I am not a fan of fantasy novels. I’m just not. Sorry, not sorry. I don’t know the difference between an orc and an troll… or a gnome now that I think about it. That’s why when someone recommended Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels years ago, I was less than enthused. I knew that my friends enjoyed his work, however, since these friends still play Dungeons and Dragons well into their 40s… not that there is anything wrong with that, but I thought their impressions might be a smidge biased. Time goes by and I kept hearing about Terry Pratchett and how terrific his books are. As a guy always on the lookout for new comedic novels, I have to admit that I was reluctant. I loved Douglas Adams, but I am a big SicFi fan, so that connection seemed natural for me. Making the leap to fantasy was not something that I was ready for, even for a comedic novel.
Then, there it was, The Fifth Elephant on sale at one of those overrun book stores for less than $5. I snapped it up and gave it a try. I had trouble making heads or tails of it. It read easily, but seemed to assume that I knew what the hell was going on. I did not. I mentally filed it under ‘overrated’ and moved on to others things.
Writing for this page has inspired me to go back and reevaluate works that I have previously written off. It has pushed me to go back and look at his work as a whole and my experience with it in context. I realized that I picked up the 24th novel in the series – cold – and expected to just jump right in and have it all make perfect sense. I was your grandfather coming into the room half way through a movie and asking who everyone was and why they were acting that way. I decided that I was going to give the Discworld series another try, but I was going to approach it differently.
This time I started at the beginning: The Colour of Magic, the first Discworld novel. It was a rocky start for me. After the first 20 minutes, I wanted to give up. It was nice that everyone else liked it, but it is just not my thing. The trick is… I didn’t give up on it. I told myself I was going to give it an honest chance. So, I took a break, cleared my mind and went back to it. That’s when I realized it – this book was brilliant! As the story continued, I found that my lack of understanding around the fantasy genre didn’t really matter. Pratchett’s universe was vivid, imaginative, and engaging. His sense of humor and comedic timing are dead on and traverse though the story flawlessly. I liked it so much that I went straight into the second Discworld novel, The Light Fantastic, and have not been disappointed there either.
This experience has taught me two things: 1) I have a lot of catching up to do with Pratchett’s work and 2) every once in a while, we need to travel outside of our comfort zone and try things that we don’t think we are going to like. If we give it an honest chance, we may find that we suprise ourselves.