Thursday, August 30, 2007

Books: A confession...

I have never read Terry Pratchett.

I just started Monstrous Regiment.

Pretty droll thus far.

40 comments:

Paha Kani said...

His quality varies a lot. Montrous wasn't his finest hour.

Anonymous said...

Pratchett can use the English language in more inventive ways than anyone I have ever read. Try "Interesting Times" next.

anjin

LawDog said...

You've never ...

You mean to tell me that you've never ...

Words fail me.

Gun Monkey said...

I'd have to say that at least once per Pratchett book there is that "I just spewed milk out my nose" moment.
I think some of his earlier owrks are a bit funnier. I would have to say Night Watch is still my favorite

pdb said...

Oh boy, you're in for a treat!

I'm partial to the books that center around Vimes and his coppers, but even the worst Pratchett is pretty damn good.

wolfwalker said...

Pratchett is sadly somewhat inconsistent in his quality ... which isn't really surprising when you consider he's about the most prolific fantasy writer around, with something like thirty books in print. Nobody hits a home run every time.

I think my favorite of the Discworld books are the ones starring the Witches, particularly Granny Weatherwax. The earlier Night Watch ones are also good.

BryanP said...

Not his best work, but decent.

If someone has never read one of the Discworld novels I usually tell them to start with Small Gods. It's one of the best and requires almost no knowledge of the rest of the Discworld. There are a couple of in jokes you'll miss, that's about it.

For my money the original two are probably the weakest. The stories really start to pick up around #3-#5.

I predict you will greatly enjoy the stories about the city watch.

gmcraff said...

His original pair of Discworld books were actually supposed to be parodies of all the other pulp fantasy novels of the time, and the tired conventions of role playing game scenarios. ("You met in a tavern and decided to go on an adventure...")

Then he transitioned from parody to satire-spiced good storytelling.

I think the best books to start with are: Small Gods, then Pyramids, then Guards! Guards! After that, you should be exposed enough to be able to start from the beginning.

And definitely read Thief of Time to understand why you should always bet on the grinning little old man versus the gang of young punks.

Paha Kani said...

Guards is my favorite, with Carpe Jugulum. Pretty much all the Vimes books.

Oldsmoblogger said...

That's the only Pratchett I've had a chance to read so far. It's uneven, but I enjoyed it.

refugee said...

Joining the chorus that Monstrous is not Pratchett's best.

And, yes, his ability to play with the English language, to make old cliches shine with new light, and to make weapons-grade puns, is absolutely unrivaled. He is the best satirist extant.

My favorite Pratchett:
Lords and Ladies
Ooh! Elves! They're so prett...NONONONOGETITOFFMEEGETITOFFAAARRrggghhh
Also, the best Witches of Lancre book.

Small Gods
Outstanding standalone, but by the same token, perhaps not the best intro to the Discworld.

Guards! Guards!
Men at Arms
Fabulous introduction to Vimes and the Nightwatch crew, who play major roles in the rest of the series. My tippity-tip-top favorites of the whole series--but not by much. The competition is fierce.

Going Postal
An astonishing meditation on duty, corruption, and geekitude.

LabRat said...

I seem to be one of the few people who likes Monstrous Regiment and doesn't think it's one of the weaker novels. IMO, it improves a lot if you're very familiar with:

a)A lot of war movies,
and
b)European military history.

That said, I read it when it came out and I was already a rabid fan, so your mileage may vary.

I'd put in a recommendation for Hogfather; it was the one that originally hooked me and remains one of my favorites. Night Watch is better, but it's best after having already gotten to know its central character from previous stories.

Tam said...

"IMO, it improves a lot if you're very familiar with:

a)A lot of war movies,
and
b)European military history.
"

In other words, it should be just my cup of blood and brimstone? ;)

pax said...

Wow, Tam. And here I thought you were relatively well-read!!

Tam said...

Augh!

Embarrassed myself in front of the 'Dog and pax in one post!

I'm just mortified. :o

pax said...

Truth be told, I envy you. I wish all those wonderful books were just waiting for me to discover them. Instead I'm stuck hoping he puts out something new soon.

LabRat said...

In other words, it should be just my cup of blood and brimstone? ;)

One can only hope!

frostedlexicharm said...

I liked Soul Music best. Didn't like Equal Rites much at all...but then, I read it after reading all the other Witches books so it seemed a little 'off' to me. Thief of Time is one of my favorites.

I heard a rumor somewhere that there's going to be one riffing on the Mint, kind of like Going Postal was about post offices...I can't wait.

Sigivald said...

The thing I enjoy most about Pratchett, perhaps even beyond the humor, is the social/political philosophy.

I suspect Pratchett has been a semi- (or un-) conscious education in civics to a large number of people.

LabRat said...

I heard a rumor somewhere that there's going to be one riffing on the Mint, kind of like Going Postal was about post offices...I can't wait.

It's true- the next upcoming is Making Money, featuring the reappearance of Moist Von Lipwig. And I can't wait either.

unix-jedi said...

Monstrous ... not the best place to start.

Not that bad, any Pratchett is pretty good, but not where you want to start - you really need to grok Sir Samuel Vimes to understand part of the plot twist.

Night Watch is the absolutely must read. Guards! Guards! is extremely good, as are The Fifth Elephant, but if you read no more Pratchett, read Night Watch. Refugee's recommendations aren't bad.

If you don't love Pratchett after Monstrous, don't write him off. At least check out Guards! Guards!, and Feet of Clay, before reading Night Watch.

Zendo Deb said...

I take it this means you finished the Vorkosigan series. I am re-reading bits of it. (Just finished Komar).

Then I am back to the classics. Read The Odyssey recently. May try and find a copy of the Aeneid. I have the new Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf, and a taped version of Gilgamesh.

Anonymous said...

Monstrous never flowed well for me either. Carpe jugulum made me want to put it down and never pick it up again. I am the type of person that no matter how bad it is i usually finish the book. Night Watch and Going Postal are my faves so far.
If you like stories on obsession at all, anything by Geoff Nicholson is wonderful, start with Still Life with Volkswagens.

JQ said...

I wandered upstairs on reading this and contemplated my shelves of Pratchett. Thanks to you, I now know that I have two copies of Lords and Ladies, and have no recollection of having read Hogfather.

Pratchett's little trick is that by creating a whole damn world, he can pick up threads wherever he wants, so you have Rincewind, the Watch, the Witches, Death, and all the stand-alones, co-existing in the same universe and under the same rules, but quite independent. The Watch is probably the best of these threads, and Unix-Jedi has that covered (though I'd call Jingo over The Fifth Elephant), but the others can still be very good. Pyramids is one of my favourite stand-alones.

I've not read Monstrous Regiment, so I can't speak for that, but I'd recommend looking at the earlier books next if you like it. Pratchett will always be funny, but he's done a fair bit of world building within the above mentioned threads, and it helps for background if nothing else.

Tam said...

"I take it this means you finished the Vorkosigan series."

Oh, this is my third time through. I paused after Ethan Of Athos to read some other stuff before diving back in.

Chris said...

Tamara, you are in for a treat.

My favorite Pratchett novels include The Truth, Going Postal, and especially Feet of Clay. Feet of Clay is so libertarian in outlook it makes L. Neil Smith read like Richard Morgan.

Andrew Weitzman said...

I'm rather uncritical of Pratchett. Pretty much everything he had ever written--aside from _Moving Pictures_, and even that had Gaspode the Wonder Dog's introduction--is wonderful. Even his average is leagues better than most stuff on the market.

Don't neglect the non-Discworld series either. _Good Omens_ is perhaps the funniest take on the Apocalypse ever. The Johnny Series--set in a small English town in contemporary England--is particularly good. _Only You Can Save Mankind_, _Johnny and the Dead_, and _Johnny and the Bomb_ are excellent meditations on the meaning of history and the problems of conflict. If you have a few Lancre Witches books under your belt, the Tiffany Aching young adult series (_Wee Free Men_, _Hat Full of Sky_, and _Wintersmith_) is one of the better digressions to the main Discworld series.

pax said...

Yup, Tam, you would love Good Omens. Trust me on this one. Where else could you read about the *other* Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

True confessions here -- I'm a kids'-book junkie. When it comes time to fill in your Pratchett repertoire, don't neglect the Bromeliad Trilogy.

phlegmfatale said...

I haven't read any other Pratchett, but Good Omens - a collaboration with Neil Gaiman - is on my top 10 books of all time. I think of that one frequently and giggle. It's THAT good.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

29 comments on this thread as I write this.... I guess that means something.

I have a shelf of Pratchett, slightly over flowing. I'm shooting for all of them... and decently on my way.

Now my kid is reading them.

Yup.... Pratchett is truly a cynical man with a twisted sense of humor. There's little to not like about him.

Do a web search with his name and you'll find a few forums full of people almost as twisted as he is, and he frequents some of them.

Try and find the running log of his comments during interviews..... hilarious.

LabRat said...

Try and find the running log of his comments during interviews..... hilarious.

Increasingly outing myself as a pathetic fangirl...

The quotefile from alt.fan.pratchett lives here. I think it *may* be what you're referring to- if it's not, I want to know where what you are is...

I don't like Gaiman as well as I do Pratchett, but he's nothing to sneeze at. His stuff tends to be a great deal darker and more classically fantasy, but he can also be very funny and irreverent as well. My copy of Good Omens will need replacing soon.

Cybrludite said...

My favorite thus far has been Mort, a rather literal spin on "Death Takes A Holiday"...

Billy Hollis said...

bryanp-"For my money the original two are probably the weakest."

I tried the first of the Discworld series and found it at best mildly amusing, and certainly not good enough to justify getting any more. Maybe you have hit on the problem.

I kept hearing how great Pratchett was, but I just didn't see it in that novel. Heck, it was so forgettable that I don't even remember the name.

mostly cajun said...

Two authors I will buy any time I see a title I can't remember reading:

Heinlein- because he makes me think....

Pratchett- Because I want to laugh...

MC

mdmnm said...

Like most the folks posting comments, I envy you the opportunity to go through the Pratchett back list and agree that "Monstrous Regiment" is not his best (but good). Buy any Pratchett you can find, but I think the Witches novels and the Guards novels benefit from being read chronologically. Beware your book budget, I only discovered him a few years ago and went through a paroxysm of buying and reading.
Favorite quotes (I'll limit myself to two): "But ye gotta know where ye're just gonna rush in. Ye cannae just rush in anywhere. It looks bad, havin' to rush oout again straight awa'."(The Wee Free Men)

and ""What is sticking in your foot is a Mitzy 'Pretty Lucretia' four-inch heel, the most dangerous footwear in the world. Considered as pounds per square inch, it's like being trodden on by a very pointy elephant. Now, I know what you're thinking: you're thinking, 'Could she press it all the way through to the floor?' And, you know, I'm not sure about that myself. The sole of your boot might give me a bit of trouble, but nothing else will. But that's not the worrying part. The worrying part is that I was forced practically at knifepoint to take ballet lessons as a child, which means I can kick like a mule; you are sitting in front of me; and I have another shoe." (Going Postal)

BryanP said...

Billy Hollis,

The original two volumes are "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic."

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Small Gods. If that doesn't tickle you then Pratchett just isn't for you. If it does, then go back and start over at the third Discworld novel ("Equal Rites") and work your way forward.

trainer said...

My personal favorite and his most over the top effort is the one that is not about Australia...or XXX as it's known.

No worries, Mate.

Andrew Weitzman said...

This comments thread is turning into alt.fan.pratchett, isn't it?

I don't see Pterry as cynical. There's a decidedly bleak and sarcastic view about the human condition that informs his work. Yet there is also a cautious idealism; among the amoral and ruthless, there are always people who for all their faults are willing to lay down their lives to Make A Difference. Weatherwax, Vimes, Mort, and all the other ordinary heroes stand up for both people and principles for all their cynicism or inexperience.

He's said that, politically, he could be a libertarian. I think he is highly influenced by the British classic liberal philosophers. He did a direct quote from Hume in the first novel, and his views on myth and tradition (they're lies, but neccessary ones for humanity to be human in morally-neutral universe) has a fair bit of Burkean conservatism in it. One shouldn't look to the political systems in his books for clues about his politics. They're usually parodies of real-world politics and mutated by the odd literalism of Discworlder psychology. People rather than systems matter the most.

He *definitely* has an aversion to intellectual idealists who distance themselves from the dirty realities of life. Those tend to be figures of fun at best...and the nastiest sort of villains at worst.

RobC said...

He has good advice on underwear... :-)

Tam said...

All I can say is that if Monstrous Regiment was bad Pratchett, then I am pure-dee gonna love me some good Pratchett.