Discworld is a series of novels about philosophy pretending to be fantasy novels. The author was a devout humanist, meaning he was a polite atheist who turned his fury into humor, similar to PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams. He wrote, having passed away a couple years ago from alzheimers, 43 novels in this series, and they are magnificent. I can say that, having read them all. These are magnificent books. They are brilliantly written, polished, funny, observant, and remind us of our better natures. We are not perfect beings, but we can certainly strive, and what would the world be like if we were all the same? One of the reasons you can tell the series is truly great is because you don’t have to start at the beginning. The first few books are not as polished as the later ones. Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic can be read later. Same with Equal Rites. As a humanist, and a humorist, Pratchett knew that people tend to be selfish and dumb and thoughtless, and he reflected that in a usually humorous way. You can read any of his many character-centric series.
He even has Death as a main character. And Death’s Grand-daughter, whose existence is a story in itself. Death begins with Mort, then follows on with Reaper Man, Soul Music, and makes various appearances in the various novels, because Death is always there, waiting, ready.
One of the important characters in the series is named Tiffany Aching, pictured here. Tiffany is a shephard’s daughter, a master cheesemaker by age 8, and a witch. In the Discworld, a witch is a nurse, a doctor, a housekeeper, a troubleshooter, a coroner, a midwife, and the primary defender against dimensional incursions by demons, fairies, and sometimes negotiates with them when they can be reasoned with. Tiffany’s first novel is called The Wee Free Men.
Feegles are like smurfs who drink, and steal, and fight, and are tremendously strong and quick.
The Feegles are a great example of his noteworthy characters. There’s a fine description of them in the sequel, called A Hat Full of Sky. These are YA books, and become increasingly grim, with the final book in the series also being the final book written by Pratchett before his death. Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight get to be more serious topics.
Another series to pursue are the story of the Wizards, who are basically dumb academics who are just smart enough to get into serious trouble. One of the more important wizards is the infamous coward, Rincewind. He’s in the first two Discworld books, and he’s so good at cowardice he survives them all.
“Away is the important thing. Run away. From takes care of itself.” He’s a traveller, though he doesn’t want to be. “Rincewind always thought of himself as a racist: the 50, the 100 yard, the mile: he’d run them all. When he was told there was another meaning of the word he was quite confused.”
Rincewind is a library assistant. Its very safe in the library, if you are careful to ground the books before picking them up, and if you don’t get lost. The UU library is multi-dimensional, like the Tardis, and also loops through time if you take the wrong route through the building.
The librarian, in the first novel Colour of Magic, gets turned into an orangutan and decides to remain so because it takes four limbs to shelve in the real world, and I know that personally, and he’s got thumbs on his feet so he’s pretty happy. The librarian is a recurring character as well, and get a part-time job as an emergency policeman when things get complicated in the other set of characters, known as The Watch. The first novel of that series is Guards! Guards! and Pratchett said he’d originally intended to make Carrot the main character but realized as he was writing it that he liked writing Vimes better. Vimes is like Dirty Harry with a crossbow instead of a .44 magnum, and he’s so strongly motivated to right wrongs that he is unable to function otherwise. Vimes is a serious man with a drinking problem he tries to avoid, a smoking habit that replaced booze, and a contrary nature. The watch books are one of the best loved in the series, and quite a few of the books are about Vimes and his gradually evolving police force.
Vimes’ primary opponent is the Patrician, best defined as “one man, one vote, and I’ve met him”. The Patrician is in charge of the main city of the Disc, Anhk-Morpork which is best described as a combination of London, Paris, and Cairo, peopled with sort-of English people, trolls, and dwarves, who only get along uneasily. It stinks of rot and sewage, the river is so full of muck you can run across its surface, and the residents don’t go into certain areas because they are too unsafe to enter, even in daylight. The brass bridge doesn’t shine because the brass was stolen, and the city is built on top of earlier versions of itself. It is old, filthy, and corrupt. At the city center is the Unseen University, which is where the wizards live. They work hard to avoid using magic, but that’s a complicated plot point explained in the books about them. The wizards frequently interact with Death, who comes for them personally, and they are allowed to know precisely when, which is one of the perks for magical people.
This is Atuin, the name of the world-turtle. Its gender is unknown, and is a plot point in several of the novels. The basic turtle with elephants is a reference to the absurd beliefs of the Hindus, and the old joke:
“The world is flat. It rests of the backs of four elephants. They stand upon the back of a turtle.”
“What’s the turtle stand on?”
“Oh, its turtles all the way down.”
Turtles all the way down. That’s a special kind of crazy that only religious maniacs would consider an answer.
There’s also a seris of books on religion itself. Pyramids is about gods of Tsort, which is basically Egypt of the Disc. Small Gods is about the Catholic reformation. The Thief of Time is about both the goddess of Time and about Tibetan Buddhism, Death, and chocolates. Wintersmith and Hogfather are also about religion, folklore, and the movie for Hogfather while somewhat corny is also profound and gained Pratchett a Knighthood and award for protecting and promoting English folklore.
There are two sets of witches in the series, and they interact. Tiffany is the younger witch. The older witches, who first appear in Equal Rites, later in Wyrd Sisters, and then follow in Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, Carpe Jugulum, and eventually the final novel. The witches stories are about narrativium, and being outside the stories, seeing them happening, and interfering as needed. Narrativium is a driving force on the Discworld. And the colour of magic is a greenish purple. If you know any science, this is called 3rd order refraction, and is a reference to really complete rainbows which require just the right timing and conditions to see. A rainbow is 2nd Order refraction. So this is both a joke and a science reference to something true. I’m reasonably sure that Pratchett was friends with a geologist. He makes jokes about minerology and quantum physics pretty often during the stories, and you get more of the jokes the more you know. The better your education, the funnier they are.
The audiobooks for these novels are excellent, best of breed. I highly recommend them as a way to experience the books. They are professionally read with love and attention. I do wish that Carpe Jugulum and Jingo were re-released in the USA. Audible doesn’t have them, which is ridiculous since they sell them overseas. Just not here in the USA. It is frustrating. I do wish that Rhianna Pratchett would fix that publishing glitch.