To be blunt, Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is something that every self-respecting fantasy lover should have on his or her bookshelf. I would say the best way to sum up the series is if you took every fantasy trope from fairy tales to Tolkien, mixed them with lots of self-referential humor, added some British sarcasm and wit, the resulting concoction would be the comedic epic that has sold millions of copies worldwide. It is basically the perfect series.
Discworld tells the story of the titular Discworld, a flat round planet that rests atop four elephants which in turn rest upon the back of the Great A,tuin, a gigantic turtle flying through space. The first book is concerned with the bumbling wizard Rincewind as he accompanies the Disc’s first tourist, Twoflower. Trust me; it’s better than it sounds. From that first book spawned a 39 book series, numerous guide books, stage adaptations, video games, television specials, and even a GURPS module.
The secret to the greatness of the series is that it combines every literary cliché written with great characters, stories, and humor. For example at one point in the book Guards, Guards, the characters know that a million to one shot always works. So in an attempt to slay a rampaging dragon, they decided to make sure that their odds are exactly a million to one which they accomplish by handicapping the archer as many ways as possible. Sadly, it was not quite a million to one. The setting of Discworld runs on the idea that if it is in a story, it exists. For example the series’ vampires are examples of every vampire in fiction and folklore.
One of the best aspects of the series is its accessibility to new readers. You can literally pick up any book and start reading. You may have no idea who the characters are, but you can do it. Basically, you do not have to start with the first book, Colour of Magic to understand the rest of the series. Rather, the series is divided into what is best described as story groups. There are currently about eight story groups with various stand-alone novels. The best way to get into the series is to start with the first book in that group. For example, the aforementioned Guards, Guards is the first book about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and Colour of Magic is the first book in the Rincewind/Wizards books.
Any discussion of Discworld will unfortunately bring up a sad matter. Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. As of yet, it has not affected his work and he still manages to write about a novel a year. However, I must admit the latter novels tend to be a bit darker than his earlier, sillier works. He admits that this is due to him maturing as a writer.
I cannot really do the series justice in terms of its creativity and wit. Overall, the series is a must read for any fan of fantasy, as it references just about everything. Not only that, it references a ton of popular culture. The book Soul Music is about when rock and roll first arrives on the Discworld. What follows is an epic series of rock and roll puns and references. In short, if you love fantasy and witty humor definitely pick up this series. You’ll be glad you did.
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