If you chuckled, then you have read the Discworld series of Terry Pratchett — a humor writer whose fantasy novels are set in a world before science discovered that the earth was round. Thus, the name Discworld. A flat world.
Being a fantasy series, the imagination can go anywhere.
In this world, Death is literal in his understanding of human speech. If he appears to you and you ask him if you are dying, he will say, “Yes, everybody is dying.”
A pantheon exists, from the powerful Blind Io, head of the gods, to the petty Anoia, goddess of things that get stuck in kitchen cabinets. And the first word of the great god Om to his prophet Brutha is “Pssssst!”
The city’s tyrannical Patrician, Lord Vetinari, believes in “one man, one vote.” That is, he is the man, so he has the vote.
The wizards there are more concerned with their next meal, like, second breakfast. A witch with a malfunctioning broom needs a running start to get it going. Aging heroes like Cohen the Barbarian get stronger going into their nineties, and have the notion that they should return fire to the gods. Captain Carrot, a human over six feet tall adopted by dwarfs, was told by his parents that they thought “he would grow out of it.”
I first became aware of him as co-author of “Good Omens,” a novel he wrote with Neil Gaiman. The book had absurdities which did not fit into the style of Mr. Gaiman. (Those who have read the latter’s “Neverwhere” or the Sandman series would be nodding their heads).
When I started reading Sir Terry’s books, I found myself smiling, giggling, or even bursting into guffaws. Hmmm, maybe it was not a good idea to read the books outside of the house. I laughed more with Discworld than with “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — a science-fiction novel by Douglas Adams, another humorist from the across the pond. I was hooked. I had to buy up the rest of the Discworld series.
Terry Pratchett is certainly successful in his home country of England. There, his books have been adapted into stage plays, radio series and full-length TV features.
But, unlike his fellow subjects of the realm, Miss Rowling of the Harry Potter series, and the earlier-mentioned Douglas Adams, none of his books have been made into Hollywood movies. So far.
I am certain that as soon as the large, international movie-going audience of Hollywood is exposed to him, his book sales will skyrocket, and his name will be commonplace. Right now, however, when asked who I am currently reading, and I say “Terry Pratchett,” I am met with quizzical and apologetic grins. I do not get the same questioning expressions when I answer, say, “David Attenborough,” (another British writer) who is not even a fictional novelist, but a TV host of natural history programs.
I do believe that Terry Pratchett is underrated internationally, despite success in his homeland, because I am a great fan of humor peppering good, imaginative plots. I am delighted by an acrobatic turn of phrase. So I think more people should read him. Those who enjoy a good chuckle, or take pleasure in awesome stories, and smile at the abilities of wordsmiths, have a more positive outlook in life. And goodness knows we can all do with a hearty one.
Besides, coupled with Terry Pratchett’s straight humor is the parody of life as we know it. Despite his novels having a medieval setting, his caricature of human foibles is so spot-on, so relatable, and so relevant.
So, for those who like funny, witty fantasy novels, and if Terry Pratchett sounds like your cup of tea, you may start with his first Discworld novel, “The Colour of Magic.” Or you can skip down the line to other titles that catch your interest, like “The Hogfather,” or “The Fifth Elephant.”
As for me, I am still on the lookout for humorous books to read. Erma Bombeck is one of my favorites. So is Tina Fey. Anyone care to share a good, laughing read?