A recommendation for the ‘Discworld’ series
By Duncan Fingarson, Senior Columnist
Where to begin with Discworld? The series is 41 novels long, published between 1983 and 2015. The books are all self-contained, following the story arcs of many different groups of characters. Charts have been created by fans of the series, recommending which books to start with to follow the various different arcs. I’ve not read all of the books, but the ones I have read have all been good, and I’d start with either Guards! Guards! or Mort.
Mort is the fourth novel written for the series. It follows Death, the Grim Reaper, and the young man he chooses to be his apprentice. While not the first appearance of Death, this is the first time his role is expanded on, and the reader quickly finds that this Death is more human and generally likeable than most depictions. The book makes a good starting point because it’s early enough in the series to not have a large pool of characters to draw from, and comes at the point in the series when the plot became more important than the jokes.
Discworld is comedic fantasy, frequently parodying common fantasy tropes with classic dry wit. Absurdity abounds, but is delivered straight because, as is quickly established, things on the Disc work a little bit differently than they do here. Where else would the argument be made that the Thieves Guild is necessary because there’s going to be crime, and it may as well be organized?
And then there’s Guards! Guards!. This is the first appearance of Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, though at this point in his career he’s at a bit of a low ebb. The book makes a good jumping-off point for the Watch novels, which follow Vimes’ career as he goes from degenerate drunken Captain to Commander, Duke, and Blackboard Monitor. Commander Vimes is a personal favourite of mine, and seeing him deal with dragons, secret societies, and Lord Vetinari, the only-mostly-tyrannical patrician of Ankh-Morpork, is always a load of fun.
The Discworld books might not be for everyone. There are people who don’t appreciate fantasy, or affectionate parody, or the delighted skewering of life’s peculiar absurdities. For those who do, on the other hand, the series is a tremendously fun set of reads. I’ve got an entire shelf dedicated to mine, with space for more whenever I run out of new books and decide to pick up another. I’ll likely own all of them, in the end, and if that’s not a solid recommendation then I don’t know what is.