Wednesday 18 March 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 10: “All Roads Lead To Ankh-Morpork”

2015 WORD COUNT = 13064 words

Sometimes bad news can have a silver lining. While the act itself can be something unwanted and the cause of sadness, deep down a part of us knows that it’s all better now.

So it is with the sad passing of Sir Terry Pratchett last Thursday. While his family, friends and fans all mourn him in their own way, we must be grateful that his ordeal with ‘That Embuggerance’ is over and he can finally rest.

While Pratchett wrote many things over the years, his greatest achievement and biggest body of work belongs in the Discworld. A hilarious ode to the greatest of fantasy worlds, the Discworld not only pokes fun at the tropes of so many fantastical stories but also holds a mirror up to our world.

With forty novels set in the magically flat world (that resides on the backs of four elephants who stand on the shell of mighty A’Tuin the turtle) the Discworld books contain every ingredient required of a fantasy world; wars, cities, trolls, swords, magic and so much more. But, while most epic fantasy stories are filled with mighty sorcerers and heroic knights, the Discworld is instead filled with somewhat more colourful characters from the other end of the spectrum (all eight colours of it!). While I wouldn’t use the term ‘realistic’, I guess it’s just nice to see characters react differently when fighting evil – like running away.

My trundle into the mind of Pratchett took three separate attempts.

The first was back in 1997 when I was nearing the end of my second year of college. My girlfriend’s friend lent me a copy of Good Omens, a book Pratchett co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. People tell me how good this book is all the time but, unfortunately, I’ll have to take their word for it. You see, I never even opened the book and, several months later, handed it back unread.

Flash forward a few years to 2000. After giving up on my education I was working full time in my local Video Shop. My manager started a conversation one day about the Discworld books he’d read years previous and I built up a little interest. They whole premise sounded like something I could really enjoy so I looked a little more into it. That was when I found I was already twenty four books behind, enough for me to walk away from such a mammoth undertaking.

Another three years passed and one day I found myself stood in a Tesco store looking at a copy of Night Watch for £3.73.  The series I thought was intimidating at twenty four books was now at twenty nine. I figured that if I didn’t start there and then I probably never would. Plus I was powering through books during that period of my life so I saw the entirety of the Discworld series as a rather appetising meal. Not wanting to miss a bargain I thought it best to grab Night Watch for the future and then went about getting myself of The Colour of Magic a few days later.

And I never looked back.

Rincewind’s adventures with Twoflower and the Luggage had me hooked by page ten. I enjoyed the comedy and language, both of which Pratchett excelled at. I powered through the book but was incredibly shocked to find myself at a literal cliff-hanger (or, more accurately, an ‘edge of the world’ hanger). At the first opportunity I went back to my nearest bookshop (which was a 40 minutes bus ride away!) and purchased The Light Fantastic. And Equal Rites. And Mort. Well, Waterstones had a 3 for 2 sale on.

And so my collection grew. Birthdays and Christmases added more and I carried on with the regular six month releases of the later books through the exceedingly good Tesco price point.

Despite how much I enjoyed them, I never rushed through the books. Instead I took my time, coming back to Discworld when someone else’s novel had left me unfulfilled. I knew where I was when walking the streets of Ankh-Morpork or paying a visit to Lancre. It was safe and relaxing, fun to visit; my literature holiday destination of choice.

The books fall into one of four sets; Rincewind and the Wizards of Unseen University, Granny Weatherwax and the Witches of Lancre, the caps lock talking Death, and, my personal favourite, Ankh-Morpork and the City Watch. Ever since Guards! Guards! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Samuel Vimes as both law and order have been dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the streets of the biggest city in the Discworld. In fact, Vimes is my all-time favourite character in the series (hence why my middle name is Samuel).

There really is something for everyone. Other than the first two books, there are no real sequels. Sure, if you read the lot then you can see the characters grow, and, like the Marvel universe, there’s a lot of character crossover. But I think you can really start anywhere.

Something I’m really looking forward to is handing the books down to my son when he’s old enough (and quashed his need to bend covers!). I hope that he finds the same enjoyment as I have and finds his own favourite character.

I still have a little way to go towards, what I now know, is the end. Yesterday I finished Monstrous Regiment, a brilliant story that’s like Mulan on steroids mixed with a little Joan of Arc. I gave it five stars and it is probably going to make my top five.

I’ll be sad when I eventually turn the last page on the series but there are two glimmering lights of hope.

A couple of years ago Pratchett joined forces with sci-fi author Stephen Baxter to write a novel called The Long Earth. The tale of multiple worlds sat side by side, it tells of what happens when mankind no longer has to fight for space and can expand indefinitely. It sounds epic and is the start of a five book series of which the fourth is due for release this June. I’m hoping they planned the final book and that Baxter wraps it all up as I expect Pratchett would wish.

As for the Discworld? Well, sources say that his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, will carry the torch and continue the stories of what is a truly amazing world. I look forward to seeing what she does with it.

I never met Pratchett and he never had any idea who I am. But, for the last twelve years, his stories have made me laugh and for that alone I’m extremely grateful.


Well said, sir. Well said.

See you in seven.

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