Well, no, not really, even from Sir Pterry

How many Terry Pratchett fans considered chaining themselves to the steamroller that flattened his last hard drives, or lying down in the mud to prevent the destruction of unknown treasures? I couldn’t help wondering how much those hard drives would have raised if they’d been auctioned, what price a devoted reader or eager academic would have been prepared to pay for a glimpse of the great man’s last unpolished thoughts? We’ll never know: Pratchett was adamant that no incomplete ideas should survive him to be finished by someone else, and left instructions detailing their characteristically dramatic end.

As a reader, it’s hard not to feel conflicted. It’s been reported that Pratchett had a tantalising 10 potential novels on that computer; anyone who loved his work must be itching to know what they contained. Even a rough outline and a few notes would have felt like a gift from beyond the grave.

One of the notable things about that decline was to realise how much of the joy of the books came from the complex manner in which they were written, not the storylines themselves. The Truth say, or the last of what I consider the complete adult ones, Unseen Academicals, are a markedly different reading experience to Raising Steam say. Which I read actually thinking, well, I can see how this joke could go, I don’t know and can’t know how the full Pratchett would have taken it but I wish I could. Similarly, in Shepherd’s Crown the invention of sheds for retired men is a fabulous idea – and it would have been spun out into something more complex.

More than many another writer – or perhaps it’s because we did see the output through that decline – it was the over-writing that made the books great, not the plotlines and the sketches for them.

33 thoughts on “Well, no, not really, even from Sir Pterry”

  1. That’s also the reason (presumably) why i think i heard Gaiman once say once that colour of magic was one of His worst books. That blew my mind a bit.

  2. TW is right – it’s the extra colour he added that got me laughing. For example, one completely pointless aside told the story of a dyslexic wizard who cursed someone so that everything they touched turned to Glod. Glod was the name of a dwarf in a neighbouring country who found himself transported several hundred miles and relentlessly duplicated.

    To this day, the inhabitants of that village are renowned for being very short and bad tempered.

  3. wat,

    I was the same. The fact that Timmy reads them made me think this wasn’t just something for D&D players and real ale drinkers.

    I’d describe his books as Douglas Adams, but for the fantasy genre. I’m reading one right now (can’t read the title) and the scene where Death gets summoned from a party is laugh out loud funny. Dry, observant of things and somewhat absurd.

  4. Ah, “THAT’S WHEN THEY THINK I’M TAKING MY MASK OFF”.

    Yes, there’s definitely, depth, missing from the later books. Raising Steam is very, well, flat, by comparison. For me, Unseen Academicals is where the effects of his illness starts to become apparent. For a Discworld book, it’s rather large, and there seem to be two separate stories squeezed in. There could have been a Making Money style examination of professional sports, using Lipwig, and a separate tale of Nutt, which would be a good fit for a Watch book.

    I think the steamroller thing is just sending a message; over the two main Discworld strands, the Witches and the Watch, Pratchett effectively locked out any way of playing with Vimes and Granny. Vimes as Duke, plus the Summoning Dark, is way too powerful politically and physically (magically?). And Granny is extremely powerful herself. Pratchett also has removed alot of the sources of conflict from within the disc itself, that is, Thud resolves the Troll/Dwarf conflict. Any new author has nowhere to go, except through stand alone novels, like Pyramids or Small Gods. And there’s some limits to that approach, in that the Wizards have been pretty well sidelined as well.

  5. Agree with Tim, although I thought he was already heading downhill by “Unseen Academicals”.

    To me, the series started sliding with “Monstrous Regiment”. Don’t know if that was me or him, but I think I read later it was probably around the time his Alzheimer’s started kicking off.

    From there for me it was mostly downhill (“Thud” nowhere near as good as the “Fifth Elephant”, “I shall wear Midnight” not as good as “Wee Free Men”).

    Although it was patchy, because I enjoyed the Moist von Lipwig books which came out in that period, but I suspected he’d started them earlier.

    Sorry to those of you who don’t.

  6. Yup, reliably laugh out loud. If anyone has recommendations for another author who does that, I’m interested.

    Richard Murphy.

  7. If only the government could have intervened, seized them and instead given them to a Non Profit set up to lovingly provide salaried work for useless middle-class people in London. At least then some good would have come from them.

  8. Richard,

    I had tremendous difficulty reading Monstrous Regiment when it came out, but did re-read it a good few years later; it’s a lot better than I originally thought.

    My guess is that with the YA strand beginning, Pratchett wanted to find out if he could use the Discworld to examine darker, more adult themes. I suspect that the answer was No, or not without some difficulty.

  9. Tom Sharpe, especially Wilt series.

    Tom Holt – Overtime I liked a lot, Flying Dutch has some great moments, Odds and Gods…..

  10. I’m reading one right now (can’t read the title) and the scene where Death gets summoned from a party is laugh out loud funny.

    That’s “The Light Fantastic” I believe:


    Galder: ‘I hope it is a good party’

    DEATH: AT THE MOMENT IT IS. I THINK IT MIGHT GO DOWNHILL VERY QUICKLY AT MIDNIGHT.

    Galder: ‘Why?’

    DEATH: THAT’S WHEN THEY THINK I’LL BE TAKING MY MASK OFF.

    He vanished, leaving only a cocktail stick and a short paper streamer behind.

  11. Snuff; why has no-one mentioned Snuff?
    That was his swan song and a very great one, IMHO.
    The light and the dark mixed to perfection.
    Vimes listening to the sounds of the country, The World of Poo, Vimes’s advice to the daughters of Lady Sybil’s friend-these are classic Pratchett humour.
    Conversely, the treatment of the goblins is as gritty as he gets-and that’s quite gritty.

  12. “Unseen Academicals” was when I first noticed his decline… but that might also have been because the story didn’t really grab me.

    There was the odd flash of brilliance after that (e.g. Vimes’ rant at the local equivalent of the Bennet daughters in “Snuff”) but otherwise they were generally plodding affairs when compared against Pterry’s previous high standards.

    “Small Gods” and “Night Watch” were probably the standouts of the entire series though.

  13. I quite like the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next series, which I only picked up because it assumed an alternative universe where Swindon was a significant city (this is the future, of course).

  14. Ben S

    Heidi Goodie, her collaboration ones (Clovenhoof series) are OK but her solo efforts (Odd-jobs etc) are almost Pterry standard

  15. Yup, reliably laugh out loud. If anyone has recommendations for another author who does that, I’m interested.

    P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books and stories.

  16. Roddy Doyle – The Van (the book not the movie, the movie is shite), I read it in one sitting.

    As Tim says, Tom Sharpe can be very funny.

  17. Rob said:
    “P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books and stories.”

    The Jeeves ones are funny, but for real laugh-out-loud the Blandings ones are better. Only time I ever actually fell off my chair laughing was one of those.

  18. Tom Sharpe, especially Wilt series.

    “The Throwback” is fantastic, as is “Vintage Stuff”. Probably my favourites.

  19. Clovis Sangrail, yes, I agree, Snuff has some very good bits in it. However I didn’t feel it was consistently good in the way that most of his earlier stuff was.

    Having just looked down the list, I’d put it as his best since Night Watch, which was nearly ten years earlier (and pre-Alzheimer’s) – except for Going Postal and Making Money (which I always thought seemed more like some of his earlier work; I wonder if he wrote them before but sat on them for a while).

    Mind you, your name’s creator is pretty good for raising laughs as well.

  20. “Jasper Fforde”

    Interesting writer. Shades Of Grey is very good.

    Pratchett was reliable, his earlier stuff was novel.

    Has anyy one read “The Long…” series co-written with the excellent sci-fi author Stephen Baxter?

  21. Competent rather than brilliant, but I just enjoyed reading through Jodi Taylor’s “The Chronicles of St Mary’s” – historians with access to time travel, with the faculty being an interesting collection of near-lunatics

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