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A Brief Introduction to Discworld Novels.

April 4, 2018

My last post was a quote from Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels. I also posted the quote on facebook. One of my friends, a missionary pilot living in Indonesia for over 17 years, asked if the Discworld novels are good. I answered his question on facebook, and decided to post my answer here on wordpress too. The links go to facebook pages. Here is what I wrote to my friend Craig:

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

British author Terry Pratchett wrote 41 Discworld novels before he died in 2015. I’ve read something like 20 of them.

The books are fantasy novels, but are also satire. These are the only fantasy novels I like to read. I’m not a fan of the genre in general, though I used to be when I was younger.

Discworld is a flat, round planet, that sits atop four planet-size elephants, that are standing on an even more massive sea turtle, which swims slowly through space. The Disc spins around like a record album.

Some Discworld books are funny, some are more serious. But all of them have a definitely British style of writing and humour.

A few of the books have a tiny bit of profanity and a bit of double entendre, but otherwise are suitable for all ages.

Pratchett sometimes liked to do parodies of Shakespeare or other stories, and occasionally included references to pop culture.

He liked to take on subjects of race, religion, and politics, but not in an annoying way.

For example, some books deal with Dwarfs vs. Trolls – these two races hate each other. A couple books deal with dwarf politics and spirituality – moderates vs. radicals.

There are four main Discworld series. My favorite is referred to as The Watch or Night Watch. These are police procedural mysteries set in a Renaissance-era city based on London, but a city inhabited by three main species – humans, dwarfs and trolls, and several other types of people- gnomes, vampires, werewolves, and others, all living in a massive city.

The watch books: Guards! Guards! , Men at Arms (my favorite) Feet of Clay, Jingo (this one is a parody of the assassination of JFK, and elements from the film, “Lawrence of Arabia,”), The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, and Thud! (yes, the exclamation point is included in the title).

The other series I like is about 3 witches. They are based in a tiny mountain kingdom, and have many adventures. There are 6 of these books about the 3 witches .. some of the titles have purposely misspelled words..

Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters (a dark parody of Macbeth and King Lear), Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade (a parody of Phantom of the Opera), and Carpe Jugulum. Witches Abroad and Maskerade are the funniest, and best of these, in my opinion.

There are also books about another witch, and a huge tribe of tiny Scotsmen- type characters, who are rather irreverent, and called the Wee Free Men. I’ve only read one of these books. It was ok. Actually, I didn’t finish that one. Nevermind.

There is a series about the adventures of a hapless wizard named Rincewind. He, by accident, learned a spell that can destroy the world. He can never say it, and it takes up so much of his mind, that he was never able to learn any other spells at the wizard school called Unseen University.

The earlier Discworld books were published before Harry Potter. I’m pointing this out so that the Pratchett books won’t seem like a knock-off. Only males, with one exception, become wizards, and only women become witches. Also, I still don’t know why the school is called Unseen University, since its campus can be seen.. anyway. I only read two and a half of the Rincewind books – I don’t like these much, but other folks do.

The last series is about the Grim Reaper (just referred to as Death), and his adopted family. Death is the only character who shows up in all the books. There’s always at least a few incidental characters dying, and Death always has brief, usually amusing conversations with these characters right after they’ve died.

I’ve only read one of the Death novels. It was alright, but I prefer to re-read (lots of times) the Watch books, mostly. I’ll get to those other ones, eventually, I suppose. Or maybe not.

There are some standalone Discworld novels as well. The one I like best is a parody of the Golden Age of Hollywood, called “Moving Pictures.” Another good one is about the invention of the printing press and the first newspaper. It is called “The Truth.”

A novel co-written by Terry Pratchett that is not a Discworld novel, but is certainly worth mentioning, and worth reading and re-reading: “Good Omens,” co-written by Neil Gaiman, who has written mostly much darker, modern fantasy novels – some worth reading, some..not so much.

“Good Omens” is a parody of the events leading up to the End of Days. If you have seen the original version of the classic horror film, “The Omen,” you will get more of the jokes and references. But you don’t need to see the movie to appreciate the book.

The film is about the Antichrist as a kid. One of the main characters of the novel is also the Antichrist as a boy – but he’s not evil. Other main characters are an angel and a demon (both in human form) who team up to try to prevent the End from happening, because they rather enjoy life on earth. There’s also a young witch, and a young man who is a witchfinder sent to stop her, but they team up instead. And the four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse.

Death, being one of them, is in this novel too. Pestilence resigned in frustration, because vaccines were created to wipe out so many diseases, and was replaced by Pollution. War is a woman, and foreign correspondent. Famine is a diet guru.

I’ve read a lot of novels. Good Omens is one of the best I’ve ever read. Not as offensive to Christians as you might guess.. well.. depending on the Christian. I think you’d really like the book.

Can you download books online – from Amazon – onto a computer or kindle?

If so, I’d say start with “Good Omens,” or, if you want to jump into Discworld, either “Moving Pictures,” or else start with the first Watch book, Guards! Guards!

How do you get mail? Is it possible to send packages via MAF, or just send them directly?

When I was selling stuff on ebay years ago, I read about many vendors refusing to send merchandise to Indonesia. Is it tough to get mail there? I never sent anything to Indonesia.

Any idea how much sending a few books would cost to send from Boise to Terakan?

Ok then.. hope you enjoyed my lengthy summary! You might really like these books!

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