Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Discworld Filing

I've been trying to arrange my Discworld books on LibraryThing, and found that Wikipedia had different story sets than I did.

It seems they go by single protagonists (although I'm not sure how the History Monks get a grouping -- they strike me as guest-stars). I don't, though. See, I consider Tiffany Aching a direct continuation of the Witches books (her stuff certainly fits as well as Equal Rites does), and Rincewind's stories under the heading Wizards with the books that primarily feature Ridcully and Co. The Watch is definitely separate from the beaurocratic dreambooks that feature Moist, but I think The Truth with its politics in Ankh-Morpork setting attaches nicely as a prologue to the Moist storyarc.

Of course there's always going to be some overlap. It all depends on who seems to drive the story more and who is just there to be present. Death and the Wizards seem to share nicely, since the UU staff gets as much plot-importance as Death and Susan get in at least 2 of their books (Hogfather, Soul Music -- books about the nature of belief and magic fit both character groups). The Wizards and the Witches don't "share" -- the Witches get all of the major actions in Equal Rites and Lords and Ladies, and those are just Witch-style books. (Witch books seem to be about defying the expectations of the universe, Wizard books seem to be about discovering the nature of universe.)

I'm going by theme and mood, I expect. The protagonist sets the mood, yes. Some books are just Watch books. They have Watch-style plots and star those characters, and everyone learns a Watch-style lesson about humanity. They're set in the city. They usually end with Vetinari spouting philosophy. City books like The Truth and Going Postal have the same traits and characters, but they focus on someone other than Sam Vimes and therefore have a much more optimistic mood.

Susan books tend to have the same mood usually too. Tiffany and Granny have the same outlook, so naturally all the Witches books blend together. But Rincewind and the rest of the UU staff don't really have personalities that match, but the Wizard books have the same feel whether Rincewind is present or not. The story seems fresh and exploratory, I have to group them together. Moving Pictures just doesn't stand alone to me, its a Wizards book.

Am I the only one who arranges them this way?


  1. Well, Moving Pictures usually seems to stand alone. lspace.org is the most comprehensive Pratchett/Discworld website, they have a guide here: http://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/

  2. And just to add: what I love about the series was that I was able to jump in at whatever book the library had in at that moment and still be able to follow along, so I think only important reading order is Light Fantastic after Colour of Magic, and Lords and Ladies after Witches Abroad and Wyrd Sisters just so you have a sense of who everyone is before things start.

  3. Honestly, I have them in order of publication date.

    Then again, I've been a Terry Pratchett fan for so long, I actually have been picking them up since before he had an American publisher. Back when there were only two witch books, four Rincewind stories and Good Omens was still an out of print oddity.

  4. I'll admit, I always sort of mentally grouped them into "Death", "Rincewind", "Vimes", and "Granny Weatherwax" books, with 'The Truth' and 'Going Postal' getting sort of grandfathered in under Vimes and Tiffany (unfairly, really) becoming an adjunct to Granny. Susan, obviously, always counts under "Death" because the two of them are so closely intertwined (although I perpetually hope for a book teaming Susan and Angua.)

    By that standard, there'd be three stand-alones; Pyramids, Moving Pictures, and Maurice and His Amazing Educated Rodents.

    However, I will put as a caveat to all of that discussion that I generally shelve them in publication order, in the event that I actually bother to organize my shelves. (My bookshelves are currently organized into two categories: Books I Have Read, and Books I Haven't. Beyond that, chaos abounds.)

  5. That grouping makes sense to me, but like John Seavey my organization system is not nearly that detailed (each of my shelves has a theme, that's about it).

    Also, that reading order guide is cool Mark. I've got two friends that never got into Discworld because they only read books in order. Maybe that'll help convince them.

  6. Funny how this has kept coming up over the last few days.

    Late last week, I'd noted in an online conversation that, while people talk about "the Discworld Series", Pratchett actually writes multiple series that just happen to take place in the same setting. I've only read the first two, myself -- back when they came out -- and I mused off-handedly that I'd start reading them again, if I could just break it down into the various sub-series and read them in manageable chunks.

    The next day, boingboing.net posted this entry, linking to that lspace page that Mark mentions above, with its nice, tidy flow chart showing all the threads and connections.

  7. Where do you put Small Gods? I mentally place that with Pyramids as its own separate "Religion" series, but I'm not sure that works.

    I also put Moving Pictures and Soul Music together, because of the similar themes, but that screws up my "Susan/Death" arrangement.

  8. I'm a W person, too. Witch, Wizard or Watch, that's the general pattern.

    For the odd ones, you can usually look to who gets caught up in the climax. "Moving Pictures" is obviously a Wizard book by that scheme.

    Anything that tends towards Guilds I usually throw in with Watch stuff. I think. I guess I'll have to read them all again to be sure.

  9. I also would tend to put Soul Music and Moving Pictures into the same category. Possibly along with The Truth. (CMOT Dibbler Series?)

    I don't really think that putting Monstrous Regiment into the Watch series is particularly justifiable, either, since they had barely more of a role in the story than they did in Maskerade...

    Maybe geography is a more fruitful way to categorize the books. Lancre, Ubervald, Ankh-Morpork, the Chalk, and the Djel region get major categories, with a general 'foreign parts' to sweep up M.R. and the remaining Rincewind books...

  10. Jeff,
    Geography-based categorization is a great idea, but then I'd have my beloved Fifth Elephant and Jingo far from the other Watch books! I just can't do that.

  11. Sorry, yes, 'Small Gods' and 'Monstrous Regiment' would also be stand-alones under my scheme. (It's been too long since I've read a lot of these. I actually plan to go through and re-read the whole series, once I've finished the six-and-a-half shelves of Books I Haven't Read Yet.)

    And a question: Is when you started reading something to do with it? It occurred to me that the reason I think of them in those four groups is that back when I started reading them, they broke down that way very easily. You could usually tell within a few pages whether it was going to be a Death book, a Granny book, a Rincewind book, or a Vimes book, and only 'Moving Pictures' and 'Small Gods' didn't fit that pattern. Later, it got more complicated, but I was already pre-disposed to reading the books in that mindset.

    And for the record, I get people interested in reading the Discworld by telling them that each book is a stand-alone, and that they can read them out of order and still understand what's going on. Which is, I feel, quite true. Pratchett's skill at writing expository text is nearly unmatched--he catches new readers up to speed while not boring old readers, a skill comics writers should take note of.

  12. Tiffany is definitely a continuation of the witch books - Good call.

    The Wizard's seem to me to have a more reflexive element in relation to the plot - I don't see them as protagonists so much, and therefore they don't "count" by my system.

    I tend to put Moving Pictures, Small Gods, Soul Music and... that one about the Mail into a seperate "Religion, Spirituality, and Forces Beyond Our Ken" group, although there's certainly some overlap there.

  13. Yea, a buddy of mine has his Discworld stuff grouped by theme for his loaner copies and chronologically for his personal copies.

    However, for first time readers I've found that reading them cronologically allows you to get every tenth joke, as he drops offhanded callbacks to previous gags along the way.

    Like landmines.