Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Learning | Ook.

Sir Terry Pratchett passed away on March 12, 2015.  Readers around the world mourn the loss of the creator of the comic fantasy Discworld series. Discworld is a flat world that rests on the backs of four elephants; those elephants, in turn, are standing on the back of a giant turtle.  If you are able to accept that premise, and even laugh at it, you would probably enjoy reading books in the Discworld series.

0504 9757 Sir Terry Pratchett,
from Steve James' photostream on
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 My friend, Elsbeth, pointed out that there is no need to read Discworld books in the order that they were published. It's true. Different books satirize different aspects of the real world. (There are even parodies of the fantasy genre.) Various titles spoof tourism, war, bureaucracy, prejudice, jingoism, Ancient Egypt, opera, journalism...the list goes on and on. Characters recur in subsequent books, but there are always new characters. 

For instance, there is a certain librarian in the first two books, who works for Unseen University.  He is accidentally transformed into an orangutan in the second book.  He won't allow anybody to change him back (after all, he can climb up to the highest shelves with ease.) He recurs in many of the later books. 

You'll sometimes see a piece of luggage wander into the action at the most interesting moments. It wanders around because it's made of sapient pearwood (which is magical.) It can sprout hundreds of little legs, enabling it to run away very quickly. It has multiple functions--carrying its owner's luggage, and acting as a bodyguard. In the novel Sourcery, it is described as "half luggage, half homicidal maniac." (Note: SSJCPL no longer has any copies of Sourcery in its catalog. You'll need to get it from Link+.)

Pyramids, Discworld #7, from
 sdoble's photostream on
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It seems as though there's a guild for everything in Ankh-Morpork, the large, bustling city that provides a setting in many of the Discworld books. 

There's even a guild for assassins. Here's a nice, juicy quote about the members of that guild, from Pyramids: 

"All assassins had a full-length mirror in their rooms, because it would be a terrible insult to anyone to kill them when you were badly dressed."

Pyramids is a good book to start with, if you haven't read anything else about Discworld.

"Pratchett is my hero..."
 from Robert N's photostream on
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Most of Pratchett's books were written for an adult audience, but there is also a series for children ages 8 and up, called the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy.

Pratchett wrote a number of books for a teen audience. I am especially partial to the Tiffany Aching series.  You'll want to read those in order, to follow Tiffany's progress as she grows up; start with The Wee Free Men.

You may be wondering about the title of this blog post. When the Librarian at Unseen University became an orangutan, he lost all speech, except for "ook," and the occasional "eek." He communicates remarkably well, using different inflections for "ook." It might be "ook?" or "ook!" or "oooooook!"

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