Discworld Advice, Please!

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Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby pi(e)lover » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:28 am UTC

Hi, I'm generally more of a lurker than poster but of all the places on the internet I frequent, this forum is most likely to be able to help me...

So, I read a few Discworld books some years ago on the recommendation of a friend (Small Gods, Pyramids, possibly Mort) and want to get back into it, as I currently seem to just end up reading the same books over and over again. But I've never been entirely sure if you're supposed to read them in a particular order, or if there are any to avoid, or any I should start with. So any advice or suggestions on what to go for first would be very muchly appreciated!

(edit to add: i did try the best and worst DW thread first but wasn't quite what I was after)

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Zohar » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:39 am UTC

If you read the books in chronological order you won't have any problems. However, there is a relatively clear division into sub-series, according to the characters that appear in them (Rincewind, Death, City Watch etc.) as well as "one shots". If you find you only want to follow one particular series, you can read through that one chronologically. I'm sure there's a list somewhere online that will list the books by groups according to character (within each group, chronological reading order is fine), or you could use the novel list in the Wikipedia article (sort according to "characters" or whatever's written there).
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby mypsychoticself » Sun Dec 27, 2009 8:40 pm UTC

If you check the Wiki, you can read in chronological order. But to be honest, it's okay if you read them out of order. There are some character developments that start in one book and follow into another, but generally things are explained well enough in-book that it's okay to have forgotten details or skipped a book.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby crazyjimbo » Sun Dec 27, 2009 9:12 pm UTC

The Discworld novels are mostly separated into several distinct series and it might be worthwhile to read each series in order. Each book makes sense on its own but some of the references might be missed. This diagram shows quite nicely how the books are related:

Spoiler:
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby pi(e)lover » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:27 pm UTC

Thank you, thank you, that's exactly what I was after. And crazyjimbo, that diagram is the most beautiful thing in the world. I've just shown it to my husband to demonstrate why these fora are the greatest collection of geeks in the world :)

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Jumble » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:52 pm UTC

It's also worth pointing out that the early books are less complex in plot and less, frankly, well-written than the later books. Even Pratchett admitted that in his early day's 'the story was only there to stop the front and back cover banging together in the middle' (I'd like to cite, but really life is too short). These days, to my mind, he's writing quite clever and sophisticated comedy fiction. I think that he set out just to construct a framework on which to hang gags and take the mickey out of the swords and sorcery genre (and did it very successfully). As time went on it looks as if he became hooked on writing literature.

So, to my mind, if you think you are likely to get put off, pick one of the threads that started later, once Pratchett was in the swing of things. Either the witches or the guards series would be my recommendation. By the end the guards stuff was getting quite clever (and dark). Can't comment on the last one as I got it from Santa 2 days ago and haven't had the chance to open it yet.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby GraphiteGirl » Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:03 am UTC

Completely agreed with Jumble - there is no shame in avoiding The Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic if you aren't an enormous Rincewind fan.
You may find that you enjoy the more recent books more if they are read in somewhat chronological order, rather than, say, reading the City Watch-focused ones and then coming back to the stand-alones - for example, in many of the subsequent books there are references made to characters and institutions that appear for the first time in The Truth and Going Postal. You'll probably find certain moments in Thud funnier if you're familiar with characters like Otto and Sacharissa from The Truth.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby charliepanayi » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:02 pm UTC

Plus The Truth is really great and one of the best of the latter period Discworld novels.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Skizzle » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:55 pm UTC

I find that most Discworld novels are hard to break into... you need patience and a really strong cup of coffee before you're totally hooked. Going Postal, however, introduces plenty of new characters, so you don't need to have read previous books, and is really easy to read, as well as being utterly hilarious. Definitely my recommendation for first time Discworld readers who don't want to have to deal with Rincewind.

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:59 am UTC

The books work well as stand-alone works. It's nice to read the earlier books and notice the continuity nods, but it's not required. That said, my personal favourite thread is the City Watch series starting with Guards Guards. One of the later books in that series, Night Watch, I consider to be his best one yet. I very much recommend it. As already mentioned, Going Postal is also an excellent read.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Decker » Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:26 pm UTC

I started with Gaurds! Gaurds! and have been going strong since.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Jumble » Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:43 pm UTC

Can I also say a word for the 'children's' books? The Amazing Maurice was pretty good, and my older daughter and I bonded over the Tiffany Aching series (Wee Free Men, etc.). At first I thought they weren't really for kids as they are quite dark and deep. Then I realised that my kids are quite dark and deep so possibly Pratchett is just smarter than me.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby ConMan » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:45 pm UTC

Jumble wrote:Can I also say a word for the 'children's' books? The Amazing Maurice was pretty good, and my older daughter and I bonded over the Tiffany Aching series (Wee Free Men, etc.). At first I thought they weren't really for kids as they are quite dark and deep. Then I realised that my kids are quite dark and deep so possibly Pratchett is just smarter than me.

Wintersmith is definitely in my top 5 favourite Pratchett books. For some reason, I find that the pivotal scenes in both Wintersmith and Thud! have some kind of cinematic quality to them that really makes me feel like I'm *watching* it, not just reading it.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:07 pm UTC

Definitely felt that with Thud, not so much Wintersmith but YMMV.

And Mr Kietzman needs to do a 1.6 version of the chart.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:13 pm UTC

Apparently Lspace has updated the chart, but it's now an excel file. With the wonders of the snipping tool, here it is:
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pratchet reading guide.PNG
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby cypherspace » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:08 pm UTC

I'm not sure about the placing of Unseen Academicals - it's not really a Rincewind novel, it just contains him. I'd place it as part of the Industrial Revolution series since that's the background of the evolution of football.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby bigglesworth » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:34 pm UTC

Haven't read it yet, and I think it's new enough that there should be spoilers on any more detailed discussion than the above.

I'll give an opinion when I've read it.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby El Spark » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:11 pm UTC

I would argue that since Rincewind is off by himself so often, the Senior Wizards are a sub-group in themselves (or that Rincewind has become a subset of the Senior Wizards).
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Phen » Wed Mar 31, 2010 10:14 am UTC

(This is the most appropriate thread I could find with a quick search, so...)

Having read Moving Pictures and Hogfather in succession, can someone tell me what happened to the Bursar? In Moving Pictures, he seemed to be the sane man to Ridcully's antics, while in Hogfather he's now reduced to a bumbling wreck doped up on pills.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Decker » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Phen wrote:(This is the most appropriate thread I could find with a quick search, so...)

Having read Moving Pictures and Hogfather in succession, can someone tell me what happened to the Bursar? In Moving Pictures, he seemed to be the sane man to Ridcully's antics, while in Hogfather he's now reduced to a bumbling wreck doped up on pills.

Munstrum tried to "Lighten the chap up." with practical jokes and such. In short, Munstrum drove him loony.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Dave_Wise » Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:44 am UTC

Actually, given prachett's penchant for summing up the plot of the entire sub-series in the character's thoughts, it's entirely possible to read pretty much any discworld book as a stand-alone work. Some(pyramids, small gods etc.) are pretty much stand-alone works in any case.
My advice would be to read the colour of magic and the light fantastic first. By the end of the light fantastic, you should be physiologically dependent upon the books. After that, I would take a detour through pyramids, small gods and wyrd sisters before reading the rest of the rincewind books. Then get started on the death and Sam Vimes.
That's pretty much how I envisage the optimum reading order, anyway. It really doesn't matter much, and everybody I know who reads pratchett has read them in a different order. Besides which, if you're like me, you probably read several different books at the same time. My discworld collection (which is, to the best of my knowledge, complete except for the short stories and children's books) is in any case arranged, not by chronological order but by rank in terms of how many times I have re-read each book. It's like a manual itunes playlist.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby tryptanymph » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:01 pm UTC

I still think the best way to read them is in the order they were released. Because, as stated, character and world developments carry over between books. Reading the "Watch / Vimes" books in order see some huge changes that aren't especially well explained in Ankh-Morpork between The Fifth Elephant and Thud!.

I read them out of order, and still managed to maintain a sort of sense of how thing progressed, probably because I started reading them relatively early, and the big changes started happening when I started reading them as they came out.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Dave_Wise » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:20 pm UTC

What we need is a large scale clinical study, with some groups reading the books in order, some following the flowchart, etc. and a control group being allowed to read them in the order that they appear in the local bookshops.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby NoodleIncident » Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:40 am UTC

Read them all six times to get all of the jokes and references. :D Other than that, the order doesn't really matter.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:59 am UTC

You know, so far the only one that was really spoiled was Men at Arms because it was one of the last Guard books I read, just for the w- jokes and Cuddy.
Spoiler:
Or as I called it, the "Who the fuck is this Cuddy guy, and why haven't I.. oh, I bet he dies" thought when I was introduced to him.


Outside of that... I can't think of any that need a particular order. Maayyybee the Death/Mort/Susan books? But not really.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby tryptanymph » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:31 am UTC

Men At Arms was my first Watch book, I think, so there wasn't a lot of issues for me.

Sam Vimes as a character is hard to deal with if you read him out of order, because he changes pretty drastically after Men At Arms. He's a lot more composed and cool in Feet of Clay and Jingo especially.

Death is another one that seems a little disjointed to me if you read him out of order. Rincewind never really changes after Faust/Eric (Possibly my least favourite book, actually. Maybe it's because I didn't read an illustrated copy.). After Witches Abroad, the witches don't change especially much. I think I like reading them in written order because Pratchett's writing style evolved along with the characters, and it eases you from book to book, and going back to, say, Mort after reading Unseen Academicals will give your brain a bit of a spin.

This, of course, coming from someone who routinely reads about 4 books at the same time.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Apr 05, 2010 2:51 pm UTC

Only 4? Or are you just counting fiction?
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby tryptanymph » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:09 pm UTC

Just counting fiction really. Aside from the internet and my PC magazines, I don't really have much call to read nonfiction books.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby silent man » Sun Apr 11, 2010 3:25 pm UTC

Decker wrote:
Phen wrote:(This is the most appropriate thread I could find with a quick search, so...)

Having read Moving Pictures and Hogfather in succession, can someone tell me what happened to the Bursar? In Moving Pictures, he seemed to be the sane man to Ridcully's antics, while in Hogfather he's now reduced to a bumbling wreck doped up on pills.

Munstrum tried to "Lighten the chap up." with practical jokes and such. In short, Munstrum drove him loony.
The lovecraftian thing from beyond reality that fell on his head at the end of Moving Pictures didn't help his mental state either.

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby charliepanayi » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:17 pm UTC

silent man wrote:
Decker wrote:
Phen wrote:(This is the most appropriate thread I could find with a quick search, so...)

Having read Moving Pictures and Hogfather in succession, can someone tell me what happened to the Bursar? In Moving Pictures, he seemed to be the sane man to Ridcully's antics, while in Hogfather he's now reduced to a bumbling wreck doped up on pills.

Munstrum tried to "Lighten the chap up." with practical jokes and such. In short, Munstrum drove him loony.
The lovecraftian thing from beyond reality that fell on his head at the end of Moving Pictures didn't help his mental state either.


It fell on top of Ponder Stibbons I think, not the Bursar (who along with Ridcully and Victor helped take it down).
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby Dave_Wise » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:22 pm UTC

I seem to remember the bursar actually standing up to Ridcully at the end of moving pictures, something about an 'overbearing barrel of lard', and Ridcully being unable to sack him because he has tenure. I think he must have gone downhill dramatically after that, but he was becoming a bit unglued during reaper man.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby tryptanymph » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:27 pm UTC

charliepanayi wrote:
silent man wrote:
Decker wrote:
Phen wrote:(This is the most appropriate thread I could find with a quick search, so...)

Having read Moving Pictures and Hogfather in succession, can someone tell me what happened to the Bursar? In Moving Pictures, he seemed to be the sane man to Ridcully's antics, while in Hogfather he's now reduced to a bumbling wreck doped up on pills.
Munstrum tried to "Lighten the chap up." with practical jokes and such. In short, Munstrum drove him loony.
The lovecraftian thing from beyond reality that fell on his head at the end of Moving Pictures didn't help his mental state either.
It fell on top of Ponder Stibbons I think, not the Bursar (who along with Ridcully and Victor helped take it down).
Yus, he was
Spoiler:
flying the broomstick whilst Ridcully was attempting to shoot the Thing with a crossbow.
The Bursar often plateaus, however, and can be relatively sane in some books. Like in The Truth, for instance, he's completely comprehensible, but marvellously batty.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby silent man » Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:45 pm UTC

Did I seriously mix that up?

My deepest apologies. Obviously, it's been far too long since I read this or, come to think of it, any discworld book...
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby charliepanayi » Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:12 pm UTC

Of course the poor Bursar does almost return to sanity during Hogfather (thanks to Hex), but then an incident towards the end pretty much undoes all the progress he makes. As said, he is more lucid in stuff like The Truth though, whereas in books like Lords and Ladies nearly everything he talks is nonsense.

I'll shut up now.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby pi(e)lover » Thu May 06, 2010 12:02 pm UTC

Just thought I'd log back in since this thread is still reasonably active...

My husband bought me The Colour of Magic, Equal Rites and (?) The Light Fantastic for my birthday to get me started. I've been working through TCOM but to be honest I'm not getting entirely drawn in. I enjoy it well enough, but I don't feel any huge urge to carry on reading it - if I never finished it, it wouldn't eat away at me, which is usually the case. Is this typical? An indication perhaps that Discworld is not for me after all? If I persevere is it likely that I'll change my mind and come to love it (that's happened to me occasionally before).
I can sort of describe it by comparison to Hitchhiker's Guide with a Red Dwarf analogy thrown in: Red Dwarf was great because, although it was set in space, that wasn't what made it funny or good - the characters had real problems, you could relate to them, the situations were funny because they were familiar etc. The setting was just that; a setting. Same with HHG I thought. But Discworld sort of seems to be the opposite, which isn't in itself a bad thing but may be why I'm not getting immersed in it yet.

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby bigglesworth » Thu May 06, 2010 12:06 pm UTC

TCOM isn't that great compared to the others. It's alright. Other Discworld books are a lot better.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby charliepanayi » Thu May 06, 2010 12:42 pm UTC

pi(e)lover wrote:Just thought I'd log back in since this thread is still reasonably active...

My husband bought me The Colour of Magic, Equal Rites and (?) The Light Fantastic for my birthday to get me started. I've been working through TCOM but to be honest I'm not getting entirely drawn in. I enjoy it well enough, but I don't feel any huge urge to carry on reading it - if I never finished it, it wouldn't eat away at me, which is usually the case. Is this typical? An indication perhaps that Discworld is not for me after all? If I persevere is it likely that I'll change my mind and come to love it (that's happened to me occasionally before).
I can sort of describe it by comparison to Hitchhiker's Guide with a Red Dwarf analogy thrown in: Red Dwarf was great because, although it was set in space, that wasn't what made it funny or good - the characters had real problems, you could relate to them, the situations were funny because they were familiar etc. The setting was just that; a setting. Same with HHG I thought. But Discworld sort of seems to be the opposite, which isn't in itself a bad thing but may be why I'm not getting immersed in it yet.


The early books are very different (and in my opinion not as good) to ones later in the series, I think Mort aside, the series only really began to take off around Wyrd Sisters (which is the sixth book).
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby El Spark » Thu May 06, 2010 2:29 pm UTC

Fact was, Pratchett just didn't have the rich background and character development to draw upon in the first books; he was laying the foundations. I'm used to Vimes, Rincewind, Weatherwax, and Death as they are now, so going back to read the first few books is QUITE jarring to me.

I would recommend starting with Guards, Guards! because, even though it's really the first Vimes book, it's firmly rooted in a more-developed Anhk-Morpork and the related areas.

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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby SecondTalon » Fri May 07, 2010 12:36 pm UTC

Like many series, when people talk good things about it, rarely do they actually mean #1. Usually it's the middle content. Sometimes it includes the latest content too. But rarely does it include the beginning. Often people suggest you read that either just so you know what the hell is going on later, for an introduction to the characters, or... not at all.
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Re: Discworld Advice, Please!

Postby pseudoidiot » Fri May 07, 2010 2:00 pm UTC

I started reading through Discworld in published order fairly recently. And, yeah, the first 2 aren't all that great. I still enjoyed them and they got occasional chuckles out of me, though. I think I really noticed an upturn with 'Mort' and especially with 'Pyramids' & 'Guards! Guards!'

So I'd say the first few are worth reading if only for a bit of extra background (as well as a comparison for how the world and writing improve), but I don't think you'd be missing out on much by giving them a pass.
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