Book review: Sir Terry Pratchett: One of Britain's most loved writers
[Instead of reviewing a single title, I would like to introduce you to an author who has long been a favorite of mine. If you enjoy British humor (even if you don't), I urge you to try Terry Pratchett's books. We have most of them on the shelves of the Myerstown Community Library.]
Imagine, if you will, a Frisbee-shaped world atop the back of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant turtle slowly swimming through space. Welcome to Discworld, scene of more than 40 volumes born from the fertile, fantastical imagination of Sir Terry Pratchett. In more than three decades, Pratchett's books have sold over 80 million copies in more than 37 countries. When he died this past March, he was considered one of best loved British writers of all times. His books have been transformed into theatre, movies, graphic novels, board games, video games and radio shows. He was appointed OBE in 1998 and knighted for his contribution to literature in 2009. Pratchett also won numerous awards for his works in both fantasy and children's literature.
Discworld, itself, shows the breadth of Pratchett's imagination. It is peopled (if one can use that word) by a vast array of characters including humans, witches, wizards, trolls and others from the world of mythology – as well as an unforgettable representation of Death (who always speaks in CAPITALS). While the Discworld novels are considered to be fantasy, they also reflect "the real world" in many ways. Pratchett was a master at mixing parody, satire and adventure... and he wasn't afraid to use the result to both poke fun at and put the skewers to today's world: reading Pratchett often resulted in both side-splitting laughter and uncomfortable winces.
I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett for more than 30 years. I love the Discworld books... with Death being my favorite character. I have discovered that having some knowledge of world literature and history can certainly heighten your appreciation of his nimble brain. The characters that live in these novels are unforgettable... an orangutan who is the librarian at the magicians' college, the Luggage with its' mysterious maw and myriad feet and the varied members of the Watch. The Discworld canon can be divided into those books that feature Rincewind and the wizards, the Watch, Granny Weatherwax and her coven of witches, and my favorite, Death. There are several that are stand-alones. Regardless of which you read, don't skip the footnotes.
In addition to the adult Discworld books, Pratchett has written several books for children and young adults and has received both the Carnegie Award (UK) and the American Library Association's Margaret A Edwards Award, a lifetime achievement honor. He was known for his accessibility to his fans, as well. (I remember seeing him at the 2007 National Book Festival. His book signing queue was enormous. I waiting in line for two hours and hardly moved more than 50 feet. In my more than a decade of attending NBF, I never remember a line that long – or fans that devoted.)
Pratchett also collaborated with several authors including Stephen Baxter for the Long Earth trilogy and, most notably, Neil Gaiman for Good Omens, a satirical novel about the Apocalypse set on Earth. Who knew the Four Horsemen were really Bikers?
In 2007, Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. He became an ardent supporter of the Alzheimer's Research Trust and worked with the BBC to do a documentary about the illness. He also championed assisted suicide. He continued to write and make public appearances until July 2014 when his "embuggerance" finally prevented them. He died at his home on March 12, 2015. Tributes poured in from public figures, fellow writers, and fans from all over the globe. These three were on his Twitter account:
"At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together"
"Terry took Death's arm and followed him through doors and on to the back desert under the endless night. The End"
"DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING," said Death. "JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH."