A Discworld novel–Terry Pratchett’s long-running cash cow that has him at the apex of the UK bestseller lists even more than Stephen King tops the New York Times list. What does that say about our two countries? America’s most bought [note a] author plies his trade by staking out our fears in lengthy, brand name driven folk tales. While King has style, it always makes me think of him as a Southerner, rather than a backwoods boy from Maine. In stark contrast, Pratchett writes allusion-laden fantasies about a world propped up on the backs of four elephants on a giant tortoise (or something like that), wherein the jokes flit between Shakespeare parody and the physicality of Mr. Bean. Americans see their world as full of dangers; the British simply see it as absurd.
For all his gore, there lurks something underneath King’s monstrous fiction, and the same applies to Pratchett. The absurdity means something to him–it is as if you must choose a worldview, and these are your choices.
Lords and Ladies is the third [note c] book that I’ve read by Pterry [note d], and I’m surprised to relay that I’m liking him more and more with each successive book. I nearly never bothered with him again after reading the first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic. It had not met its hype, and I waited five years before having a second go at the recommendation of Bob Gore. Pratchett is someone that I’ve always felt that I should like–I am an unabashed fan of written humor, especially of the British variety, and I like fantasy, especially when it does not take itself seriously. But, for some reason, I never clicked with the Discworld. That may be changing.
This novel concerns the witches that I met in my second attempt at Pratchett (Wyrd Sisters) returning home to the kingdom of Lancre after an eight-month absence and discovering that things have changed a little in the interim. Some gels [note e] have been dancing around the stones without their knickers on, and you know what that might bring: Her and Her court. In a subplot, the youngest witch is getting hitched to the king (who just happens to be the ex-Fool), if she can figure out just what a Queen is supposed to do (and it better not be only tapestries). There’s a lot going on here–much more plot than I remembered being in a Discworld book–and it is easy to get lost. The foreword warns potential readers that this book is unlike some of the others in this series as it relies on a certain familiarity with the characters, but I did not have too much of a problem even with my relative novice status.
Finally, the best thing about reading this now (i.e., in 1999) is that I had the ability to look up the Annotated Pratchett to make sure I was catching all the jokes. Maybe this is what I needed nearly fifteen years ago when I sat down to read Pratchett for the first time?
[a] Remember, the bestseller list only records how many books are sold,[note b] not read.
[b] Actually, it is a measure of how many books are shipped to bookstores, many of which go unsold and are returned to publishers to be remaindered later.
[c] And a half, if we include Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neal Gaiman.
[d] It’s a fan thing, this name. Familiarity breeds weirdness.
[Finished June 1999]