Date Posted: May 25, 2011
Print Edition: May 13, 2011
Terry Pratchett is a British author who has been writing for the past thirty-some-odd years. He has wrote with the likes of Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline and Stardust), but his real work as a writer has been in the Discworld series. Now into its 37th book, the series is an excellent mess of books to become immersed in over the summer break.
For those new to the series, the Discworld, or disc, is a circular shaped world carried on the back of a giant space turtle inhabited by a huge variety of fairly typical fantasy characters and creatures. These include but are not limited to: dwarfs, trolls, humans, igors (yes there is more than one), elves on one occasion, witches, wizards, and even sentient luggage.
Pratchett’s true talent lies in his ability to take fairly hackneyed fantasy character types and recast them into hilarious new shapes that work well together in a new world of their own. This is where his immense powers of observation and humour come in. His books are hilarious and almost always make ironic comments on ideas from our own world. In his most recent book, Unseen Academicals, which is ostensibly a book about wizards playing football (or soccer for us North Americans who don’t care about the name), Pratchett takes the idea of the goblin, something we all think we know about from Tolkien, and makes it his own, commenting on the typical ideas we have. Pratchett asks why we view goblins the way we do; are they all gibbering, murderous monsters? Or, in true, err, humanist style, can one goblin be separated from the rest and show an incredible amount of, err, humanity? Enter one of the central characters, Mr Nutt, a goblin plucked from the horde, given the chance to learn and prosper, and sent to the somewhat great, certainly large and smelly, city of Ankh-Morpork to work at Unseen University, the home of the wizards.
The wizards themselves are a vast contrast with those found in Harry Potter, thank god. In fact, they pre-date that series by a fair margin, though their most recent incarnation is not quite as funny as past ones.
Allow me to explain a little more. The Discworld series can generally be organized around a few central repeated characters along with several stand alone books. These characters each have a repeated supporting cast. The first books in the series, and about seven in total, centre on the wizard Rincewind and the other top faculty members of Unseen University. The rapid fire banter of these ridiculous individuals is always good for a lot of laughs. However, in this wizard book, Pratchett has taken the banter mostly out in favour of focusing on other new characters like Mr Nutt.
That said, this book is well worth the read, though it probably isn’t the best place to enter the series as a whole. You could start with the first books, though the writing style of those isn’t nearly as interesting as later books, especially those around the middle of the series. Personally, I started into the series around eight years ago with the 26th book and then bounced around from there and loved every moment of it.