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coturnix

The Truth and Thief of Time were my first two and they are great! Good advice. Read later stuff.

Tom  Bozzo

Thanks, Lance. I'd just picked up Going Postal for partly professional reasons in addition to following your series of Pratchett quotes, but wasn't sure of its stand-aloneness. (That's also something I've been wondering about George R. R. Martin's A Feast For Crows, where the possible need to read the three preceding 'Song of Ice and Fire' novels in the series affects a program to read all of this year's Hugo best novel nominees in finite time.)

Claire

It seems I'm not the only one picking up Pratchett from your posts!

theophylact

The thing about The Colo[u]r of Magic is that it was a collection of parodies of various fantasy classics: Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and so on. Since it depended for its humor on your getting a lot of inside jokes, it works less well with the wider readership Pratchett's earned since then.

Linkmeister

theophylact, that might explain my feeling about it. I've read a fair bit of fantasy/science fiction, but mostly the Clarke/Asimov/Heinlein/Simak variety. I don't know Lieber, I know of Lovecraft but haven't read him, and so on.

I'll take Lance's advice and try for G!G! next. It would help if my PIN worked at my library's catalog so I could reserve the damned books online.

apocalipstick

Started with Guards! Guards! myself. I have enjoyed Pratchett ever since. He's pretty much solid gold.

Linkmeister

Grr. My PIN was fine, it was the barcode that had expired. But while there getting that resolved, I picked up Night Watch, Monstruous Regiment, Thief of Time, and The Truth.

Karmakin

I'd recommend starting with any of the Vimes books. He's the most interesting character in the books IMO, and those books are not really for the feint of heart, if you ask me. It's a pretty tough read. Every paragraph is saying SOMETHING. You have to be paying attention at all times.

The latest in the series, Thud, is the best yet, at least in my opinion. The Death books are good as well, however I'm not as much of a fan of the Witches.

Mr. Shakes

Yes, those early Rincewind novels, while okay, were not my favorites.

Wyrd Sisters - a very clever parody of MacBeth - might be a nice place to start, but as others have pointed out, the Guards novels are also worthy. Vimes, Carrot & Co. are awesome, but I may even like the witches a little more, especially Granny Weatherwax.

Lyn

Semi-long time reader, first time commenter here. Naturally it takes a discussion of Pratchett to bring me out of lurkerdom.

I read once, somewhere - might have been an interview with the author - that Pratchett's original intention when he started working on what would become the Discworld books was to write a parody of a bad sword/sorcery/fantasy novel, largely because the genre had become so popular and it seemed at the time that a lot of less-than-stellar books were being published in order to cash in on the demand for it.

I can't say now whether or not the first few books lived up to his original intention - I also started with "Guards, Guards!" and "Feet of Clay" and have worked my way diligently both forwards and backwards from there. So by the time I acquired and read the earlier works, it was impossible to judge them outside the context of the Discworld material as a whole. I did enjoy them, even if I don't find them as riveting as the later books; in fact, having read every single one of the DW novels, and everything else I've been able to find of Pratchett's work, I can honestly say I've never not enjoyed reading anything he's written.

What I think happened with the parody angle, though, is that although Pratchett might have started out as a puveyor of parody, he's turned into an utterly brilliant satirist. The best of his books are, in my opinion, some of the finest, funniest commentaries on the human condition ever written. The fact that so many of his best characters are, well, decidedly un-human is really beside the point; in fact, that might be a big part of what makes it all work.

And I agree wholeheartedly that the books about the Ankh-Morpork Watch are among the finest, and probably the best place to start for those wanting to take a first dip into the Discworld. "Night Watch" in particular is a masterpiece, although starting a bit farther back in that mini-series might make it a more enjoyable read once you get to it. It also helps if you, like me, have developed a crush of preternatural proportions on Samuel Vimes. He's got to be in my top five of the greatest fictional characters ever created.

That said, when I grow up I still want to be Granny Weatherwax.

Lyn

tatertot

I have to say, Lance, that it was your love of Terry Pratchett that brought me to your blog. I figured anyone with such a deep appreciation of the Discworld was worth giving a listen to on other subjects.

Sucking-up aside; I, too, find the City Guards books among Pratchett's finest. They have depth, humor and pathos. "Night Watch" breaks my heart every time I read it; and I do read it -- over and over again. Pratchett's books positively demand to be read multiple times. The evolving characters of Sam Vimes and Havelock Vetinari, not just as individuals, but in relationship to one another, is endlessly fascinating to me.

As for the earlier books....I started reading Pratchett's books as they were originally being released in the U.S.(in my oh-so-distant youth), so the jokey quality of the earlier books wasn't as jarring for me as for you. The books grew and matured over time, as did I, and I've never wavered in my devotion to the Discworld. While I enjoyed the earlier books when I read them, my obssessive re-reading of the series is centered mostly on the later books: the City Watch books; Death and his Grandaugher, Susan; the "stand-alones" like "Going Postal", "The Truth", and "Small Gods". (I highly recommend "Small Gods" if you haven't read it -- Pratchett deals very well with the responsibility of the individual and the nature of faith). Even the later Rincewind books like "Interesting Times" are good. I find the books dealing with The Witches fun when I read them, but I rarely feel the need to revisit them.

If you're willing to try a non-Discworld Pratchett book, I recommend "Good Omens" which was co-written with Neil Gaiman. What can I say about a book that makes the Apocalypse so damn funny?

Lyn

tatertot says: "I highly recommend "Small Gods" if you haven't read it -- Pratchett deals very well with the responsibility of the individual and the nature of faith"

I find "Feet of Clay," which I recently read again before loaning it out to a friend (what can I say, I had to get it down off the shelf, and read a couple pages to make sure it was the DW book I was thinking of when I mentioned it to him, and then I had no choice but to finish it) to be an excellent tale about the value of individual freedom, experience and discovery vs. mindless adherence to ready-made "faith-based" belief systems, and the incredible personal responsibility involved in reliance on the former rather than the latter.

And if you haven't read "Monstrous Regiment" - do so now! I might be off the mark, since I can't remember exactly when it came out or might have been written - but I have a hard time believing it's not Pratchett's response to and commentary on the dangers of rampant misogyny, religious fundamentalism, and the senseless warmongering that seems to accompany both so often and which we have lately seen enough of already (again), thank you very much. It doesn't take place in Ankh-Morpork, but the fact that Vimes works his way into the story anyway is also a plus.

"Good Omens" also rocks. Anybody read Gaimans's "Anansi Boys"? I picked up a copy recently but haven't gotten to it yet - loved his "American Gods" as well so I'm hoping it lives up to my expectations.

Lyn

Mike Schilling

Umm, that's Nanny Ogg, though she's really a sidekick to Granny Weatherwax.

And Tom, yes, the GRRM books are a single story that needs to be read in order.

Lance

Mike,

Thanks. Fixed it.

julia

Since folks hit most of my high points already, I'll just do what's left

1) Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum are witch books, but they're well worth reading

2) Definitely read the juveniles. Hat Full of Sky is brilliant.

Stephen Frug

I, too, began with the City Watch books, and I, too, thought they were a perfect place to start.

After those, I think the next place to go are the later independents -- you mentioned Going Postal and The Truth; Monstrous Regiment is just as good if not better. Small Gods is good too, as someone said, although I didn't like it quite as much. The Amazing Maurice is a good one. And the later Death books are almost independents -- and can be mostly read as such.

Avedon

I think I may have read the first three together, then the rest as soon as they were out in paperback. I'm currently reading the TIffany Aching books and halfway through a proof copy of the third one, Wintersmith. I've read the other juveniles and of course Good Omens.

With about three exceptions, I have loved them all. I thought the ones about Hollywood and the music biz were weak, and I thought The Last Continent was genuinely dreadful. I liked the Rincewind books in the beginning but it's all become much, much richer since then. The Last Continent seemed like he had bowed to pressure to write a book he really had no interest in producing, probably much of it from people who missed Rincewind. It almost seems like he burst free after that and produced some of the best ones yet.

I completely agree that if you're not someone who wants to have a great big series to read all of and just want the best stuff, you should read the Vimes/Watch books to start. It's obviously where Terry's heart has been for a long time, and Night Watch was a wonderful experience. (But I'm glad I read Thief of Time before it.) The Truth and Going Postal dovetailed perfectly, of course, with my two major obsessions - communicatons and corporate thieves.

But I'd hate to have missed any of the Death books, which have their own special magic. And, of course, Granny Weatherwax is loads of fun. I suspect most of us have a special place in our hearts for Small Gods, too.

Then again, I did rather like The Luggage back in the early days....

fuyura

Just in case some aren't familiar with the L-space website (one of the better sources of incredibly geeky information about Pratchett), here are the caanonical reading order guides:
http://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/index.html

I usually start with either Guards! Guards! or Wyrd Sisters when I'm recommending Pratchett, although sometimes Pyramids or Small Gods get the nod. I led a staff book discussion on Guards! Guards! at the library where I work a few years ago, and managed to get some grudging admissions that they kind of liked it even from die-hard fantasy haters. Of course I did serve figgins (adapted from Nanny Ogg's Cookbook), so it may have been cupboard love.

Ahistoricality

Colour of Magic is where I started, lo those many years ago when I was an SFBC member. I recently reread it, in conjunction with the second book, The Light Fantastic, and the two books together are more on a par with the later novels than either of them separately.

I just got back into reading the later ones myself, and I highly recommend Small Gods

apikoros

Like some other commenters, I started with Pterry with Light Fantastic and have never let up.

I tend to start people off on the witch books. I am deeply in love with Granny Weatherwax and why not start with the best? I actually recommend "Hatful of Sky" as an excellent starting place then go back to the begining of the witch series and go from there. After a couple of Witch books, I'll move "Guards, Guards" into the pile at random and introduce Sam Vimes.

I am interested to see so much positive comment on "Night Watch" as it is my least favorite book. I always felt that he was trying way too hard to cram every character from the later books (chronologically) into a slot and it really hurt the flow. I loved the political part of the premise, but why stick in the totally off-the-wall villain? The book trys way too hard and flops for me.

Avedon

I'd start the Tiffany Aching books at the beginning, with We Free Men rather than A Hatful of Sky. And then on to Wintersmith, which I still haven't finished but have no complaints about.

apikoros

Yes, Avedon, you are right.... I forgot that "Wee Free Men" came first :-)

And... Oh you lucky Brits! We here in the U.S. have not seen Wintersmith yet and won't for more than a month! :-(

BTW, I re-read "Night Watch" today. I may have been a bit harsh on the character "Carcer," but honest to ghu, in 2002 I had not met anyone who could be that evil with a smile! After four more years of the bush-leaguers, the character is a bit more believable, but I still think that Pterry was using too broad a shoe-horn to fit in all the "Vimes"-series characters.

amberglow

i recently read them in order, up to Going Postal, and i think Feet of Clay might be a good starting point. I love the Tiffany ones (especially Wee Free Men), and the Police ones (especially the Carrot/Angua one where she goes home), but so many of them sorta required the backknowledge, i thought. The newspaper one might be a good start too, but it also is better for me having known more about the characters beforehand. I actually found the Death ones weak (and the movie/hollywood one), and while the Rincewind ones are great on their own, they read like Pratchett maybe wanted a break from Anhk/Morpock stuff for a while (but then since i was reading so many of them in order it wasn't a bad break). It did take me a while to actually look forward to Nanny and Granny's appearances all over with pleasure.

Small Gods is truly an excellent book--really wonderfully done--but i wouldn't recommend it as an intro to his stuff--i'd recommend it to people as just a really great book i read recently. : >

They're all worthwhile, and i caught myself smiling and laughing at things in every single book, even ones that i wasn't loving as much. He's maybe a child of Vonnegut in a lot of ways, i think.

Easter Lemming

The first two Discworld books are much inferior to the later novels. It does help to have read other fantasy popular at that time but even with that I would not begin there.

Soul Magic and Small Gods and Guards! Guards! are among his best and good introductions. A number of my female friends suggest starting with Wyrd Sisters. Wee Free Men is excellent and can be appreciated by younger readers.

I believe that they are so many interconnected mini-series that while all can stand on their own more appreciation is there as you read more. For some reason I didn't care for Monstrous Regiment - perhaps too obvious and depressing.

Mairead

For those who want to know where to start (it really does make a difference)

Equal Rites for the witches. It's only Granny in that one, but.... The next one is Wyrd Sisters, which is actually a hilarious and *very* skillfully woven mix of Macbeth and Hamlet, not just Macbeth. It's in WS that we first meet Nanny and Magrat, the other two witches of the Lancre coven. Magrat has the role of Maiden, Nanny the Mother, and Granny is stuck with the short straw. The unifying theme of the witch books is reality vs fantasy, and the consequences of mixing them up.

Mort for Death. But the very best Death book imo is Reaper Man --an intensely poignant story about life and death and what it means to be human, the unifying theme of the Death books, each one exploring it from a different angle.

Guards! Guards! for the Watch. Sam Vimes is the alcoholic Captain of a moribund Night Watch at that point, and Carrot a naïve, literal-minded late adolescent dwarf-by-adoption who's just come down from the mountains. This is also the book in which the character of Lord Vetinari begins to be given shape. If there's a unifying theme for the watch books, I think it must be the class war--Sam Vimes is definitely working class and has no patience with those who give themselves airs.


And just a side comment: The Amazing Maurice, meant to be for kids and for which he won the Carnegie Medal, has a couple of passages in it that leave me gulping and blinking back tears every time I read them. Be warned!

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