Get to Know the Discworld

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A librarian who happens to be an orangutan (and likes it that way, thank you very much). An enchanted piece of luggage that follows its owner everywhere, whether he wants it to or not. These are some of the things you’ll encounter in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.

The British wit and on-point satire of this fantasy series kept me entertained through high school and college (and beyond). Discworld is a flat planet, perched on the backs of four elephants, which are riding through space on the shell of an immense turtle. It’s absolutely nothing like our own world, and yet, very much like it.

The Colour of Magic

I took a trip down memory lane to look back at the books and make a list of my favorite titles. If you want to check out this series (and I think you should!), any of these would be a great place to start. You don’t necessarily have to read them in order. Enjoy!

Mort – Death is one of my favorite characters in the series. In this story, he takes on an apprentice (Mort), who has to learn the trade of collecting recently departed souls. We also meet Death’s adopted daughter, whose upbringing is, of course, quite unconventional.

Reaper Man – Death is back, and now he has to spend time living (ahem) among regular people. Taking a job as a farm hand, he has to figure out how to behave like ordinary folks. His awkward interactions are both funny and touching. To me, he’s one of the most sympathetic characters in the series.

Wyrd Sisters – This one features some of my other favorite characters, the witches. Pratchett pays homage to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a plot that includes a hilarious take on the famous cauldron scene. Let’s just say that when real witches end up on the stage, nobody gets what they expected.

The Fifth Elephant – If this wide-ranging series has a main character, it’s Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. This book takes him, and some of his officers, to the country of Uberwald. This vaguely Germanic-sounding place is home to dwarves, werewolves, and other fantasy staples. As always, Pratchett makes them his own.

The Truth

The Truth – The staff of Discworld’s first newspaper take on the task of proving that Lord Vetinari, leader of Ankh-Morpork, has been framed for murder. This is no easy task, because Vetinari was trained as an assassin, and really isn’t above killing.  We also meet Otto, the ‘iconographer’ (photographer) who is a vampire, meaning he turns to dust when the camera flashes.

Thief of Time – On the Discworld, time is a bit more fluid than it is for us. So when someone embarks on a project to build the most accurate clock ever, it turns out to have unforeseen consequences. If the clock starts, time stops. History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice have to prevent this disaster. There are a lot of neat concepts in this book, like the monks’ ability to step outside of time.

Monstrous Regiment – Here we have a wonderful exploration of the many fantasy races on the Discworld, including trolls, vampires, and Igors. Few authors have had such funny and thoughtful interpretations of these oft-overused beings. I especially love the trolls, who think more slowly in warm weather, which leads them to be seen (often unfairly) as stupid.

Going Postal

Going Postal – These books are at their best when they create twisted versions of real-world things like movies, the internet, and in this case, the postal service. This installment also gives us a prime example of the weird names Pratchett loved to give his characters (our protagonist’s name is Moist Von Lipwig.) He’s a con man who Lord Vetinari forces into a job no one else wants: running the Ankh-Morpork post office.

The Colour of Magic – This is the first book in the series, so it’s a pretty good place to start. It’s a great introduction to the Discworld, its magic, and its lore. You’ll quickly find out that it’s a wonderfully strange place, where magic has a unique color and the number eight is incredibly powerful.

Hogfather – I love this one because it brings together the hilarious wizards of Unseen University and another favorite character, Susan, who is Death’s granddaughter. Throw in the Discworld’s take on the holidays, and you’ve got one great story.

If you love fantasy, satire, and/or British humor, you should definitely check out this series. For more information, take a look at Eric’s post about the Watch books. Then visit your neighborhood library and see if an orangutan is at the desk.

Megan is a Children’s Library Assistant at CLP – East Liberty. When she isn’t reading fantasy, magical realism and/or pretty much any children’s book, she enjoys gaming, watching movies and writing fiction, some of which has been published.