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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thoughts On Terry Pratchett and His Legacy

Although we all knew he was battling Alzheimer's, it was still shocking to hear of Terry Pratchett's passing today.

Way back in the early days of RA for All, I had this review of The Truth:

Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett has been working on his Discworld series for over 25 years. The world he has created is too complex for me to reiterate, but click here for a great overview and background. 
What I love about these books as a librarian is that they do not have to be read in order, and most certainly, there is no need to read every book to enjoy a few in the series. What I love about these books as a reader is the humor and satire. This month I read The Truth. This installment of the series is both a dig at the changing Millennium (it came out in 2000) and a satire on the role of the press. A rag-tag group of humans and dwarfs start printing The Ankh-Morpork Times. Their pursuit of the truth, ends up uncovering a political conspiracy and puts them all in mortal danger. Along the way we meet a zombie lawyer, werewolf police, a vampire photographer, talking dogs, and a fine art loving hitman. just to name a few of the outrageous characters. In true British humor style, the satire is thick and the jokes are dry, but you will be cheering for the newspaper, its publishers, and the truth for all 350+ pages. 
There are many authors who have the same sense of humor, use of satire, and other-world settings as Pratchett. The most popular are Jasper FfordeDouglas AdamsEric Flint, and Tom Holt. Pratchett has also written a book with Neil Gaiman.

But this was written back in 2008, what do you need to know about Pratchett today, as people come in to ask about him and his books?

Don't fret, I am here to help.

Pratchett wrote for all ages of readers. He has books for audience from age nine up to adult, but he is best known for his Discworld series, which I mention in the review above.

This series is often noted for its humor. And yes, I agree these are funny, satirical, snarky fantasy stories that make you laugh and think, but the Discworld is also one of the absolute BEST EVER examples of world building in a fantasy series. In fact, the world building is so strong and compelling it allows for the books to be read in any order, as well as allowing for him to write many side series. [Click here for more.]

I often suggest a specific title for new readers of the series based on their personal interests, as each book takes the world and the thousands of characters who populate it, and creates a story that speaks loudly about us and the times we live in now with only the thin veil of a fake world and magic to lessen the sting of Pratchett's critical eye.

In terms of carrying on Pratchett's mantle for future generations, I think the full body of work of Jasper Fforde, his various series, his sense of humor, his ability to make us laugh and think at the same time, and the fun he has with fans are all as close as we will now have to the genius of Terry Pratchett. [Please explore the different links in this paragraph for more about Fforde.]

So pull out those Discworld books this week and put them on display to pay homage to Pratchett.  Thankfully they have awesome covers that sell themselves.  But also use Pratchett's passing to talk about his legacy and other similar books.  Use his death to talk about books and reading in general.  That's what Sir Terry Pratchett would want us to do.

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