▸ discworld

Read: Guards! Guards!

Another lengthy trip means another Terry Pratchett novel to pass the time (at the gate and on the plane) reading. And Pratchett’s comic fantasies are exactly what the doctor recommends… to get into the right, good mood for a vacation.

Guards! Guards! is the first full length feature of the Discworld’s City Watch. It is the first detailed description of the inner workings of Ankh-Morpork and its political arrangement. And, accidentally, it was the first Pratchett novel that I actually bought myself, back then when I still read my books in the German translation.

Already the way the City is run makes the novel well worth reading it. The Patrician is just such a brilliant character.

Incidentally, there is again an annotation available. Some of the finer details may be easily missed otherwise.

Read: Pyramids

Terry Pratchett’s novels are all just hilariously funny (at least the ones I have read so far). That is why I like to read them; especially on long trips or on the train to the office. They brighten my mood and sometimes they may even be instructive in one way or another. Pyramids definitely has instructive elements. It is a blend of physics, philosophy, politics, and ancient history. There are references to ancient Egypt (obviously), Greek, and Rome sprinkled with references to modern culture.

The references are so plentiful that – I have to admit – I most certainly did not “get” everything. Luckily, others already (ok, the book is some twenty years old) provide some annotations

Read: Wyrd Sisters

Holidays. Vacation time is also the time for me to read some relatively short novels during all the travelling around. Wyrd sisters, Terry Pratchett’s sixth Discworld novel suits my reading needs during my travels perfectly. It’s short. It’s funny. It’s easy to read.

Pratchett borrows from several Shakespeare plays for Wyrd Sister’s plot and from several fairy tales for it’s characters, that is their conversations. Thus, everything is more or less conversant. The familiar plot and characters make it easy to follow the story even in an environment that is full of distractions like a busy train or the airport lounge. Pratchett’s witty style results here in an absorbing little novel. Time just flies by. (Though not as fast as in the novel where a whole kingdom travels through time 15 years into the future.)

Read: Sourcery

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.

Read: Mort

Pratchett created a wonderful character: Death. You just have to love every encounter with this guy. Each dialog sparkles with this unique dry sense of humor that is one of the reasons I like Pratchett’s work.

Death appears in almost all Discworld novels. Mort, however, is the first book in which Death is one of the main characters and has more “page time” than otherwise.

Mort is definitely one of my favorite Discworld novels.

Read: Equal Rites

Pratchett’s third Discworld novel, Equal Rites, is delightfully distinct from the first two novels, especially from the second that tried a little too hard to be funny.

First, it’s plot is driven by a completely new cast, introducing the magical professions. Second, it addresses – in its own particular way – a pressing societal problem, gender differences and discrimination in the professional world starting with vocational choice and training. Third, the rhetoric changed. It is now more subtle, inducing every once in a while a quiet chuckle. Even the pace and structure changed. The story line is more linear, different plot elements build on each other and are more interwoven than before.

I consider this the real take-off of the Discworld series. From now on, Pratchett successfully published most years two or even more Discworld novels. Only recently he slowed down a bit.

Read: The Light Fantastic

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.

Read: The Colour of Magic

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.

Read: Going Postal

I already read Making Money last year after a long period of Pratchett abstinence. And thus I desperately wanted to read the prequel Going Postal that introduces Moist von Lipwig. Alas, there is only so much time.

Last week’s trip to Berlin – I was invited to a workshop – finally led to me reading the book on my by now not so new any more Sony ebook reader.

I am not an expert on the postal system. But, I think this novel took a lot less research than Making Money. It is rather the typical Pratchett paltering with stereotypes. Nevertheless, nice. I really do like Pratchett’s takes on the state, government, and democracy. Vetinari’s precious few remarks on these societal phenomena alone are worth reading the novel. I will most definitely read the next von Lipwig novel that is, again, supposed to deal with an economics topic: Raising Taxes.

Gelesen: Making Money

Es ist schon eine Weile her, dass ich ein Buch von Pratchett gelesen habe. Ich mag den Humor, den Wortwitz. Ich habe keine Ahnung, warum ich in der Discworldreihe nicht weitergelesen habe. Aber bei dem aktuellen Titel Making Money konnte ich nicht widerstehen.

Zum einen scheint die Zeit für den Titel gerade richtig zu sein, zum anderen habe ich auch eine kleine Vorliebe für den Humor meiner Profession.

Pratchett hat sich gut informiert. Nicht, dass viel Recherche notwendig gewesen wäre. Aber es erfreut einen schon, dass es keine inhaltlichen Patzer in Bezug auf das Geld gibt. So habe ich dann auch an einigen Stellen herzhaft lachen müssen. Vielleicht sollte ich doch wieder mehr Pratchett lesen… zumindest in das Prequel werde ich wohl hineinschauen. In Going Postal tauchen die Protagonisten von Making Money auch auf. Und vielleicht ist es nicht schlecht etwas mehr Hintergrund zu den Figuren zu haben. Pratchett hat ja die Angewohnheit seine Figuren über mehrere Bände hinweg weiterzuentwickeln.