Raising Steam…almost ready to go

I can’t wait for the new Discworld novel to come out. It’s titled Raising Steam, and its release has been delayed here in the US from mid-last year to March 18th. If you’d like to gift me a copy, that would be lovely.

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett’s writing when I was very young, just starting to read, as far as I can remember and I didn’t really catch on. I/we had The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings, The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic (my brother and I couldn’t remember which was mine and which was his, so I took the Discworld novels, and him the rest), and I don’t think I properly read any of them. Later on I was reintroduced to them by a friend of mine in university, starting with Hogfather, and over the next year or two acquired and read the rest.

Now I was about to go ahead and say that Hogfather was still my favourite, together with the Vimes and Death, as well as the Witches, Rincewind, and, well, you get the picture. They’re all great, some for different reasons, and then also for all the same reasons (like Death popping up now and again). I have to say I tend to enjoy and reread the later novels move than the former – I suppose Pratchett was still perfecting his art. Some would also criticise his later novels as they’ve tended to be a bit  more stand-alone than previously (where they made up sub-series); Going Postal, Making Money, Unseen Academicals, although he’s making the von Lipwig novels into a bit of an “industrial revolution” series, together with Monstrous Regiment, The Truth and Moving Pictures, which is fun. One of Pratchett’s specialities is the steady lampooning of the real world, the things we say and the way we do things. Which is why Soul Music is wonderful for someone who loves music and the music scene, sending up a number of different artists and especially “music with rocks in” – a typical twist of phrase by the wordsmith Pratchett, which he’ll then use literally and we (I, anyway) will find hilarious.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive review of the Discworld novels. I’m just excited for the new one to come out and wanted to share that.

But there is so much that I love about the Discworld series. Biting satire. Philosophy. Something for everyone – you’ve got your fantasy-sci fi elements, together with political dramas, detective/mystery genres, thrillers, military (of sorts), quasi-medieval fiction, adventure, entrepreneur/loser makes good, sport and music novels, and a little bit of all of them mixed together.

And loveable, delightful characters. ‘Anthropomorphic personifications’ – giving Death his own character, and making human-ish and hilarious. Father Christmas/Santa Claus – the Hogfather, the tooth fairy, hair loss fairy, the eater of socks (that’s why you lose them in the laundry), even Time, are characters in the Discworld. Vetinari – the assassin-turned benevolent dictator-despot with a vicious sense of humour. Rincewind, the decidedly amateur wizard who succeeds by accident, along with the other wizards – bastions of an academic establishment that might have been established for hilarity alongside much food and drink, a much as for academia, together with an actual scientist, and a monkey librarian. Their opposites are the witches, more purveyors and (ab)users of common sense and science than magic. We have Sam Vimes, the cynical justice-loving former(?) alcoholic, with a penchant for bending the rules he holds dear, and who has unwillingly (often resentfully) become a member of the aristocracy, ready to mock it whenever possible, and Death’s overly sensible adoptive daughter Susan, who would really rather be normal, except when it’s useful to be able to walk through walls. 

Also, I may be disagreed with, but I loved the original covers by Josh Kirby, and the ones by Paul Kidby, much more than the ‘modern’ style covers on recently released reprints, and the more ‘adult’ style on some editions. They just don’t fit Pratchett’s style: they’re dark, less fantastic and more realistic in illustration, as if they’re trying to be edgy. Pratchett isn’t dark – even Death has a sense of humour and a sweet disposition in the Discworld (well, he tries anyway, and that’s what counts).

I really don’t know how to introduce or explain the Discworld novels, so I’ll let a quote do it for me:

It’s hard to describe Pratchett to the uninitiated. His works mostly take place on a fictional world shaped like a disc, and the stories tend to be murder mysteries or thrillers mixed with a healthy dose of satire on the human condition. Like the best works of fantasy, a journey with his trolls, witches, and crusty night watchmen provokes inspection of our own world. But what other authors do with light allusions, Discworld does with a sledgehammer. And with light allusion too. Then it steals your wallet.

And they’re funny. Laugh out loud in a hospital ward at 3am funny.  While they’re making you think.



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