Thursday, July 17, 2008

Which is your favorite Discworld novel?

And why?

Considering it was because of my friends on teh intarw3bz that I started reading Terry Pratchett in the first place, I'd be interested in knowing the answers to this question.

I've been re-reading through a core selection of my favorites over the past week or so; Hogfather, Thud!, Witches Abroad, and now Reaper Man. When I finish Reaper Man, it's probably time for trip #3 through Night Watch.

It's hard to pick a favorite from that list, but his best stuff (to me anyway) shares a common property, in that you'll be reading a typical light, humorous Pratchett novel up until the last twenty-five or thirty pages, and then the continental shelf drops off under your feet and you find yourself in unexpectedly deep waters. Hogfather may have been the best at that:
"The sun would have risen just the same, yes?"
NO.
"Oh, come on. You can't expect me to believe that. It's an astronomical fact."
THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.
...
"Really? Then what would have happened, pray?"
A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.
...but I'm not sure. Picking a winner would be tough. I'd like to see your choices...

43 comments:

Carteach0 said...

I'm rather partial to 'Going Postal', and have it in audio as well as dead tree.

It offers an excellent diving trip into a character....

BryanP said...

I'm awful at trying to explain why one is my favorite, but The Fifth Elephant and Feet of Clay consistently crop up in my "re-read" pile. Every time I try to pick a favorite I think "But this one was really great too."

Angela said...

Reaper Man. "What else can the harvest hope for, Lord, than the care of the Reaper Man?"

Also Small Gods, but there are too many good quotes to choose from.

Anonymous said...

I really liked Jingo and the reason behind that is the fact that I love the stories about the Town Watch. Of course, now that I think of it, Guards! Guards! may actually be the funniest book I've ever read.

Brass

tweell said...

The Fifth Elephant. "This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation... but is this not the nine-hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y’know."

Rob K said...

Considering its because of my friends on teh intarw3bz that I'm going to start reading Terry Pratchett in the first place, I can't answer that yet.

So I'll get back to you on that.

Mark said...

Guards! Guards! is my personall Distillate of pTerry. It was my introduction to the Diskworld, and IMAO is the one which gets all the best bits (punnery, cross-universe pop-culture references, Vimes being very, very angry) without slouching into self-referentiality. I've just re-read Thud!, and it's a smashing "Late Discworld Novel" but won't really do much for you as a standalone, whereas Guards! Guards! is just a standalone gem.

YMMV.

The Raving Prophet said...

I think it would be easier to pick a favorite story arc than a particular book. There's the books about the watch, the witches, the wizards (usually focusing on Rincewind), Death, and a smaller one on the Industrial Revolution (the IR books stand alone, more so than in the other arcs), with a few other minor arcs in other books (like Small Gods).

Even then, it's still difficult. I'd probably say that the witches arc interests me the least; I just don't find Esme and Gytha as enjoyable as I do Vimes, Death, Rincewind, or Susan. Especially Susan (her brand of no nonsense attitude I find rather endearing).

I think I'm only missing Carpe Jugulum to have all the Discworld novels on my bookshelf.

mdmnm said...

I tend to like the deep ones best, too.
For the Witches books, I'd probably choose "Carpe Jugulum", though it is a close run thing with "Wintersmith". Granny Weatherwax's struggles with herself are always interesting.
For the Rincewind books, the only choice is "Interesting Times". If Rincewind were Pratchett's only character, I don't think I'd have read all his books, but he is less annoying than this one and I find Cohen the Barbarian by turns amusing and tragic. While it is hard to sympathize with Alexander whining about lack of new lands to conquer, a pension age Barbarian Hero who can't stop swashbuckling but has done it all twice and can't figure out how to retire is a different matter.
The Death books are all good, my favorite (by a narrow margin) is "Reaper Man", which I find amusing and profound beyond most of his books. "Hogfather" is also great, beyond usual Pratchett fun, for the interesting mention and discussion of various myths and fairy tales.
The Watch books are my favorites, overall, I suppose. "Night Watch" is perhaps the best of these once you've read all the previous books in the arc since it explains so much about Vimes. I also like the street-level view of a revolution, it would be fun to contrast that view with the one provided in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" in a classroom setting. That said, I find "Feet of Clay" awfully easy to read and a pretty perfect police procedural, as well as adequately stand alone.

Oldsmoblogger said...

The only one I've read so far is Monstrous Regiment, which I liked well enough to get to the others eventually.

Jay.Mac said...

Lords and Ladies is my absolute favourite- the best of the Granny Weatherwax stories. It's funny, serious and sad. IMHO, it's Pratchett's masterwork

JeanC said...

I can't pick just one. My favorites are any of the Witches story lines and the ones with Death as the main character.

Rabbit said...

I'm only into about my 10th Pratchett, but so far, I think Night Watch, Witches Abroad, and Reaper Man are in tight contention for the top, but The Fifth Elephant makes for an excellent Vimes charcter study. I do have quite an appreciation for Death, however, and he's probably my favorite.

Been re-reading them as I can, simply because Half Priced Books sells out as fast as they get them in, and I've been concentrating on RAH this past month.

Red said...

I'm with Jay.Mac - my favorite book is Lords and Ladies. It's possible that I'm biased, due to how I read it; I was on Catalina Island at the time, sitting on a misty beach.

It deals with an intriguingly dark interpretation of elves.

"Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
Nobody said elves were nice.
Elves are bad."

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Wee Free Men got me started on Pratchet, and it still has a special place in my favorites list.

"Nac Mac Feegle, Bigjob!"

James E. Griffin said...

Small Gods. Love the part where Gods diminish or expand depending on how many worshipers they have at one time.

Imagine a God waking up one day...

Then there the part of the God in tortoise guise - the best he can do at the time. Flying through the air in a bird's talons, about to be dropped to "safety."

Right, Right, no Left, Left... up, up, down, down, arghhh!

mostly cajun said...

I fell in love with Ptraci...

MC

DJMooreTX said...

I tend to read Guards, Guards and Men at Arms as a single work in two volumes, and if I have a favorite, that's it. It's Pratchett at his funniest, and watching Sam Vimes build himself, his Watch, and, in collaboration with Lord Vetinari, his city, up from near ruin is spectacular.

Going Postal comes a close second, with its profound examination of duty and the Hacker Nature.

Small Gods and Lords and Ladies are also favorites.

I've read each of these a dozen times, and I never stop finding new puns and insights.

Latest one, from Men at Arms: in his slide show, Edward D'Eth comes across "an upside d-own picture of a vase of flowers. D-Delphiniums, I believe." Just the other day, I learned there's a good reason for these to be in an assassin's garden. (Sorry, I just had to share that....)

Steve Skubinna said...

My favorite is Guards! Guards! Lords and Ladies comes in at second. My favorite character is Mustrum Ridcully, despite that neither of the two are "his" books (although he of course turns up in L&L).

I've been reading Pratchett since the early eighties, and make it my practice to buy his books when overseas, because I like the UK covers by Josh Kidby so much better than the US editions. And it seems somehow more appropriate to read Pratchett in his native tongue.

homebru said...

Mort.

Although, now that you ask, I may need to go reread the collection again.

LabRat said...

I can never choose. It's a total tossup between Hogfather (my introduction to the series) and Night Watch. Since I couldn't wait for the paperback and got Night Watch in hard cover, it's holding up a lot better over repeated rereadings than Hogfather. I'd say both of them get read at least once a year, more if I'm depressed and need literary "comfort food".

My favorite Witches story changes from mood to mood, but usually it's Witches Abroad. If it's not Wee Free Men, Lords and Ladies, or Carpe Jugulum, that is.

I'm also growing quite fond of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents; aside from the fact that I kind of like rats and Pratchett did an amazing job of researching them, I love the underlying theme. "Perhaps it doesn't matter so much what you are deep down as who you are up top..."

tom-the-impaler said...

God it's tough. Feet of Clay, Guards Guards! and Reaper man all get very good marks, but the original two, The Color of Magic, and The Light Fantastic Deserve to be on the list if only because they were the first to establish many of the major players.

tom-the-impaler said...

Just Recently finished Making Money featuring the con man Moist von lipwig introducing the concept of fiat and paper currency to Ankh-Morpork. Very good explanation even if it is fictional.

Alan said...

I've only recently read the first one. Favorite by default?

Hunter said...

Whew, tough call...
It's either Night Watch or Reaperman.
Both have a story arc that is near classical...a man out of place, out of time, and dealing with lots of new challenges.
For outright laughter, Wee Free Men.
There are several classes of TP novels.
Reaperman. Pratchett seems to save all of the deepest commentaries on humans for the VOICE. And I do like how Death struggles with understanding us.

John A said...

Well... Where does this occur - "Teach a man to light a fire and he is warm for the night. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life."
--------------

Having long thought that there are too many, and too silly, laws one of my favorite passages:

Terry Pratchett, "Night Watch", ISBN 0-06-001311-7 2002 --- excerpt, circa pp. 112-113:

Swing, though, started in the wrong place. He didn't look around, and watch, and learn, and then say, "This is how people are, how do we deal with it?" No, he sat and thought: "This is how people ought to be, how do we change them?" And that was a good enough thought for a priest but not for a copper, because Swing's patient, pedantic way of operating had turned policing on its head.

There had been that Weapons Law, for a start. Weapons were involved in so many crimes that, Swing reasoned, reducing the number of weapons had to reduce the crime rate.

Vimes wondered if he'd sat up in bed in the middle of the night and hugged himself when he'd dreamed that one up. Confiscate all weapons, and crime would go down. It made sense. It would have worked, too, if only there had been enough coppers - say, three per citizen.

Amazingly, quite a few weapons were handed in. The flaw, though, was one that had somehow managed to escape Swing, and it was this: criminals don't obey the law. It's more or less a requirement for the job. They had no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone except themselves. And they couldn't believe what was happening. It was like Hogswatch [Christmas Eve - ed.] every day.

Some citizens took the not-unreasonable view that something had gone a bit askew if only naughty people were carrying arms. And they got arrested in large numbers. The average copper, when he's been kicked in the nadgers once too often and has reason to believe that his bosses don't much care, has an understandable tendency to prefer to arrest those people who won't instantly try to stab him, especially if they act a bit snotty and wear more expensive clothes than he personally can afford. The rate of arrests shot right up, and Swing had been very pleased about that.

Admittedly, most of the arrests had been for possessing weapons after dark, but quite a few had been for assaults on the Watch by irate citizens. That was Assault On A City Official, a very important and despicable crime, and, as such, far more important than all these thefts that were going on everywhere.

It wasn't that the city was lawless. It had plenty of laws. It just didn't offer many opportunities not to break them. Swing didn't seem to have grasped the idea that the system was supposed to take criminals and, in some rough-and-ready fashion, force them into becoming honest men. Instead, he'd taken honest men and turned them into criminals. And the Watch, by and large, into just another gang.
***

rick said...

"Oh waily, waily, waily!"

That's a really tough call. "The Last Hero" comes to mind as laugh out loud funny. but then again, so are "The Wee Free Men" and "A Hatful of Sky," which also have some remarkable insights into the human psyche (a hallmark of just about all of the witch stories).

Sorry, this question cannot be answered.

But I would dig a set of intelligent pearwood luggage. I'd like to see a TSA drone try to search THAT!

Pippy said...

Reaper Man, Small Gods, Feet of Clay, all are excellent, but I reread the Hogfather at least once a year before I play Santa. We've gotten odd looks working in the yard with the audio play (not an audio book, but a play, BBC radio I think?) of Guards Guards playing in the background...

But in Hogfather, you cut the quote off way too soon, and missed the money quote from the book. I continue:

They walked in silence for a moment.
'Ah,' said Susan dully. 'Trickery with words. I would have thought you'd have been more literal-minded than that.'
I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.
'All right,' said Susan. 'I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable.'
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
'Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-'
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
'So we can believe the big ones?'
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
'They're not the same at all!'
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET-- Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME... SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
'Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point---'
MY POINT EXACTLY.

Rick T said...

The Susan Sto Helit (granddaughter of DEATH) novels are all good, but Guards, Guards is still my favorite. The scene when Sgt Colon warns Captain Vimes about the Librarian's reaction to the m-word still makes me laugh out loud.


Note: we are talking about the name for small simians with tails, not noble majestic apes like the Librarian...

JonB said...

Pratchett must be my single most read author. Put re-readings in and nobody comes close. I've only missed a couple of the books since I started reading them at the tender age of about thirteen, so choosing is hard. So instead, I'll just list the ones that stuck with me...

Feet of Clay is I think one of the best of the Watch series. It's not a single character study, it's practically a whole Watch character study, and the introduction of the golems gives the plot a real hook.

Witches Abroad is my favourite conceptually of the Witches arc, but Lords and Ladies has the best lines (See Elves, and human knowledge: "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.")

Hogfather rates high among the Death series, just for Death on the need for lies.

Small Gods, for the most wonderfully subversive description of religion, with the classic Pratchett spin.

The Last Hero may be a graphic novel, but it's just such an epic story. Old men, past their time, raging at a world that has left them behind and yet still refusing to die. I've always liked it when Cohen makes an appearance, but The Last Hero is like a farewell to the old D&D satirising Discworld that Rincewind and Cohen first appeared in, and an acknowledgement that they don't fit in the new Discworld forged by people like Vetinari. Who said there were no more worlds to conquer?

I still say that the first two books are hard to beat for sheer comedy, and though I can't remember which, one of them has a rather chilling description of Fate....

Sorry. Can't choose. Just can't.

Brigid said...

Reaper Man,
Going Postal
Guards! Guards!
Color of Magic.

Those are my top four.

DROP THE SCYTHE, AND TURN AROUND SLOWLY.
-- Dirty Death (Reaper Man)

LabRat said...

One of the things I think speaks best for Small Gods is that atheists seem to think it's a devastating critique of religion, and the religious seem to think it's a powerful endorsement of faith.

They are, perhaps, both correct... which is what makes the book so good.

Tennessee Budd said...

Tough one. I've got about 15 or so Pratchett books so far, & add whenever the used bookstores get more (I found my first Pratchett at Goodwill, of all places--damn, I've given it away!).
I always enjoy Death (the character, that is), and the Feegle kick over my gigglebox every time.
"Nac Mac Feegle, wha' hey!"

Canthros said...

I simply have not read any of them more than once. I find it difficult to really appreciate a book if I can remember what happened, and Pratchett tends to lodge itself in my head with too much force to make for regular rereading. I couldn't tell you how any of them go off the top, mind, but it usually comes back quickly once I start, and then proceeds to remove all the surprise and much of the humor.

On the other hand, I should be quite occupied if I live long enough to be senile. My bookshelves will be a source of much amusement and industry for me.

(Short answer: can't pick just one, it's too hard. Anything with the Watch is a good read, though, and I generally enjoy the abuse of poor Rincewind as well.)

Tam said...

pippy,

"But in Hogfather, you cut the quote off way too soon, and missed the money quote from the book."

Yeah, but I wanted to put up a teaser, not a spoiler. ;)

Don Gwinn said...

I've only read a few. I think at the moment "Guards! Guards!" would have to be my favorite. "Small Gods" was good, too, and I loved "Thief of Time."

I'm having a hard time getting into "Mort," which is odd. I sort of drifted away from it, as one does, and picked up other things.

RevGreg said...

Hmm...pretty much a tossup between Guards! Guards! and Hogfather...but an appropo quote came to mind from the latter:


The mother took a deep breath.

"You can't give her that!" she screamed. "It's not safe!"

IT'S A SWORD, said the Hogfather, IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.

"She's a child!" shouted Crumley.

IT'S EDUCATIONAL.

"What if she cuts herself?"

THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.

phlegmfatale said...

Too hard to choose, but I confess I'm partial to the witchy bits and the watch action.

Mikael said...

You can pick a favorite?

Heck, I can't even pick a favourite set of characters...

I am partial to any book where Cohen, the Luggage or the Nac Mac Feegle kick donkey, anything with death, or the watch... err some of the witch books(the second one in the trilogy bored me enough to quit reading it, but I loved Carpe Jugulum).

Recent reads include wee free men, thud!, going postal and a re-read of reaper man, and I've just started on monstrous regiment.

I've read so much Pratchet that in some cases, I forget what went in which book. My favorite Rincewind book is the one where he travels through time/dimensions and the Luggage follows, kicking donkey along the way. No idea which one that was.

Tennessee Budd said...

Damn, I feel stupid. Late last night I said to myself, "Self, you didn't put 'wha' hey', did you?"
Make that "wha' hae", naturally.
Don Gwinn, I know the feeling. When I got turned on to Pratchett, which was done by this blog or Lawdog's, I looked at the list of his books & remembered reading "Mort" years ago. Don't know why it didn't hook me; if I can ever find it in my endless boxes of books I'll reread it & mayhap find out.

DanB said...

I have to go with the City Watch. Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms have moments that, even after re-reading, cause me to laugh out loud. Nightwatch always struck me as more serious, but it is a great look at the evolution of Sam Vimes.

From the various book featuring Death, I do love Mort. Even without the book on hand, I can conjure up the image of a fly-fishing Death, and the fly auguring into the water like a buzz saw.

DanB

Valerian said...

I know I'm late but I couldn't resist adding my 2c worth. Vetinari! Death! Susan! Vimes! Lu Tse! (beware the exclamation marks). I couldn't choose between these favourites. As for specific books - Thief of Time and Reaperman (the auditors are awesome bad guys); Monstrous Regiment; Feet of Clay and any of the Watch/Vimes books. But even so, if you said "but what about ..." and named another, I'd have to say "oh yes, of course, that one too". Pyramids (he topples over top heavy after dressing for his last exam as an assassin) and Small Gods, oh and the Nac Mac Feegle. But I think of all these, Reaperman and Death showing his human(?) side, is closest to my heart.

Ace said...

Guards, Guards, Guards

From the dedication through to the final page it is my favorite.