Diving Deep (again) into the Wonder that is Terry Pratchett

Diving Deep (again) into the Wonder that is Terry Pratchett

I am working on a post about my trip to the Greenbrier Resort, with the Wolfe Pack. It was a neat time, and I’ve got a ton of pictures. What I do not have is a completed essay yet. So, I should have that next week.

Today I’m gonna talk a little more about Terry Pratchett.

A few months ago, I decided to start re-reading – and listening to – some Discworld books. I’ve been a Pratchett fan for decades, and I occasionally grab something off the shelf for a mental breather. I’m usually reading for purposes of a Black Gate post. Or an actual work product, like a new intro for Steeger Books. Discworld is always a fun break.

The book I most often ‘randomly grab’ is The Last Hero. It’s such an exquisite work of art. It is probably the most thoughtful, beautiful, book which I own. The story, of course, is classic Pratchett. But the only reason this book is such a wonderful item, is because the people behind it, wanted it to create something of beauty. It’s more than just a book. It’s something to be cherished.


Books I have re-read, or listened to (I can listen while I work, and during my many weekly commutes. I get to a lot of stuff I wouldn’t otherwise) during this Discworld dive:

The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Men at Arms
Soul Music (Just started that one)
Interesting Times
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth
The Last Hero
Night Watch
Making Money
Unseen Academicals (still the only not-funny book in the entire series. Even worse than Mort)

This is the order they were printed in. I have just been grabbing one randomly and enjoying it. I’m trying to not re-read more than two in a row from the same sub-series, so it’s been quite the game of Discworld hopscotch. And it’s been a lot of fun.

I’ve also listened to some BBC radio plays which I have:

Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards
Night Watch

And, I re-watched The Colour of Magic TV movie (Last year, I re-watched Going Postal, which I wrote about, here). And I saw The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents for the first time.

I bought a couple ‘extra’ books, and have already finished Volume I of The Ankh-Morpork Chronicles, and I’ve started the first Science of Discworld Book (that’s not my type of thing and may not bother going on).

So, some random thoughts:



When asked about where to start with Sherlock Holmes, a lot of us Holmes folks advice to skip the first two novels and begin with the first short story collection: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I wrote a helpful essay on that very topic. Doyle didn’t have his Holmes down in the first two novels, and the detective was ‘off-screen’ for large parts of both books. A lot of folks find it more satisfying to read the popular short stories first, and then go back to those two first novels. That gets my vote.

Similarly, in starting out with Robert E. Howard’s Conan, many of us Conan fans believe that it was the second story published (and fourth one written: the second and third were rejected) – “The Tower of the Elephant” – when he ‘got it’ and it became a fantastic series.

The Discworld fandom is overwhelmingly positive and loves Pratchett’s books More supportive and less negative than any other fandom I’m a part of, I think. But a common feeling seems to be that the first two books – The Colour of Magic, and The Light Fantastic, are least favorites.

I see posts along the lines of “I didn’t really like the first book. Should I try something else?”

I’m a big Rincewind fan (see my most recent Pratchett post). And I like these first two books more than most, I think. But having just re-read both, they’ve got flaws. Pratchett was ‘figuring out’ things. He wasn’t as polished a writer as he would quickly be. The footnotes aren’t as robust and amusing as they would be. And he was still developing his vision of Discworld and its characters: Though he had an admirable grasp on it from the start.

As I’ll mention next, The Watch books are my favorite Discworld sub-series. If someone didn’t enjoy The Colour of Magic, I suggest they read the first Watch book, Guards! Guards! It’s one of my favorites, and I think it should make the newbie a fan. They can go on to the next Watch book.  Or try Wyrd Sisters (the second Granny Weatherwax book, but she was solo in the first. This has the coven, and I think much more typical). Or go back to book two – The Light Fantastic – and maybe continue reading them in order.

Sourcery is the third Rincewind book (and fifth overall). I think that’s the first pretty good Rincewind book, though there’s been a lot of character development and happenings by then. Wyrd Sisters (book six overall and the first book to feature three witches), is a Shakespeare mash-up and really good.

So, I think you can jump around among the first eight books, and find one you like to get a real feel for Pratchett. Mort (book four overall, and the first Death book, is one of my least favorites). If I started with that, I wouldn’t be that enamored with Discworld, so I get it.

But Rincewind and the Wizards of Unseen University more than make up for the shortcomings in the first two novels, for me. To those who couldn’t quite get into them, try one of the other early books and see what you think.

And I like the miniseries based on these two books. A lot of Discworld fans don’t. To quote Emperor Palpatine, so be it.



There are several sub-series’ within Discworld. I think of them, in my favorite order, as The Watch, Rincewind, Moist Von Lipwig, The Witches, and Death.

I wrote a non-spoiler post on The Watch, and it’s definitely my favorite part of Discworld. The last couple tail off for me, but I love everything about this sub-series.

As I wrote a couple months ago, I really enjoy Rincewind. And the whole thing with the wizards of Unseen University always makes a book better. They are a lot of fun. The first two books I grabbed for this re-read were The Last Continent, and Interesting Times. Both are ‘Rincewind on the road’ books.

The Moist Von Lipwig books are interesting to me. Pratchett used Von Lipwig to take on the postal service, and then the banking/currency mint industry. I have not actually read Raising Steam. Like many other fans, I’m holding out a ‘last book,’ now that the author has passed away. I’ll read it for the first time, some day. I like the character, but I more enjoy the stories themselves.

I think The Witches books are considered the most popular of the various sub-series.’ The first one features only Granny Weatherwax. Then it’s a coven of three, from then on. They’ve grown on me in this re-read, but I find Granny annoying. Like one of those aunts in a Jane Austen novel. Maskerade is Pratchett doing The Phantom of the Opera, which is cool. I think Wyrd Sisters stands above them all, though. It’s his Shakespeare novel, and there’s a lot of Macbeth and Hamlet in it. I think it’s the strongest of the Witches novels (it’s the third) and can be a good starting point for the series. With a jump back to the prior two after.

Death as a character is really fun. But the books are pretty hit and miss for me. Of the five books, two are near the bottom of my favorites list, and none are near the top. Still, Discworld is worth reading.

But if you like the characters in a sub-series, it’s cool that you have several books featuring them to enjoy.



There’s a reference in Reaper Man (my favorite of the Death books) to The Amazing Maurice. Not long after, Pratchett wrote his first children’s book. It’s Pratchett’s unique take on The Pied Piper fairy tale.

I have this in ebook, but I’m just not into children’s and young adult books (more on that next). I planned on getting around to it, but I haven’t been in any hurry, clearly. In 2022, it was adapted into an animated movie, and I watched it this past week.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s got a Ratatouille vibe, with a look combing Nightmare Before Christmas, and Despicable Me. Hugh Laurie voices Maurice, and some other notable names are in it, including Hugh Bonneville (been a favorite of mine since Downtown Abbey) as the Mayor.

It’s a cute story, and definitely a fun watch. I don’t know how true it is to the book, but it certainly feels quite Pratchett. I’d think it’s a good adaptation. It’s certainly a family-friendly animated movie worth watching. Definitely recommended.



Pratchett wrote five books about Tiffany Aching, who starts as a young girl and the series progresses through her teen years. She is a witch, and these are Young Adult books.

I tried to read the first one, The Wee Free Men. I’m simply not interested in the Young Adult genre, or in a female teen witch. I don’t plan on reading these. I don’t begrudge Discworld fans who do enjoy them. There are Sherlock Holmes fans who don’t read Solar Pons (I’m a MAJOR Pons person). To each their own.



I had pretty much stuck with Discworld novels over the years, but decided, as I did this re-read, to try a few new things as well. This coffee table-type book collects stuff that was in the Discworld diaries (which were actual, record your thoughts, diaries: with a Discworld themed.

This book has lots of cool Paul Kidby art (I’m not a big fan of his covers, but I love his interior art). The first volume is over two-thirds about the Assassins’ and Thieves’ Guilds. I thought they ran a little long (especially the Assassins). But other stuff was neat, like about the Post Office, and Unseen University.

This is a fun browsing book. There’s a Volume II, but I don’t have that yet.



Having just done a big partial Garrett PI, re-read, diving deeply into Discworld has been a lot of fun.

I also got some other books, like the illustrated Eric, a neat collection of quotes from the stories, and the aforementioned Science of Discworld.

Summer is upon us and I need to get going on my annual Pulp series, so I doubt I’ll re-read too many more. But this has been a wonderful experience. Every time I revisit Pratchett, and Douglas Adams (I may be the biggest fan of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, in the States), I smile. They make me happy. And that’s the sign of an enduring work.

I like the old British comedy, The IT Crowd. It features my favorite British actor, Matt Berry (Also, Richard Ayoade – they are two of the main voices in the current series, Krapopolis). Berry is also a main actor in the funny vampire show, What we Do in the Shadows. In an episode featuring a discussion of creation, Kayvan Novak (playing the main vampire) drew up how he thought it happened. And it’s flat out a tribute to Pratchett. I oved it.


(Bob Byrne)

Previous Black Gate essays about Pratchett:

Terry Pratchett: A Modern-Day Fantasy Voltaire(Bob Byrne)
Talking Terry Pratchett (Bob Byrne)
The City Watch (Bob Byrne)
Cohen the Barbarian (Bob Byrne)
Going Postal (Bob Byrne)
The Colour of Magic (Fletcher Vredenburgh)
This Hades Business (Steven H Silver)
Troll Bridge (Tina Jens)
Terry Pratchett: RIP  (John O’Neill)
Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett (Mark Rigney)
Hogfather (Mark Rigney)
The Color of Magic (Mark Rigney)

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Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of THE Definitive guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.


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William H. Stoddard

I would hesitate to recommend Equal Rites, because it doesn’t feel like a Discworld book to me. The names are there, but the things they name aren’t quite the same: Granny Weatherwax isn’t in focus, the (unnamed) Patrician isn’t Lord Vetinari, and neither Ankh-Morpork nor Lancre seems fully recognizable. The first book that really feels like the Discworld for me is Mort.
I agree in not much caring for the Tiffany Aching books, but I quite enjoyed The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents; the character interactions were very persuasive.

Eugene R.

I tend to lump Sir Terry’s sf novel Strata in with the early Discworld works, since it does look at the geophysics of an actual disc world, and I found it around the same time I was reading the first Discworld novels. And I enjoyed the first two (Color of Magic, Light Fantastic) as much as any of the others.

My favorite Pratchett is also slightly askew, being the movie adaptation of “Troll Bridge”, which features Cohen the Barbarian (of Last Hero fame). It also sticks out since the story was originally written for the Tolkien tribute anthology, After the King.

Eugene R.

Ms. Jens’s deep dive into Troll Bridge: the Movie is an excellent exploration of both film and theme. I look forward to seeing yours, too, Mr. B.

Joe H.

I have vague memories of reading & kind of bouncing off of some early Pratchett novels (Strata, which isn’t Discworld, and I think Colour of Magic) back in high school or college; what ultimately convinced me to read the series was actually his Granny Weatherwax novella, “The Sea and Little Fishes”, in Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthology.

Also, put me down as very much a fan of the Tiffany Aching books, one of which (Wintersmith) inspired a Steeleye Span album.


Reaper Man was my first Discworld novel, and it hooked me so quickly that I think I tore through a dozen more in the next few months. It’s a great showcase for Pratchett as both lighthearted humorist and fullhearted humanist. That said, Guards! Guards! is usually the starting point I recommend to others–so much of the setting and characters bloom outward from there, and it strikes me as the first book where Ankh-Morpork feels fully settled and like *itself.*

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