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Terry Pratchett: The Discworld

The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel's eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: "When shall we three meet again?"

There was a pause.

Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: "Well, I can do next Tuesday."

-- from Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett

British author Terry Pratchett, also known simply as "Pterry" in the world of SF/Fantasy fandom, is the current High Lord of comic fantasy and probably the most successful fantasy author since Tolkien. His main claim to fame is the series of comic-fantasy novels set on the Discworld. It's hard to describe the Discworld stories, but here's an attempt: they're conventional fantasy as seen in a funhouse mirror. The Discworld itself is a gigantic flat world which rotates like a slowly spinning record. It's held up by four elephants which in turn stand on the shell of the Great Turtle A'Tuin, as he swims slowly through the cosmos. It has all the usual trappings of fantasy, but the tone varies between serious, mildly silly, very silly, and off-the-scale silly. Expecting a Discworld book to make sense is a bad mistake, in my experience. There is sense there, but it won't ever be what you expect or where you expect. Somewhere, Pratchett acquired a talent for making sense sound like nonsense and vice versa. A sentence that looks like nonsense can suddenly turn very sensible; a passage that looks perfectly ordinary can abruptly turn completely wacko.

Rincewind and the Wizards

Rincewind the Wizzard (no, that's not a typo) is a would-be wizard who unfortunately has no talent whatever for wizardry, but an amazing talent for stumbling into the middle of Discworld-shaking trouble. He also has a large, mobile, living piece of Luggage, which has the temperament of a homicidal maniac and a doglike devotion to whoever it thinks is its current master. His adventures also usually involve Unseen University, the Discworld's academy for wizards, and the University's Librarian, who was unaccountably transformed into an orangutan some time ago and has resisted all attempts to change him back. There are five or six Rincewind books, but I only have the first three:

  • COLOUR OF MAGIC, THE
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-12475-3
    The very first Discworld novel. Introduces Rincewind, the Luggage, the Discworld itself, and numerous other weirdnesses. Including Twoflower, the Disc's first tourist, who has an inexplicable talent for causing enormous trouble, and an even more inexplicable ability to survive untouched. Impossible to describe; you have to read it to believe it.
  • LIGHT FANTASTIC, THE
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-12848-1
    The Discworld is facing a terrible fate. In only two months it faces total destruction. The only hope is to cast all of the Eight Great Spells at the right moment. Seven of the Eight Spells are written down in the Octavo, which resides safely in the Library of Unseen University. The eighth spell ... is not so safe. In fact it escaped several years ago, and is now being carried by the Disc's most incompetent wizard, Rincewind. Who was last seen falling off the edge of the Disc into deep space. (Read the first few pages very carefully, as there's a throwaway that turns out to be the introduction of one of the Disc's most enduring and beloved characters.)
  • SOURCERY
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1988
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-13107-5
    On the Discworld, the eighth son of an eighth son will always be a wizard. Wizards, by long tradition, don't have kids. But what if one did . . . and had eight sons of his own? Well, his eighth son would be a Sourcerer. Much more than a wizard, a Sourcerer is a source of magical power. When a very confused young Sourcerer guided by a very angry ghost appears on the Discworld, the wizards of Unseen University see him as a way to power and wealth. It's up to Rincewind and the Luggage to save the day and the Disc from both the wizards and the Sourcerer.
  • INTERESTING TIMES
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    ISBN: 0-06-105252-3

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The Witches of Lancre

Granny Esme Weatherwax is the archetypical witch -- and even on the Discworld, that's not something that comes easily. Granny knows how she thinks life should go, and if it doesn't go that way she's perfectly willing to whack it a few times until it stops arguing with her. With her fellow witches Nanny Ogg and Magrat, Granny uses her unique brand of witchcraft to travel the countryside righting wrongs and fixing problems -- whether they want to be fixed or not.

  • EQUAL RITES
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN: 0-451-15704-4
    On the Discworld, all wizards are men, and all witches are women, and That's The Way Things Are. So when Billet the Wizard is about to die, he finds a newborn baby boy to pass on his power and his staff to. Except . . . the baby in question is actually a girl. Granny Weatherwax tries to train her as a proper witch, her wizard's powers and wizard's staff notwithstanding. But the magic won't be denied, even by Granny. Thus it is that Unseen University, where all wizards on the Discworld are trained and taught, is thrown into chaos (well, more than usual) by something previously thought impossible: a girl wizard.
  • WYRD SISTERS
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1988
    Publisher: Roc
    ISBN: 0-451-45012-4
    The King of Lancre is dead, stabbed in the back by a treacherous underling. In the classic way, however, his infant son was spirited out of the castle by a loyal servant, and delivered to someone who can find him a good home: Granny Weatherwax and her fellow witches. Granny gives the young heir to a troupe of traveling actors, who depart for parts unknown, and all's well. Well, not quite all. The Land of Lancre wants its proper King back. When an entire country wants something, can even Granny Weatherwax say no?
  • WITCHES ABROAD
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-13465-1
    On the Discworld, stories tend to take on a life of their own, and play out a certain way. It's The Rules. For example, the servant girl always has to fall in love with and marry the prince. Well, until now. Magrat, third witch in Granny Weatherwax's coven, has been ordered to stop a story unfolding in the distant city of Genua. Naturally, Granny has to go along, to make sure nothing goes wrong. Or in this case, that nothing goes right. Unfortunately, Granny's sister Lily Weatherwax is equally determined to make sure that things do go right. Weatherwaxes, as a rule, don't know how to lose. But one of them is going to have to learn.
  • MASKERADE
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-14236-0
    Witches are supposed to come in threes, but Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are only two, having lost their third to marriage. So they need a new third. The best candidate has left Lancre and gone to Ankh-Morpork to seek a career in opera. However, the Opera House in Ankh-Morpork is haunted by an evil mastermind in deformed evening dress, who lures innocent young sopranos to a horrible destiny. When the mastermind meets Granny Weatherwax, both get a lot more than they bargained for. This is a takeoff on The Phantom of the Opera, starring a suitably unusual Phantom, Granny Weatherwax, and the usual cast of Discworld crazies.
  • LORDS AND LADIES
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: HarperPrism
    ISBN: 0-06-105692-8
    Elves are not welcome on the Discworld, because they're nasty, clever, cruel, vicious, and far too glamorous for anyone to resist. But it's time for the stone circles to open and the elves to come forth. One of the items on their list of havoc to wreak is to ruin the royal wedding between Magrat the witch and the King of Lancre. The kingdom's only hope is Granny Weatherwax, who has a somewhat unusual view of elves. She thinks they're cute, all right. She also thinks that makes them more fun to kill.
  • CARPE JUGULUM
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: HarperTorch
    ISBN: 0-06-102039-7
    Some people say the best magic is all in the mind. Granny Weatherwax does, and when the greatest witch on the Discworld says something, who would dare disagree? Unfortunately, a family of vampires has started believing that certain things are all in their minds ... such as their vulnerability to sunlight, holy water, and all the other things that normally kill vampires. Now Lancre is suddenly under assault by these new, improved vampires. And even Granny Weatherwax can't find any effective way to fight them. Has the Discworld's greatest witch finally met her match?

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The Ankh-Morpork City Watch

Of course the city of Ankh-Morpork, largest on the Disc, has a police force. But in a city where even the thieves and assassins have guilds and pay taxes, what is there for a City Watch to do? Not much. So the Watch had decayed to just four men. Then the Watch got a new recruit, the unbelievably simple and pure Carrot Ironfoundersson, and it started getting some real crimes to investigate. Now the Watch is one of the most powerful and influential factions in Ankh-Morpork, and its commander Samuel Vimes is one of the most powerful men in the city.

  • GUARDS! GUARDS!
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: HarperTorch
    ISBN: 0-06-102064-8
    Ankh-Morpork does have a City Watch, but it's only for show. The handful of Watchmen aren't actually expected to do much of anything. And that's about all they do do. Instead, the city's overlord, Lord Havelock Vetinari, has made a series of deals with the various criminal guilds to keep them under control. But then, an idealistic young recruit named Carrot Ironfoundersson (he's a dwarf ... well, a very tall dwarf ... okay, a human raised as a dwarf) joins the Watch, and a noble dragon decides to move in and take over from the Patriarch. And things get rather interesting, rather rapidly.
  • MEN AT ARMS
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: HarperPrism
    ISBN: 0-06-109219-3
    Idealistic young Watchman Carrot Ironfoundersson has been promoted to Corporal and put in charge of training the new recruits in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Since this is the Discworld, the recruits are rather a motley lot: a troll, a dwarf, and a werewolf who happens to be a vegetarian. Their first big case will be investigating two seemingly-unconnected crimes: the theft of a strange weapon called a gonne, and a conspiracy to kill the city's ruler Lord Vetinari and replace him with the last living descendant of the ancient Ankh-Morpork kings: an idealistic young man, raised as a dwarf, named Carrot Ironfoundersson.
  • FEET OF CLAY
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: HarperPrism
    ISBN: 0-06-105764-9
    An assassin is stalking the streets of Ankh-Morpork. A very unusual assassin. So unusual that the City Watch is stumped. He doesn't leave any clues they can find. Even the sensitive nose of Angua the werewolf can't find out anything. At the same time, another grouop of would-be revolutionaries thinks they've found a sure-fire way to assassinate Patriarch Vetinari. Commander Vimes and the City Watch have their hands full investigating these two unrelated(?) cases...
  • JINGO
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-14598-X
    When a new island appears in the sea between Ankh-Morpork and its rival Klatch, a war starts brewing. War on the Discworld is quite a novel experience, as you might imagine, and doubly so when the strange characters of the City Watch get involved.
  • FIFTH ELEPHANT, THE
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: HarperTorch
    ISBN: 0-06-102040-0
    The Discworld rests on the back of four gigantic elephants, who in turn stand on the shell of the Great Turtle A'Tuin. But long ago, legend has it, there was a fifth elephant. It fell to earth in the Uberwald region of Discworld and was buried deep underground. Today, the dwarfs of Uberwald mine the deep rocks for the precious metals and the even more precious fats that are all that remain of the Fifth Elephant. When the dwarfs meet to crown a new king, kingdoms from all over the Disc send diplomats to attend. Ankh-Morpork's choice of ambassador is ... Duke Sam Vimes of the City Watch. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Vimes is first and foremost a cop, and a cop will always find a crime to investigate. For Vimes in Uberwald, that crime is the disappearance of the dwarfs' holy symbol, the Scone of Stone.
  • THE TRUTH
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Harper Torch
    ISBN: 0-380-81819-1
    Young entrepreneur William de Worde has had a wonderful idea: use the new invention called the 'printing press' to start Ankh-Morpork's very first newspaper. De Worde has a nose for news and a knack for investigating it. Unfortunately, he's chosen to manifest these abilities at exactly the same time that Lord Vetinari is accused of a terrible crime. The facts say Vetnari is guilty. Duke Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, believes otherwise. And de Worde is about to get trapped between a rock and a hard place, between Vimes and the Patrician's enemies -- in short, between the facts and The Truth.
  • NIGHT WATCH
    Author: Pratchett
    Copyright:2002
    Publisher: HarperTorch
    ISBN: 0-06-001312-5
    Who was Sam Vimes before he became Captain of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork? We're about to get a firsthand look. So is Sam Vimes, as a storm of magic catapults him back in time thirty years, to the eve of a savage riot that could only be stopped by a young, not-yet-hardened City Watchman named ... Sam Vimes.

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Death and company

On the magical Discworld, Death is a real entity with all the traditional trappings: the skull face, the scythe, and the plae horse. Although this Death's pale horses are quite ordinary horses, not skeletal ones. Even a demigod's lot isn't always an easy one on the Discworld. So it is that Death has his own share of adventures ...

  • REAPER MAN
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Roc
    ISBN: 0-451-45168-6
    Death appears in every one of the Discworld stories, so it was inevitable that he'd get one of his own. The Discworld has a problem: Death is having second thoughts about his job. So he gets summarily sacked, and the Powers That Be set about looking for a new Death. While the ex-Death is trying to deal with being alive, a number of other people who should be dead and aren't are trying to deal with that, with typical Discworld results.
  • MORT
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: HarperTorch
    ISBN: 0-06-102068-0

  • SOUL MUSIC
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Harper Torch
    ISBN: 0-06-105489-5

  • HOGFATHER
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: HarperPrism
    ISBN: 0-06-105905-6
    The Hogfather is Missing! Every year on Hogswatch Night, the Discworld's New Year's holiday, the Hogfather rides his sleigh (pulled by eight huge boars) all over the disc, delivering presents to little boys and girls everywhere. But this year, the Hogfather is Missing In Action, victim of a fiendish plot by the Auditors. To save Hogswatch and The Disc As We Know It, Death's granddaughter Susan sets out on a quest to find the Hogfather. Meanwhile, sheer necessity compels a stand-in for the Hogfather, albeit one who doesn't quite have the right aptitude for the job. The robe, scythe, and skull-face seem to keep getting in the way, you see....
  • THIEF OF TIME
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Harper Torch
    ISBN: 0-06-103132-1

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One-offs

Pratchett has had a few ideas that were too good to pass up, but didn't fit any of the ongoing Discworld arcs.

  • PYRAMIDS
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-13461-9

  • SMALL GODS
    Author: Pratchett, Terry
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Corgi Books
    ISBN: 0-552-13890-8
    Brutha, novice monk of the Great God Om, has a small problem: Om is talking to him, after appearing to him in the shape of a turtle. Unfortunately, no one else actually believes this, least of all the Omish Inquisition.

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