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So you wanted to start Discworld... now what?

by Merry Barry-Cecere
05/24/2024

For the vast majority of series, the order of books is clear and well-defined. You start with the first, and read them in chronological order. Maybe there are side stories, or prequels, that make these a little more complex, but it still follows some kind of logical flow and there is often an obvious set starting point.


But if you ask any fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and you’ll get a different answer each time. The one thing that most agree on is that you should never start with the first book.


Debates rage in online forums, a variety of different graphs and infographics can give you opinions worded as opinions, facts, solid truths and everything in between.

And now I’ve decided to weigh in on it. By someone who got it wrong.


Twice.

 

“I showed Rachel the door, and you decided to enter by scaling the wall and kicking in the skylight.”


That’s what my Discworld Expert Best Friend told me when I told him the book I had started the series with. And in my defence, the quick-talking conman-turned-postmaster Moist von Lipwig was exactly my kind of character, and the definitely autistic Stanley Howler and feminist battleaxe Adora Belle Dearheart certainly didn’t hurt, either. As someone with little to no gender on the best of days, the exploration of gender through both the Golems and the Dwarfs was fascinating to me, and helped me come to terms with my own gender non-conformity in ways other books, especially by cisgender people, barely have. I wouldn’t change my first three books of Discworld being Going Postal, Making Money, and Raising Steam for the world.


But that would be a lie. Because, little known to even my best friend, I did start reading Discworld as a much younger child, looking for a book to read on my Summer Holidays. I had recently watched a documentary on Terry Pratchett and wanted to try out his works. But, with no one to guide me – none of my friends were the type to read that genre – I did what any logical person would do and started at the beginning. I dragged my way through The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, before eventually giving up on Equal Rites (even though I know Esk and Granny Weatherwax will both become dear to my heart if I give them a chance).


So, with all of my history with bad decisions when it came to starting this series of book… what would I suggest?


Well, one that a lot of people suggest, one that comes up multiple times in forums as people’s favorite in the series as a whole, with a wealth of lovable characters.

 

As the eighth book in the series (out of a total of forty-one), Guards! Guards! might not be the logical starting point in a series of any media. But if I were to start my reading all over again (which I might, watch this space…), this is where I would start.


The book is, in my opinion, a fantastic introduction to the world of Terry Pratchett’s books and many of the main characters who are introduced throughout the series. Sam Vimes, Carrot Ironfoundersson, Angua von Uberwald, and Lady Sybil are all introduced through the course of the novel, as well as the return of Havelock Vetenari. It also introduces you to the (sometimes complex!) Guild structure and legal system of Ankh-Morpork, are something that definitely helps understand the later novels of the book.


All in all, by this time Pratchett had really found his stride in his writing, world-building, and sense of humor. He manages to write a self-contained story while bringing up references to the vast world in general in a way that’s fun for existing fans, and new readers alike.


So, that’s me, a novice fan of Discworld, throwing my opinion into the ring. Do you agree? Do you not?


Watch this space for a read-through of Discworld, from the beginning again, while looking at Terry Pratchett’s commentary on gender.

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