Sir Terry Pratchett was one of my all time favourite authors. I read of his death in a Facebook post while I was at work and was barely able to stay composed. Especially once I saw the sad final tweets posted to the official Terry Pratchett Twitter account by his daughter.
The very first Pratchett novel I read was Moving Pictures – the Discworld riff on the movie business. I enjoyed that a lot and went on to read Reaper Man – which is the book that hooked me in to becoming a lifelong fan. Moving Pictures is a load of fun. Reaper Man on the other hand has something more profound to say. While still being funny. The latter is one of the reasons I like Pratchett so much. Many of my all time favourite books are comedies and favourite writers are humorists. Comedy is underrated for the truths it can tell about the human condition. It can be as profound and meaningful as the grittiest drama.
He so often had important things to say, in the midst of the fun. The Truth, one of my all time favourites, makes great points about examined and unexamined privilege, without ever lecturing the reader and while including talking dogs and a man who’ll snort bath salts to get a high. In all the books his compassion and humanity shine through. While he’ll make gentle fun of all the characters in the stories, the targets for his satire are those deserving of it, the rich, the greedy, the powerful – or those hungry for power.
I went to three signings over the years. The queues were always enormous, he was so well loved. But I actually have four books signed, because I took along The Truth (maybe my all time favourite) to a signing for a different book (yes, I was one of those people. Hey, at least I didn’t bring a bagful!) I’ve been to a stage play of Guards! Guards! Though I’ve never been a big fan of the adaptations to stage and screen. For me they lose something without the narration. I feel the same about P.G. Wodehouse – who was one of Pratchett’s influences in fact. I do like audiobook versions though. Especially ones narrated by Stephen Briggs, who narrates them in a voice that’s not a million miles away from Pratchett’s own.
He was a cat lover, so obviously a right thinking man. But he didn’t only like them, he understood them. And explained them in the fun little book The Unadulterated Cat. His most famous cat in his books is Greebo, a witches cat. But not a sleek, midnight black familiar, rather a ragged ball of fur and scar tissue that looks like he could fight a bulldozer and win. Sir Terry’s cat was lying sleeping on the bed with him at the end.
And never forget, the man could see into the future – he published a book, Making Money, about a banking crisis right at the height of the actual real-life banking crisis. People kept asking him how he knew. It was pure coincidence of course, and it’s hard to think of a global financial crash as good promo, but it certainly caught people’s attention. I happen to work at a bank in my day job, so was reading that book while the world’s banking system was tottering on the edge of the abyss. It was painful at times. Hit very close to home.
Never read any Prachett? Start here!
I converted my brother to being a Pratchett fan by giving him a copy of Guards! Guards! But there are several ways into the series, depending on who the reader is.
- Guards! Guards! for the city watch – who then have a series but also feature as background characters in other Ankh Morpork set stories.
- For Death and Wizards – Reaper Man
- For music lovers – Soul Music
- Movie buffs – Moving Pictures
- For Egyptology fans – Pyramids
- For philosophers – Small Gods
- For witches and awesome female leads – Wyrd Sisters and then the rest of the Lancre witches series.
- And for younger readers, the Tiffany Aching books or The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Though really any of the books are suitable for early teens upwards.
Top Ten favourites – in no particular order.
Discworld had a huge cast and I liked how someone could be a lead character in one book and play a supporting part in another. The City Watch turn up in the background of various Ankh Morpork set stories. Granny Weatherwax is a supporting character in the Tiffany Aching books. It’s like some kind of very weird soap opera where characters drop in and out of focus…
My favourite Pratchett characters – Vimes, William de Worde, Vetinari, Granny Weatherwax, Angua, Death, Nanny Ogg, Moist Von Lipwig, Lady Sybil, Ridcully
If we allow in co-written books, then Crowley and Aziriphale from Good Omens of course deserve a place on the list.
He wrote some fine scary villains too, though my all time favourites would be Vorbis from Small Gods – a man you never forget after reading him. And the wonderful Mr Pin & Mr Tulip from The Truth.
I’m sad for the books we’ll never see. I especially wanted to know if Vetinari was training Vimes up to be the next Patrician? (Vimes would hate it, but I’ve thought for a while that’s the way the City Watch series was going.) But it leaves us with loose ends to imagine any number of different ways to tie them up. And as they are books that definitely stay with you I’ll be thinking of those loose ends for a long time.