by Lee Cross
Terry Pratchett. Sir Terrance Pratchett. Dearly departed. A man who existed in two worlds… and one of them was disc shaped, carried by four giant elephants, on the back of a star turtle.
There are about 40 Discworld books, including ‘The Discworld Companion’, which provide far more details and descriptions than I could ever possibly hope to. So instead, I’ve picked out a few titles from the 40, which are in some way exceptional and worthy places to spend your time.
The Colour of Magic / The Light Fantastic
Rincewind, a wizard turned tour-guide, sets off on adventure with the Two-Flower, the Discworld’s first ever tourist, after accidentally burning down his home city of Ankh-Morpork. In the course of their travels they experience every adventure it’s possible to run away from…while, unintentionally, saving the world.
Principal Character: Rincewind – a wizard so inept that he has the word written on his hat, which typically has been spelled wrong.
Great Line: “On the Disc, the Gods aren’t so much worshipped, as they are blamed.”
Exceptional Quality: This is the first book – begin at the beginning, let middle and end take care of themselves.
The Last Hero
‘The Silver Horde’, the Disc’s most fearsome (see also: Retired/Elderly/Infirm) barbarians, embark on one last adventure… to declare war on the Gods. Only the crew of “The Kite” can stop them from accidentally destroying the world.
Principle Character: Ensemble Cast – Including: Vetinari ‘The Patrcian’ / The Silver Horde / Captain Carrot / Leonard of Quirm / Rincewind / ‘The Gods’
Great Line: “Some people say you achieve immortality through your children”, said the minstrel. “Yeah,” said Cohen, “name one of your Great-Grandads then”?
Exceptional Quality: A beautifully illustrated graphic novella.
The Fifth Elephant
Eons ago there weren’t four Elements that carried The Disc, there were five and then… something happened.
In the present, The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork needs the raw materials being mined from that mythical carcass and there is only one main to send: the man who doesn’t want to go – His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh, Commander of the City Watch and recovering alcoholic.
Principal Character: Sam Vimes – TP once said that he didn’t actually mean to write a book about Vimes but his presence just overtook the plot of Guards Guards! and from there the writing had a mind of its own.
Great Line: “I assure you I will not kill you,” said Inigo. “I know that,” said Vimes. “But will you try?”
Exceptional Quality: The way it deals with complex subjects like race relations, cross border politics, etc. while still being a book a child could read and enjoy.
Thief of Time
In the distant valley of Oi Dong, the ‘History Monks’, struggle endlessly (quite literally) to make sure tomorrow happens. ‘The Auditors’, the accountants of the universe, have other ideas; tired of the inhabitants of the Disc doing… well anything… they have decided it‘s time to put a stop to them once and for all (…again, literally).
Principal Characters: Susan Sto Helit – primary school teacher and grand-daughter of DEATH (yes…literally!). Lu-Tze – a legendary warrior monk, master of the martial arts, carrier of the hidden wisdoms of the universe and cleaner of privies.
Great Line: “Questions don’t have to make sense…but answers do”.
Exceptional Quality: The comedy. From start to finish it’s full of laughs and life.
Sam Vimes is back… in time. He’s hunting a vicious serial killer. Accidentally leading a revolution. Desperately trying to make it home to his wife and unborn child. Teaching his younger self how to be a man. And dying to make sure the future, which he remembers as past, happens at all.
Principal Character: This is the Sam Vimes show (a lot of other favourites make appearances, most notably The Pratician as a school boy, but none of them would begrudge him top billing – it’s his finest hour).
Great Line: “Here’s some advice, boy. Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they are called revolutions.”
Exceptional Quality: This is just a great book. I don’t mean, ‘a great kids book’, or ‘a great Terry Pratchett book’, I mean “a great book”.
Honourable Mentions: Granny Weatherwax and The Witches / Mort / Eric / Moist Von Lipwig / William De Worde – all of whom lead great novels in their own right but aren’t featured above.