Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dive into the Discworld

Hello, readers! This is Ariel from MPL’s Lake Branch. I was recently invited by our lovely librarians to contribute to this wonderful blog, and I am so excited to participate! Right off the bat, you should know that I am an avid reader of the fantasy genre. I’ll try my best to mix it up a bit here and there, but don’t be surprised if all my contributions are fantastic. You should also know that I’m terrible with puns.

For my debut on Mentor’s Reader, I thought it best to talk about my all-time favorite fantasy series—Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. These books are cram-packed with parodies of classic fantasy tropes and references to popular culture, all presented with Pratchett’s signature British wit. And while the stories take place on a world full of witches and werewolves and trolls (oh my!), the stories often contain sly commentaries on reality. Fans of Paul Di Filippo, Patricia Wrede, and Douglas Adams will understand how fantasy and humor can be combined to create a reading experience that is both amusing and thought-provoking

Every book takes place on the Discworld, a flat slab of land that floats around in space on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a giant tortoise. The great thing about all of the books existing in the same universe is that it allows the characters from different stories to pop up at random and interact with each other, which is really neat.

Another great thing about the series is that you don’t necessarily have to read them in order. By focusing on a handful of interesting characters and containing a fully developed story, each book stands well on its own.   

That being said, there are some larger story arcs that span multiple titles. In these cases, I definitely recommend reading them in order, because it really makes the whole experience more enjoyable. (I speak from experience; I read one story arc in reverse order. It was kind of weird to see the main character and his wife having their first child in the first book I read, finding out they were expecting in the second, getting married in the third, etc.) 

Here are a few of the larger and more popular story arcs, with their corresponding titles:

Rincewind the Wizard: These books feature Rincewind, a wizard with little magical aptitude. Rincewind is the protagonist of Pratchett’s earliest Discworld novels, so he has a long history. It’s pretty funny seeing how Rincewind handles himself in all of the ridiculous situations he comes across. (Personally, I didn’t enjoy Pratchett’s earlier work as much, but I guess everyone has to start somewhere.)
Titles: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Sourcery, Eric, Interesting Times, The Last Continent, The Last Hero, Unseen Academicals

The Witches of Lancre: One thing that I’ve always admired about Pratchett is his ability to create good female protagonists. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, a couple of the witches in this story arc, are prime examples. They’re smart and funny, and I wish they were real so I could hang out with them.
Titles: Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum

The City Watch: This is probably the most popular of Pratchett’s major story arcs. Join the large ensemble of characters that make up Ankh-Morpork’s law enforcement as they patrol the streets and do other police-type things, like investigating crimes and solving mysteries. This arc features one of the most pronounced character development in the whole series—notably that of Sam Vimes, who is transformed from drunkard to respected gentleman. (Remember when I said I read one arc backwards?)
Titles: Guards!Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, The Truth, The Last Hero, Night Watch, Monstrous Regiment, Thud!

This year’s release of Raising Steam marked the publication of the 40th title in the Discworld series. Yeah. Forty. And that doesn’t include the dozens of books about the series.

I’ll let you get settled on the Discworld before I start talking about those.

~Ariel J.

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