Day 03 – Your favourite series
This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.
* A slightly outdated picture of my Discworld collection. *
My favourite series in the entire world is Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett. I’m going here just on series, not trilogies or anything else that authors have invented by now. If I don’t we’ll be here till Tuesday. Another contender for this prestigious honour (hah!) was the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, but if I was ever forced to choose between the two, I would have to choose the Discworld. It’s longer and more all-encompassing for one thing and more interesting to talk about. Young Adult is not my favourite genre either, whereas satire is. My own writing is quite a lot of satire. In short, I love satire. But I still love Harry Potter, don’t worry.
At 39 books and counting, the Discworld is one of the longest series that I have ever encountered. I haven’t read all of the books, but I’ve read just over half (23, I think). And I’ve read most of the later ones. It’s of the earlier ones that my knowledge kind of lacks. I dream of one day owning and having read the entire series.
The series is all set on a flat world, a disc not unlike that believed in by the peoples of the Ancient World, that rests on the back of four giant elephants that in turn stands on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin, that swims through space. There used to be a fifth elephant, but it fell off. If you find yourself rolling your eyes and thinking that this is not possible, I suggest you stop reading right now. Discworld is all about moving borders, about asking “what if?” and “what is possible?”.
What do I love about Discworld? Well, it is funny, but it is more than that. On the back covers of the paperback editions, they always call it “very close to the knuckleduster” and I consider this a very good description of the character of the books. Which is probably why that quote is on most of the covers in the first place, silly. Pratchett does more than crack jokes and make characters do and say embarrassing things. That is simply comedy or farce. He does all this anyway, usually, but underneath all of that lies a piece of social commentary for all who cares to stop and notice it. Underneath a lot of the jokes lies a lot of pain. As I read the books, I often get the idea that Pratchett cares intensely about people. He cares about people in all of their shapes and forms. There does not seem to be not a character that he cannot redeem in some small way. Even if a character does intensely evil things, he has a way of providing a legitimate reason for that person’s behaviour. Even if you cannot possibly agree with that person’s viewpoint, the reasoning behind it redeems him or her in some small way. Pratchett does not approach a story simply from the viewpoint of the hero, but also from that of the villain. Why do people act in the way that they do? After all, all people think in their own minds that they are in the right.
The earlier Discworld books are mostly pure comedy. There are jokes that are actually funny, there are a lot of puns. But already he is starting to question things. Like, what happens when the hero of the fairy tale/fantasy ages? He cannot remain young and limber forever. He is also going to get arthritis and a bad back. He is also going to grow too weak to heft a sword and no one is going to believe him when he declares who he is/was, because they think he should be young forever. The normal fantasy staples never touch this kind of ground. You are not supposed to think beyond the happy ending. Pratchett always does.
In my opinion, the first hint we get of what Discworld is going to become is in the third book Equal Rites, which deals with discrimination on base of gender. However, the series is still in its baby shoes here. Quite a large part of the series will grow to deal with discrimination later. I think Pratchett has a thing for it, because he will touch sexual orientation, racism, classism and gender discrimination. He especially likes giving a voice to the marginalised and the voiceless.
As the series grows, we also get to see the growth of Pratchett’s invented world. At first, it is sketchy. The description that Pratchett uses of an unsolved crime in Thud! works really well here as well. He speaks of it as a jigsaw puzzle: there are some corners and pieces of the edge, but the rest is a whole lot of sky. We get live through the Discworld’s invention of newspapers, a telegram-like system, football, films, music, stamps, paper money… and so on. By the later books, the picture of the history (strongly resembling that of Earth), geography (also strangely resembling Earth) and social problems (also painfully familiar) is so intricate that Discworld feels real. I feel as though I know it, like I know my own world. I feel as if I can picture Ankh-Morpork, Pratchett’s famous city, street for street and that is not something that happens often.
However, my favourite part of Discworld remains the social commentary underneath all the jokes and satire of regular fantasy and fairy tales. Especially the way that Pratchett deals with racism lies very close to my heart. Actually, he calls it “speciesism”, because people on the Disc do not discriminate on the basis of skin colour, but on the basis of species. “Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”* Humans, pixies (pictsies), gnomes, goblins, trolls, dwarves, vampires, werewolves and zombies all make an appearance and are dealt with an refreshingly different approach from most fantasy. However, nevermind what anyone is called or what shape they are, you can always recognise our own world and its situations underneath it.
And that is the greatest glory of the Discworld: because it is familiar, laughter becomes a weapon. If that is not the goal of satire, I don’t know what is. If books and stories cannot point out wrongs and criticise, I don’t know what is going to become of society.
Check back tomorrow for my fave book of my favourite series!
*From Witches Abroad.