I’ve been avoiding writing about this author for a while, but here I go.
He is comedy god. His witty jokes are funny not simply in the haha-that-was-a-nice-laugh way but rather in the I-wasn’t-drinking-any-milk-but-I’m-laughing-so-hard-milk-is-coming-out-of-my-nose way. No matter what mood I’m in at the moment (down, tired, neutral, or happy), once I start reading one of his books, I get swept away by his riotous words into a place of wonder and anticipation.
So, who is this amazingly hilarious writer I’m talking about, you ask?
Terry Pratchett (or Sir Terence David John Pratchett) was a prolific British fantasy comedy author of several children’s, young adult, and adult fiction series. Sadly, he passed away last spring after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. His most famous and voluminous series, Discworld, is a collection of narratives set in a flat world carried on the backs of four elephants that are themselves riding on the back of a huge turtle swimming through space. In case you were wondering, it gets stranger.
I have read less than half of his Discworld books. I haven’t read any of his single novels or other short series. I plan to savor each book, making my way slowly through his lines, studying each phrase to discover more of his little packets of genius- or weirdness, depending on how you want to spin it.
This is precisely what you must do as a Pratchett fan. Chew thoughtfully for a long, long time, then swallow and let it ruminate in your core. Gag it back up because you can never catch all of Pratchett’s intentions in one go, then chew and swallow again to let it digest and absorb all the good fibrous ideas, like a cow. You may need seven stomachs to fully understand his works. If you want a quick run-through of his most significant allusions, you can access detailed notes on The Annotated Pratchett File 9.0 on the L-Space Web. It is a website run by his many fans with over 200 annotations by his readers and some clarifications from the author himself. I often browse through these annotations when I read Pratchett’s books, although as a warning, some annotations contain spoilers.
As for where to start, Pratchett’s first book in the Discworld series, The Colour of Magic, seems like an obvious kickoff point. However, while I love it dearly, many Discworld readers do not believe it is a good representation of the entire series in terms of style. The Discworld books are also mostly independent works with some interweaving events that can be grouped together in a couple main story arcs. Regardless, here are some of my recommendations:
For the CSI junkie or Sherlock Holmes lover, I suggest Guards! Guards!, a police procedural novel with fantastical and sci-fi tones.
For the feminist and occultist, I recommend Equal Rites, the first in a storyline about the cunning witches of Discworld.
If instead you prefer grim reapers and sobering thoughts of death, I advise you to start with Mort, a delightful treatment of the personification of death.
Let me know in the comments if you try any of these books!