinated with Tiffany, whom he mistakes for the summer goddess. When the snow begins to fall, Tiffany discovers that every snowflake looks like her and that the Wintersmith is trying to become a man so that they can be together in a permanent winter. She soon learns that her feet have become fertile, and they now cause plants to grow wherever she walks.

Put less metaphorically, Tiffany has begun to notice boys, she has begun to act rashly, and she is learning to accept responsibility. Since she is a witch in ... Read More

I Shall Wear Midnight: Tiffany faces another Hiver

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

When Tiffany thinks about her age, she thinks that she’s “nearly sixteen.” On the Chalk, “nearly sixteen” means, for many girls, thinking about marriage. Tiffany might lack her peers’ enthusiasm for boys, but she has delivered babies and tended to the terminally ill. Tiffany has dealt with domestic abuse. As a witch, Tiffany’s job is to take care of everyone, the young and the old alike, and to face the things, every day, that people just do not like to face. Tiffany is wise beyond her years, and she’s certainly not thinking about boys and marriage.

But Tiffany does know that Roland is getting married to a bimbo. But children do ask her whether witches even have “passionate parts.” But she did kiss the Wintersmith.

(More of a peck, really. “No tongue!” Tiffany reminds one witch.)

Kissing the Wintersmith is a problem, or it’s a... Read More

Good Omens: The harbinger of the apocalypse is an eleven-year-old boy

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

The bad news for the world is this: the apocalypse is nigh and all of humanity will soon face their final judgement. The good news? A Bentley-driving demon and an angel who is ‘gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide’ have decided that they rather like humanity and are going to try and save it.

Good Omens is the result of a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, when ‘Neil Gaiman was barely Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was only just Terry Pratchett.’ The story centres on Crowley, said demon, and the serpent who tempted Eve (originally named Crawly). Throughout history, he has secretly liased with Aziraphale, an antique-loving, rare books enthu... Read More

Nation: A young adult alternative history

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Mau returns home from a rite of passage concerning his transition from boyhood to manhood to discover that every member of his island village, the “Nation,” has been killed in a tidal wave. Who will teach him to be a man now that he has only himself to rely on?

Daphne, a distant heir to the British throne, is shipwrecked on a small island in the ocean. She has received the best education that a woman of her station can receive in Victorian England, so she is well versed in English customs, traditions, and manners. Will this education be enough to get her through this “Robinson Crusoe” survival adventure, or will she have to use her wits to survive?

Nation is a rare departure for Terry Pratchett: a young adult alternative history. So no, it’s not set in his lauded D... Read More

The Long Earth: An ambitious let-down

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter 

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is a really interesting book without being a particularly good one.

The concept for The Long Earth itself arises from a short story Pratchett wrote before he became Pratchett with a capital P. Essentially, there are other versions of Earth strung out like a strand of pearls in parallel universes — and the ability to travel to these Earths has begun to spread through the human race with the advent of new technology called the "stepper." The technology itself is pointedly pointless; it is literally a potato connected, with some wires and electrical components, to a switch. Using this, people can step "East" or "West" of what comes to be known as "Datum Earth" — our Earth. The most obvious difference between the worl... Read More

The Long War: Searching the High Meggers for a plot

The Long War by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Long War, the second installment in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s five-book LONG EARTH series, is more tedious than the first one, probably because I have already seen the inside of their bag of tricks and I am no longer impressed.

This sequel happens about 12 years after the events of The Long Earth. Joshua, now married and with a son, has been summoned by his old friend, Lobsang (the AI reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman) to go on another journey through the Long Earth, all the way up into the High Meggers, the worlds over a million “steps” from Datum Earth.

The Long War also follows a lot of other characters, some from the first novel and some just introduced, on un- or loosely-connected journeys of their own. For instance, the US Navy Commander Maggie Kauffman, who wants to figure out how to ... Read More

The Long Mars: Finally getting somewhere

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter 

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter still features egregious prose, but it finally begins to tie in some of the unresolved plotlines from earlier books in the LONG EARTH series. We now understand why Roberta (from The Long War) seemed so different; we find out where Willis Linsay, Sally Linsay's dad and the inventor of the Stepper, has been hiding; and we see more of the Long Earth exploration as the Chinese and the Americans team up to go "where no man has gone before."

This book also provides the most stunning portrayals of different Earths so far — chilling and inspiring answers to the "What if?" question that haunts our life-lucky planet. Landscapes full of masses of bacteria, of monument-building crabs, of plant life that approaches sentience, all ... Read More

The Long Utopia: Intriguing mysteries, disappointing characters

The Long Utopia: by Terry Pratchett & Steven Baxter

I read this book thinking it was, finally, the end of Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter’s LONG EARTH series. Unfortunately, I have since read that one more is going to come out. In some ways, this is fine. The Long Utopia (2015) in no way provides a conclusion to many of the plotlines that Pratchett and Baxter have set in motion in previous installments and about which I am still, despite my better instincts, curious. In other ways, though, it is tedious, since my experience of these books cannot really be described as “enjoyment.”

In The Long Utopia, life on the Long Earth continues as it did when we left it. The Next, the evolved super-smart humans we met in The Long Mars, have found a home up in the High Meggers, tens of thousands of Eart... Read More

A Slip of the Keyboard: Too comprehensive, or not comprehensive enough

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett

A Slip of the Keyboard collects much of Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction. In speeches, articles, and letters, Pratchett holds forth on a variety of subjects, ranging from book tours to hats to policies relating to Alzheimer’s and assisted dying. He also discusses Australia, conventions, and his development as a writer.

The book is divided into three sections, and I found the third section, entitled “Days of Rage,” the most powerful. Most of these texts touch on either Alzheimer’s or assisted dying. Eager to move past any taboo related to his disease, Pratchett concisely and generously shares what he experiences before urging his audience to take action. Though many lines stand out in this section, here is one that struck me: “It occurred to me that at one point it ... Read More

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: Less fun than I expected

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of fourteen stories written by Terry Pratchett and illustrated by Mark Beech. Each page of the books is covered in wacky fonts or scribbles to emphasize certain words and phrases, and the lines of print are double-spaced to promote easy reading for young eyes. The entire book is clearly engineered for elementary school readers. The stories were written when Pratchett was a teenager, working for his local newspaper; Pratchett writes in the Introduction that he touched them up a little before publication, though much of the weakness of style and craft which are to be expected from such an immature writer still remain.

The tales themselves are enjoyable, I suppose, though I think I would have appreciated the silliness and rand... Read More

Goodbye, Sir Terry Pratchett

Just an hour ago Sir Terry Pratchett's publisher, Larry Finlay, announced Terry's death. He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease in 2007, but found ways to continue writing even after he lost the ability to type.

Terry Pratchett's last Tweets.

Terry Pratchett will be remembered for his DISCWORLD novels especially. Though they may seem like goofy satires and parodies, they are always deeply thoughtful and often emotionally striking. And they almost always include more pithy phrasing than any one person should have been allowed to craft.

Pratchett was an innovator. He was quick to embrace the computer and to use the internet in his writing and for interacting with his audience. He was a defender of scientific... Read More

Pratchett’s Women: An interesting perspective on a fantasy legend

Pratchett's Women by Tansy Rayner Roberts

I discovered something about myself by reading Pratchett’s Women, which is always a worthwhile thing. What I discovered was that, although I rejoice greatly at the presence of strong female characters in a book, I don't necessarily notice their absence as much. Now that I'm aware, hopefully that won't be true so much.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, herself an award-winning fantasy author, analyses most (but not all) of Terry Pratchett's books from a feminist perspective, and finds them... mixed. She praises the improvement from the early busty bimbos (who were, at least, people with lines and opinions and wants, if still stereotypes) to the later women like Cheery Littlebottom, Lady Sybil, Susan Death and, of course, the witches, while still criticising a few significant slips eve... Read More

More speculative fiction by Terry Pratchett

The Bromeliad Trilogy — (1988-1990) Ages 9-12. The omnibus edition contains all three novels: Truckers, Diggers, Wings. Publisher: In a world whose seasons are defined by Christmas sales and Spring Fashions, hundreds of tiny nomes live in the corners and crannies of a human-run department store. They have made their homes beneath the floorboards for generations and no longer remember — or even believe in — life beyond the Store walls. Until the day a small band of nomes arrives at the Store from the Outside. Led by a young nome named Masklin, the Outsiders carry a mysterious black box (called the Thing), and they deliver devastating news: In twenty-one days, the Store will be destroyed. Now all the nomes must learn to work together, and they must learn to think — and to think BIG. Part satire, part parable, and part adventure story par excellence, master storyteller Terry Pratchett’s engaging trilogy traces the nomes’ flight and search for safety, a search that leads them to discover their own astonishing origins and takes them beyond their wildest dreams.

book review Terry Pratchett Bromeliad, Truckers, Diggers, Wingsbook review Terry Pratchett Bromeliad, Truckers, Diggers, Wingsbook review Terry Pratchett Bromeliad, Truckers, Diggers, Wings

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Carpet People — (1971) Publisher: In the beginning, there was nothing but endless flatness. Then came the Carpet… That’s the old story everyone knows and loves. But now the Carpet is home to many different tribes and peoples and there’s a new story in the making. The story of Fray, sweeping a trail of destruction across the Carpet. The story of power-hungry mouls — and of two Munrung brothers, who set out on an amazing adventure. It’s a story that will come to a terrible end — if someone doesn’t do something about it. If everyone doesn’t do something about it … Co-written by Terry Pratchett, aged seventeen, and master storyteller, Terry Pratchett, aged forty-three.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Dark Side of the Sun — (1976) Publisher: For Dom Sabalos, heir to an immensely rich family, its forecasts were curiously contradictory: he would be assassinated, and after that, find the fabulous, almost mythical, world of the Jokers, who were only known by a few incredible artifacts scattered throughout the Galaxy. Any good P-Mathematician could find out this information. Somebody certainly wanted to prove P-Math wrong as far as Dom was concerned, and make sure that once he was dead, he stayed dead. A robot assassin, with built-in ‘luck’, had been put on his tail, but what was it that protected Dom every time the assassin struck? To be sure, he had an excellent robot servant, Isaac; (class 5with Man-Friday subcircuitry), a planet (the First Syrian Bank)as a god-father, a determined and protective grandmother (who looked as if she had been born aged eighty), a security chief who even ran checks on himself, and a home world, where a missing hand was only a minor mishap and even death was not always fatal. But what protected Dom on his search for the world which he knew lay on the dark side of the sun?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsStrata — (1981) Publisher: THE COMPANY BUILDS PLANETS. Kin Arad is a high-ranking official of the Company. After twenty-one decades of living, and with the help of memory surgery, she is at the top of her profession. Discovering two of her employees have placed a fossilized plesiosaur in the wrong stratum, not to mention the fact it is holding a placard which reads, ‘End Nuclear Testing Now’, doesn’t dismay the woman who built a mountain range in the shape of her initials during her own high-spirited youth. But then came discovery of something which did intrigue Kin Arad. A flat earth was something new…

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter The Long EarthDodger — (2012) Publisher: A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s… Dodger. Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl — not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England. From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery. Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy’s rise in a complex and fascinating world.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction — (2012) Publisher: A collection of short fiction from Terry Pratchett, spanning the whole of his writing career from schooldays to Discworld and the present day. In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short-form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett’s long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press, and the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series. Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas, all of it shot through with Terry’s inimitable brand of humour. With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself, this is a book to treasure.