I’ve mentioned Terry Pratchett and Discworld a few times recently in “Favorites Friday” posts, but I haven’t done a review yet. Time to change that! Part of the trick with Discworld (rather like Dr. Who) is figuring out where to start. Discworld is one of those big sprawling series with over forty books in it. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry–the books are interconnected, but very few directly follow each other plot-wise, so you can read as many or as few as you feel like.
And you can probably start almost anywhere. I’ve bounced all over the series, and while with some it was clear that there was a previous, related installment it might have helped to read first, I don’t feel like it severely hampered my enjoyment of whatever I was reading. However, there probably are some places that are better to start than others.
I actually wouldn’t recommend starting at the beginning. That’s The Colour of Magic, and it’s good, but Pratchett was still sorting the world out, and it’s not as brilliant as many of the later books. One really good place to start would be Going Postal.
Going Postal stars Moist von Lipwig, a fast-talking conman who was supposed to be hanged, but finds himself revived after the gallows, and designated the new Postmaster of Ankh-Morpork. The post office has been out of business for years, and the old building is falling to pieces–not to mention it’s literally filled with undelivered mail. Moist finds himself trying to bring back the post, despite completely mad co-workers and violent competition from the clacks (telegraph) service.
It’s a wonderful, funny book, and it’s a good starting point because it’s stand-alone. Moist and most of the other major characters make their first appearances here. But you also get to meet a lot of characters who are significant in the series, but have only supporting roles here.
Vetinari, the Patrician, gets a good part; he’s a tyrant, and he’s terrifying, but he makes things work. You get to meet a lot of the City Guard, who are my favorite group of characters (they have seven, soon to be eight, books written about them). The Wizards of Unseen University, who are all at least little bit bonkers, make a guest appearance. And I can’t remember for sure, but I think Death gets at least a cameo. Death wears a big black hood and talks IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Usually someone dies at some point in every Discworld book, so Death gets to show up, and a few of the books focus on him.
So this is good for introducing characters who are important in other books, and it’s also good for giving you a feel for the city of Ankh-Morpork, and Discworld in general. Pratchett is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever found. He creates a crazy world (did I mention it’s a disc, which is on the back of four elephants, who are on a turtle?) filled with completely nutty and hilarious characters. And he has a way of writing single lines which will make me laugh for days afterwards whenever I think of them. Feeling down? Read Pratchett. I fully believe in self-medicating depression with Terry Pratchett books.
They’re not merely funny, though. Pratchett is often very satirical. Much of Ankh-Morpork is an extreme, but it’s an extreme you may recognize as based in something in our own society. Going Postal is good satire too.
High, high recommendation for Discworld. You won’t regret it!
Author’s Site: http://terrypratchettbooks.com/