So around the beginning of the year I decided I would just starting reading the Discworld series since I found Good Omens an amazing read. I started out with suggestions from my friends since order of Discworld doesn’t matter (at least that’s what I told). I read Guards, Guards, Guards!, Mort, Going Postal, and Eric (Faust). I enjoyed Guards and Postal, Mort was decent and Eric was just terrible, so I looked into a bit more into the Discworld history and found out that their is actually a type of linear story to the books.
While each book can be read independently, the major story arcs follow certain characters. They are Death, the City Watch, Rincewind and the Wizards, Witches, and Moist Von Lipwig. There’s also Tiffany Aching but the books were aimed at Young Adults so I decided to skip them entirely.
Here is my quick review of the arcs and stories:
Death: While an amusing set of books, the masterpiece of the series is The Reaper Man. If you enjoy hearing the story of what happens to an immoral personification as he becomes human this is the story to read, it even has a separate story about the consequences of Death becoming more mortal. Reaper Man is also the only book that’s more about Death than anybody else. Mort is about Mort, Death’s apprentice and the rest of the books are about Death’s “daughter” Susan.
Susan’s stories go from meh, to more amusing, to the best. She is just not an interesting character except if you consider her over the period of three books as she develops into a bad-ass. Hopefully, her character is done forever with the end of Thief of Time, which I feel is a great conclusion to her story and probably the only story worth reading involving her. Hogfather is about Susan and about the fairy tale characters and it’s not a bad story but as Susan infuriates me as a character who wants to be normal but isn’t. The bad guys of the story, the Auditors are uninteresting and boring until the last book as well where they actually interact with the world. Just read Repear Man and Thief of Time. You can wiki the rest. Susan doesn’t really develop into anything much in the earlier books anyway.
This is a bit of a spoiler but you can skip this sentence if you want: The thing I found most fascinating is that Death is the way he is because humans believe him to be that way, thus he is personified in his current form. But humans have a hard time giving a human shape to the idea without giving him certain human attributes, thus explaining Death’s desire to replicate certain human things such as a bed without actually needing to sleep. I thought this was incredibly depressing, Death wants to be more human because humans believe him to be more like a person, but can never achieve it because humans can never make him into a mortal for he is still and always will be: a belief.
Witches & Wizards: I’m sure this is interesting to some people but I disliked the magic in Discworld. So the sheer idiocy of the Wizards in how they solve problems was just not to my taste. I prefer my characters to be somewhat competent, not just lucky. Witches was better in that sense, but I just never got into the characters that I did with the other arcs. I read two books of each series and I didn’t care to read more.
Moist Von Lipwig: Going Postal was an excellent story about a conman using his powers for something more worthwhile, running the post office. What he would do next is always great to hear, how is he going to get out of this mess! Read Making Money as well if you liked Going Postal. If you’re expecting something new then you’re not gonna get it, it’s the same themes and jokes but with a slightly new story. I realize that’s pretty common in a lot of Discworld novels, it’s the same theme repeated. But if you like the conman turned good type of stories, Moist’s arc is great. Expanding into the golems was interesting as well.
City Watch: Oh man, City Watch is the BIG series in Discworld and follows the stories of Sam Vimes, Captain Carrot, Fred Colon, and Nobby Nobbs. I have to admit, these hold a special place in my heart because of all the books, these explore the other cultures and politics of Discworld the most, and for me fantasy novels are all about world building. Guards, Guards, Guards! is the great introduction to the characters and has the best explanation for dragons I’ve heard in a while. Men at Arms is the beginning of a bigger arc about the other races in Discworld and the issues with that, standalone it’s a decent read. Feet of Clay ramps it up again with an intriguing story and probably one of my favorite stories in the City Watch series, introducing golems. Jingo is weak a big allegory about British and Middle East relations, while The Fifth Elephant more than makes up for it and introduces the politics of Uberwald and Igors, it also further explores Angua’s (female werewolf in the Watch) family. Night Watch is viewed as one of the best Watch stories but I god damn hate time travel stories so much. Thud! is a nice little mystery story you get into the political involvement of the City Watch into more species affairs. Snuff is the last book written and the last City Watch story and it’s a great little book and could settle much of the final character fates for Vimes, Nobby and Colon. I feel Prachett is trying to provide conclusions to some of his characters at this point with Snuff. Hopefully he resolves Carrot and Angua’s stories in another book.
De Worde: A single book about the newspaper, it was ok.
Rodents: A GREAT book about rodents who become intelligent, it was aimed at kids but it was kinda dark. I read this through a night trying to finish it, probably one of my favorite standalone books in Discworld.
Small Gods: An excellent story about the Omian religion. I wish it had a better epilogue, more than the hints in the other books that were given about the religion’s fate.
Monstrous Regiment: Story about a woman trying to infiltrate into the military, not a bad book but not the best, it just gets ridiculous at the end, too ridiculous for me.
So overall, Discworld sticks to a few motifs and themes, the books arcs don’t tend to wander in terms of story and characters. If you enjoy one book in a series, you will probably enjoy the rest except for Death, where I feel certain books stand out and the others do not.
The biggest thing that got me was that I had to look up the definition of words. At least once per book, I had to stop and look up the definition of a word because while I understood in context I wanted to know it’s full definition. Not sure if that’s a testament to my small vocabulary or that Pratchett has a much bigger one.
The only thing that I really dislike about this entire series is that I’m probably not going to be all that interested in reading anything for a while, it’s going to take another excellent book for me to get back into reading again. After I finished all the Dresden Files novels, I didn’t read a book for quite a while… It actually took Good Omens to break me out of the funk of not reading after that.