Visiting Discworld, a Series of Books By Terry Pratchett

Genesis: Back in ’95, I came upon a little known book called Good Omens written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Now I knew about Gaiman from his Sandman series (call it a backlash of having a geeky comic aficionado for a boyfriend). Pratchett, on the other hand, was a stranger to me. I bought the book, read it, and instantly fell in love with it. Since I was already following Gaiman in the aforementioned seminal series courtesy of my boyfriend’s collection, I thought I should give his writing partner a try. I immediately bought the first Pratchett book I could find, which was Soul Music of the Discworld series.

Now� thirty books later, I simply cannot get enough of Terry Pratchett. His books have become an intricate part of my literary sustenance. Nothing is sweeter than a new Discworld book. Every time a new book is announced, I must admit I get all groupie-like and scream my head off.

And why not? Discworld is a remarkably smart and hysterically funny series in which comedy comes primarily from the characters and never from the plot. It’s very hard to define what it is exactly. It’s part fantasy, part social commentary, and part parody (although Pratchett himself doesn’t like calling any of the Discworld books as parody but rather “resonances”).

At its very foundation, the series is about a world that sort of resembles Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but not really. And, yes, it is disc-shaped. Like a giant geographical pizza, the world rests on the backs of four gigantic elephants that stand on the back of an even more gargantuan turtle. But, while this is a very fascinating fact to know, it seldom has anything to do with the plots. Discworld is really about the people, dwarves, witches, wizards, werewolves, vampires, trolls, gods, and any other beings with brains slightly bigger than your average oyster, that calls Discworld home.

Not all 30 plus books tackle the same set of characters. Each book has been written as standalone, which means you can pick up a book and not worry about any back story or history. There are, however, mini-series within the series. These are

� The Lancre Coven Books. These stories focus on the witches of the kingdom of Lancre, mainly Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and later Agnes Nitt. The stories themselves are lifted from literature, satirizing everything from Shakespeare to Opera. The Lancre coven themselves started out as a parody of the witches in Macbeth.

âÂ?¢ The Rincewind/Wizards Books. Stories dealing with the completely inept wizard Rincewind. His specialty is knowing when to run as fast and as far away as possible from danger (which, as far as he’s concerned, is all the time). Oh, and he’s always followed by a luggage with legs.

âÂ?¢ The Death Books. The novels center on the anthropomorphic personification of Death and his companions. Of course, he’s a skeleton in black robes, carrying a scythe AND ALWAYS TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

âÂ?¢ The Tiffany Aching Books. Children’s tales dealing with the development of Tiffany Aching, a young girl who has the unusual allies of the Nac Mac Feegle.

âÂ?¢ The City Watch Books. My personal favorite. Led by Samuel Vimes, these are stories about Ankh-Morpork’s police force, the City Watch. Among the main characters include, Carrot Ironfoundersson (the true heir to the throne of Ankh Morpork but would rather be a copper), Angua (vegetarian by day, werewolf by night), Fred Colon (Sergeant for life), Detritus (Ankh Morpork’s success story) and “Nobby” Nobbs (shows certificate to prove he’s human).

� And others.

These mini-series have their set of characters and plot development but it’s not unusual to see them crossover on other books.

What I like best about the Discworld series is that it is inhabited by all sorts of very real (not to mention unusual) characters with surprisingly real problems.

My favorite has always been Sam Vimes of the “City Watch” books and a close second is Granny Weatherwax of the “Witches” books. They’re not evil as such but they’re not heroes as well. Not by a long stretch. They know deep down how twisted and bad and they’re constantly guarding themselves from submitting to the darkness of their own hearts. As Vimes is quick to answer when asked who watches the watchmen, “me.”

In Discworld, the stories take place in all sorts of places. In the mountains, the desert, exotic locales, highland kingdoms. The biggest city is Ankh-Morkpork – city of a thousand wonder – a sort of amalgamation of Victorian London and modern-day New York. It’s lovingly called The Great Wahoonie by its culturally-diverse citizens, an allusion New York’s Big Apple nickname. It is a fast-growing metropolis with developments that are not unlike that in our world, like the semaphore or clacks technology.

Essentially, Discworld is a cohesive, well-defined world that Pratchett uses to tell these amazing stories. There are detective stories, straight sword and sorcery stories, commentaries on pop culture, religion, politics and literature, children’s stories, animal storiesâÂ?¦ essentially, if it’s a story that can be told through humor (what story couldn’t be?), you can find it on Discworld.

Terry Pratchett has created a large volume of work that’s easily accessible. All you need in order to enjoy Discworld is a sense of humor. Not even that. You just need to be able to enjoy good books.

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