The Discworld Reviews: Introduction

THE DISCWORLD SERIES

The Discworld series is written by the English author Terry Pratchett and contains forty-one novels, five of them are YA/children’s books, set in the Discworld. The first book was published in 1983, the last posthumously in 2015. Sadly, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007 and passed away in 2015.

No more novels will be released in the series. Honoring Terry’s wishes, his former personal assistant ran over his hard drive, containing at least ten unpublished books, with a steamroller.

The best way to describe the style is fantasy, making fun of typical fantasy tropes.

There’s no one central protagonist (or antagonist) for the entire series. The Discworld might be flat, but it’s inhabited by a plethora of characters, creatures, and cultures. Instead, it follows different themes with recurring characters appearing through the series.

Most of these themes can be seen as specific genres within the series, for example, the novels starring Commander Vimes can be seen as crime novels, while books focusing on the character of DEATH are philosophical books, discussing and exploring human nature. All are funny, but in different ways and you might find that you dislike one theme but enjoy another.

One thing to note about the style and format of the books is that few of them follow a traditional chapter format. Some like, The Color of Magic have chapters, some are separated into parts, and some don’t have any at all. It can throw you a little, but once you get into the story, it’s not something you really think about.

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THE COLLECTORS EDITION

There are too many editions of these books to count. Many have cover illustrations, and if you’re interested in investing in the complete series, I suggest you do your research to what edition will suit you best. If beautiful books are unimportant to you (you heathen), then you can get your hands on a simple paperback copy for around eight or nine dollars/pounds without looking too hard. If you don’t mind second-hand books, you can find one for less than three.

Personally, I’ve begun collecting the Discworld Library Collectors Edition. This collection will not include the YA Discworld novels. They’re released chronologically in installments of three or four books, as of January 2019 the collection is complete up to the thirty-second novel.

The books are hardback but in a standard paperback trade size at 130mm x 198mm. The cover illustrations are by Joe McLaren. The covers have a textured, almost a textile feel, and some details have been embossed in a shiny foil. All books have a different color scheme, including the foil details, but are the same size and style, making it a cohesive collection.

These books are reasonably priced at around ten to thirteen pounds in the UK, Amazon has them listed at thirteen dollars. I buy them at about that same price here in Sweden.

 READING ORDER

I’m reading these books in publication order. Even though most books in the Discworld series can be read as standalone novels, I believe you’ll get more out of the books if you read them in the order they were written. There are many funny easter eggs and hints to previous books and characters that you won’t notice if you read them out of order.

If you’re daunted by the thought of forty-one books, another option is to read them thematically. Because Terry Pratchett revisited many characters in several books, The Discworld Series can be divided into subseries.

Those subseries are most commonly divided into seven collections: The Unseen University Collection, The Death Collection, The Gods Collection, The Witches Collection, The City Watch Collection, The Tiffany Arching Collection (YA) and The Industrial Revolutions Collection.

In the Collector Library Edition, books belonging to a specific collection will have that written out on the spine beneath the title. But there are many ways and orders to read these books. For more suggestions on how to approach this series, take a look at THIS list.

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AUDIOBOOKS

If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you need to keep an eye on which version you pick. It’s not just about the narrator, it’s also about content since one version is abridged.

In the unabridged recordings books 1-23, except for books 3, 6 and 9, are read by Nigel Planer. Book 3 and 6 are read by Celia Imrie. Book 9 and most of the books from 24 onward are read by Stephen Briggs. The abridged version is read by Tony Robinson.

I really like Nigel Planners narration. He has a voice made for the irony, satire, and sarcasm that flows through the books. Some people seem to dislike Celia Imrie’s narration, I quite like it, it’s more dramatized than Nigel Planners, but I enjoyed it.

Stephen Briggs is an equally talented narrator, however, if you listen to the series in chronological order, the change from Planer to Briggs in book 24, might be a bit challenging at first. There are certain characters that the two narrators have a very different take on, and it might take you a while to get accustomed to the different characterizations.

When I encountered the change in narrators, I had a very adverse reaction, to the point that I seriously considered abandoning the audiobook versions for the remainder of the series. However, that feeling went away, and I now enjoy Stephen Briggs narration. Obviously, if you approach this series out of order and encounter Briggs narration first, you might have the same reaction to Planer’s characterization, either way, both are very good.

From what I can tell from the samples I’ve listened to with Tony Robinson, his version is more comedic, but the abridged versions really are only half the book, literally!

The Color of Magic: Nigel Planner: 6h 52m – Tony Robinson: 3 h 4m

The Light Fantastic: Nigel Planner: 6h 46m – Tony Robinson: 3h 2m

I haven’t listened to the abridged version, but these books are three-four hundred pages at most, I really can’t see how you could cut out half of that and still have a cohesive story.

One negative thing to note is that some of the early books have poor audio quality. It’s not terrible, and I didn’t find it too distracting. But, if like me, you’re sensitive to bad audio quality it might be something to consider, maybe use a streaming service instead of paying full price for a copy.

ONE LAST THING

This is something that I will touch upon in my reviews as well, but it’s worth to remember that this is a long series, and it’s creation spans over thirty years. This series follows the evolution of a writer as much as his creation.

It’s fair to say that the first couple of books are not bad, but not nearly as brilliant as they will get. I believe the first few books are worth a read just to get the complete story, but the quality of the writing begins to vastly improve by book four. When you reach book seven and eight, that’s when you start to see the magic.

So, if you pick up one of the early books and find that you really don’t like it, jump a little further into the series and give it another chance.

BOOKS I REVIEWED IN THIS SERIES

The Color of Magic ~ The Light Fantastic ~ Equal Rites ~ Mort ~ Sourcery ~ Wyrd Sisters ~ Pyramids ~

Unless credited, all images displayed on this blog are either mine or Copy Right Free and released under Creative Commons CC0. They are available for free at one or more of the following places: Max Pixel, Flickr, Public Domain Archive, Pixabay or Gratisography.


18 thoughts on “The Discworld Reviews: Introduction

  1. Crikey! Reading them all in a row takes some commitment. I used to love these books. There are some fabulous ideas hidden away in there…you can’t beat DEATH and You Bastard for characters…and maybe Gaspode the Wonder Dog…but I always felt that Discworld was really best with Rincewind and the Luggage. 🙂

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    1. Oh, well, I’m not actually planning to read them all in one row. As much fun as I’m having I think that would lead to a Discworld overload. My plan is to read about one book per month, I want to be at book 20 “Hogfather” by Christmas this year. I’ll have this whole plan for my reading for this year and I’ll be taking breaks from Pratchett every now and then. Rincewind is, so far, a favorite of mine as well, and I absolutely adored You Bastard, I wish there was more of him to look forward to. DEATH is just wonderful 🙂

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      1. I must say you are incredibly organised. I tend to choose my next book based on what I feel like at the time, although I’ve been reading Nobel prize winners of late so it kind of narrows it down. 🙂

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      2. Hah, not really. I’ve been in a reading funk for a few years and I’m trying to spark my reading flame by giving myself a reading goal for this year. I figured I need a plan and if I know what I’m planning to read next it’ll be easier to stick to it, although I am planning and hoping for spontaneous reads as well.

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