I’ve never really understood the people that get overly emotional when a well known person dies, it had previously seemed a little odd to me. This changed this week upon hearing the news of Terry Pratchett’s passing, I very nearly burst into tears at work and that’s something that never happens. I think the reason for it was the sheer joy he has brought me over the years through his books, in a weird way it felt like losing a friend of the family or a distant uncle.
I must confess I haven’t read much beyond the Discworld series, and of those I haven’t read the Discworld books aimed at young adults, though this is something I’m definitely aiming to rectify at the earliest opportunity though I do feel that I will be re-reading the main Discworld series prior to venturing forth with anything new as it feels like far too long since I’ve read anything outside the Vimes books.
I’ve always credited The Hobbit as being the book that got me into reading but it was the Discworld series that made reading one of my favourite things to do. They also taught me to take chances on books based on what I thought seemed interesting from a first impression and I have discovered lots of books I’ve enjoyed hugely based on this approach, Mort was the first Terry Pratchett book I ever read and it based purely on my interest of the question that the synopsis on the back of the book basically asked – what if Death had and apprentice?
One good thing about the series is that the books don’t really need to be read in any particular order, obviously with books that feature characters like Rincewind or Vimes, which feature as main characters in multiple books, reading the books in order offers a lot more context to proceedings however it’s never essential. There is such a massive array of characters that have been introduced over the years that familiar characters often pop up in books which really helps emphasise the books are set in the same world.
The main thingI I personally like the most is the sense of humour on display, I really respond to it as Pratchett has written each character to be different so there’s a veritable goldmine of offer whether it be Vimes and his cynicism, RIncewind and his cowardice or Nanny Ogg and her pretty much everything. I also very much enjoy the way everyday life can be satirised but at the same time how more serious subjects such as hatred, intolerance and equality can deftly woven into the story. Pratchett is also adept at adding real emotion to a story, the ending to The Light Fantastic is amazing and the whole of Nightwatch is incredible as examples of this.
It’s the characters where Discworld really shines though, whether it’s Vimes or Death that appear in multiple books or Pteppic or Lobsang Ludd that only appear in one each character is fascinating and memorable, and it would be remiss of me not to give special mention to the Librarian, a wizard who was transformed into an orangutan in a magical accident and refused to be changed back, who is one of the most entertaining recurring characters in the series.
And on the subject of characters and equality the female characters are equally as well served by the writing as the male ones, Death’s grand daughter Susan, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg being particular standouts as strong women who are integral to their respective stories and the Discworld as a whole. Susan especially is one of my favourite Discworld characters and her interaction with Lobsang in Thief of Time is both funny and genuinely moving at times.
Vimes is my favourite character though, he starts of a drunk and becomes married, a Duke and a father over the course of books he appears in. He’s a watchman who is absolutely incorruptible and who has two sides to his inner self, the beast who screams at the injustices of the world and wants to exact revenge and the watchman who ensures that Vimes never crosses that line, so effectively in fact that prevented a Dwarven spirit of vengeance forcing him to kill for it in the book Thud, and in Nightwatch he is sent back in time by accident and has to mentor himself to be the good cop he will become whilst surrounded by some very bad men.
I love the Discworld books, I love their innate sense of wonder and how they’re able to keep tongue firmly i cheek at times. I read some opinions about later books such as Snuff where people criticised what they perceived to be a change of writing style but it wasn’t something I ever saw, I have always felt that each book was excellent in it’s own right, and the only thing that dictated where it stood in my own list of favourites was where the main characters involved figured on my list of characters.
In short I’m hugely appreciative to Sir Terry Pratchett for the books and what they’ve represented to me over the years – an world to escape to, regardless of how long for, whenever I was feeling down, and the fact that whenever I read a Discworld book, whether it be for the first or tenth time, there is always the sense that I’m visiting old friends. They’ve always offered an immeasurable amount of comfort I will always be grateful and I’m incredibly sad that there won’t be any further adventures for my favourite characters
In finishing I would just like to end on a quote from the man himself that seems appropriate – It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.
Thank you and rest in peace Sir Terry Pratchett.