Pratchett, Terry

About the Author:

 

Sir Terrence David John Pratchett OBE once held the dubious honour of being Britain's most-shoplifted author.  He lived in Wilshire, England until his death in 2015.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3.6 out of 5

(21 books)

Carpe Jugulum

The kingdom of Lancre falls under the sway of a family of vampires.  But these are vampires with a difference; they have realised that if the don't believe the social conditioning about things such as garlic and sunlight, then they can't be harmed by those things.  Standing against them are Lancre's witches, a doubting (doubtful?) priest and the Nac Mac Feegle, the Wee Free Men. 

The base story here is both comic and tension filled and would be worth reading as it is, however, Prachett gives us more.  A subplot involves Granny Weatherwax questioning not only whether she should fight this new evil, but also if her dark ancestry means she should join with the vampires.  The comedy is maintained throughout by the butler Igor, whose old-fashioned ways lead him to go to lengths such as constantly adding cobwebs that the progressive vampires clean away and to look forward to a good old pitchfork-wielding mob. 

My personal favourite element of the book, though, is the Wee Free Men.  How can you not like a charming race of smurfs whose chief pursuits are drinking, fighting 'an snafflin coobeastie!'.

5 out of 5

 

Equal Rites

The third Discworld novel and Pratchett's first attempt to use the series to write a coherent story, rather than a manic series of sketch-like scenes.  The premise is this; in Discworld there is male magic (for wizards) and female magic (for witches).  However, things become more complicated when a girl named Esk is accidentally given a powerful wizard's staff as her own. 

Esk is a great character, her determination and comic child-logic making her escapades wholly readable.  However, more than Esk, I liked Granny Weatherwax.  Granny's stubborn refusal to be wrong, her slightly warped view of the world and her implaccable manners make her the best Discworld character since Death and the Luggage. 

Together Esk and Granny travel to Ankh-Morpork to find Esk's place in the chauvinistic world of the Unseen University.  I really enjoyed the showdown between Granny and the UU's Archchancellor, which leads to cooperation, grudging friendship and amusing geriatric flirtation. 

As ever, Pratchett's humour is strong and satirical, but is blended perfectly into the overall flow of the story.

4 out of 5

 

Eric

Once again, a logical plot is sacrificed in favour of introducing a series of comical concepts.  Here Pratchett uses the Discworld to pull apart the Aztec culture, horny teenage geeks, Homeric legend and Dante's concept of Hell. 

It was in the psuedo-Troy sequence that I laughed out loud, when it turned out that the woman whose kidnap had begun the war a decade earlier had gotten fat and unattractive during the ten year siege.  Another of my favourite moments was when, at the end of the universe, the King of Hell asks Death if he's seen anyone; "Yes" replies Death.  "Who?".  "Everyone." 

When all is said and done Pratchett's best concept in this book is the idea that matter is constantly being created in the universe, under fridges and the like, in the form of paperclips, marbles and those little clips you get out of new shirts.

3 out of 5

 

Hogfather

In this Discworld novel, Pratchett sets his satirical sights on that most ridiculous of things, the modern Christmas.  No part of the festive season is left unpicked, making this an especially good book to read around the 25th of December. 

The author also brings into view the fact that we humans have a tendency to ascribe things which we don't understand to the most bizarre things; hence the appearance here of the Verruca Gnome, the Sock Eater and a mention for the thieving Electric Drill Chuck Key Fairy.  As always (in the books I mean, not real life), Death is hilarious.  His misguided attempts at becoming the spirit of Hogswatch cheer make for the most amusing moments of the book. 

The downsides to the book are Pratchett's usual clunky writing style, the fact that the scenes involving Ridcully and co. are all too familiar and the story thread featuring Mister Teatime is hard to follow, obscure and generally quite boring.

4 out of 5

 

Jingo

The 21st Discworld novel and the fourth starring Ankh-Morpork's City Watch.  When an island emerges from the sea between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch, it soon becomes clear that a war has to be started for possession of the island.  However, Commander Sam Vimes of the Watch has a revolutionary idea; what if there was peace instead.  Determined to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of the impending conflict, Vimes and the City Watch take up arms in the hopes of not having to fight.

This is the twentieth Discworld book I've read (not in order, I might add) and I've recently realised that there are basically two types of Discworld book.  The first kind are entirely based around a great comic idea but tend not to be great books, whereas the second kind are great books which have some great comic ideas in them.  It sounds like pedantry, but genuinely there is a clear line between books where Pratchett puts the idea first and the ones where he puts the story first.  This, thankfully, is definitely one of the latter.

This book's focus on Sam Vimes being a man totally dedicated to the concept of law and order at a time when chaos and violence are governmental policy is it's strongest element.  There are nice touches, such as the exploration of the relationship between Angua (a werewolf) and Carrot (a human raised by dwarves) or the world views of Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs.  Ultimately, however, it is Vimes' determination to see justice served, even if it means arrested two whole armies on the field of battle, that draws you on through this thoroughly enjoyable book.

4 out of 5

 

Lords And Ladies

A Discworld novel which sees the witches of Lancre facing off against a dire inhuman threat from another world.  The elves have returned, but they're neither wise nor friendly and only Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and soon-to-be-Queen Magrat Garlick can prevent them from bringing about a new dark age.

Usually Discworld books tend to fall at one or other extreme of having a very funny core conceit or being well-told character stories, but this book falls somewhere in between.  There is a great deal of humour in here, but a lot of it feels out of place in a book which actually has quite a serious fantasy premise.  Similarly, there's some really good character work here but it feels compromised by the more farcical elements, as if Pratchett wasn't yet confident in setting aside certain Discworld tropes that had gained the series its initial fan following.

These elements combine to leave this book feeling pretty middle-of-the-road.  That said, I did absolutely love the idea that Esme Weatherwax and Mustrum Ridcully were once paramours.

3 out of 5

 

Monstrous Regiment

In the early Discworld books Pratchett used to come up with some great comic ideas, but seemed to have a lot of trouble stringing them together into a coherent plot.  Now, however, he seems to have mastered both the comedy and the plotting. 

This book is about a bizarre bunch of army recruits, which includes a troll and a vampire, but who discover they all share a secret.  Beneath the trousers, the swearing and the farting, they are all girls.  This plotline gives the author the chance to explore the funnier elements of the gender gap, whilst also satirising the historical treatment of women.  There's also quite a sharp comment about God here too, as the god of Borogravia, Nuggan, dispenses ridiculous commandments, only to turn out to be long dead, the commandments merely a manifestation of fear and ignorance. 

I really enjoyed this book, the depiction of the true skill of NCOs (ie working around stupid officers) being perhaps my favourite element.  The ending was somewhat ruined for me, however, by the sad inevitability of the 'revelation' about Sergeant Jackrum.  I definitely feel the book would have been better off, more poignant certainly, without that element.

4 out of 5

 

Mort

The fourth Discworld novel sees Death take on an apprentice, Mort, who he hopes will one day take over the business and marry his adopted daughter Ysabell.  However, when Death begins to do less and less of his work and Mort can't resist the urge to save the life of a doomed princess, all of reality is threatened, with hilarious consequences.

Despite being one of the earliest ones, this is also one of the best Discworld books, with a thoroughly engaging cast of characters and a well-constructed story.  Pratchett's works are always better when he prioritises narrative over comedy and that's the case here, although there is of course plenty of comedy too.

It doesn't hurt, of course, for the focus of the book to be the Grim Reaper's misguided attempts to expand his humanity (going so far as to take on a job as a chef - not that most chefs are anywhere near human).  But Mort himself is also a great character, never falling into the trap of being a simpering nitwit like Rincewind (who does make a brief appearance) and having a genuine and compelling story arc. 

The one downside to this book is that the ending is a bit rushed and generally feels somewhat unsatisfactory.

4 out of 5

 

Moving Pictures

A Discworld book in which Pratchett sets his satirical sights on Hollywood.  Victor the almost-wizard, Ginger the milkmaid, cunning salesman Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler and Gaspode the Wonder Dog are among the various individuals who find themselves mystically drawn to Holy Wood, where a group of alchemists have just invented the moving picture (it involves a team of imps painting furiously whilst motivated by handle-operated whips).

The world of Hollywood, particularly the so-called Golden Era, is so rife with farce and falsehood that it's a perfect target for the author's brilliant talent for satire.  Pratchett makes some really insightful jabs at the movie industry; not least of all the way in which it gets hijacked by crass commercialism.

Unfortunately, whilst there are some good comic observations, as a novel this book falls a bit flat.  With the exception of the scene-stealing Gaspode, the characters are all just a bit underdeveloped and with the main protagonist, Victor, the author never seems to quite decide whether he's well-informed, a hapless reactionary, reluctant and lazy or proactively heroic.  There's no actual development to him, he just jumps from one to another at random.  Also, the female lead, Ginger, has very little to actually do, which is doubly disappointing when Pratchett makes a point of satirising the fact that women in old movies were largely there just to look good and be rescued.

2 out of 5

 

Night Watch

I was quite surprised by the nature of this Discworld novel.  It's not a series of crazy adventures that parody mainstays of the fantasy genre and it's not a full-length parody of any one type of story either.  It's barely a comedy at all.  Instead Pratchett surprised me with a mature book about the simple people who try to follow their consciences and live their lives when the world around is politically polarised. 

The premise of the book didn't impress me, with Duke Sam Vimes being transported back in time to take the place in history of his own mentor.  However, the actual content of the story, as Sam tries to save Ankh-Morpork from the riots he knows are impending, whilst trying to teach his younger self how to be a good copper makes for compelling reading. 

Alot of Discworld fans probably won't like this book, but I enjoyed seeing the author experiment with a different style of writing and type of story

4 out of 5

 

Pyramids

A stand-alone Discworld novel.  Teppic has been trained as an assassin amid the deadly streets of Ankh-Morpork but is not prepared for the challenges that face him when his father dies and he must return to his homeland to become its new God-King.

Here Pratchett sets his sights on the mythology of ancient Egypt and explores all the potentially farcical extrapolations of a culture whose mortal ruler is a deity and whose dead are set up to live forever within the immense edifices of the title.  As well as that, its a satisfyingly archetypal story of a young man trying to return to a home he has outgrown.

Whilst not the funniest, best-written or most epic of the Discworld novels, this is nevertheless an entertaining read with plenty of Pratchett's trademark satirical observations.  It also introduces us to a character who lifts every scene which features him and rates alongside such others as Death and the Luggage; the mathematical genius You Bastard, who happens to be a camel.

4 out of 5

 

Small Gods

A Discworld novel in which the status quo of the fanatically religious nation of Omnia is endangered by the arrival of its god.  The only problem is that the Great God Om has been forced to inhabit the body of a tortoise due to there actually only being one person who really believes in him; the novice Brutha.

This isn't the first or last time that Pratchett tackles the ideas of religions and how they affect believers and non-believers alike, but it is certainly one of the most focused.  Here we see entrenched religious dogma put to the test by such things as science, philosophy and, worst of all, the actual god in question.

The problem I have with this book is the same as with any other stand-alone of this series; it feels small an isolated in the (much) larger story of the Discworld.  For some, this independent nature will actually feel like a benefit, but for me it just makes this book feel smaller than it is (a somewhat ironic turn of events, given the story).

Not a bad book, but not one which will ever come near topping my list of Discworld favourites.

3 out of 5

 

Soul Music

A Discworld novel.  With the debut in Ankh-Morpork of a group of musicians in possession of an eldritch guitar, a powerful new force is unleashed upon the Discworld; the power of Music With Rocks In.  Meanwhile, Death has abandoned his duties in an attempt to forget a painful event, causing his estranged human granddaughter Susan to take up the family business.

Death is my favourite Discworld character and, in an extension of that, I also love the no-nonsense Susan too.  The development of their relationships with each other and with their shared history is this book's strongest element.  Had this book been exclusively about Death's misguided attempts to lose himself in the human world and Susan's attempts to become Death, but better, then it would've been one of the best Discworld books I've read so far.  Unfortunately, their story is largely sidelined for most of the book.

Something that Pratchett eventually got out of the (bad) habit of, this book, like many of the early-to-mid Discworld books, adopts the ethos that a good story should never get in the way of a comic idea.  By which I mean, the actually engaging story of Death and Susan, gets drowned under the author's idea of introducing rock music into his fantasy world.  What this largely involves is a long series of puns.  They're not bad puns really, they're just not half as funny as they need to be to warrant taking over the majority of this book.  Be prepared for things like a guy whose surname means 'of the holly' to change his first name to Buddy, or the fact that this character is repeatedly described as 'elvish' whenever he gyrates his hips on stage.  There's a few vaguely amusing 'Blues Brothers' references too.

So, although the puns and occasional satire are amusing, they're not half as good as this book could have been if Pratchett had just committed to a character-focused story about Death and his granddaughter.

3 out of 5

 

Sourcery

The natural order of the Discworld is turned on it head when Coin, a Sourcerer, appears at the Unseen University and convinces the wizards there that it is time for them to take over the world.  Opposing Coin's brutal dominion are the Librarian, the Luggage, the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian and, of course, Rincewind. 

Pratchett, as always, offers countless comic concepts for us to get to grips with and Rincewind's cynical cowardice is as entertaining as ever.  However, somehow this book just failed to catch my imagination.  I think perhaps it's the fact that the story of the Disc being in peril with only Rincewind and an odd group of allies is not really anything new.  Also, there was something terribly uninspiring about sourcery as the threat and the endgame of the story just didn't work for me. 

So, this is a funny and clever book, but not a great novel.

3 out of 5

 

The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents

This book taught me why I have such problems with Pratchett's prose.  In his normal novels Pratchett seems to write under the impression that a book's intelligence is measured by how confused you can make the reader.  With this book, aimed at younger readers, Pratchett is forced to dispense with his jibberspeak and write plainly.  The result is the best of his books that I've read so far! 

With the dross swept away, we get a genuinely involving and tense story with characters that you actually like, rather than wishing they'd just shut up.  I'm afraid all too many people will overlook this book because it is aimed at a younger audience, but those who do read it will feel so very sorry for those who do not. 

The story revolves around a cat called Maurice and a group of rats who have all been Changed by magic and are now faced with an immensity of questions about their future and their purpose.  Whilst they wrestle with their consciences, Maurice (a very cunning street cat), convinces them into using the 'plague of rats' con on one more town.  However, beneath Bad Blintz, Maurice, the Clan and the stupid-looking kid, face a deadly evil.

5 out of 5

 

The Colour Of Magic

I'm not strictly a Pratchett fan, but this novel did encourage me to read more of his books.  The story hops around like a rabbit on steroids and Pratchett's prose is fairly clumsy and lacks flow, however, it is concept rather than literary skill that gives the author his appeal. 

The comic concepts here are very clever and poke fun at both fantasy and myth itself, my favourite scene being when Death and Fate have a tense confrontation.  Another brilliant concept is Rincewind's desire to discover a new understanding of the world (science), but is disappointed to learn that a small box with a lens that produces pictures is no more scientific than the small demon that lives inside it and paints. 

I also am very much a fan of the Luggage; never before has a wooden box with no dialogue been given such character.

Followed by 'The Light Fantastic'.

3 out of 5

 

The Last Continent

To figure out if you'll like this book, you simply need to answer the question 'Have you spent any time in Australia?'.  If the answer is no, then don't bother with 'The Last Continent', the core story is dull as dishwater; Rincewind runs around and the Unseen University Faculty act stupid and, as has happened before, Pratchett's prose is clumsy and hard to read. 

However, if the answer to the question is yes, then you'll find this book a very funny satirisation of the geography, culture and people of that unique country.  Among the highlights are the scene in which the UU Faculty accidentally invent the platypus whilst arguing about how a duck should look, Rincewind's beer soup becoming the brown glop later known as vegemite and the discovery that the Last Continent's non-dangerous wildlife extends to 'some of the sheep'. 

Finally, something that I discovered and adopted during my own time Down Under, there is a unique magic in the words 'No worries' or 'She'll be right', a magic that allows all the world's troubles to be taken in your stride until you can get hold of your next beer.

3 out of 5

 

The Last Hero

An illustrated 'Discworld fable'.  The ageing hero Cohen the Barbarian and his friends, frustrated with the state of the world and their own advancing years, decide to travel to the mountain at the centre of the Disc in order to return fire to the gods, in the form of a bomb.  To prevent this end-of-the-world catastrophe, the leading figures of Ankh-Morpork put together a team for a daring mission which will involve flying off the edge of the Disc, completing an orbit and then landing at Dunmanifestin, the home of the gods.  The team consists of the inventor Leonard da Quirm, Captain Carrot of the City Watch, the cowardly wizard Rincewind and a certain orange-furred Librarian.

Although, as ever, Pratchett deals with countless comic concepts in this book, there are two main targets of satire.  The first is the nature of heroic legends, with Cohen and his Silver Horde sticking to a Code which allows them to beat overwhelming odds and insists that you always have to let the Evil Dark Lord escape.  The second main comedic element is the flight of the Kite off of and around the Disc, with which Pratchett gets, rather surprisingly for a fantasy story, to tackle the trial and tribulations of a team of unlikely astronauts.  Unsurprisingly, the author does a great job tackling these ideas and the book overall really is very funny.

My biggest problem with this book are the illustrations.  Which is not to say that I don't like Paul Kidby's artwork.  In fact, the image of Death, Albert and the Grim Squeaker standing beneath the towering shape of A'tuin the Great Turtle's life-hourglass is a personal favourite of mine.  No, the problem is that the artwork is actually very distracting and is therefore detrimental to the actual text.  This was particularly problematic on the pages where there are images directly behind the text.

Basically this book is an enjoyable read but not one of the best in the Discworld series and one whose format will be off-putting to those of us who'd rather be reading a normal novel.

3 out of 5

 

The Light Fantastic

The second Discworld novel picks up where 'The Colour Of Magic' left off.  This gives the book its weakest moment in which a colossal deus ex machina saves Rincewind from falling off the edge of the world. 

Once again, Pratchett does jump quite suddenly from one scene or concept to a completely different one, but this is tempered here by the fact that there is an overarching plot: the Discworld's supposedly immanent collision with a great red star.  The various reactions to this impending apocalypse make for some very funny reading.  For instance, one refugee from a city explains that the star will burn all life, boil the seas and turn the land to glass and he is therefore heading to the mountains, "That'll help, will it?" asks Rincewind, to which the man replies "No, but the view will be better." 

In a change from the previous book, Twoflower isn't entirely annoying and Pratchett uses him for some great parodies of tourists.  Another bit I liked was where Rincewind maintains his sanity by not talking to trees, even though they're intent on talking to him. 

As usual, Pratchett's prose is often unwieldy, but for the most part the comic concepts presented here far outweigh that fault and that's before you take into account the presence of Pratchett's two best characters; Death and the Luggage.

4 out of 5

 

Witches Abroad

A Discworld novel.  When Magrat Garlick inherits the job of fairy godmother to a princess in a distant land, she sets off to take up her new position accompanied by the jovial and worldly Nanny Ogg and the uncompromising Granny Weatherwax.

At first this book had all too much of the circular bickering that held 'Wyrd Sisters' back from being one of the better Discworld books, but that rapidly changes when the three witches really get into their journey.  Most of the book is an enjoyable road-story in which the main characters find themselves faced with various fairy story situations.  Naturally, they're not likely to just allow things like wolves impersonating grandmothers and instead step in to demonstrate their unique views on the way the world should be.

Here Pratchett really capitalises on the characters of the three witches, with each balancing and complementing the others.  Magrat is the one who is constantly questioning and challenging, Nanny brings her worldliness and joie de vivre into the mix and finally the implacable Esme Weatherwax is the firm-jawed ramrod-straight assertion of How Things Should Be.  Here we also get hints of just how wicked a witch Granny Weatherwax could be if she chose, but we're left with the warm fuzzy feeling that, for all the bickering, she is made better by her companions.

As well as solid main characters, there's also a string of amusing folktale-based situations that the ladies from Lancre find themselves in, be it the vampire they inadvertantly stun with a sausage or the house which falls on Nanny Ogg prompting dwarfs to try to take her red shoes.  There's also a scene on an underground river where a distinctly Gollum-like creature approaches them, only to be whacked on the head with an oar.

4 out of 5

 

Wyrd Sisters

The sixth Discworld novel stars the witches Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat.  These 'wyrd sisters' become embroiled in royal politics in a story which parodies 'Macbeth', 'Hamlet' and Shakespeare in general.

This is an okay book all round.  There's nothing very wrong with it but by the same token there's nothing that really grabbed me either.  Its plotting and prose are definitely an improvement over the first couple of Discworld books but its characters are just not as compelling as, for example, Death.

So, not much more I can say really.  Just 'okay'.

3 out of 5

Collaborations & Anthologies:

Good Omens (here)

Legends (here)

The Wizards Of Odd (here)

Read more...

Fantasy (here)