This Friday we’ve got something a bit different for our Friday Reads. Gollancz is pleased to welcome a guest blogger Scott Malthouse. Scott tackles the question of the five Discworld books you must read.
There are few authors that have such a vehement and devoted fan base as Sir Terry Pratchett, and for good reason. His Discworld books are laced with social satire, ingeniously disguised in fantasy garb. Pratchett’s sparkling wit and moreish writing has entertained a generation, including myself who discovered his beardy highness when I was in primary school. Since then, I’ve been gluttonous for Discworld and I’m only too eager to talk about my favourite books in the series, which incidentally is what I’m about to do.
Death, ahem, DEATH, could be one of the greatest characters ever written. While he frequently makes cameo appearances throughout the series with his capitalised witticisms, it was Mort that really drew me into the character.
The fourth book in the series and involves a teenager called Mort who, ill-suited to the family farming business, goes to a trade fair to find a job. Instead of getting a run-of-the-mill trade job, he is taken on as an apprentice by Death (his dad thinks he’s an undertaker). However, he finds that ushering souls into the next world becomes problematic when it comes to a princess that he falls for, whose time it is to pass on.
Notable quote: “He’d been wrong, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a flamethrower.”
Sure, Sherlock Homes is pretty good and Hercule Poirot is a dab hand at investigation, but nobody comes close to Commander Samuel Vimes. Vimes is the man that all men aspire to be like. He’s a hardboiled detective, commander of the City Watch and devoted husband to the shapely Sybil Ramkin. Also, he’s incredible.
Thud! is one of the darker Discworld books that covers themes of racism, extremism and drugs, as Sam investigates the murder of Grag Hamcrusher, a dwarf demagogue. Thud! Is one of the most thrilling books in the series, although it’s shorter on laughs than most. Still, it’s a ripping yarn with a great mystery and some thought-provoking themes.
Notable quote: “Shoes, men, coffins; never accept the first one you see.”
One of the recurring themes in the Discworld books is the constant industrialisation of Ankh-Morpork (the city in which most books are set). In Going Postal, stamps are introduced to the good people of Ankh-Morpork by the entrepreneurial con-artist Moist von Lipwig, who, as punishment for his crimes, is sentenced to become Postmaster of the city.
Going Postal has a wonderful variety of characters, like Mr Pump the golem parole officer, the ancient junior postman Tolliver Groat, the pin-collecting Stanley Howler and chain-smoking activist Adora Belle Deerheart. It’s a side-splittingly funny book with a tonne of heart, setting up Moist to become a recurring character in the ever-expanding Discworld universe.
Notable quote: “If he’d been a hero, he would have taken the opportunity to say, “That’s what I call sorted!” Since he wasn’t a hero, he threw up.”
The first novel in The City Watch series, Guards! Guards! is one of the finest. We’re introduced to the most dysfunctional police force to ever grace the fantasy genre, including Sergeant Fred Colon, dwarf-like human Corporal Nobby Nobbs, and Captain Carrot, a 6ft 6 man raised by dwarves, and Sam Vimes.
Guards! Guards! sees the utterly hopeless members of the Watch attempting to stop a sinister secret brotherhood from taking over Ankh-Morpork. The book pokes fun at The Hobbit, nobility and police fiction, ending in an amazing showdown you won’t want to miss.
Notable quote: “Vimes stalked gloomily through the crowded streets, feeling like the only pickled onion in a fruit salad.”
You may be noticing a pattern in my favourite books here, namely, ones that star Sam Vimes. This time, he has reluctantly been sent on holiday to the Lady Sybil’s estate in the country. But everyone knows you can take the copper out of the city but sure as hell can’t tell him to stop being a copper. Soon Vimes finds himself on the hunt for a goblin murderer against rural backdrop, providing an excellent riff on cosy crime capers like Miss Marple or Midsomer Murders.
While it’s one of the more recent books, everything about it is amazing. Also, Wilikins is the best thug-turned-butler anyone could ask for.
Notable quote: “In fact, if there were such a thing as an international thieving contest, Ankh-Morpork would bring home the trophy and probably everyone’s wallets.”
Check out the Waterstones website to find more Discworld books published by Gollancz.
Do you agree with Scott? Let us know your five essential Discworld books in the comments.