Recommendation: Discworld

Well I don’t quite consider him a literary idol of mine, I very much respect the talents of the late Terry Pratchett

Now, I’m kind of weird for a Greatest Living author (…that sentence is still factually true if you put the period there) in that I don’t really have an contemporary literary idols.

Basically, if it happened after AD 476, I’ve got no time for it.
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I’m shy of 30. Tolkienin my opinion factually, indisputably the greatest author of this or any age, in this or any language, on this or any world — died in 1973. Robert E. Howard died in 1936.

Most of the other stuff I’m actually passionate about reading is either anonymous, ancient, mythological epics, historical war stories, or things written by people who have been dead for centuries (or possibly never actually existed in the first place).

In terms of contemporary authors, I’ve made my feelings on Harry Potter very clear, I’ve never really “got” anything Neil Gaiman has written, I like Guy Gavriel Kay (who’s CanCon, by the way), but all his books have at least one glaring flaw, I like the idea of comic books, but hate the current reality of comic books — for one thing, they’ve gotten way too serious, uptight, and sprawling for their own good (bring back the Silver Age!).

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

Well I don’t quite consider him a literary idol of mine, I very much respect the talents of the late Terry Pratchett — properly, that’s Sir Terry Pratchett; clearly he was doing something right with his books if he got a knighthood out of them.

No, not that kind of knight.
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To a certain extent, I feel like Terry Pratchett needs no introduction, but on the off-chance you don’t know who he is, the reason that he needs no introduction is because of the (very) long-running Discworld.

Discworld is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s about a flat, circular planet (standing on elephants, standing on a turtle), not unlike actual ancient conceptions of the actual space of the actual world.

So, basically this, but a planet.
(That was the best picture of anything even remotely disc-like I could find)
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Like I said, I don’t consider Pratchett an idol, but it’s impossible not to respect his ability. That being said, in a very weird, sort of roundabout way, Pratchett and Discworld have been a pretty notable influence on me and Realmgard. Though, strictly speaking, they’ve been more of an anti-influence.

That’s a good thing.

Basically, I clearly have a very British sense of humour, because Discworld is full of exactly the kind of jokes I would make. Hence, the ‘anti-influence’ thing. I’m basically telling myself “No, don’t do that; Discworld already did that.”

I am my own toughest critic…

So, from that, it should be pretty clear that Discworld is overall pretty Realmgard-ian in a lot of ways. Though Discworld is a lot more satirical than Realmgard has ever tried to be. The first few books (which the fanbase as a whole seems to think are the worst in the series, though they’re my favourites) are more straightforward parodies of the Fantasy genre than anything.

Over time, however, Discworld started turning more towards social commentary and satire. Discworld is never not funny, but it does make some pretty insightful (and occasionally scathing) commentaries about things like feminism, death, gun control, religion, war, industrialisation, nationalism, and society in general.

In a way, Discworld is a very “adult” Fantasy series — and that’s not “adult” like “18+”. That’s “adult” in the sense of pertaining to issues most real-world adults are going to relate to as they fall in love, start a career, raise, engage in politics, make sense of their belief systems, face intolerance, try to foster tolerance. Basically, Discworld is examining and addressing real-world issues by means of Fantastical elements like Trolls, Dragons, and giant Space Turtles.

Also, Witches.
Of which (not a pun, I swear), this was the best picture I could find.
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Like I said, there’s a lot of really keen, meaningful insight. Terry Pratchett was a smart dude. And also a good enough writer that these insights are never unsubtle or unfunny.

Getting back to that “adult” idea, Discworld aimed at younger readers (except for the several books that were written specifically for younger readers), there’s not much violence, and even less that’s graphic or even just non-cartoonish and unrealistic, there’s the odd bit of naughtiness, but mostly presented in such a way that kids aren’t really going to clue in that it’s naughtiness in the first place.

On the other hand, kids probably also aren’t going to clue into most of the social satire, or why it’s funny. On the other other hand, like I said, Terry Pratchett was an inherently talented and charming writer that even without the social satire landing, there’s enough in the books that’s just funny on its own merits.

On the plus side, at least the kids don’t have to do taxes…
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I’d put Discworld at about the next age bracket up from Realmgard. For reference, The Colour of Magic, the first Discworld book was on the list of recommended books for my little brother’s Grade 9 book report.

As a potential word of warning to any completionists out there, Pratchett was doing Discworld for 32 year, and put out 41 novels in that time. So, doing the whole series is going to take some, uh, doing. On the other hand, most of the Discworld books work perfectly well as standalone stories, so there are plenty of potential starting points to chose from.

I’m pretty sure those shelves are nothing but Discworld books.
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Like I mentioned in passing earlier, most Discworld think the series didn’t get good until several books in (depending on who you’re asking, either three, eight, or even 13), but my own personal favourites are the first two: the aforementioned Colour of Magic and its direct sequel, The Light Fantastic (which were also adapted into a TV movie by British network Sky One).

To recap: basically this, but in space.
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