Terry Pratchett has possibly been the most recommended writer during my life. As I built myself as a younger/teen reader, I was always surfing the fantasy/sci-fi spectrum; Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, then tumbling into the darker stuff by Darren Shan, James Herbert and Stephen King, so on. This always involved my hands stumbling near the vast canon of Terry Pratchett’s The Discworld Novels, rows and rows of books, all exploring the various sections and characters of Pratchett’s universe. I would ask people where to start, because apparently it doesn’t matter and I never took it upon myself to discover what the first one was.
Thud! was thrown at me recently. I have ignored this writer for too long, blocked by the fear of where to begin. I clambered into the Discworld on the back of trolls and dwarfs and protagonist Sam Vimes, who is searching for a mystery murderer of a Dwarven king, while racial tensions rise.
The problem with hype is nothing stands up against how much you’re told something is good. I’ve been endlessly indoctrinated with how he’s funny, how he throws out mad concepts in super-sharp-sci-fi-surreal beauty and how he works allegory into such exciting tales.
I didn’t laugh through Thud! The presence of humour was probably in the fart jokes that most of the characters are called… The only concept I really liked was how a vampire couldn’t feel all together after turning into ‘bats mode’ until each and every bat had reconnected. Thud! discusses racial prejudice in an insightful way. The whole book is based on the conflict between trolls and dwarves who share the same living environment but can’t work together because of their racial differences AND Pratchett breaches the issues of policing within these parameters/tensions. Sweet allegory, right? But it’s dulled by a bland story full of characters who all talk the same. I could only follow the protagonist Sam Vimes’ voice because he occurred the most. I forgot who most of the dwarves and trolls were otherwise… Oh yeah, there’s a woman vampire and werewolf who obviously have to be naked at some point for their transformation in front of male characters, har har har… It’s just cheap and dull. Also the only way I know when a vampire is talking is because they get all ‘vwhere vare vyou vgoing.’ You know? The ‘V’s that vampires put in front of everything they say? Bleh. Cookie-cutter characters.
For the majority of the book, we’re not even taken to scene of action; it’s always reported in speech. There’s a climactic action sequence towards the end, written well and easy to follow, but it took me 350 pages to get there. WHY?!
A major fault for me is the establishing work of the book. It takes about 80 pages to be fully swatted up on where we are in Discworld. JUST THROW ME INTO THE STORY, MAN! YOU HAVE A LOT OF BOOKS TO DO BACK-STORY ON, JUST SHOW ME THE WORLD… Bleh.
I’m a victim of the hype. There are poetic moments and granted Pratchett’s obscene bibliography (you could probably stock an entire library section with his canon) it’s certain that he’d drop a dud. Maybe I should start with the first book and work my way here? I just hoped every book would live up to the creativity I’m endlessly told Pratchett writes with. An absolute plus of this book is its race allegory and it’s encouraging how that might help younger readers broach this subject.
I’m not going to black-hole Pratchett. I just think I need to get over the hype and throw myself elsewhere before more Discworld adventures.
Read When: You want some fantasy, some allegory, lighter reading.
Don’t Read When: You want character.
Thud! by Terry Pratchett, 2006, Corgi Books