by Stefan Posthuma
Apart from computers, reading books is one of my favourite ways
to spend my time and everybody knows my taste by now, absurd
fiction, fantasy fiction and more stuff like that. After reading
all Douglas Adams and Tom Sharpe books, I was in desperate need
of another great series of comedies and I found them. The books
by Terry Pratchett. I will also draw your attention to another
book which is one of the most brilliant I read in a long time: A
Confederacy of Dunces. I was very inspired by this book, read
the separate 'Ignatius' article somewhere else in this issue.
OK, back to Pratchett. As most writers of absurd sceince
fiction, Pratchett is influenced by the masterpieces of Douglas
Adams. He also likes to invent the most absurd creatures, amazing
religions and little side-ways and footnotes that make the books
of Adams so delightfully entertaining. But Pratchett's style
differs from Adams enough to make the books original and very
interesting. Pratchett has written a lot of books, most of them
are based on the Discworld, a magical world on which everything
can and will happen. A perfect place for the wonderful stories of
Pratchett. I know a couple of Pratchett books that are non-
discworld, and I will mention them first.
'The dark side of the sun' is a somewhat chaotic novel about a
boy who slowly discovers the meaning of the Jokers, an ancient
race that are believed to be the founders of the Universe. Things
like time travel and a strange plot make this book somewhat hard
to follow. I lost track a couple of times and wasn't that
impressed by it. But it is one of Pratchett's early works, and
true fans will enjoy it.
'Strata' is about a race of planet-builders who like to leave
something to think about for the ones that are going to live on
their planets. They bury skeletons of strange creatures in the
earth and leave all sorts of interesting marks. Kin Arad is a
high official in the Company that pays it's employees in days of
live. (So well-paid people live longer) Together with some
bizarre and colourful creatures, she discovers a flat earth,
which turns out to be entirely mechanical. I think this is where
Pratchett got the idea of the Discworld, because his other
novels are all about the Discworld. He has done some others
though. He is now working on a series about the Nomes. They are
minute creatures that inhabit the world, unnoticed by humans.
There are three of them, 'Truckers', 'Diggers' and 'Wings'. I
read the first one, and I must say that this is another
delightful series, full of wonders and humour. They are intended
for a somewhat younger audience, but they can be recommended to
anybody who likes a well-told, funny story. In short, Truckers
is about the nomes that live in a huge department store. These
nomes believe that this Store (as they call it) is the whole
world, and there is nothing Outside. Until the Store is about to
be demolished and nomes from the Outside come and help them. The
concept of creatures living in the Store is worked out
wonderfully. Their God is Arnold Bros, who built the Store and
he communicates with the nomes through Slogans. Their devil is
called 'Prizes Slashed' and he is impersonated by Security, the
Creature with the Light. (The nightwatchman). Just read the
book, it's great.
Anyway, back to the Discworld.
In the endless voids of space and time, the limitless emptiness
of the Universe, the biggest turtle you've ever seen slowly swims
towards it's destination. It is immense. Its frosted, meteor
pocked shell spans whole continents. Its eyes are as big as
oceans and its destination is yet unknown. On the back of this
star turtle, which is named the Great A'Tuin, ride four
Elephants. These four carry a flat world called the Discworld.
Since this is such an absurd creation, and it is entirely
magical, nothing is impossible on the Discworld. It's major Gods
live on an immense spike of ice in the middle of the world. Since
this world is flat, and it is orbited by a tiny sun, and it
rotates, you get interesting seasons and strange side-effects.
Since the magical field on the discworld is so strong, light
slows down to a sort of sluggish fluid. It flows down mountains
and assembles in valleys. At the edge of the world, the water
from the oceans falls down in the Rimfall, an everlasting
The greatest city is Ankh-Morpork. At both sides of the river
Ankh, the cities Ankh and Morpork are the scene of a lot of
discworld novels. Ankh is wealthy, Morpork being a dark place
full of dark creatures and strange smells. Here it is that the
Unseen University is located, the place to be for young and
ambitious wizards. This University with is magnificent library
full of spellbooks has been the cause of many hilarious as well
as cataclysmic incidents. The crime system of Ankh-Morpork is
divided into Guilds, the Guild of Thieves, the Guild of Robbers
and so on. You even get a receipt when you are robbed. Also,
these Guilds have schools and exams and so on. Really amusing.
OK, the first disc novel, 'The color of Magic', is about a
Tourist. Twoflower is from the other continent, and currencies
and values are a bit different there, making Twoflower very, very
rich in Ankh-Morpork. He also has the Luggage. A mysterious and
menacing box on little legs that follows and protects Twoflower
as he goes through the city. Twoflower hires Rincewind, a failed
Magician to guide him along. Of course, things go wrong. It all
starts when Twoflower, who is an insurance salesman, introduces
the concept of fire insurance to a bar owner and the larger part
of Ankh-Morpork goes up in flames. .....
The second novel is called 'The Light Fantastic' and is a sequel
to 'The color of Magic'. Twoflower and Rincewind are the main
characters again, and the Luggage features as well. This time,
the Great A'Tuin is heading straight for a star, and Rincewind
seems the only one to set things straight. One of the eight
spells that created the world escaped from it's spellbook and hid
itself in Rincewind's brain. On their flight from maniac wizards
who want the spell, they encounter a very old man who used to be
a great Barbarian. Aided by him, they complete their task and
ultimately, the world is saved. (Of course)
'Mort' is about Death. Death is a very amusing fellow that
returns in every discworld novel. Whenever somebody dies, Death
is there to do the job. Dressed in his black robe, with his
Scythe, he rides his horse to guide the souls of those who died.
At a certain point, he gets a bit bored by all this, having to
answer the same questions over and over again, dealing with the
misunderstandings etc. So he decided to hire an apprentice. His
name is Mort. A nice young fellow that easily accepts his
somewhat eerie job and starts enjoying it even until he has to go
for this beautiful princess. He kills the assassin, and from that
moment on, reality is changed and things start to go hopelessly
wrong. Together with the Princess, and aided by Rincewind the
wizard he tries his best to restore things to normal...
'Equal Rites' begins with an old wizard who is about to die and
he has to pass his staff to a newborn and this child will grow to
be a wizard too. But...only boys can become wizards and the old
wizard forgot to check the baby's sex...
The girl is taken under the wings of Granny Weatherwax, an old,
friendly witch to become a witch, but they end up in the Unseen
University for Wizards and cause a lot of stir...
'Sourcery' is another one about wizards. In this case, the
eighth son of an eighth son had eight sons...
Naturally, this mean that this boy will become a Sourcerer and
will rule the Discworld.
Of course, things go hopelessly wrong and it is up to Rincewind,
aided by the Luggage to save the Discworld from the Doom of
'Wyrd Sisters' is about Granny Weatherwax and two other witches
who decide to mingle in political affairs when Duke Felment
murders the good king Verence to take over his throne. The King
returns as a ghost and the three witches decide to help him. Add
a serious-minded fool, a playwriting dwarf and some more mad
characters, and this is yet another amazing book to read.
The last one I know is called 'Pyramids'. This is about a boy
who is trained by the Assassin's Guild in Ankh-Morpork and is the
heir to the throne of the desert kingdom of Djelibeybi. Again,
lots of humour (including a theory why camels are the world's
greatest mathematicians) and an amazing plot.
Well, so far the books of Pratchett. I was going to tell you
some more about the book by John Kennedy Toole and about the
books of William Gibson (brilliant cyberpunk) but I will do that
next time. If you want to taste the way these books are written,
read the 'Cyberpunkish Babble' and 'Ignatius' articles elsewhere
in this issue.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.