Catching up on Pratchett

I have a confession to make. I must be one of the few people in the book reading world who has never read a Terry Pratchett. My book-loving friends shudder, when I reveal this quirk.So... a few weeks ago I was stuck in Ely for the day while my car was making yet another regular visit to the garage.

Ely happens to have one of the nicest independent bookshops in the country, the loveable Topping, so in I popped to waste an hour or two browsing the shelves. As usual, with book-lovers, the inevitable happened. I intended to browse, had no intention of buying, but homeless books called to me from the shelves, and before I knew what had happened there I was packing away a group of happily re-homed books: medieval graffiti, a murder mystery, and time travel in blitz-torn London will all be reviewed on here anon. And then of course there was Terry Pratchett...

A few weeks ago on Facebook there was a bit of a storm about an article in the Guardian. Whether or not you've read Terry Pratchett, and regardless of whether you're a fan, this was a pretty obnoxious and pompous article, in which the reviewer derided potboilers (and Terry Pratchett); while happily admitting that he'd never read a word by the author. One wonders how you can class a book as a potboiler or criticise it, when you've never actually read it.

Besides that, I hate literary snobbery. To me books are like food, I couldn't live without them, some of the food is nourishing (good for you, but hard to get through), some is good for you and great to eat as well, and some is like chocolate - not that good for you, but essential on a miserable day because it makes you feel happy. A balanced diet is the best, but anything, I think, is better than nothing. Also, like music and art, I fully accept that although I may love Author X, you may love Author Y. There's no right or wrong, it's just different tastes (in the same way that some people are weird enough to love coffee flavoured chocolate!). So, I decided there was no way I could end 2015 without getting my literary teeth into a Pratchett.

Many years ago, I had started one (title is lost in the mists of time) but never got beyond the first few pages. Is there a suitable place to start for virgin Pratchettistas? Helpful friends gave me tips. And a decision was made when a Facebook friend (who knows me too well) advised me to start with Pyramids. "You like silly, you like Ancient Egypt, you'll like this," she said sagely. In fact the only thing she forgot to tell me was that camels were also included. I would then have known that I was on to a winner.

Pyramids is the seventh in the Discworld series, but can happily be read as a standalone. Set mainly in the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi, chaos ensues when young King Teppic (trained as an assassin, but forced to return to his kingdom following the death of his father) agrees to the construction of the world's biggest pyramid. The pyramid warps the structure of time and space, and with gods on the loose, the dead arising (and they're not at all happy about the afterlife) and mathematicians in unexpected places; Teppic is going to have a hard job restoring his kingdom to its proper place, and preventing war between two of Discworld's biggest superpowers.

It's a very funny, witty tale, with some great plays on language, endearing characters, camels, tone-deaf handmaidens, and of course plenty of mummies. It's certainly not the cabbage of the literary world, it's far too funny for that. But the comedy is razor-sharp, lifting it well above the pot-boiler class; and Pratchett can write. The novel moves along at a scintillating, breathless pace with puns and fun aplenty.

I can't say (sorry to my Pratchett loving friends) that I immediately wanted to go out and buy another Pratchett; but I certainly want to read more of them. And I know that I am going to miss Teppic, Dil (the embalmer who won prizes for his needlework), Ptraci, and the mathematically minded dromedary - always a good sign that the author has got you hooked. Pratchett is not a pot-boiler, but a Michelin-starred supplier of chicken soup for the soul.


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