Bewildering Stories

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Terry Pratchett; An Appreciation

by Jerry Wright

I was going to write a review of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, but I'm only 350 pages into it, leaving me with over 600 pages to finish this wooley mammoth of a novel. So instead, I'll do something else.

I read the my first Terry Pratchett novel back in the early eighies. I almost didn't, because I detested (sorry) the Josh Kirby cover. Still, and all... The Colour of Magic was touted as a humorous fantasy, and it was, but I didn't care for the character of Rincewind, and I found Twoflower, the quintessential tourist irritating, but I quite liked the Luggage.

Perhaps my preconceptions had been formed by an earlier "modern" humorous fantasy A Spell For Chameleon (1977) by Piers Anthony. I found THAT a charming book, with an ungodly amount of puns, but the main character, Bink, was pleasant enough in his way. Rincewind, however, was a different kettle of "unheroisms".

I'd never met a "hero" whose way of handling the "little vicissitudes that life throws at you" was by running away. Real fast. Still, the book had funny bits, and was good enough so that I read The Light Fantastic. This was better than the first, but still had much that "wasn't funny". I didn't like Cohen the Barbarian. I grew up on Howard's Conan, and I never thought John Jakes' Mention My Name In Atlantis particularly funny. Still, Rincewind and "family" were beginning to grow on me.

Then, I read Equal Rites,(1987) the first introduction of Granny Weatherwax. Although she evolves as a character in Wyrd Sisters, Pratchett (or Pterry as cognoscenti like to call him) was starting to hit his stride. With the publishing of Mort,(also 1987) the first of the series featuring Death as the main character, Terry took off, and hasn't hit ground yet.

The books have been broken down into series featuring "Rincewind", "The Witches", "Death (and Susan)", "The Watch", and "Other Assorted Stuff" like Pyramids and Small Gods. At this point, I'd have to say that stories featuring "the Watch" like Guards! Guards! and Night Watch are my favorite.

Pterry's stories are no longer pastiches of various fantasy tropes as they were in the past. The quality and depth of the writing, and philosophical underpinnings of each book while not obvious, are evident. There has been some whinging in the background that Terry Pratchett has not been appreciated by the "Litteratuers", and a collection of critical essays entitled Terry Pratchett:Guilty of Literature has been written by various critics (albeit friendly critics...). I am told, however, that this book is rather dry and dull. Too bad considering the topic.

Both Night Watch and Monstrous Regiment are not funny books. Oh yes, there is humor, as well as pain, and anger. But the humor does not arise from gags, but rather from the circumstances in which the three- (and sometimes four-) dimensional characters find themselves. These are books that make you think, and make you feel, and make you realize that Terry Pratchett has almost singlehandedly made the reading of footnotes mandatory.

Terry Pratchett used to be the best-selling author in England until some lady bumped him off the charts, but he has made a lot of money from his writing, and all I can say is "Good on yer, mate!"

For more information on Terry Pratchett visit

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright

Please excuse me for chiming in here, Jerry, but I just have to second your motion of approval of Terry Pratchett. My dentist gave me Small Gods to read. Oh well, if I have to... And then I was hooked. I haven’t been able to get enough of him since. I’ve read the ones you’ve mentioned. I think my favorites are Men at Arms, Feet of Clay and Good Omens (with Neil Gaiman).

It’s hard to know where to tell someone to start with Pratchett. Either Wyrd Sisters or Small Gods, I guess. It’s not just the subject matter; it’s the characters that appeal to me in those novels.

A British author once said she felt that the true “successor” to Tolkien is not J. K. Rowling but Terry Pratchett. I’m sure that was intended as high praise, but I’d ask, rather, who is the precursor to Terry Pratchett? Hard to find one, though you’ve come up with some good ideas.

And I’ve grown rather fond of the book covers, too.

Don, a Pratchett fan