The first Pratchett I read, courtesy of the recommendation of an English teacher who had few merits, but did introduce me to both Pratchett and David Eddings, was Mort, which I think is fairly typical of Prtachett fans of my generation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy its three predecessors, but Mort didn’t actually expect the reader to know anything at all about fantasy to get the most out of it. Re-reading it last year I was struck by how different it was from even ‘early-mid period’ Pratchett, but if it’s a series of jokes strung together it is a series of really, really funny jokes. It is inventive, it's fun, it's tremendously engaging, and it is surprisingly serious beneath it all. Less surprising when one has read the later books.
I love Terry Pratchett’s novels. I haven’t actually read every single one – there’s a lot, and I’ve gone through periods of being less interested, or when his writing changed and I wasn’t up for that, and rediscovered them again later and found that I liked them after all. That’s to my benefit now, I suppose***. He is clever, and witty, and fun, and profound, and often extremely angry. I didn’t always get all the references; I wonder if Soul Music might work beter for me now with an extra decade or so’s general knowledge. At least that experience makes me less annoyed when people completely miss the point of Unseen Academicals, which I love.
I’m not sure that I have a favourite of all, but I always love Carpe Jugulum, which for me stands poised between the more rollicking earlier work, and increasingly dark and serious later. So have a favourite bit of it. Incidentally, one of the pleasure of good writing is the new impression each time. On this occasion I find myself focussed on the full significance of the word “domestics”. Whilst retaining, of course, a due snigger for the final pun.
Someone gripped both her arms from behind. Instinctively she tried to thrust back with her elbows. It was like trying to move against rock.
'Why, Miss Agnes Nitt,' said Vlad coldly. 'A pleasant stroll to take in a little rain?'
'They've got away from you!' she snapped.
'You think so? Father could send that coach right into the gorge in a moment if he wanted to,' said the vampire. 'But he won't. We much prefer the personal touch.'
'The in-your-neck approach,' said Agnes.
'Hah, yes. But he really is trying to be reasonable. So I can't persuade you to become one of us, Agnes?'
'What, someone who lives by taking life from other people?'
'We don't usually go as far as that any more,' said Vlad, dragging her forward. 'And when we do... well, we make sure that we only kill people who deserve to die.'
'Oh, well, that's all right, then, isn't it?' said Agnes. 'I'm sure I'd trust a vampire's judgement.'
'My sister can be a bit too... rigorous at times, I admit.'
'I've seen the people you brought with you! They practically moo!'
'Oh, them. The domestics. Well? It's not much different from the lives they would have had in any case. Better, in fact. They are well fed, sheltered-'
'And is that bad?'
Agnes tried to twist out of his grip. Just here there was no castle wall. There hadn't been any need. Lancre Gorge was all the wall anyone could need, and Vlad was walking her right to the sheer drop.
'What a stupid thing to say!' she said.
'Is it? I understand you've travelled, Agnes,' said Vlad, as she struggled. 'So you'll know that so many people lead little lives, always under the whip of some king or ruler or master who won't hesitate to sacrifice them in battle or turn them out when they can't work any more.'
But they can run away, Perdita prompted.
'But they can run away!'
'Really? On foot? With a family? And no money? Mostly they never even try. Most people put up with most things, Agnes.'
'That's the most unpleasant, cynical-'
Accurate, Perdita said.
Vlad raised his eyebrows. 'You have such a strange mind, Agnes. Of course, you are not one of the... cattle. I expect that no witch is. You people tend to know your own mind.' He gave her a toothy grin, and on a vampire this was not pleasant. 'I wish I did. Come along.'
There was no resisting the pull, unless she wanted to be dragged along the ground.
'Father's very impressed with you witches,' he said, over his shoulder. 'He says we should make you all vampires. He says you're halfway there anyway. But I'd much rather you came to see how marvellous it could be.'
'You would, would you? I'd like to be constantly craving blood?'
'You constantly crave chocolate, don't you?'
'How dare you!'
'Blood tends to be low in carbohydrates. Your body will adapt. The pounds will just drop away...'
'You'll have complete control over yourself...'
'I'm not listening!'
'All it takes is a little prick-'
'It's not going to be yours, mister!'
'Hah! Wonderful!' said Vlad and, dragging Agnes behind him, he leapt into the Lancre Gorge.
And then we cut to Granny's wrestling in the dark with Death - and something much worse. That's the other thing about Pratchett, he's not just fun of good ideas, vivid imagery, great characters, he's technically fantastic, too.
*Especially as I have a new rucksack. I have spared you the saga of picking a new skiing rucksack: be grateful.
***I have all the Tiffany Aching books awaiting me.
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