Once you go Pratchett you never go back. The ninth discworld novel,
Faust Eric, is a bit shorter than usual. Yet, it has all the right ingredients for a great one with all its witty references to classical literature. The obvious one is Goethe’s Faust, the more funny one is Dante’s Inferno. I certainly like the link from Hell to bureaucracy… and how the literal interpretation of statements is brought to a new level.
Pratchett’s Discworld novel number five – Sourcery – features again Rincewind and (my favorite) Death, together with his three fellow horse-riders of the Apocralypse, the apocryphal apocalypse.
The story is nice and everything. It’s just apt to kill some time on a train trip. The most remarkable thing about this novel, however, is Pratchett’s extensive use of footnotes. There are 25 footnotes in total. There were some footnotes in his earlier novels, too. Yet, here he really establishes the footnote in his work as a literary device that provides a departure from the main narrative, tells a different story altogether, and provides meta-commentaries on the plot – a comic relief from an already comic novel.
The second Discworld novel is remarkably different from the first. While The Colour of Magic was almost chaotic, the plot a collection of seemingly random episodes of a Discworld-wide journey mixed with some clever puns and references to modern culture, The Light Fantastic is characterized by an almost linear plot, a few running gags, and barely any references to our modern world. Instead Pratchett includes relatively more allusions to ‘standard’ Fantasy novels. By doing so he tries very hard to (re-)define a genre: Comedic Fantasy Fiction.
The Light Fantastic follows the Law of Sequels. It does not achieve the entertainment value, the originality, and the appeal of its predecessor. The attempt to introduce a running gag is too stilted, it fails miserably. If it was not for Pratchett’s skillful writing the Discworld series [c|sh|w]ould have ended here. Mercifully, there are still a few rather funny lines that made me laugh out loud and saved the day.
As a result of a friends recommendation I already have read Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic some 15 years ago. Though I cannot remember wheter it was a German translation or the original I had a faint recollection of what the book is about. Having seen the TV adaption some time ago and having read the more recent Going Postal and Making Money I thought the Discworld novels would make a nice entry on my vacation reading list. I like regularity and structure, so I naturally start with Discworld novel one.
Now, during the last 15 years quite a bit changed and so did I and the way I perceive things. It is therefore not the funny, ironic style and cultural references of Pratchett’s that strikes me most. I first noticed that he really is a professional writer, his rhetoric includes all the moves that you would learn in an academic writing course. My second observation was that already in his first book I has some clever references to economic principles. This time it is the pitfalls of well intended but badly implemented (insurance) policies, how human behavior responses to economic incentives. In short, the unintended consequences of otherwise sound economic policies.