I am somewhat embarrassed to confess that until now, I had never read a Discworld novel. It’s happened before: I’m bandwagon-phobic and when books and series become popular, a voice I’m often not even conscious of starts harumphing, “It can’t be any good. It certainly can’t be as good as everyone says it is.” The Harumpher was busy for years on the subject of Patrick O’Brian, despite his series being recommended to me by many people of impeccable taste whom I knew were undoubtedly right. Yes, I know it is a character flaw to act against one’s own best interests.
Living in the Great Arabian Book Desert, without the means to (as some people do) rent space in a container for a huge yearly shipment of books from Amazon.com, I’ve had to shove the Harumpher into a corner with a gag in her mouth. I was so happy to find a free (!!) copy of Master and Commander on the paperback exchange shelf at my son’s school. Those people on the bandwagon were right! The book is brilliant. So now I’m going to have to shell out $15 or $20 for a used paperback copy of #2, which I might even be able to find here. Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic (all British editions here) showed up on the same shelf and I took it for my son whom I knew had read and enjoyed all of Pratchett’s kid books. But then I opened it up and found Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser practically on page 1. I was immediately drawn in by the mix of satire, broad humor, and complex intertextual engagement with the entire sword and sorcery tradition.
OK. OK, you guys have all read the whole series, probably. I’ve largely avoided humorous fantasy (although I enjoy humor in adventure fantasy, a different animal to my eye). This just seems smarter, by which I think I probably mean that it is serious at its heart. Or maybe it’s just because I, like Pratchett, prefer Lieber to Howard, or Dunsany, for that matter, although those and many other authors are in there too…. Anyway, it makes me happy that now I have two whole long series to look forward to.