Authors I Love: Terry Pratchett

This is a series that’s just what it says on the tin: authors I love.

These aren’t just authors that I read; these are authors I follow, whose books I buy as soon as I get a chance. These are the authors for whom I’ll read everything they write just because they’re the ones writing it.

For this post, we’re going back to the fantasy genre and Terry Pratchett!

What does he write?
Comedic fantasy; specifically the Discworld series.

How did you first hear about him?
I can’t even remember. I’d heard about Discworld for years thanks to the Internet, but had never picked it up. Finally, somebody at a NaNo get-together told me about the whole “series within a series” aspect of it, and described the Night Watch books. I thought those sounded pretty funny.

And after I read and loved Good Omens (which is by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), I felt like I kind of had to pick up Discworld.

guards-guardsWhat was the first book of his you read?
Guards! Guards!
It’s the first book in the Night Watch arc.

How many of his books have you read?
Thirteen and counting:
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Witches Abroad
Mort
Reaper Man
Guards! Guards!
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
Jingo
The Fifth Elephant
Monstrous Regiment
Unseen Academicals
Where’s My Cow?
– yes, it’s a picture book, but it counts, believe me.

Why do you like him so much?
He’s hilarious. I described him to my friends as “Douglas Adams does fantasy,” which does a good job of describing his early work, but Pratchett becomes so much more than just that. His stuff moves from just straight parody of fantasy and its tropes to some excellent satire, and he has such an amazing way with words that I usually have to stop several times to read a passage aloud because it’s so. Damn. Funny.

He also creates wonderfully memorable characters in every story. You have the regulars like Sam Vimes, Carrot, Colon and Nobby, Lord Vetinari, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat, and Death, and then those who show up for just one book like Eskarina (Esk) in Equal Rites or Polly in Monstrous Regiment or Glenda in Unseen Academicals.

None of them are perfect; they have flaws and foibles but they also grow and change over the course of their stories, whether it’s just one book or eight. I love the characters with a capital L.

Also, his worldbuilding? Unexpectedly awesome. Discworld feels like a fully realized world, even amongst (or perhaps even because of) its ridiculousness.

I think any fan of high fantasy needs to read at least a few Discworld books.

men-at-armsWhat’s your favorite book of his?
Men at Arms.
It’s the second in the Night Watch arc and it is absolutely fantastic. Vimes and Carrot are my two favorite characters in the entire series, and this book showcases both of them excellently.

Not to mention there’s an amazing scene between Carrot and Lord Vetinari at the end that is just phenomenal. I had to reread it about four times because I loved it so much.

What’s your least favorite book of his?
It’s a toss-up between Monstrous Regiment and Unseen Academicals. In the case of Monstrous Regiment, the beginning of it (in particular) was a lot darker in tone than I was expecting, so while it wasn’t bad, it really threw me. However, it picked up a lot more near the end.

With Unseen Academicals, it was merely good, whereas most of the rest of the books I’d read had been great. It was really interesting to see the City Watch from the viewpoint of the street characters who’d be taken in for questioning, though.

I feel I should point out, though, that both of those books are still very, very good.

Where should a new reader start?
Since I’m partial to the Night Watch, my recommendation would be Guards! Guards!. It’s a great jumping-off place, a perfect introduction to the city of Ankh-Morpork, and is overall a lot of fun. Plus, this is the book that introduces you to Sam Vimes and Carrot Ironfoundersson, who are easily my two favorite characters in the series.

However, you could also start with Equal Rites, which is a standalone but introduces Granny Weatherwax (who is amazing and one of the main characters of the Witches stories). There’s also Mort, which is the first book in Death’s arc.

You could also start with Wyrd Sisters, which is not only the first book of the Witches series, but can best be described as “Terry Pratchett does Macbeth.” It’s pretty much as good as it sounds.

A to Z Challenge – J is for Jingo

jingoYou may remember that my introduction to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series was the novel Guards! Guards!, which is the first book to feature the Ankh-Morpock City Watch, headed by Samuel Vimes.

To say I loved the book is something of an understatement; it’s become one of those that I push on people now (“What? You haven’t read Discworld? HERE TAKE THIS.”) and it inspired me to start making my way through the Discworld series.

However, I hadn’t read another City Watch book until I picked up Jingo from the library for this challenge. Within two chapters, I remembered why I loved Guards! Guards! so much and why Sam Vimes is my favorite Discworld character.

Jingo is the 21st book in the Discworld series, though I believe it’s the fourth book involving the City Watch.

Overnight, an island has appeared in the ocean between Ankh-Morpock and its neighboring city Al-Khali, the capital of Klatch. Both nations immediately lay claim to the island, which then escalates into a declaration of war.

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpock City Watch may not be a soldier, but he is a police officer, and he believes this war is the biggest crime of them all. And he and the members of his Watch are going to catch the perpetrators, one way or another.

Neighbors…hah! But what did that mean? The Watch could tell you a thing or two about neighbors. So could lawyers, especially the real rich ones to whom “neighbor” meant a man who’d sue for twenty years over a strip of garden two inches wide. People’d live for ages side by side, nodding at one another amicably on their way to work every day, and then some trivial thing would happen and someone would be having a garden fork removed from their ear.

In a city where thieves and assassins have guilds and yearly budgets, the Watch was considered virtually useless at one point. Now, it’s grown to encompass a number of members, including a golem, a troll, a werewolf, a six-foot-tall dwarf, and a zombie, just to name a few.

Commander Vimes takes his job seriously (even if he tends to neglect the paperwork). He may not necessarily be the smartest man in Ankh-Morpock, but he knows how to survive on the streets and he pretty much always gets his man, though occasionally it’s a bit unorthodox as to how. He’s become known as “Vetinari’s terrier,” and he genuinely loves the police work he does.

I absolutely adore Vimes, and it’s not difficult to see why:

“No, indeed! It’s about time Johnny Klatchian was taught a lesson,” said Lord Selachii. “Remember all that business last year with the cabbages? Ten damn boatloads they wouldn’t accept!”

“And everyone knows caterpillars add to the flavor,” said Vimes, more or less to himself.

The Patrician shot him a glance.

“That’s right!” said Selachii. “Good honest protein! And you remember all that trouble Jenkins had over that cargo of mutton? They were going to imprison him! In a Klatchian jail!”

“Surely not? Meat is at its best when it’s going green,” Vimes said.

He’s just such a great character. Vimes isn’t perfect, and he knows it, but he’s always trying to do the right thing, even if sometimes doing so gets him in over his head. He’s also accompanied by an equally phenomenal cast:

Carrot, the six-foot-tall adopted dwarf, who is just so genuinely likable and optimistic that he can get two rival gangs to put aside their differences long enough for a game of football.

Angua, a werewolf and Carrot’s girlfriend, who provides a needed touch of cynicism and whose nose is one of the best investigative tools ever.

Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs, who have been with Vimes since the beginning but are still kind of like Two Stooges when it comes to getting anything done. In fact, this quote (that I posted on Facebook) sums up Colon rather succinctly:

Sergeant Colon had had a broad education. He’d been to the School of My Dad Always Said, the College of It Stands to Reason, and was now a postgraduate student at the University of What Some Bloke In the Pub Told Me.

Sadly, Vimes’s wife, Lady Sybil, doesn’t make much of an appearance in the story, which is a shame because I loved her character so much in Guards! Guards!. When she and Sam are working together, they make a great team, and you do get to see a very little bit of that here.

And then there’s the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, who rules Ankh-Morpock because nobody else could do the job half as well. He’s a fantastic strategist, constantly thinking several moves ahead. (And really, ever since I saw Jeremy Irons play the Patrician in The Colour of Magic, that is who I picture while reading the character and IT IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, YOU GUYS.)

"Strange as it may seem, Sir Samuel, I am occasionally capable of governing this city for minutes at a time without seeking your advice and guidance."

“Strange as it may seem, Sir Samuel, I am occasionally capable of governing this city for minutes at a time without seeking your advice and guidance.”

Pratchett is utterly brilliant at combining hilarity and humor with a story that actually is very serious. They’re trying to stop a war, and as such there’s a lot of Very Bad Stuff that happens. Pratchett handles it fantastically, so that even when you’re laughing, you still care about the characters and what happens to them. That is not easy to do, and it just highlights how well this man has mastered his craft.

Things get a little slow about 60% of the way through, though I think that’s because Pratchett started juggling several different story threads and had to keep breaking them up to show us what was going on with each one. It all pays off wonderfully in the end, though, so it didn’t bother me too much.

If you haven’t ever read a Discworld book, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting here, if only because it’s not that far down the City Watch storyline and you’d probably enjoy it more if you read them in order.

That being said, the stories in Discworld are so loosely connected that you could easily read them all out of order and not ever feel lost. Jingo is an excellent entry in the series, and anyone who enjoys comic fantasy should add it to their “to be read” list.

July #WriteMotivation: Week 3 Check-in

In serious news: My prayers go out to the victims of the Aurora shooting and their families. This horrible act just breaks my heart.

In less serious news: I had a guest review posted on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books this past weekend, for Courtney Milan’s Unveiled for the RITA Reader Challenge.

In completely unrelated news: Apparently this blog posts marks #125. Huzzah?

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

July goal updates:

1) Finish August Buzz articles by July 13.

2) Read 1 book a week.
And this past week has been:
Nether Bound by Bonnie Rae
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Blameless by Gail Carriger

Guards! Guards! lived up to the hilarious first three pages (which is all I’d read when I posted last week). It’s absolutely brilliant, and if you ever wondered what it would sound like if Douglas Adams wrote a fantasy novel, well…this is your answer.

Must…find…more…Discworld!

3) Update blog twice a week.
Last week I got two updates in, and I’ve got one scheduled and (hopefully) two more to add. I think I can keep this pace up through July, but I think it’ll slow down again come August and Camp NaNo. Yes, again. Yes, I’m crazy.

What are you guys reading? Anything I should add to my list?