The Great Discworld Thread

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#41
The "A man's not dead while his name is still spoken" isn't entirely original - I think George Eliot said something similar. But Pratchett's delivery is spot on - he always manages to hit you just right.

The bit I quoted is about the Clacks (a semaphore system you'll get to in Going Postal); one way the clacksmen remember those who died on duty is by keeping their names moving up and down the line as part of the administration messages (the "Overhead") - so their names are always being spoken by the Clacks itself.

Some webmasters have started to do something similar for Terry himself, by putting his name in the page header text - you can't see it unless you look at the code. There's a BBC article about it, and here is the web page for it: www.gnuterrypratchett.com. There are even some Chrome extensions so you can see when a site has added the GNU, and one to add it to your contribution every time you fill in a text box.
 

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#42
The "A man's not dead while his name is still spoken" isn't entirely original - I think George Eliot said something similar
I also suspect it is not original to Pratchett - though I didn't know George Eliot was a possible originator . . . and I can't confirm it! Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (a fifty-year old copy) doesn't have it, and the web is so full of Pratchett references I can't get beyond them.
This might take some serious research!
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#43
I have decided not to stick with any of the reading orders that can be found on the internet or otherwise. I've opted to read the series in the order of publication. My reasons are: This way I expect to see the writing (and writing style) evolve.
@Silvion Night, Are you happy following the chronological publishing order? Have you compared notes with any other readers who chose differently? There are so many reading order suggestions… I tend to do my own thing regarding long series, just wondering how your view compares to what I have read on different websites. Thanks.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#44
@Silvion Night, Are you happy following the chronological publishing order? Have you compared notes with any other readers who chose differently? There are so many reading order suggestions… I tend to do my own thing regarding long series, just wondering how your view compares to what I have read on different websites. Thanks.
I am very happy following the chronological order. A friend of mine reads the series in the order of the various storylines, so naturally we have compared our strategies quite often over the last couple of months. The disadvantage of storyline approach (or so he tells me) is that it holds him back in reading the entire series. He doesn't like the Rincewind and Ancient Civilizations storylines, and he has therefore concentrated on the Witches and the City Watch storylines (he doesn't much care for the Death storyline either). He has now read his favorite storylines and he's currently at a standstill, because he can't motivate himself to read the storylines he doesn't like.

This is of course no problem if you don't have the ambition to read the entire series. However, when you do (like me), I think it's definitely best to read them chronologically. Sometimes you will encounter a book you like a bit less (Rincewind is my least favorite storyline for example, but I have the luck that I don't really dislike it), but you can breeze through these quite quickly, because as an added incentive you know that the next book will again be awesome.

At least, this is how I see it. My advice is that if you have the time and the motivation to read the series chronologically (also for the reasons I stated in my first post). If not, then it is probably best to pick the first book in a particular storyline, see whether you like it, and if so to proceed with that storyline until you've finished it.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#45
I am very happy following the chronological order. A friend of mine reads the series in the order of the various storylines, so naturally we have compared our strategies quite often over the last couple of months. The disadvantage of storyline approach (or so he tells me) is that it holds him back in reading the entire series. He doesn't like the Rincewind and Ancient Civilizations storylines, and he has therefore concentrated on the Witches and the City Watch storylines (he doesn't much care for the Death storyline either). He has now read his favorite storylines and he's currently at a standstill, because he can't motivate himself to read the storylines he doesn't like.

This is of course no problem if you don't have the ambition to read the entire series. However, when you do (like me), I think it's definitely best to read them chronologically. Sometimes you will encounter a book you like a bit less (Rincewind is my least favorite storyline for example, but I have the luck that I don't really dislike it), but you can breeze through these quite quickly, because as an added incentive you know that the next book will again be awesome.

At least, this is how I see it. My advice is that if you have the time and the motivation to read the series chronologically (also for the reasons I stated in my first post). If not, then it is probably best to pick the first book in a particular storyline, see whether you like it, and if so to proceed with that storyline until you've finished it.
Thank you! I’m happy to begin a long series but I couldn’t read it the way you are, book after book. I need to change genre often in order to avoid saturation and appreciate therefore what I’m reading. I will follow your advice on the chronological order. Only if I really dislike the The Colour of Magic, will I then switch to a storyline order.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#46
Only if I really dislike the The Colour of Magic, will I then switch to a storyline order.
Bear in mind though that The Colour of Magic is the weakest one of the entire bunch. Still. it's only 200 pages long, so you'll breeze through it in no time. So don't be too disappointed if you don't like it.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#47
Bear in mind though that The Colour of Magic is the weakest one of the entire bunch. Still. it's only 200 pages long, so you'll breeze through it in no time. So don't be too disappointed if you don't like it.
Thank you! I'll bear that in mind.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#48
Review: Jingo (Discworld 21)
With this one finished I am now halfway through the main Discworld series. I count Jingo, the fourth novel in the City Watch storyline, among my favorite Discworld novels. Below you can read why.

This book is all about Jingoism. There has always been healthy distrust between the citizens of Ankh-Morpork and the people of the Klatchian empire. Numerous wars have been fought in the past, but the last century or so the rulers of both nations were of the opinion that more money was to be made during peaceful times. However, this peaceful period abruptly comes to an end when a mysterious island rises up out of the ocean and is claimed by both Klatch and Ankh-Morpork. Matters spiral out of control and are exacerbated by an assassination attempt on the life of a Klatchian prince. Someone seems to want to instigate hostilities, but who? Commander Vimes and his Watchmen/woman/creatures set out to try and get to the bottom of this.

Jingoism is an interesting phenomenon in our real world, and even more so when it is extrapolated on the Discworld. As in many of Prachtett's books a mirror is held up to our own society which clearly reveals the absurdity of things we take for granted. This is a book that investigates 'us versus them' thinking and the 'underbelly' feeling that is so prevalent in our societies (and, judging by the course of history, seems to be part of human nature). It sharply ridicules various aspects of nationalistic thinking and it exposes the dangers this can pose. This is satire at its best.

And not to forget the dialogue; the dialogue between the characters in this book is amazing. In this regard it surpasses almost all of the other Discworld books I've read so far. There are certain scenes that involve Nobby, Colon and the Patrician that are so funny that I woke my wife and kid at 2am with my gales of laughter.

This is what makes the Discworld books so great. It has you contemplating difficult conundrums on 1 page and spray craft beer out of your nose because of your uncontrollable laughter on the next page. And all of that without getting preachy. In my opinion that's the mark of a true literary genius.

This book is immensely quotable. I have selected two short ones that I found to be particularly striking. The first is funny, the second one more serious.

You know what they say, lad: "Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life." See my point?
The night is always old. He'd walked too often down dark streets in the secret hours and felt the night stretching away, and known in his blood that while days and kings and empires come and go, the night is always the same age, always aeons deep. Terrors unfolded in the velvet shadows and while the nature of the talons may change, the nature of the beast does not.
As this is now among my favorite Discworld books you'll not be surprised that I rate this one highly, with a 9.5/10 (*****5 GoodReads stars).
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#49
Review: The Last Continent (Discworld 22)
Say one thing about Rincewind; say the books in which he feautures read away easily. It took me just two and a half days of reading during my daily commute to finish this puppy.

My thoughts on this one are mixed. On the one hand this was a breezy read. There's a lot of action and the banter between the characters is again top-notch. On the other hand, the reason why this is such a quick read is that the story is very basic. There are no major themes that require heavy thinking in this book, which is a shame really, as there were some references to for example the Theory of Evolution, which could certainly have been expounded on to make this book more enjoyable.

The sole purpose of this book is to good-naturedly poke fun at the continent of Australia (the Last Continent, or EcksEcksEcksEcks in Discworld-speak). Everything that has to do with this continent is satirized; the troubled past with the aboriginals, the fact that Australia was set up as a penal colony, the strange food (veggemite for example), the strange wildlife (most of which is dead set on killing humans), the weather (parched), the vernacular (oi mate, no worries), the music (I come from a land down under...), place names (dijabringabeeralong) etc. In my opinion the jibes are sometimes pretty funny, but more often miss their mark.

The only thing that really stands out in this book is the faculty of Unseen University. Via some byways the leading wizards also end up in Australia (oops, I mean EcksEcksEcksEcks), and their adventures are quite entertaining. Especially the part where Ponder Stibbons, Ridcully, the Dean and the other faculty members stumble upon an atheist god is amusing.

When I finished this book I couldn't help but think that it missed its mark. Sure, it must be hellavulotta fun when you're from Down Under yourself (have you read this one @Anti_Quated), but otherwise it is really nothing special. The reason why this book didn't work for me was that the best Pratchett novels are amazingly funny and profound. This book is neither. It is certainly not profound and it is only moderately funny. Especially so because the Australia jokes get tiring after a while. It's as if Pratchett had a big list of Australia jokes on a sheet of paper and decided to go through them one by one, ticking the box as it were, until there was a 400 page manuscript. What exacerbates this is that the main character is Rincewind who, like the bumbling baboon he is, finds himself running from "humorous" scene to "humouros" scene. The supporting characters he meets are almost exclusively shallow charicatures, which only reason to exist is to be used as props in Pratchett's Australia jokes. Also, even though the book is action-packed, it is never really exciting, as by now you know that although Rincewind is a champion at getting himself in trouble, he is an even bigger star in running away again unscathed. By now I know this schtick and I'm getting a bit tired of it.

Anyway, don't let yourself be fooled by my overly negative tone. The book is not bad by any means. It's just that compared to the other Discworld novels I've read, this book falls short of the quality I've come to expect from Terry Pratchett. I therefore rate this book with a 7/10 (***3 GoodReads Stars).
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#50
My thoughts on this one are mixed. On the one hand this was a breezy read. There's a lot of action and the banter between the characters is again top-notch. On the other hand, the reason why this is such a quick read is that the story is very basic.
I agree - and I think Pratchett did, too. There's an interview with David Langford in which he says:

“…Rincewind will probably be back, alas… it’s hard to make him more than two-dimensional, though…”

And: “No, I quite like him, and he’s useful, but it’s hard to do a lot with him. He’s basically an observer. He’s shallow all the way to the bottom….”
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#51
Roughly what I expected you to say. I think Rincewind needs something and someone momentous to observe to be great, and you don't find that in a book full of Aussie jokes.

Carpe Jugulum, I hope for/expect a different reaction. I shall keep my mouth firmly shut on the score beyond that for now for risk of spoilers.

Thanks for doing this - its pretty awesome to read as a long term fan (particularly as our tastes seem to be fairly similar in this field).
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#52
Roughly what I expected you to say. I think Rincewind needs something and someone momentous to observe to be great, and you don't find that in a book full of Aussie jokes.

Carpe Jugulum, I hope for/expect a different reaction. I shall keep my mouth firmly shut on the score beyond that for now for risk of spoilers.

Thanks for doing this - its pretty awesome to read as a long term fan (particularly as our tastes seem to be fairly similar in this field).
Believe me, I am having a great amount of fun reading the series. I know some people to whom Discworld is like LOTR is to me. It is basically a big part of their life. They re-read the books time again, they've got all the Science of Discworld books (and other complementary books), figurines, toys, you name it. Quite an expensive hobby! I didn't really understand the appeal before I started the reading the series, but now I find myself browsing the net for second hand figurines and I realize I'm infected by the Discworld bug as well. Next thing you know I'll be buying myself a display cabinet...
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#53
If I was a display cabinet type of guy, that would be me. I can't say Discworld is a big part of my external life but it is a big part of my mind.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#54
Believe me, I am having a great amount of fun reading the series. I know some people to whom Discworld is like LOTR is to me. It is basically a big part of their life. They re-read the books time again, they've got all the Science of Discworld books (and other complementary books), figurines, toys, you name it. Quite an expensive hobby! I didn't really understand the appeal before I started the reading the series, but now I find myself browsing the net for second hand figurines and I realize I'm infected by the Discworld bug as well. Next thing you know I'll be buying myself a display cabinet...
Silvion, you should try the Science of... books when you're done. Give the first one a shot. Just as funny as the books in the series.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#55
Silvion, you should try the Science of... books when you're done. Give the first one a shot. Just as funny as the books in the series.
I'll definitely keep an eye out for those books as well.
 

Anti_Quated

Journeyed there and back again
#56
@Silvion Night I've not yet had the opportunity or inclination to indulge in Master Pratchett's fairly voluminous output, and while I retain a fierce sense of pride toward my country and our particular idiosyncracies, I'll readily admit at least half of our colloquialisms and cultural eccentricities are ripe for satire. Ocker is as ocker does.

I suppose it's a fine line I'd tread if I were to read it, as my sense of humour already is sufficiently warped or off-kilter; my wife often reminds me with undue patience that I am not by nature a comically minded person. So a book that is, in essence, Australiana writ large for comic purposes would either have me grinning madly cover to cover, or fall quite flat and become tedious within the first dozen pages. I think our national character, such as it is (was?); the archetype laconic larrikin, very dry but mercilessly amiable, can be difficult to accurately render in a novel, and sadly much of what once passed for Australian humour is now written off as virulent xenophobic rhetoric, unabashed intolerance, uneducated bogan slander etc.

Once upon a time you could just take the piss and didn't mean any harm by it, it was a gesture of affection and warmth, and every c**t (including you) knew you weren't really having a go at them and didn't take it personally. Now so many people play f***ing victim crisis mode and find any and every possible thing to get offended about. With that in mind, I might actually pick this one up and have a read, if only as a nostalgic salve. Keep the reviews coming regardless, it's great to have such an excellent shorthand reference for how each of the books 'feels' amongst such a large body of work :)
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#57
Review: Carpe Jugulum (Discworld 23)
Man, I love myself some Granny Weatherwax. This was another amazing entry in one of my favorite Discworld storylines.

This time it was all about vampires. Queen Margrat of Lancre has given birth to a little princess and this of course needs to be celebrated. Invitations are sent out far and wide and guests poor into Lancre castle for some traditional Nanny Ogg-style partying (read: get drunk off your head and roar the Hedgehog song at maximum volume). Some invitations are even sent to Uberwald, a fact the Lancrians come to regret, as it turns out the charismatic noble family that shows up at the gates are in fact loathsome vampires. Everyone of course knows that vampires can only enter a castle if they're invited. The vampires don't waste a lot of time, summon some minions, and take over the stronghold in no time. Patres familias Count Magpyr is a modern vampire who seeks to control a country of willful serfs who give up their blood without hassle. Of course Granny Weatherwax can't be having with that sort of thing and she bends her indomitable will to the destruction of the undead invaders.

Although this book focuses mostly on the other witches (Nanny Ogg, Margrat and Agnes) it is Esme Weatherwax who steals the show. This is her best performance to date in my opinion. Rock hard, unflinching and always there to make the difficult decisions. And all this without ever looking back. I think she's the strongest character I've ever come across (mentally speaking). Near the start of the book there are some chapters where Granny sits in her rocking chair and contemplates her life. These are among the most impressive pages I've ever read in any book. For these couple of pages alone this book is worth reading. Other characters who I thought were very interesting are the priest Mightily Oaths and the junior witch Agnes, both of whom have to tackle their psychological issues (looks like split personality disorder if I'm any judge). I found this to be a very interesting angle to take. It made reading about these characters all the more fun and engaging. Besides these characters there is of course Nanny Ogg, who is a one woman comic relief. The bits with Nanny in it always have me cracking up.

No big themes in this book, besides the one that always permeates the pages of the Witches storyline; power. This time around given shape by the making of choices. Often very difficult choices. This is the red thread throughout most of the Witches story arc, but especially so in this book.

And then there's of course the many, many lessons of the Witches. The straightforward country-style common sense always makes... well: sense. The humour in this one is again top notch. It's not the funniest book in the Witches storyline, but it is pretty damn funny nonetheless.

All in all I have to say I am very pleased with my 23d Prachtett read. I rate it with 8.5/10 (****4 GoodReads Stars).
 
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Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#58
Review: Carpe Jugulum (Discworld 23)

No big themes in this book, besides the one that always permeates the pages of the Witches storyline; power.
Oh I don't know. Time and legacy; a certain noir-esque The Role We Play vs The Thing We are; What being Civilised actually *is*;

And addiction. I didn't see that one until a friend of mine who's been through Alcoholics Anonymous pointed it out to me; based on this book and Vimes, he's fairly sure Pratchett was close to someone with a real drink problem.

Granted, a lot of them are tied into Power... but yeah, for me, this is one of the most meaningful Pratchett books. Partly because, as you say, this is Weatherwax's apogee, and I'm a huge Granny fanboy. But I think there's an awful lot going on under the surface here.

*looks at bibliography* Ah, the Fifth Elephant next. You lucky boy.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#59
Oh I don't know. Time and legacy; a certain noir-esque The Role We Play vs The Thing We are; What being Civilised actually *is*;

And addiction. I didn't see that one until a friend of mine who's been through Alcoholics Anonymous pointed it out to me; based on this book and Vimes, he's fairly sure Pratchett was close to someone with a real drink problem.

Granted, a lot of them are tied into Power... but yeah, for me, this is one of the most meaningful Pratchett books. Partly because, as you say, this is Weatherwax's apogee, and I'm a huge Granny fanboy. But I think there's an awful lot going on under the surface here.

*looks at bibliography* Ah, the Fifth Elephant next. You lucky boy.
I think your friend is right regarding the addiction thing. In the Fifth Elephant there are even more clues to this. In this Terry Pratchett and Stephen King are remarkably similar; they are very apt at writing characters who struggle with addiction. King because he was one himself (or is one himself, as he himself often states that once an addict, always an addict).

And I agree with the themes you mentioned in your first sentence, but to me they are more aspects of the overarching power theme, rather than themes of their own accord (if that even makes any sense... It's just a feeling I suppose).

And wowzers, how cool was Granny in this book? This was her best performance to date for sure.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#60
Review: The Fifth Elephant (Discworld 24)
If I'm not mistaken the Fifth Elephant is the longest Discworld book I've read so far, with 463 pages in total, yet I once again breezed through it with ease. This is a fun and engaging thriller/ detective/ drama/horror (leave it up to Pratchett to mix genres!), which builds on the previous installments in the City Watch storyline. You can read this as a standalone, but as with Carpe Jugulum and Jingo you will not get a lot of references or nuances of the story if you jump into them without having read any previous works in the storyline.

In many respects this is a typical City Watch book, with the same build up as the previous ones (Vimes is tricked by Vetinari into being sent on a mission and meanwhile some murders have to be solved. Oh, and a kingdom has to be saved). What is different about this book is that most of it takes place outside of Ankh-Morpork's city walls. In this it is a bit similar to Jingo, but whereas the events in Jingo only move outside the city in the later part of the book, in the Fifth Elephant Vimes is sent out on his mission after only 30 pages in. This time around the Patrician manipulates our poor Duke of Ankh-Morpork cum City Watch Commander into accepting the role of official Ankh-Morpork ambassador to the kingdom of Uberwald. This enormous country, filled with dwarves, werewolves, trolls, vampires and Igors (yeth mathterrr) is in turmoil after the to-be-dwarven-king's heirloom (the Scone of Stone, wink wink, nod nod) is stolen. Of course this ties in with some criminal events in the city of Ankh-Morpork and Vimes sets out to solve the case and to save a kingdom. There is a lot at stake here, because Uberwald contains the best fat mines in the world (something to do with a disc-carrying elephant turned comet. Don’t ask), and Ankh-Morpork is a sucker for good fat.

Although this story is again a whodunit, it is also heavy on themes like politics, power dynamics and feminism. To see Vimes set loose in the Uberwaldian capital of Bonk is mightily fun. Together with his wife Sybil, the decidedly female dwarf Cheery and one troll army Detritus (with his giant arbalest) Vimes kicks some ass. Very undiplomatically of course, as the free “civilized” Ankh-Morpork spirit and tolerance doesn’t sit well with the Uberwaldian natives. This results in a lot of funny situation involving dwarven dress-codes and new pro-nouns (“she” and “her”).

Although the pacing in the first half of the book was good, I felt the book dragged a bit at about the 75% mark, something I haven’t yet encountered in a Discworld book. However, it was more than made up for by the last 100 pages, as this was non-stop badass action. There is a part where Vimes is knocked down in his own embassy and manages to repel his attackers, after which his wife and he have the below discussion

‘You see, now he’s committed a crime in Ankh-Morpork,’ he said. ‘That makes him mine.’
‘Sam, we’re not-’
‘You know, everyone kept telling me I wasn’t in Ankh-Morpork so often that I believed it. But this embassy is Ankh-Morpork and, right now,’ he hefted the bow, ‘I am the law.’
It had me jumping up and down on the couch. Awesome stuff!

This book is of course full of jokes, japes and jests. However, it’s not the funniest Discworld book of the bunch. I felt that at times it could have done with a bit more Nobbs and Colon, who were quite ignored for most of the book. A shame really, as the part where Colon has to take over the leadership of the Watch in lieu of any officers who outranked him was the best part of the entire book in my opinion. Colon making a mess out of things and fearing of being held accountable for his deeds by Vimes is comedy gold (especially when he takes it out on his subordinates).

Although this might be getting repetitive, I can’t do anything but praise this book. It’s another solid installment in what is has easily become the most rewarding and entertaining fantasy franchise I’ve come across. I rate this book with a 8.2/10 (***4 GoodReads Stars).