As mentioned in our 2021 reading resolutions post, I’ve decided to reread Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. This came about from rereading Watership Down at the back-end of last year and realizing that rereading old favorites can be tremendous fun. More, it was the realization that I was forever quoting the Vimes theory of boot economics, but I couldn’t remember where it came from.
This started me wondering what other gems did Sir Terry include in his writing? I was reasonably young when I read his books, and I suspect the more subtle jokes and social commentary passed me by. My idea to start rereading Discworld was born. I hope in rereading the books with close to 50 years under my belt, I will be able to fully admire Pratchett’s wordplay and appreciate the extent of his observations about the absurdities of society.
Embarking on such an endeavor is not done without trepidation. There are 41 novels in the Discworld series. I struggle enough to read and review all the books I want to read in a given year without adding to my load. I’m clearly not going to finish all 41 in a year; this project is probably going to take at least 3 years, possibly as long as 5. Then there is the fact that I haven’t actually managed to read ALL of the books once. By the end of the project, it will just be “reading” Discworld, not rereading.
I have a confession to make. I only made it as far as The Fifth Elephant. I started to find the books a bit samey. I feel bad thinking this about a much-loved author, but after some truly great novels, I remember feeling like Sir Terry had hit upon a formula and worked it as hard as he could. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I used to work in a bookshop; I can remember the huge volume of copies we used to sell of the newest Discworld book. They used to fly off the shelves. Yet, I couldn’t help but find that the “take a different aspect of life and satirize it” device used in each novel became uninteresting. Satire was never far away in a Discworld novel, but I preferred the earlier books where there was a more mixed story and multiple threads were satirized simultaneously. Or at least that’s how I remember them.
This isn’t to say I didn’t love Pratchett’s writing. I can’t wait to dive back into it. I’m particularly looking forward to reading Mort and Sourcery again. It’s also the case that I no longer own a full(ish) collection of Pratchetts anymore. With (even average) parenting comes great responsibility, and there’s only space in our house for so much geeky junk. So I have whittled down my Pratchett collection to a few favorites. To complete this task I will have to beg, steal, borrow, and maybe even buy some books I’ve already bought and sent away.
Where to start rereading Discworld?
The beginning is usually a good place to start, but is it in this case? There are numerous reading order diagrams to be found for the Discworld novels. The one I have chosen to include here is from the Discworld Wikipedia page. I remember The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic being very different in tone to the subsequent novels. I also remember not enjoying Equal Rites, but that is by the by. Pratchett himself, apparently, didn’t suggest starting with the first two books. Perhaps I should read thematically? Whilst there are undoubtedly common characters shared between books, there are definitely themed groupings that I could follow. Maybe I should read the books one track at a time. Read Rincewind, then the Guards books, then the Witches, for example?
After some reflection, I feel the best place for me to start has to be where I started reading Discworld the first time as a teenager. The very beginning. For a documented reread, such as this one, the shift in style and approach between the opening two novels and what comes next is worthy of commentary. I’m fascinated to see how the series evolved. I’m intrigued to know how much of the gender politics of Equal Rites passed by a 13-year-old middle-class boy from the (UK) Midlands. Quite a lot, I should imagine.
So, with the Colour of Magic, I shall begin. It’s going to be a long road, but there will most certainly be laughs along the way. Perhaps you’d like to join me on the journey? We could reread Pratchett together, or perhaps you might pick him up for the very first time. This is going to be a journey of irregular stops, but I’d love to take some GeekDad readers with me. Please comment below if you’d like to join in the reread, or perhaps you’re one of the people who have reread Pratchett many times. In which case, which is your favorite Discworld novel? Lets us know in the comments. Which book should I definitely be looking forward to reacquainting myself with?
I’m already 2/3 of the way through the Colour of Magic, so, hopefully, my first full “Rereading Discworld” post won’t be very far away. See you for volume one soon!