Reviewed: April 4, 2003
By: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Corgi Books
243 Pages, $9.99
Discworld is Terry Pratchett's alternate universe playground,
a silly, magical place where nothing works quite as you might expect but
where people (even when they aren't quite people) still behave in quite natural
In the beginning Pratchett used his creation to poke fun at
the heroic fantasy genre of which it was a spoof, but he keeps branching
One of the books took on the works of William Shakespeare; another
lampooned the New Age movement; still others have had delicious fun with
such concepts as Death (well, DEATH - everything about HIM is in CAPITAL
letters and he never has to raise his voice), feminists, sensitive men, and
This one plays fast and loose with newspapers. William de Worde
is a down at the heels scribbler who makes ends meet with some degree of
comfort by penning a chatty newsletter about the doings of his city of Ankh-Morpork
for important citizens in other cities. Once he's finished a letter he runs
down to the local engraver, has a few copies made from his original, and
send them off.
It's all quite mundane until the dwarves come to town. The dwarves,
you see, have invented movable, reusable type and a found a new use for the
engraver's printing press.
William writes enough material for one broadsheet folded edition
and thinks it's a bit of lark, until it sells out, the money comes rolling
in, and he finds himself asked to do some more ... and some more.
Up to this point he's been a writer doing a bit of chatty scribbling,
kind of a gossip column for a few select clients. Suddenly he has a public,
and a set of what he thinks of as responsibilities. He's entering a whole
Before you know it he's got a girl Friday in the office and she's
outgrowing the original concept. He's got a reformed vampire (on a 12 step
program) who has figured out a way to take a sort of a photograph, even if
the flash does run the risk of reducing him to ashes when it's too bright.
He's got paper supply problems, advertising woes, silly season
stories, a political scandal, the engravers' guild on his back, low brow
tabloid competition, and someone trying to cover up a coup d'etat.
In other words, in one swell foop he's entered the world of the
fourth estate and gone from being a poetic dreamer to a person whose opinions
shape those of others.
All of this goes according to the fullest expectations of Murphy's
Law, which, with a slight alteration, seems to be the prime directive of
Discworld. In other words, anything that can go wrong usually will, and
generally with the funniest possible consequences.
There are over 25 novels in this series now. I've read half
a dozen of them, in no particular order. You can actually step into this
world anywhere and probably still end up giggling hysterically.