The summer of Discworld

The Colour of Magic

Finished 27 May.

Less engaging than Lords and Ladies. Rincewind is less interesting as a character than the witches, and though he did grow on me I feel his character needs some development and depth. Twoflower is charming and funny, but also hardly a well-developed character in this novel. I suppose we might learn more about them both eventually. The best parts were the intersection of magic and mythology with physics and logic.

Only elves and trolls had survived the coming of Man to the discworld; the elves because they were altogether too clever by half, and the trollen folk because they were at least as good as humans at being nasty, spiteful and greedy.

Page 116.

The Light Fantastic

Finished 20 June.

A bit better than The Colour of Magic, there is at least a coherent plot of sorts and both Rincewind and Twoflower are rounded out as characters.  But I also identified some of the things I think made me not get into Pratchett before, and I now know exactly what it is: It’s a feeling that he gets so caught up in being clever, in inventing concepts and puns, that he loses sight of the story. Which is his prerogative, of course, but I don’t have to like it. Take page 201 where Twoflower relates having seen people helping themselves to instruments from a shop in the chaos of a riot and Rincewind absentmindedly says «Luters, I expect.» Now I like a pun as well as the next girl, but the whole exchange is pretty pointless, it’s obviously just there for the sake of the pun, and having to stop and think about a pun at that point breaks the flow of the narrative.

And though Pratchett deserves praise for including non-traditional female characters (I am particularly taken with Bethan, I wonder if she will turn up in later books), he also falls into trite stereotypes now and again. Here, for example, he starts off splendidly and then falls rather flat:

Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn’t take you seriously until you’d actually killed them, by which time it didn’t really matter anyway. Then there was all the leather, which brought her out in a rash but seemed to be unbreakably traditional. And then there was the ale. It was all right for the likes of Hrun the Barbarian or Cimbar the Assasin to carouse all night in low bars, but Herrena drew the line at it unless they sold proper drinks in small glasses, preferably with a cherry in. As for the toilet facilities…

(Page 132.) Because women don’t drink beer and need advanced plumbing.

But now onto Equal Rites, which has witches.

Equal Rites

Finished 23 June.

Much better. But also quite annoying. I’m hoping the dichotomy between witches and wizards eases off a little in later books, or I might still end up writing off Pratchett as a bad job. Wizards go to university and read books and use symbols and study atoms and their magic is related to maths and physics, whereas witches use suggestion and herbs and their magic is «earthy» and life-affirming.

«If men were witches, they’d be wizards. It’s all down to–» she tapped her head «–headology. How your mind works. Men’s minds work different from ours, see. Their magic’s all numbers and angles and edges and what the stars are doing, as if that really mattered. It’s all power. It’s all–» Granny paused, and dredged up her favourite word to describe all she despised in wizardry, «–jommetry.»

(Page 84.) Sound familiar? I sure HOPE Pratchett is painting this as a parallell to history on earth and the whole «we are fundamentally different» thing is revealed to be so much tosh (and not only in the case of Esk who happens to have wizardry trust upon her by accident). Because so far it is giving me too many «misogony disguised as flattery»-vibes, I’m afraid.

But there is much to like, too. Esk is delightful, and I hope we’ll see more of her. Granny Weatherwax is just getting into her stride as a character and I’m looking forward to her further development. Cutangle turns out to not be so bad, perhaps, and Simon will hopefully also turn up again, and get a bit more flesh on him in later books.


Finished 9 July.

Yeah, so… Death as a side character in the other books has been sort of amusing. In Mort he takes a much larger part, and, well, perhaps it was a bit much. But still, Mort himself is sympathetic, we get a few more female characters with a backbone and the solution to the whole thing was neater than I expected it to be. Still not my favourite.


Finished 25 July

Hm. Well. No. It better pick up again in the next book, or I might give it all up. This was just a jumble of all the things that I have liked the least in the earlier books, at least that’s what it felt like. The only half-way interesting character was Conina, but I found her desire to be a hairdresser of all things a bit of a tired cliché. It had good bits, though.

Spelter touched a surface that was smoother than stone. It felt like ice would feel if ice was slightly warm, and looked like ivory. While it wasn’t exactly transparent, it gave the impression that it would like to be.

(Page 108.) Now, see, this is an example of Pratchett doing wordplay really well. It’s a wonderful description and actually relevant to the story, as opposed to things like the «luters» in The Light Fantastic.

Anyway, is this the end of Rincewind? I haven’t checked the storyline cheat sheet, but I shouldn’t think so, though it looks bleak. On the other hand, I wouldn’t miss him much, so I guess Pratchett failed at making me care what happens. But the next book has witches.

Wyrd Sisters

Finished 7 August.

More like it, though… Well, I don’t know. I like the «sisters» and I ought to have thoroughly enjoyed all the Shakespearian references in this one, but I was only mildly amused. And I’m beginning to tire of Pratchett’s «romances». Everyone seems to fall in love at first sight, never mind the personality, hey? And I don’t know that I really believe in the couples as couples. Having already read Lords and Ladies, I know the Margrat/Verence thing continues to be pretty much equally wishy-washy and unexplainable.

Another thing that bothers me is the whole sisterhood theme. I mean, there’s the «witches against wizards» thing still going on (though being less pronounced in this book as there are no wizards actually present), but there’s a lot of emphasis on how the female and male magic is different throughout the series. Yet Nanny Ogg, despite being a commanding matriarch with (seemingly) great affection for all her sons and grandchildren (or rather grandsons) seems to have no regard for women in her family. In this book it is mentioned that she has daughters, but only as a sort of insult from Granny Weatherwax (none of them turned out witches) and I think that’s the first we’ve heard of them, though numerous of the sons have been named and have figured as characters. And then we have the daughters-in-law:

Nanny Ogg never used her washhouse, since all her washing was done by the daughters-in-law, a tribe of grey-faced, subdued women whose names she never bothered to remember.

(Page 80). Hardly very sisterly of her, is it? I know, I know, there’s an argument that the solidarity is reserved for other witches, not «ordinary people», but then why are the sons (and at least one grandson) named and given identities? I think it’s just ordinary ingrained misogony from a white male author. Which is so common that it’s almost not a problem, you know? Even so, it’s hardly a selling point, either.

Well, I’m not giving up yet. The next two books are lined up, so we’ll see.

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett

It’s odd how it is, some books have to find you at the right time. Even ones that «everyone» likes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried reading Terry Pratchett. I’ve read Good Omens, of course, because Neil Gaiman, and it’s brilliant, so after finishing that I definitely tried something Discworld. And prior to that I tried because Pratchett shows up in the sentence «If you like Douglas Adams you will enjoy…» And I do. Like Douglas Adams, that is. Pratchett not so much. Until now. It must be 25 years since I first tried and suddenly there I was looking at the emergency shelf we keep at the in-laws’ summer house thinking I need something fairly light-weight to read now (as Fatland’s Grensen really needed some concentration and I was getting bored with Anna’s Mr God – more on that later) and my eyes fell on Lords and Ladies and I thought «Why not?» and suddenly the nearly four hundred pages were read and I’d even laughed out loud a few times.

So, yes. I’m not going to say too much about the book itself, I’m not sure I could bring anything to the table that hasn’t been said already. My own experience, however, is, if not unique, then probably unusual, because I found myself drawn to rereading The Rivers of London series (or more specifically Foxglove Summer). Because of the murderous unicorn and the fair folk. And I see that it is almost 100 % certain that Aaronowitch has read Pratchett (something Goodreads can confirm by the way), but I also see that as for myself, though I did enjoy Pratchett this time, I prefer the Aaronowitch brand of fantasy, where the main plot is set firmly on planet earth, fantasy or no.

Let me also say, by the way, that Pratchett is nothing like Adams, except in so far as humour in sci-fi and fantasy is a sort of genre by itself.

But that being said, I now want to read more Pratchett. And the Discworld universe is… complicated. It’s been years since I first saw the (seemingly) excellent chart by Krzysztof K. Kietzman and since I started in the middle it was difficult to know where to go from there. So I asked Facebook. That is, I asked my Facebook connections, assuming I’d have at least one major fan on my friends list (I did). The advice varied, but Siri Pettersen ordered me to start from the beginning and you really don’t want to ignore orders from Siri Pettersen, so I have now reserved The Colour of Magic at the library. For good measure I reserved Equal Rites, too, as that’s the first book in the witches storyline, and having enjoyed reading about the witches already they seem a fairly safe bet. But if The Colour of Magic turns out to be readable and not a stumbling block I guess I will go with chronological order as published.