Saturday, 28 March 2015

GNU Terry Pratchett

When I hear people mention things about fantasy, my knowledge is pretty much limited to fairy tales, those little ones with badass chicks on the front or Terry Pratchett. And even about those things, I hardly know much of outside of the books I've read. I don't really care much for the lives authors have outside of writing the books I love - except for if they're writing their next book and when can I have it.

However, just because I don't know jack about the world of authors and what they do, it didn't stop me from shedding a tear or two earlier this month when I found out that Terry Pratchett died.

I know nothing about him, except that he wears wide brimmed hats, appeared as cameos in film versions of his books and that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's (courtesy of one of my great reader friends who was devastated at the news). I know nothing about the guy personally and I know nothing about who he was as a person - but I did know that he wrote very, very amazing books.
So, I won't pretend I know him and write about how amazing he was and how he changed the world, whether he did or not. I'll write about the only thing I feel at liberty to write about.

His books have a magical kind of power. Discworld, his main series (which can also be read as stand alone novels) is a mess of hilarious illogical logic and such detailed and reasonable chaos that you either had to put the book down because it was too much to grasp, or fall directly down the rabbit hole into the most amazing, well put together world that you can actually imagine co-existing with ours in some kind of crazy parallel universe. Funny, stupid, wise, heartbreaking, all rolled into one.

The first Terry Pratchett book I ever read was Going Postal (the second word will link you to the film instead of the book, as the first does). As such, it holds a special place in my heart as my favourite book in the Discworld series. No, I haven't read all of them - I just checked Wikipedia and I've only read 11 out of the 41 listed there (did I mention I don't keep track of this stuff?). Anywho, Moist von Lipwig's adventures into being a Postmaster was my first adventure into Discworld, and I still haven't left.

Moist is a scruffian big-time crook, who likes to have money, and lots of it. He likes it especially if it comes out of others pockets - which he often dips into. When finally caught by Lord Vetenari, he has the choice of either dying or facing the ultimate punishment... Becoming the Postmaster of Ankh-Morporks run-down and shabby postal office.

His first in the Discworld series, The Colour of Magic (also a film), is literally about the very first tourist Ankh-Morpork has ever seen, Twoflower. As he wanders about in pursuit of fun and wonder (ie. dragons, barbarians, bar fights), his travel guide, the not-wizard Rincewind of Ankh-Morpork is driven around the bend by the constant shenanigans Twoflower gets them into, and he tries very hard not to let them get killed. That's it. No epic romance or spell-flinging swordfights (or not very many, at least) and yet it's everything that there is to love about the Discworld.

Which, by the way, is the (flat) world, on a disc, on the back of four giant elephants, on the back of an even bigger, great turtle flying through space.

I'm pretty sure Terry Pratchett is the only author who can think up the Discworld and still make a reader believe it, make them say, 'Okay, I get that. I see how that can work'.

The last in my favorite series in the Discworld of his (the Tiffany Aching series) was his last book he ever managed to write, and is planned to be published this year posthumously. If you ever feel the need to pick up one of his books, I suggest starting with The Wee Free Men, the first in that series. Its under Teen Fiction (and in some cases, Children's) but don't let that fool you. It's as amazing as any others of his. If you feel the need, order some of his books - read them for the first time, or the fifth time. Read all of them, or only one.

Why would a criminal taking over a post office be interesting? Why do you need to know what a tourist gets up to on his first OE? Why do I care what Death the Reaper is doing on a farm or dressed up as Santa the Hogfather (again, a film) or how a sports team made of incompetent wizards does? The answer is, I don't know. I don't know how it could pull me in as much as it did - it just did. That is the power, the magic of what Terry Pratchett did. And this is what I, and all of his fans all over the world, will miss.

'Certain things have to happen before other things. Gods play games with the fates of men. But first they have to get all the pieces on the board, and look all over the place for the dice.' - Soul Music

Shaking hands with Death - Sandara

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