I was always going to get to him eventually, but I’ve moved him up given the sad news.
Terry Pratchett (fondly known as pTerry by fans since the publication of Pyramids), author of the long-running Discworld series, has been among my favourite authors since highschool; he has grown in sophistication in line with my tastes as a reader as I have moved ever-further-away from my teenage years.
He has developed a number of different sub-societies within the Discworld – the witches, the guards, the wizards, the Death/Susan books, and the Tiffany books spring to mind, plus several stand-alones (though technically any of the series can be read in any order, the later books do build on the earlier ones quite strongly). The stories are as varied as the cast of characters and the situations can make them, but often follow themes to do with the responsible use of power in its many forms.
It’s very difficult to single out a favourite book. In terms of characters, I’ve always had a soft spot for Vimes of the city watch, far and away my favourite through many many years (although Moist, the lead of Going Postal and now Making Money does have the insouciant charm and confidence of the slightly amoral hero that I am awfully fond of in fiction). The interplay between Vimes and the Patrician has led to some of my very favourite scenes in the entire series (‘sometimes you have to wind the spring as tight as it will go’).
The Patrician himself redefined my use of the word ‘momentarily’; and thanks to Carrot, I can never mention the word ‘pun’ without spelling/pronouncing it ‘pune’ and announcing ‘this is a pune or play on words’ (opportunities to use the word abound, of course).
Pratchett’s work is unfailingly clever and erudite. The comedy has developed from the slapstick and parody of early books to a keen satire based on the inherent ridiculousness of many human endeavours. The early books do suffer in comparison with the latest, partly because it has been twenty years since they were written and partly because there’s only so many re-readings you can take…
I don’t read much other comedy, particularly in the fantasy genre. Like the best science fiction, Pratchett’s fantasy satire illuminates the nature of humanity – our strengths, our quirks, our imperfections. Other fantasy comedy (including Pratchett’s own earliest works) is too superficial to meet the standard he has set for me.
The latest book is Making Money. More about pTerry and the Discworld can be found here. I’m sure you will all join me in wishing him the tenacity of the Nac Mac Feegles in the fight against Alzheimer’s.