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There’s nothing odd about Pratchett at all

What’s lacking here is insight. Pratchett’s unparalleled drive remains a mystery. His alchemical creativity goes unexplained. Perhaps that’s as it must be: genius as a kind of magic, beyond the reach of biographer to comprehend. If you want to understand Pratchett, the place to begin is where it always was: with those brilliant, ebullient novels.

The man wrote commentaries upon, satires of, the world he saw outside his window. As many writers have done before and as many – hopefully at least – will do again. That those commentaries, satires, were largely set within a fantasy – meaning fantasy, not sci fi, or some other genre – world is a near irrelevance. They started there – The Colour of Magic – but then developed, with him, into those satires. The Truth is the best such on newspapers since Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. Etc.

The oddity, the mystery, might be that the novels are so damn good. But then that’s something we might say about any damn good novelist.

15 thoughts on “There’s nothing odd about Pratchett at all”

  1. Agreed. Also a satire on Britishness, and such an ability to realise a heroic barbarian, a werewolf, or a wizard can be exactly like an uncle, a neighbour or a teacher you once had.

  2. I think there’s something else. The almost complete absence of spear carriers. Those walk-on characters whose only purpose is to be vanquished by the hero. All of his characters are people with their own internal logic.
    It’s a mistake a lot of authors make. Characters behaving in a way would make no sense for real people with their own lives. Action films are full of them, aren’t they? Particularly the Bonds. The henchmen who queue up to come to gruesome & amusing ends. Apparently having no existence other than wearing a rather camp uniform. Totally uninterested in whether they’ll survive to the next reel.

  3. It is informative to contrast the immensely enjoyable Sky adaptations with the boilerplate bbc treatment in the thankfully short-lived series “The Watch”.

    Respect and preferably love your source material. Something the writers and producers of Rings of Power have palpably failed to do.

  4. My mother’s mother was a small woman, fond of Guinness, untipped Weights and men in uniform. Her sister was an upright, God fearing spinster active in the church. When I encountered them in Pratchett I did glance up at the sky and wonder if someone was taking the piss.

  5. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    bis, quite right. Pratchett didn’t write many NPCs.

    Question for the fans, including our host. I largely gave up shortly after Guards! Guards! (god, that long ago) because I felt the series was running out of steam*. Should I revisit, and if so are there any later books (after ~Discworld 12) to definitely read, or definitely miss?

    *: I would not put it past Pratchett to have written in a literal, self-parodying shark-jump in one of the later books.

  6. Small Gods is very good.

    Lords and Ladies will make those who know their Shakespeare laugh. And the description of who is a real parent is beautifully done.

    Men at Arms, v good.

    Maskerade v good parody of opera and Phantom of.

    Feet of Clay v good.

    20 to 36 on this list are all entirely excellent. Some are kids books but great for all that. The adult novels there are simply good novels. Very good novels.

    Unseen Academicals has its movements but I take that to be where the brain started misfiring. There’s good stuff in there. But, umm, not wholly and entirely right in some ways.

    Snuff and Raising Steam I liked, but both clearly suffered from the brain problems. They’re nowhere near as intricate. The storylines are good, some of the characters are good, but there’s not as much wordplay and layered fun.

    One story about his writing method was that he’d be in the study ’till 10 at night playing with sentences, adjusting jokes. The actual writing was during the day, cracking it out. But that second and third payer of playing was what made the prose. And that’s what the last few didn’t get.

  7. The latter books are clearly meant to …complete… “his” world, and give each character a ..satisfactory.. ending.
    It’s not a big secret that they were partially ghostwritten, according to the major plot points and puns as directed by the ailing sir PTerry. It shows, but he managed to cram it all in somewhere.

    And Pratchett actually used a lot of NPC’s.. Although he didn’t use them as comic relief, but more as “flavour” to indicate how harsh his “amusing” Discworld actually was.
    From the Shades, the “brawls” in the Broken/Mended Drum, the musings of DEATH, the scores upon scores of victims of Cohen ( then again, the brilliant spoof/lamentation on the 101 rules of Overlording in The Last Hero…), the Librarian was quite lethal when invoked.., the accidental victims Rincewind left in his wake, the various quite bloody exploits of Samuel Vimes, Vetinary when he decides to use Irony, the list goes on…
    Many NPC’s, just to make a point…

    @BiFR.. They’re all worth reading, if you consider the conditions they were written under. They’re not as… dense.. as his prime work, but the concepts being tackled and the way they’re executed are still very, very good.
    I may be biased as I read them as they came out, and noticed the “Long Goodbye” Pratchett was performing, which ……added a bittersweet extra layer to the books.
    YMMV , as usual. But compared to standard-rate commercial fantasy.. Well above the norm still.

  8. I may be in a minority, but I thoroughly enjoyed “The Watch”. Yes it was quite Woke but I can’t help thinking that Sir Terry would have been that way anyway.

    On its own merits… very fun indeed.

  9. I will come to the defence of the Shepherds Crown as the five Tiffany Aching books are a superb read for pre-teen to early teenage girls, particularly when compared to the fatuous girl power output of so many of todays films and tv series.

    It also includes a touching and satisfactory ending for Granny Weatherwax, one of the 3 most important Discworld characters along with Sam Vimes and Death.

  10. Granny’s death in Shepherd’s Crown was some of the best writing Pratchett ever did, you can see he knew the end was coming and he put his heart into overcoming his embuggerance to give the best testament to Mistress Weatherwax he could. But the rest of the book, you could see how far he’d done, it was so distressing to read.

  11. Agree on the last half-dozen or so books, and that Unseen Academicals is where it was first jarringly noticeable. I got the impression that he had so many ideas that he wanted to get down that too many went into each book. I’d argue that Night Watch was the high point of the series, and the non-Discworld Nation is unfairly overlooked.

    Granny’s death in Shepherd’s Crown was some of the best writing Pratchett ever did, you can see he knew the end was coming

    I’m looking forward to my daughter being old enough to appreciate Tiffany Aching: by far a more complete character than anyone else in the category.

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