Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Start at the beginning. Or maybe the middle is better. But not the end.

For years and years and years now, one of the things that most defines Christmas for me is receiving the latest Terry Pratchett book as a present. At some point over the holiday, I would find a comfy spot and, with consumption of copious quantities of tea, chocolate, and cake, I would read the book from cover to cover.

Yep, I love his books: but I have a problem. I want to recommend them to Jay, but don't know where to tell her to start.

For those not in the know, Pratchett sets his books on the Discworld: literally a disc, carried through the heavens on four elephants standing on the back of a turtle. One can literally fall off the edge of the world. Magic is real (though wizards are pretty incompetent) and Death pops up as a recurring character WHO TALKS LIKE THIS.

These aren't just frothy fantasy, though; well, perhaps some of the early ones are. They are very, very, very funny. Pratchett uses the books to make all sorts of social commentary far better than most "serious" writers. The Discworld changes and evolves.

Buy Raising Steam on Amazon
My favourite books are some of the ones from about the tenth book in the series or so (there are now 40). Pratchett had found his stride and had risen above frothy fantasy. He has a range of recurring characters, from Rincewind the cowardly wizard (accompanied by the Luggage, a trunk on legs containing, depending on its mood, anything from folded laundry to violent death) to Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork city watch.

So where to start Jay off? The latest book, Raising Steam, isn't where to start. It's a fun homage to steam trains and the railway boom of the 1800s. It has more recurring characters than one can shake a stick at. To a newbie, it would be utterly bemusing. It failed to grab even me to the extent of his earlier books. That's not to say that he's losing his touch: book 38 is stunning!

Buy The Colour of Magic on Amazon
Do I take a similar risk by setting off Jay on book 10 or 20? The problem was solved for me by a lady in a second-hand bookshop eavesdropping as I agonised over what to do. She said that Jay should start at the beginning.

So, Jay: The Colour of Magic. Off you go.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. Having finished this post I stumbled across this on the net. Look! Multiple start points! I'm still sending Jay back to the start, though.

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