04/28/03
Terry Pratchett
    by Laurie Taylor

Terry Pratchett has written a wide range of science fiction and fantasy books (over 37 so far), but most of his tales take place in Discworld, an extraordinary alternate world where heroes and villians vie for power, and Death himself worries about being a good grandfather. The planet Discworld is perched precariously on top of 4 elephants who stand on the giant space turtle, ATuin.

Loads of disasterously funny events occur on this re-imagined globe. For instance, there's the story of King Verence who unwittingly invites the Magpyrs, the local vampires, to his daughter's birthday party. The vampires have such a nice time doing unvampire-like things, like basking in the sunny castle and eating garlic, that they decide to never leave. King Verence simply can't have vampires taking over his kingdom and his home, so he enlists the friendly local witches to help. In another one of Pratchett's fables, Death's granddaughter Susan takes over his post when Death goes on holiday. This is one of Death's several outings because he’s overall too anxiously philosophic for a position of such gravity. With the aid of Death's valiant steed Binky, it's left to Susan has to deal with all sorts of ghosts and ghouls, until she can eventually return to her regular job as a governess. As a governess, though, Susan is still beset by monsters, further family trouble, and children, like Twyla, who intentionally lisps to draw the maximum amount of attention to herself when Susan is fighting off the Boogey-men hiding in her closet.

Terry Pratchett's books are peopled with such absurd but at the same time realistic characters. They hold down regular jobs and at times have difficulty fulfilling their duties, like the Ankh-Morpork guards in Guards! Guards!, who protect the city from gassy dragons and often feeling ill used by such work, or like the Court Jester, in Wyrd Sisters, who would rather expound on topics like Zen koans than crack jokes. Pratchett's writing draws its distinctive flavor from these clever narrative twists and witty descriptive turns.

Pratchett is one of the best selling authors of the last decade in the United Kingdom, and a part of his popularity comes from his ability to appeal to a wide range of audiences, from works for adults like the darkly comic Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, to his children’s books like The Carpet People, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and his newest, The Wee Free Men, which will be published in just a few days. The Wee Free Men is about a nine year old girl named Tiffany Aching who must find out whether or not her grandmother was a witch, while at the same time discovering her own power, all in order to stop a horde of monsters from overrunning Discworld. That Tiffany was told about this invasion by a talkative toad is par for the course in Pratchett's funny, fantastical universe.

Copyright 2003 © Laurie Taylor

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Tuesday, 25-Mar-2003 19:07:12 EST


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