Book written by Terry Pratchett
I am a better person because of Terry Pratchett. Ideally, all fiction leaves us a little better off than before the reading. I think most artists intend to reach their audience and impart wisdom, knowledge, understanding,… some message that the creator believes needs to be imparted. Great artists transmit their message in a way that engages their audience and audiences tend to be more engaged when they don’t feel like they are being lectured. Harry Potter books definitely contain messages about inclusiveness, the nature of evil, etc. but they also entertain. Essentially, they bury the lead. It’s been done before… and Terry Pratchett predates J.K. Rowling.
Odds are you know the name because Pratchett is one of the five or six best selling English language authors of the last twenty years. On the other hand, his work has been primarily in fantasy with a smattering of young adult novels, so a lot depends on which parts of the bookstore you were willing to set foot in (back in the day when you had to set foot in a physical location).
The vast majority of Pratchett’s work takes place on the Discworld, a planet filled with most of the fantasy tropes popular before Game of Thrones dominated the genre. From Robert E. Howard to Fritz Lieber (and many, many more) you can find myriad references that even passing notice will bring to mind. Essentially though, the Discworld quickly became a pallet for Pratchett to explore themes of disenfranchisement, prejudice, economic development, police techniques, government, and the meaning of life. Most interesting is the way he has moved away from those really big questions and focused more on the practical details as time has gone by (or rather how pragmatism manifests the really big questions). Maybe the big questions really are only a mug’s game for youthful philosophers… Once you get past them, then you see all the more interesting matters sitting in front of you in the real world… or in Ankh Morpork, the largest city of the Discworld.
As anyone exposed to any of those epic fantasy series on television or in oversized books knows all too well, the basic requirements tend to include disharmony and ultimate evil. Other than a very questionable traveling trunk, ultimate evil rarely appears as such in Pratchett’s world, although Death personified appears frequently. Generally speaking, Death does his best given his social circumstances. Pratchett himself met Death a couple years ago, which might have been where he last crept across your news feed.
The thing is that Pratchett sneaks up on you with the whole wisdom thing, hidden in humorous books wrapped in fantasy. While the concept may challenge your preconceived notions, the ideas always end up with a full vetting. The Night Watch and the Mint all end up with deep dives, sociological and entertaining.
Lastly, anyone who has read any books by Pratchett will have an opinion about where you should begin, but they are not so much in an order. My favorite may be The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, but Thud! is a remarkable achievement, though many, many others match it.
Pratchett wrote over thirty Discworld novels. As a world building achievement, it exceeds virtually all other entries (though Hal Clement receives the nod in the science fiction category). Like the best world building, it mirrors aspects of our reality while allowing for powerful commentary on the happenings in our lives. I don’t consider Pratchett’s forerunner as J.R.R. Tolkien so much as Evelyn Waugh. Waugh might well be aggrieved to be seen in the works of a fantasist and Pratchett always argued that literature was where you found it, exclusive of genre definitions. I would like to think they would see the stinging social commentary delivered with great humor and hard-earned wisdom in each other’s work.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 271 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.