re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf IV: The last leg of the Discworld-a-thon

Level up: After four years I’ve finally finished my Discworld marathon. There has been a lot of Discworld reading going on this year, so I’ve decided to bunch them all into one big, final super-Discworld review before I move on to new adventures – that is, the zillion other books that have been piling up on my shelf for the past six months.

Get ready for time-travelling monks, vampires, werewolves, talking rats and cunning cats, dragon-powered spaceships, coppers, crooks, AUSTRALIANS (except they’re not really Australians because Terry Pratchett is good at this diplomacy thing), public services and new technology.


Oh, a note: These are in chronological order but with some novels missing as I started reading some of them out of order before I went back to the beginning and did the rest properly…

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
Ah, the one where they invent Australia. Except this books is absolutely, definitely not in any way about Australia. It just happens to be about a new continent that has lots of beer, lots of sheep, little water and what appears to be over-sized hopping rats. And (for reasons that don’t become entirely clear) this continent is in on the brink of destruction, unless eternally doomed hero Rincewind gets from somewhere to somewhere and makes it rain with the help of a magical kangaroo. Meanwhile the wizards of Unseen University discover evolution, which is perhaps the funnies secondary storyline of any Discworld book ever. Overall this was probably one of my least favourite in the series as the main story somehow doesn’t quite seem to make sense. Indeed the plot almost feels like a bit of an excuse for lots and lots of very-funny-because-it’s-true Australian-baiting. While the story drags a bit, the humour certainly makes up for it. So no worries, mate.
Pens: 3 out of 5

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
Vampires! Werewolves! And deep, dark Forests so deep and dark they come with a capital F! Discworld #24 sees Commander Vimes off to Uberwald to represent Ankh-Morpork at a dwarf coronation and do such important things as lording, ambassadoring, and diplomating. Except, with Commander Vimes involved, all this quickly turns into policing, of course. And that’s a good thing, because the dwarfs, vampires and werewolves are about to start a war over an old scone. It will all make sense when you read it, which you totally should, because this is one hell of a crime-thriller-comedy-fantasy-adventure featuring a host of loveable and fearful characters and just the right pace to keep you turning those pages all night.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
What happens if Time personified falls in love with a human and gives birth to a child? Well, in true Discworld tradition, it means the end of the word, eventually. Luckily, the end of the world seems to happen about once a month in Discworld so they have People to take care of that. In this case, time-travelling ninja monks, Death’s granddaughter and the five riders of the Apocalypse. (Yes, five. Ronnie is back.) This is another mad-as-it-gets fantasy adventure with a very philosophical undercurrent. Only Pratchett can possibly merge this kind of hilarious mayhem with such wonderfully thoughtful views on one of the most essential questions of life – what is time, where does it come from, and what do we do when it runs out? I will just never cease to be amazed by the endless wisdom of this author. Underneath all the fun and the madness of his stories, Terry Pratchett really is one of the greatest philosophers of our time.
Pens: Infinity out of 5

The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
This Discworld “fable” is a bit out of the box in that it is heavily illustrated. So much so, in fact, that I’m suspecting the story was added almost as an afterthought. It’s a great book, if you like pictures in books. I personally find them distracting most of the time – especially, as in this case, when the illustrator goes as far as to add unnecessary patterns behind the text, which makes it a complete pain to read. But even though this book feels a bit like style over substance, the actual story is very entertaining indeed. But when a horde of retired barbarians set out to blow up the home of the gods and half the authority of the Disc goes after them in a dragon-fire-powered spaceship, it could only ever be entertaining, right? I just wish this story would have been told as a straightforward novel, with a bit more story and a bit less doodling.
Pens: 3 out of 5

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
So what if the Pied Piper had a bunch of intelligent, talking rats, and a very cunning, talking cat? Imagine the kind of trouble they could get into! This Discworld book for young readers explores those possibilities and it makes an exciting read even for grown-up readers. Because while the boy and his furry accomplices go on happily ripping off town after town, something dark is brewing in the cellars and sewers. Something a lot more creepy than an army of thinking, organised rats. It’s interesting how Pratchett’s books for kids are often darker and more scary than their adult counterparts. Or maybe our grow-up minds are sensitive to different kinds of creepiness. In any case, this is a great new take on an old fairy tale for readers of any age.
Pens: 4 out of 5

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
Night Watch is story about good, old-fashioned policing, a great revolution and a brilliant continuation of Sam Vimes’ character development as Pratchett beautifully circles one of his most famous and detailed characters right back to his beginnings. You just can’t help but care deeply for Vimes and his crew of underdog coppers. This is one of the Discworld episodes where Pratchett gets the balance between characters, politics, wisdom and magic just perfectly right. A true catch-your-breath-and-read-through-the-night story that is as funny as it is tragic.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett does feminism! And he does it so well! Once again I embarked on a book I didn’t really want to read, it being about the military and such, and once again I’ve read a book about the military that I actually really enjoyed. In this case, however, the war is mostly the backdrop for a brilliant, funny and very true tale of women in a man’s world. Because, really, when it comes to male dominated domains, the military is without a doubt the number one institution. Well, along comes one girl who decides to ‘man up’ (quite literally) and join the army. And soon she’s not alone. Pratchett, in his infinite wisdom, knows, of course, that women are doing it better – whatever ‘it’ is, in any given scenario – and here he has written a gorgeous story around it. I want to give this book to every woman and teenage girl I know – and especially to every man I know.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
When I got to this and found out it was about the postal service, I mostly thought “meh”. But of course, gotta read all of Discworld. And to my surprise this story about one man’s (involuntary) mission to revive the city’s ancient postal system in the age of telegraphs was actually very exciting and enjoyable. Pratchett adds a lot of his trademark everyday magic to this story of the old post office, which has been rotting away for decades filled from cellars to attics with undelivered letters, and its ancient and loveably quirky staff. Every little detail of this story and its cast is just so perfectly crafted, it’s a complete joy to read. And the main theme running through this book – the old-fashioned, honest man’s job, however dated and scruffy, against the big, shiny corporations with their big money and their big lies – is just the kind that will warm anyone’s heart. I honestly never thought I’d have so much fun reading about the post.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Thud! by Terry Pratchett
This was probably one of my least favourite of the recent Discworld novels. It’s good – this is Pratchett, after all – but it didn’t quite draw me in, amaze me and entertain me the way most of his other work does. Maybe it’s because we have been through the old inter-species hostilities a few too many times in the history of the Disc and the wrangling between dwarfs and trolls is getting a bit old, or maybe the City Watch – one of Pratchett’s most fabulous set of characters – has gotten a bit stuck after a period of amazing evolution over the course of several previous novels. It just all felt a bit lame-y, same-y to me. It has a pretty spectacular ending, however.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Making Money by Terry Pratchett
Another of my less favourite Discworld books. Maybe the problem was reading it too shortly after Going Postal, because it’s basically the same thing all over again but with a bank instead of a post office. And in the wake of Going Postal being so very good, this felt a bit like the leftovers of a nice stew served lukewarm on the second day. It does pick up towards the end, however, when the gold disappearing from the bank vault and the arrival of an army of golems inject some much-needed excitement and also provide an opportunity for can’t-love-him-can’t-hate-him hero Moist von Liwpig to save the day in the usual spectacular manner. One for the more devoted fans, I think.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
The One Where He Does Football. This was my most dreaded Discworld book because I really, emphatically don’t like football. But: Turns out Pratchett also doesn’t like football and so he wrote a book about football that’s really 98% about being human and maybe 2% about people chasing after a ball. With his usual wisdom and insight into the soul of humanity, he explores the real meaning of the game – to people, to their lives – while also touching on a range of other topics, from postcode prejudice to social mobility and the leopard changing his pants. (And I’m not even going into the thing I loved most about this – the character of Nutt and his story – because that would mean spoiling the best part of a book you simply must read.)
Pens: 5 out of 5

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
The age of steam has arrived on the Disc! A clever young man has built a steam engine and the usual suspects of Ankh-Morpork smell a good business opportunity. Soon the railway network is spreading across the continent, taking Discworld into a new age of trade and connectedness. But of course there are always those who stand in the way of progress, and the dwarfs especially have been acting kind of fundamentalist lately. And where there’s vulnerable new infrastructure, the terrorists are never far off. So can rent-a-hero Moist von Lipwig and his railway crew, with a little help from the hordes of goblins working hard for their new citizen status, save the Disc from being dragged back into the dark ages?
Pens: 4 out of 5

Well, this has been an epic journey and I can’t wait to do it all again in a few years’ time. In the meantime, I hope the new Tiffany Aching novel arrives soon.

[jumps up and down excitedly, waving arms]

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