Terry Pratchett is my favorite author. He is English, intelligent, makes great puns, is a master at satire, and has the best eye for what people are really like of any author I’ve ever read. His genre is technically fantasy/SciFi, but the novels he writes could be set in any time or place. The Discworld novels take place on a flat world, carried through space on the back of a giant turtle (shades of Native American legend), and are populated with humans, dwarfs, trolls, vampires, the undead, witches, wizards, and a variety of talking animals (to name just a few). Thing is, you’ll be reading along and come across a character you KNOW in everyday life — but in this story it happens to be a troll or whatever. Law enforcement people love his stories about the Night Watch, because that’s how it really works. Psychology types are apt to find Granny Weatherwax’s “headology” very familiar, and she’s a witch. The City of Ankh-Morpork is run by a tyrant (Lord Vetinari), but the bureaucracy is familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in (or dealt with) government. Pratchett is fantastic at anthropomorphic characterizations — Death is a favorite character in many of his books, and leads you to ponder how an “idea” can be changed or created by belief, and exactly how the concept of morphic resonance works. It is not necessary to read the Discworld books in any specific order (though they do refer to each other). Pratchett’s early books were not set on Discworld, but carry the same mix of humor and awareness of how people work. He puts his same talents to use in writing books for children (“Where’s My Cow?”) and young people (“The Wee Free Men”). Before I switch to writing about his latest book (“Making Money”), I also want to mention how impressed I am that when you send an email to Pratchett with a compliment or comment, he answers personally. And rather quickly. I suspect he remembers what it is like to be an average person who enjoys a good book. That’s part of what makes his books so good.
“Making Money” is about a crook, Moist von Lipwig, who is put in charge of the Royal Bank and the Royal Mint of Ankh-Moorpork. He has already proven his talents with the Post Office, and now he is given the task of revitalizing the banking system and general economy. Thing is, people like von Lipwig, so he is able to talk them into trying new things before they have much time to think about it (a true confidence man). Lipwig likes to live on the edge, riding the adrenaline of danger. Which works well, because in “Making Money” he has the richest family in the City very angry with him, he gets a letter from someone who knows his criminal past (most of the City doesn’t), “he’s got to spring a prisoner from jail, break into his own bank vault, stop the new manager from licking his face, and … find out where all the gold has gone” (from the jacket flap). If I tell you more, I’ll spoil the fun of discovery. 🙂
I can recommend any book Terry Pratchett has authored — that’s how much I enjoy his work. He’s also teamed up with Neil Gaiman (“Good Omens,” which I sincerely hope gets made into a movie), and Ian Steward and Jack Cohen (“The Science of Discworld” and “The Science of Discworld II,” two of the most interesting science books I’ve ever read). We’ve gotten to where we will even buy books in which all Pratchett has written is the Forward (“The Leaky Establishment,” by David Langford), on the basis that if he likes it, it is probably good. (It is.) Pratchett generally comes out with two books a year, and “Making Money” is his latest. Read it.
PS For those who are Pratchett fans, who is your favorite character? (I’ll give my answer after someone else comments.) 🙂