Pratchett, Terry 1948–

views updated May 29 2018

Pratchett, Terry 1948–

(Terence David John Pratchett)


Born Terence David John Pratchett, April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, England; son of David (an engineer) and Eileen (a secretary) Pratchett; married, 1968; wife's name Lyn; children: Rhianna. Education: Attended Wycombe Technical High School. Hobbies and other interests: Growing carnivorous plants.


Home—Somerset, England. Agent—Colin Smythe, Ltd., P.O. Box 6, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire SL9 8XA, England.


Author. Journalist in Buckinghamshire, Bristol, and Bath, England, 1965-80; Central Electricity Board, Western Region, press officer, 1980-87; novelist. Co-host of wildlife documentary on Borneo orangutans.


British Society of Authors (past chairman).

Awards, Honors

British Science Fiction Awards, 1989, for "Discworld" series, and 1990 (with Neil Gaiman), for Good Omens; Best Children's Book award, Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 1993, for Johnny and the Dead; British Book Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction of the Year, 1993; named member, Order of the British Empire, 1998; honorary LL.D., University of Warwick, 1999; Carnegie Medal, British Library Association, 2002, for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.



The Colour of Magic, Smythe (Gerrards Cross, England), 1983, published as The Color of Magic, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1983, new edition with foreword by Pratchett, Smythe (Buckinghamshire, England), 1988, reprinted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

The Light Fantastic, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1986, reprinted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Equal Rites, Gollancz (London, England), 1986, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987, reprinted, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Mort, Gollancz (London, England), New American Library (New York, NY), 1987.

Sourcery, Gollancz (London, England), 1988, New American Library (New York, NY), 1989.

Wyrd Sisters, Gollancz (London, England), 1988, Roc (New York, NY), 1990.

Pyramids, Penguin (New York, NY), 1989.

Eric, Gollancz (London, England), 1989, published without illustrations, 1990.

Guards! Guards!, Gollancz (London, England), 1989, Roc (New York, NY), 1991.

Moving Pictures, Gollancz (London, England), 1990, Roc (New York, NY), 1992.

Reaper Man, Gollancz (London, England), 1991, Roc (New York, NY), 1992.

Witches Abroad, Gollancz (London, England), 1991, New American Library (New York, NY), 1993.

Small Gods, Gollancz (London, England), 1992, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Stephen Briggs) The Streets of Ankh Morpork, Corgi (London, England), 1993, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.

Lords and Ladies, Gollancz (London, England), 1993, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Men at Arms, Gollancz (London, England), 1993, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Stephen Briggs) The Discworld Companion, Gollancz (London, England), 1994.

Interesting Times, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1994.

Soul Music, Gollancz (London, England), 1994, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Stephen Briggs) The Discworld Mapp, Corgi (London, England), 1995.

Maskerade, Gollancz (London, England), 1995, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Quizbook: The Unseen University Challenge, Vista (London, England), 1996.

Feet of Clay, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1996.

The Pratchett Portfolio, illustrated by Paul Kidby, Gollancz (London, England), 1996.

Hogfather, Gollancz (London, England), 1996, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1998.

Jingo, Gollancz (London, England), 1997, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1998.

The Last Continent, Doubleday (London, England), 1998, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1999.

Carpe Jugulum, Doubleday (London, England), 1998, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Tina Hannan and Stephen Briggs) Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, illustrated by Paul Kidby, Doubleday (London, England), 1999.

(With Paul Kidry) Death's Domain: A Discworld Mapp, Corgi (London, England), 1999.

The Fifth Elephant, Doubleday (London, England), 1999, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

The Truth, Corgi (London, England), 2001.

Thief of Time, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable, illustrated by Paul Kidby, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (children's novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Night Watch, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Discworld Roleplaying Game, illustrated by Paul Kidby, Steve Jackson Games (Austin, TX), 2002.

Monstrous Regiment, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The Wee Free Men (children's novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003, published with illustrations by Stephen Player, edited by Anne Hoppe, 2007.

Going, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

A Hat Full of Sky (children's novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Where's My Cow? (for children), illustrated by Melvyn Grant, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Thud!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Wintersmith (children's novel), HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2006.

Making Money HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld, compiled by Stephen Briggs, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.


Truckers (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, Harper Collins), 2004.

Diggers (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990, reprinted, Harper Collins), 2004.

Wings (also see below), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

The Bromeliad Trilogy (contains Truckers, Diggers, and Wings), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.


Only You Can Save Mankind (also see below), Doubleday (London, England), 1992, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

Johnny and the Dead (also see below), Doubleday (London, England), 1993, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Johnny and the Bomb (also see below), Doubleday (London, England), 1996, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy (contains Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, and Johnny and the Bomb), Doubleday (London, England), 1999.


The Carpet People (children's fantasy), Smythe (Gerrards Cross, England), 1971, revised edition, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.

The Dark Side of the Sun (science fiction), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1976.

Strata (science fiction), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1981.

The Unadulterated Cat, illustrated by Gray Jolliffe, Gollancz (London, England), 1989.

(With Neil Gaiman) Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Predictions of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Workman (New York, NY), 1990.

Contributor to Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg, Voyager (London, England), 1998.

Pratchett's novels have been published in eighteen languages.


The Colour of Magic was adapted as a four-part work by Scott Rockwell with illustrations by Steven Ross, Innovation Corporation, 1991, and published as a graphic novel, Corgi, 1992. The Light Fantastic was adapted as a four-part work by Scott Rockwell with illustrations by Steven Ross, Innovation Corporation, 1992, and published as a graphic novel, Corgi, 1993. Mort was adapted as a graphic novel, illustrated by Graham Higgins, Gollancz (London, England), 1994. The "Bromeliad" trilogy and the first six books of the "Discworld" series were released on audio-cassette by Corgi. An album, Music from the Discworld by Dave Greenslade, was released by Virgin Records, 1994. Two video games, Discworld and Discworld Two, were released by Sony/Psygnosis. A stage adaptation of Truckers toured England, 2002. Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music became animated cartoons, created by Cosgrove Hall Films and released by Acorn Media. Stephen Briggs has adapted Johnny and the Dead and several books in the "Discworld" series to plays, including Mort, Corgi, 1996; Wyrd Sisters, Corgi, 1996; Men at Arms, Corgi, 1997; Maskerade, Samuel French, 1998; Carpe Jugulum, Samuel French, 1999; Guards! Guards!, illustrated by Graham Higgins, Gollancz, 2000; The Fifth Elephant, Methuen Drama, 2002; The Truth, Methuen Drama, 2002; Interesting Times, Methuen Drama, 2002; and Going Postal, Methuen Drama, 2005.


Called the "master of humorous fantasy" by a critic for Publishers Weekly, British author Terry Pratchett won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2002 for his novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels, Pratchett is known primarily for his "Discworld" series and his "Bromeliad" trilogy for children. As David V. Barrett stated in New Statesman & Society, Pratchett's "Discworld" novels feature "marvelous composition and rattling good stories." "Pratchett is an acquired taste," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly in a review of "Discworld" installment Interesting Times, "but the acquisition seems easy, judging from the robust popularity of Discworld." "Discworld"—as well as most of Pratchett's other works—also offers humorous parodies of other famous science-fiction and fantasy writers, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Larry Niven. In his solo works he frequently spoofs such modern trends as New Age philosophy and universal concerns, and does the same in Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Predic-

tions of Agnes Nutter, Witch, his humorous collaboration with acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman. Nevertheless, "in among the slapstick and clever word-play are serious concepts," as Barrett pointed out. In "genres assailed by shoddiness, mediocrity, and … the endless series," asserted Locus critic Faren Miller, "Pratchett is never shoddy, and under the laughter there's a far from mediocre mind at work."

Pratchett was born in 1948, and grew up in Buckinghamshire, England. During his youth, he developed a love of reading science fiction and fantasy, and considered Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows his favorite book. From fantasy he went to myth, and from myth to reading ancient history. Pratchett published his first story in his school magazine, and years later, in 1963, sold his first story to Science Fantasy. At age seventeen, while working as a journalist, he wrote his first novel, a children's fantasy titled The Carpet People, and in 1971 the book found a publisher. Pratchett continued working as a journalist until 1980, by which time he was a press officer for a nuclear power plant. Seven years later, in 1987, he made the move to full-time writer, confident of success due to the novels he had already published.

The Carpet People introduces readers to the world of creatures living in a carpet: deftmenes, mouls, and wights. The novel's protagonist, Snibril the Munrung, travels with his brother Glurk through the many Carpet regions—areas distinguished by different colors—to do battle with the evil concept of Fray. A Times Literary Supplement reviewer recommended The Carpet People, predicting that "the Tolkienian echoes" in Pratchett's tale "may draw in some older readers."

Pratchett used the concept of a flat world when he embarked upon his first "Discworld" novel, The Color of Magic. Discworld sits on the shoulders of four giant elephants, which in turn rest on the back of a giant turtle that swims through space. As W.D. Stevens reported in Science Fiction and Fantasy Review, Discworld is "populated with wizards, warriors, demons, dragons," and other fantastic attributes. The protagonist of The Color of Magic is a hapless wizard named Rincewind. The wizard teams up with Discworld's first tourist, Two-flower, who is visiting from a remote portion of the disc, along with Twoflower's sapient suitcase, known as the Luggage. The result, according to Stevens, is "one of the funniest, and cleverest, satires to be written."

Rincewind returns in The Light Fantastic. This time he and Twoflower must try to prevent Discworld from colliding with a red star that has recently appeared in its sky. This episode introduces toothless octogenarian Cohen the Barbarian. The next book in the series, Equal Rites, puts the emphasis on the character of Granny Weatherwax, and the fourth novel in the series, Mort, stars the recurring character, Death. Granny Weatherwax also appears in Wyrd Sisters, this time accompanied by two fellow witches. In the novel Granny and her companions form a trio of witches (reminiscent of those in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth) to foil the plot of the evil Lord Felmet and his wife, who have usurped the rightful king. Wyrd Sisters prompted Miller to declare that "Pratchett continues to defy the odds. An open-ended series that just keeps getting better? Humorous fantasy with resources beyond puns, buffoonery, and generations of cardboard characters? Unheard of—until Pratchett."

Continuing with the "Discworld" books, Lords and Ladies examines the darker nature of elves. Jackie Cassada, writing in Library Journal, remarked that this book shows why Pratchett "may be one of the genre's … most inventive humorists." In Men at Arms the author blends fantasy and mystery in an "average installment in this always entertaining, sometimes hysterically funny series," according to a critic for Kirkus Reviews. In Interesting Times Rincewind is sent thousands of miles away to intercede in a squabble on the Counterweight Continent. Twoflower and Cohen the Barbarian also make returns in this installment of the "Discworld" saga. Granny Weatherwax returns in Maskerade, called "an enjoyable jaunt into the fantasy world" by Meg Wilson in Voice of Youth Advocates.

An exploration of discrimination informs Jingo, in which war is averted with a land neighboring the city-state Ankh-Morpork, with its mixed population of humans, trolls, and dwarves. Nancy K. Wallace praised the novel in Voice of Youth Advocates, remarking that Pratchett's story, with its "dizzying array of favorite characters and rowdy Pythonesque humor," offers a "capricious, lighthearted look at the inanity of war and the warped ethics of diplomatic procedure." Hogfather features that eponymous Santa Claus of Discworld, but when Hogfather is kidnapped it falls to Death and his daughter, Susan, to figure out who is behind this dastardly deed. With this novel, declared a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Pratchett has "moved beyond the limits of humorous fantasy, and should be recognized as one of the more significant contemporary English-language satirists." Tom Pearson, reviewing Hogfather for Voice of Youth Advocates, concluded that "Pratchett has once again brought Discworld to life in all its off-kilter glory."

Once again set in the "Discworld" universe, The Last Continent spoofs things Australian, while in the twenty-third "Discworld" outing, Carpe Jugulum, vampires attempt to overthrow the kingdom of Lancre. "Pratchett lampoons everything from Christian superstition to Swiss Army knives here," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer of the novel. Susan Salpini, writing in School Library Journal, dubbed Carpe Jugulum a "marvelous sendup of old horror movies."

The Fifth Elephant deals with the legend of the fifth pachyderm that once stood on the back of the giant tortoise. When it fell off the tortoise, its impact on Discworld left rich mineral and fat deposits in what is now Uberwald. Chief Constable Sam Vimes and his wife from Ankh-Morpork are on hand in this episode to help in a succession crisis on Uberwald. "Pratchett is now inviting comparison with Kurt Vonnegut," declared Roland Green in a Booklist review of The Fifth Elephant. A critic for Publishers Weekly had similar praise, calling the novel a "first-rate addition to [Pratchett's] … long-running Discworld fantasy series." In The Truth, a newspaper is established in Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett takes advantage of this opportunity to skewer the press and investigative journalism in this "hilarious romp," as Jackie Cassada described the tale in a Library Journal review. A contributor for Publishers Weekly concluded that readers new to the "Discworld" series "may find themselves laughing out loud … while longtime fans are sure to call [The Fifth Elephant] … Pratchett's best one yet."

Time, religion, and history serve as the philosophical compass in Thief of Time, in which a perfect timepiece will stop time unless a member of the History Monks can do something about it. "How can readers resist a book in which the world is saved by the awesome power of chocolate?" wondered Susan Salpini in a School Library Journal review. Cohen the Barbarian shows up again in The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable, and decides that he and his elderly buddies will go out in a blaze of glory, taking Ankh-Morpork along with them. Rincewind, Captain Carrot, and the inventor/artist Leonard of Quirm must stop Cohen and company before it is too late. In Booklist, Ray Olson dubbed Thief of Time "another Discworld delight," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly lauded Pratchett's "far-out farce."

City Watch leader Sam Vines returns in Night Watch and is joined by the villainous Carcer in a story that is "bubbling with wit and wisdom" and designed as a "tribute to beat cops everywhere," according to a critic for Kirkus Reviews. Vines reprises his commander watchman role in Thud!, which finds the Ankh-Morpork City Watch commander determined to halt the disruption caused by the murder of a rabble-rousing dwarf named Grag Hamcrusher. "As always," concluded Regina Schroeder in Booklist, Thud! "is funny, fast-paced, [and] the kind of satire that explores serious issues" while also captivating readers. Calling the city of Ankh-Morpork "the most rewarding part of Discworld," a contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that in Thud! Pratchett skewers everything from Blackberries to the novel The DaVinci Code, allowing the stalwart Vimes

to cope with the resulting "chaos and idiocy as the exasperated, excruciatingly decent British voice of reason."

Sam Vines has earned a dukedom by the time readers meet up with him in Monstrous Regiment, but his battle to keep the peace continues to keep him busy. In fact, war has broken out, and the army of the Borogravians is winning adherents from among the citizens of Ankh-Morpork. Polly Oliver is so hawkish, in fact, that she has joined one of the Borogravian regiments by disguising herself as a boy. In Booklist, Regina Schroeder dubbed Monstrous Regiment "thoroughly funny and surprisingly insightful," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor expressed relief that "Pratchett's droll satire … isn't afraid to stoop to things like cross-dressing to get a giggle."

The "Discworld" saga continues to spin in Going Postal, as con man Moist von Lipwig is forced by law to endure the ultimate punishment for his crimes: a government job. Charged with turning his criminal mind to improving the British postal system, Moist rises to the occasion, battling a complex communications system, a sea of unsent mail, and a hidden guiding bureaucracy seeking profits above all else. To accomplish the impossible, Moist turns to golem friend and eventual love interest Adora Belle Darkheart as well as Oscar the vampire and a secret society of former postal workers. His exploits continue in Making Money, as Moist begins to look beyond his successes at the postal system but finds his steady climb to the top less than exciting. In Going Postal Pratchett's "inventiveness seems to know no end," according to Carolyn Lehman in School Library Journal, and "his playful and irreverent use of language is a delight." In the opinion of a Kirkus Reviews writer, it is "almost shamefully enjoyable to watch [Moist] … restore the mail routes, invent the idea of stamps, and go toe-to-toe with everything from rapacious businessmen to bloodthirsty banshees." Chock full of "beautifully crafted, wickedly cutting satire on the underpinnings of modern human society," in the opinion of Schroeder, Making Money was described as a "smart, funny, and … thoroughly entertaining."

Pratchett won both critical acclaim and a Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The first of his "Discworld" books specifically geared for younger readers, the novel was described by School Library Journal contributor Miranda Doyle as a "laugh-out-loud fantasy" that turns the pied-piper tale on its head. Maurice is a rather ill-tempered cat who comes up with a clever scheme: send a horde of unpleasant rats into various towns so that the inhabitants will have to summon a piper to get rid of them. The said piper will be Keith, a young musician who is in cahoots with the cat. Their scheme: After Keith performs his piper schtick, he will meet up with Maurice and the rats, and the three parties will split the fee earned for ridding the town of rodents. This scheme works fine until they arrive at the town of Blintz where there are no resident rodents to create the needed infestation. Instead, Maurice and his team are called into service when some evil rat catchers capture all the local humans. A critic for Publishers Weekly called the novel an "outrageously cheeky tale," and in Horn Book Anita L. Burkam wrote that Pratchett's "absorbing, suspenseful adventure is speeded along by the characters' wise-cracking patter." Similarly, a contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that The Amazing Maurice "is at heart a story about stories" and both "excruciatingly funny" and "ferociously intelligent."

With The Wee Free Men Pratchett introduces a trilogy of novels for younger readers that, like The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, is part of the "Discworld" saga. The series follows a nine-year-old dairymaid named Tiffany Aching, who finds that her annoying baby brother has been kidnaped from his home in the rural Chalk by the Elf Queen. Although Tiffany has a few special abilities, such as second sight, she draws on the help of both a talking toad and the Nac Mac Feegle, a band of fearless, rabble-rousing, drunken, blue miniature gnomes no more than six inches in height and fearless. The group bravely infiltrates Fairyland to rescue the tot, and there Tiffany confronts a headless horseman who turns her dreams against her. Her strength—her magic—is "quiet, inconspicuous …, grounded in the earth and tempered with compassion, wisdom, and justice for common folk," explained Sue Giffard in a review of The Wee Free Men for School Library Journal. Described as an "ingenious melánge of fantasy, action, humor, and sly bits of social commentary" by a Kirkus Reviews writer, The Wee Free Men also addresses weighty issues such as "the nature of love, reality, and dreams," the critic added.

In A Hat Full of Sky Pratchett's "humor … races from cerebral to burlesque without dropping a stitch," according to Booklist contributor Roger Sutton. Now age eleven, Tiffany becomes a witch in training to Miss Level, but her lessons are derailed when the teen is taken over by a parasitic hiver who intends to steal her very soul. Granny Aching draws on the power of the Chalk, and the small but feisty Nac Mac Feegle lend their efforts to driving the deadly hiver away. A Hat Full of Sky is, "by turns hilarious and achingly beautiful," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer, the critic noting that Pratchett ranges from "biting satire" to a serious examination of "the critical question of identity" and the importance of reconciling all aspects of one's true nature.

The third "Discworld" story geared for younger readers is Wintersmith, which finds thirteen-year-old Tiffany dancing into the Dark Morris and thereby attracting the romantic ardor of the chilly god of Winter. To show his love, the Wintersmith powders the world with snowflakes in the shape of his beloved. Because Tiffany has accidentally disrupted the change of the seasons, she must call upon Granny Weatherwax, as well as a clutch of other witches, to help put an end to the blizzard of

love that threatens to bury the world. In Booklist, Holly Koelling described Wintersmith as a "rollicking, clever, and quite charming adventure" that is fuelled by Pratchett's "exuberant storytelling." In praise of the book's heroine, Horn Book contributor Deirdre F. Baker wrote that Tiffany's "tenacity, fierce intelligence, and common sense lift her to almost mythic stature." Wintersmith is "full of rich humor, wisdom, and eventfulness," Baker concluded, and a Kirkus Reviews writer noted that the book's "sidesplittingly funny adventure … overlays a deeply thoughtful inquiry into … how the stories we tell shape our understanding of ourselves and of the world we inhabit."

Pratchett has addressed younger readers in several other series of books throughout his writing career. His "Bromeliad" fantasy series begins with Truckers, which introduces young readers to the nomes. Four-inch-tall people from another planet, the nomes have crashed on Earth and made a new world for themselves under the floorboards of a department store. Some of the nomes, however, have lived on the outside; the fun begins when one of these, Masklin, meets with the nomes of the store. When they learn that their store is going out of business and will be torn down, they must cooperate with the outside nomes to find a new home and escape their old one. "A wild and hilarious chase sequence follows, with the baffled police doubting their sanity," observed a Horn Book reviewer. Elizabeth Ward summed up Truckers in the Washington Post Book World, calling it "a delightful surprise" and a "benevolent little satire."

Diggers takes Masklin and his fellow nomes to their new home in an abandoned quarry. Problems ensue, however, when humans attempt to reactivate the quarry. "In the book's funniest scene," according to Patrick Jones in Voice of Youth Advocates, "a group of nomes ‘attacks’ one of the humans, ties him to his desk chair, and stuffs a note in his hand proclaiming: ‘leave us alone.’" "Satire and allegory abound," a Horn Book reviewer concluded of Diggers, although the critic also noted that the nomes' "trials and emotions are both moving and amusing." In Wings, the third "Bromelaid" novel, Masklin and his friends attempt to return to their home planet by placing the Thing—the "magic" box that in Truckers had warned them of the store's demise—aboard a communications satellite so that it can summon their old mother ship, which has been waiting for them throughout their earthly exile. Margaret A. Chang lauded Wings in School Library Journal as a "cheerful, unpretentious tale."

Pyramids, which appeared in 1989, spoofs ancient Egypt. In Pyramids loyal Discworld fans meet Teppic, a teenager who is studying to become an assassin until a relative's death makes him Pharaoh. Other well-received Discworld books include Witches Abroad, which again features Granny Weatherwax and her witch companions. This time their mission is to stop the inevitable happy ending of a fairy tale because of the deeper disaster it will cause. A later Discworld novel is Small Gods, which Miller described in his Locus review of the work as "a book about tortoises, eagles, belief systems, conspiracies, religious bigotry, man's need for gods, and gods' even greater need for man." Reviewing the same novel in the Spectator, Tom Shone noted that Pratchett's "parodies of sword and sorcery novels are a permanent fixture on the bestseller lists throughout most of the year." Shone further commented that "Pratchett is the lucky person on whom the general public's desire for self-parodic fantasy has come to rest and it would now take a very bad book indeed to dislodge it."

Another trio of books set outside his "Discworld" series, Pratchett's "Johnny Maxwell" books, were written in the early 1990s but remain in print due to their popularity. The series begins with Only You Can Save Mankind, a novel that spoofs, among other things, the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In this fantasy tale, the computer game-playing protagonist is faced with a strange dilemma when the commander of the alien force he is about to destroy on-screen asks to surrender. Accepting his role as the Chosen One, the protector of the Scree Wee Empire, Johnny must rescue the aliens from the rest of the world's computer game players. Only You Can Save Mankind garnered strong reviews from critics for its blend of humor and suspense. A Junior Bookshelf contributor remarked that teen readers "should thoroughly enjoy the teasing competence of Mr. Pratchett's high-tech conundrum, by turns comical, whimsical, and downright terrifying." Miller, in an Locus review, stated that the "serious message of this novel shows clearly, but it's delightfully packaged, with the typical Pratchett combination of wit and level-headed humanity."

Johnny Maxwell returns in Johnny and the Dead, which finds the hero mixed up in another creepy yet humorous adventure. The residents of an old graveyard—the dead and buried residents, that is—take offense at the city council's plans to sell the cemetery to a corporation intent on replacing the gravesites with a new housing development. Enlisting the aid of Johnny as their spokesperson, the deceased try to sway public opinion against demolition of their "home." Marcus Crouch, reviewing Johnny and the Dead in Junior Bookshelf, remarked that the "story surprised with its depth and seriousness" and called it "a lovely, funny, witty, sometimes wise book, exciting and entertaining and always highly readable."

Johnny Maxwell makes a final appearance in Johnny and the Bomb. In this episode, he and his friends assist an old bag lady only to discover that her bags are full of time. The teens find themselves traveling back in time to 1941, just as an air raid is scheduled to hit their town during World War II. Having studied the event in school, they know what to expect but are unsure what to do now that they are in the middle of the action. Michael Gregg, reviewing Johnny and the Bomb in Magpies, concluded that "there's a giggle on every page and enough to keep the mind mulling over long after the book is put down." A reviewer for Junior Bookshelf also had praise for Johnny and the Bomb, writing that "no summary can give a fair picture of the intriguing events and lively crosstalk that make up this fascinating story."

Pratchett once told SATA "I've been a journalist of some sort all my working life, and I suppose I tend to think of the books as a kind of journalism—although writing them is as much fun as anyone can have by themselves sitting down with all their clothes on.

"I can't speak for the United States—3,000 miles is a great barrier to casual feedback—but what does gratify me in the United Kingdom is that the ‘Discworld’ books, which are not intended for children, have a big following among kids who, in the words of one librarian, ‘don't normally read.’

"I got my education from books. The official schooling system merely prevented me from reading as many books as I would have liked. So from personal experience I know that getting children to read is important. Civilization depends on it."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Contemporary Novelists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Marcus, Leonard S., The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 2006.

St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.

Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.


Booklist, December 15, 1994, Carl Hays, review of Soul Music, p. 740; September 1, 1995, Roland Green, review of Eric, p. 48; September 15, 1995, Roland Green, review of Lords and Ladies, p. 145; March 15, 1996, Roland Green, review of Men at Arms, p. 1245; October 1, 1996, Roland Green, review of Feet of Clay, p. 326; June 1, 1998, Roland Green, review of Jingo, p. 1736; January 1, 2000, Roland Green, review of The Fifth Elephant, p. 834; August, 2000, Ray Olson, review of The Truth, p. 2075; April 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of The Thief of Time, p. 1510; September 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable, p. 164; January 1, 2002, Sally Estes, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, pp. 842-843; September 1, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of Night Watch, p. 7; April 15, 2003, Sally Estes, review of The Wee Free Men, p. 1465; August, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of Monstrous Regiment, p. 1927; April 15, 2004, Sally Estes, review of A Hat Full of Sky, p. 145; September 1, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of Going Postal, p. 6; September 1, 2005, Regina Schroeder, review of Thud!, p. 7; September 1, 2006, Holly Koelling, review of Wintersmith, p. 127; August, 2007, Regina Schroeder, review of Making Money, p. 9.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2002, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, p. 217; July, 2003, review of The Wee Free Men, p. 458.

Horn Book, March-April, 1990, review of Truckers, p. 202; May-June, 1991, review of Diggers, p. 332; March-April, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, p. 217; May-June, 2003, Anita L. Burkam, review of The Wee Free Men, p. 355; July-August, 2004, Roger Sutton, review of A Hat Full of Sky, p. 460; January-February, 2006, Claire E. Gross, review of Johnny and the Dead, p. 87; September-October, 2006, Deirdre F. Baker, review of Wintersmith, p. 289.

Junior Bookshelf, February, 1993, review of Only You Can Save Mankind, p. 33; August, 1993, Marcus Crouch, review of Johnny and the Dead, p. 157; June, 1996, review of Johnny and the Bomb, p. 124.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1996, review of Men at Arms, p. 32; March 1, 1997, review of Interesting Times, p. 342; October 1, 1999, review or Carpe Jugulum, p. 1531; September 1, 2001, review of The Last Hero, p. 1254; October 15, 2001, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, p. 1490; August 15, 2002, review of Night Watch, p. 1183; April 15, 2003, review of The Wee Free Men, p. 610; August 15, 2003, review of Monstrous Regiment, p. 105; May 1, 2004, review of A Hat Full of Sky, p. 446; September 1, 2004, review of Going Postal, p. 830; June 15, 2005, review of Only You Can Save Mankind, p. 689; August 1, 2005, review of Thud!, p. 810; September 15, 2006, review of Wintersmith, p. 964; March 1, 2007, review of Johnny and the Bomb, p. 230; August 1, 2007, review of Making Money, p. 265.

Kliatt, May, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of A Hat Full of Sky, p. 12; September, 2005, Paula Rohrlick, review of Only You Can Save Mankind, p. 12; May, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of Johnny and the Dead, p. 31; November, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of Wintersmith, p. 26.

Library Journal, September 15, 1995, Jackie Cassada, review of Lords and Ladies, p. 97; April 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Interesting Times, p. 124; March 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Fifth Elephant, p. 132; October 1, 2000, Douglas C. Lord, review of Guards! Guards!, p. 165; October 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Truth, p. 108; March 15, 2001, Ann Burns, review of Jingo, p. 126; May 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Thief of Time, p. 166; November 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Last Hero, p. 100, November 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Night Watch, p. 106.

Locus, January, 1989, Faren Miller, review of Wyrd Sisters, p. 17; October, 1991, Faren Miller, review of Witches Abroad, pp. 15, 17; June, 1992, Faren Miller, review of Small Gods, p. 17; September, 1992, Faren Miller, review of Only You Can Save Mankind, p. 66.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1999, Michelle West, review of Hogfather, p. 36; October, 2000, Michelle West, review of The Fifth Elephant, p. 44; March, 2002, Michelle West, review of The Last Hero, pp. 34-39.

Magpies, September, 1996, Michael Gregg, review of Johnny and the Bomb, p. 34.

New Scientist, July 10, 1999, "The World of If," pp. 46-48; May 18, 2002, Roger Bridgman, "Narrative Drive: What Makes Us Human?," p. 56.

New Statesman & Society, January 3, 1992, David V. Barrett, "Serious Fun," p. 33.

Publishers Weekly, March 31, 1997, review of Interesting Times, p. 67; October 26, 1998, review of Hogfather, p. 47; September 27, 1999, review of Carpe Jugulum, p. 77; March 6, 2000, review of The Fifth Elephant, p. 87; October 30, 2000, review of The Truth, p. 52; April 9, 2001, review of Thief of Time, p. 55; October 15, 2001, review of The Last Hero, p. 51; November 5, 2001, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, p. 70; September 30, 2002, review of Night Watch, p. 54.

School Library Journal, September, 1991, Margaret A. Chang, review of Wings, pp. 258-259; August, 1998, Susan Salpini, review of Jingo, p. 197; April, 2000, Susan Salpini, review of Carpe Jugulum, p. 162; July, 2000, review of The Fifth Elephant, p. 130; August, 2001, Susan Salpini, review of Thief of Time, p. 211; December, 2001, Miranda Doyle, review of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, pp. 142-143; May 20, 2003, Sue Giffard, review of The Wee Free Men, p. 158; July, 2004, Sharon Rawlins, review of A Hat Full of Sky, p. 111; February, 2005, Carolyn Lehman, review of Going Postal, p. 157; November, 2006, Heather M. Campbell, review of Wintersmith, p. 148.

Spectator, August 22, 1992, Tom Shone, "A View from the Back of a Giant Tortoise," p. 23.

Times Literary Supplement, April 28, 1972, review of The Carpet People, p. 475.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1991, Patrick Jones, review of Diggers, p. 366; April, 1998, Meg Wilson, review of Maskerade, p. 60; December, 1998, Nancy K. Wallace, review of Jingo, p. 370; April, 1999, Tom Pearson, review of Hogfather, p. 50.

Washington Post Book World, February 11, 1990, Elizabeth Ward, review of Truckers, p. 6.


Colin-Smyth Web Site, (March 14, 2003), "About the Author: Terry Pratchett."

Midweek (BBC Radio 4), April 26, 1995, Christina Hardimant, interview with Pratchett.

Pratchett, Terry

views updated May 29 2018

Terry Pratchett

BORN: 1948, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England


GENRE: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry

The Colour of Magic (1983)
Interesting Times (1994)
The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy (1999)
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)
The Bromeliad Trilogy (2003)


Terry Pratchett, the author of the increasingly popular Discworld series, is widely known for writing tales of witches, wizards, and sons of Satan—all with a sly sense of humor. Called the “master of humorous fantasy” by a critic for Publishers Weekly, Pratchett is also regarded as a

serious craftsman but with an unusual cult following: the second-most-read author in England and the seventh-most-read non-American author in the United States.

Works in Biographical and Historical Context

Prodigious Beginning Terry Pratchett was born on April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England, to David and Eileen Pratchett. He had no siblings. At eleven years of age, he passed his eleven-plus exam and entered High Wycombe Technical High School. Getting what he has said is most of his education from the Beaconsfield Public Library, Pratchett read constantly, turning often to the works of H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and “every book you really ought to read,” he later reported.

Early Interests in Astronomy Pratchett developed an early penchant for space and astronomy. Included in his boyhood collection were Brooke Bond tea cards and a telescope, which he hoped would be a part of a long career in astronomy. However, having weak skills in math, the young Pratchett turned back to reading and, in particular, to science fiction books, including his favorite, The Wind in the Willows (1908), by Kenneth Graeme. He also began to write; at thirteen he published his first short story, “The Hades Business,” in the school paper. The story was then published by a local magazine, bringing Pratchett his first income. This, according to his official Web site, enabled the young prodigy to purchase his first writing equipment, a secondhand typewriter.

Early Writing Success Pratchett began studying English, art, and history in school, and eventually decided to become a journalist. By age seventeen, Pratchett left school to begin work with Bucks Free Press and wrote his first novel, a humorous children's fantasy titled The Carpet People. The book was published in 1971.

The Discworld Series With the success of his first novel, Pratchett continued to write and publish, delivering to his soon-to-be-fanatic readers The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981). Two years later, his creative efforts launched him into literary stardom: beginning the same year, he became press officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) covering three nuclear power plants and published The Colour of Magic (1983). The novel was the first of his “Discworld” works, novels of science fiction and fantasy set in a flat world. The planet is supported on the backs of four gigantic elephants astride the shell of an immense tortoise swimming in space.

Pratchett continued with the comedic and fantastic Discworld series, which features witches and wizards and gnomes and trolls, presenting them to an eager readership. The Light Fantastic (1986), Equal Rites (1987), and Mort (1987) were the first sequels. As the Discworld series grew rapidly in production and popularity, numerous offshoots entertained Pratchett's avid followers—including Discworld reference books, guides, and maps; short stories; animations and theater productions; and television programs.

Continued Accolades and Awards With the publication and astonishing success of his fourth Discworld volume, Mort, Pratchett decided to turn to writing fulltime. In addition to writing thirty-six Discworld books, Pratchett started to write graphic novels and comic books for Discworld. Game designers and platforms delivered numerous versions of Discworld role-playing games. By 1989 Pratchett and his Discworld series had been honored with the British Science Fiction Award, a first of several awards the comic author was to receive.

In the early 1990s, Pratchett also delivered another award-winning series featuring Johnny Maxwell. After a trio of successful works dubbed the Bromeliad Trilogy, Pratchett began the Johnny Maxwell trilogy with Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), followed by Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996). All were exceptionally well-received. The second volume won Pratchett the 1993 Best Children's Book award from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. By 1996 he was reportedly the top-selling and highest-earning author in the United Kingdom; by 2003, he was second only to the author of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling.

Ongoing Productivity and Popularity Pratchett met and married Lyn Purves at the start of his writing career. Together they raised daughter Rhianna, who was born in 1976. The Pratchett family moved southwest of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1993 and still reside there. In 2007 Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's disease called posterior cortical atrophy. As the disease began to impact his physical efforts at writing, Pratchett has become an active fundraiser, making charitable contributions himself, including the sum of one million U.S. dollars to the Alzheimer's Research Trust. His donation reportedly prompted a mimicking movement online, whereby Pratchett fans began a campaign they call “Match it for Pratchett,” in hopes of raising another million for Alzheimer's research.

In 1998 Pratchett was named an Officer of the British Empire “for services to literature.” In 2002 he received the esteemed Carnegie Medal from the British Library Association for one of his many popular children's books, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (2001). Pratchett's work has been translated into thirty-three languages and has sold more than forty-five million copies.

Works in Literary Context

Classical and Popular Characters Several influences are built into Pratchett's works. As he told James Naughtie at the BBC Radio show Bookclub, he leans on characters from ancient history, classic literature, and popular culture, and adds his own brand of humor. Indeed, it is the original sources that provide inspiration for and give impetus to his humorous style.

Satire and Parody The outside influences that inform Pratchett's humorous work became more than inspiration for his humorous style. Satire is apparent in his fantasy and science fiction. Naughtie notes that Pratchett's Discworld series began as a parody of the fantasy genre, but over the course of development, it turned into “a satire on just about everything.”

As a critic for Authors and Artists for Young Adults adds, “Discworld—as well as most of Pratchett's other works—also offers humorous parodies of other famous science fiction and fantasy writers, such as J. R. R. Tolkien or Larry Niven.” Pratchett also spoofs (or parodies) contemporary concerns. For instance, he spoofs death in Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Predictions of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990, cowritten by Neil Gaiman). This novel is like several in this genre, a send-up of modern horror themes—particularly The Omen series of films and the series' imitators. When the son of Satan is misplaced and raised as a nice child, the schedule of Armageddon is thrown awry, and the powers of heaven and hell must pitch together to work things out.

Works in Critical Context

Pratchett has earned an esteemed reputation with both the public and the critics—most notably for his Discworld series.


Pratchett's famous contemporaries include:

Vladimir Bukovsky (1942–): Russian author and activist, he is most noted for being a former Soviet political dissident.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (1947–): First Lady to the forty-second president of the United States and junior U.S. senator from New York, in 2007 she became the first woman to be a serious contender for the nomination by a major political party for U.S. president.

Ken Follett (1949–): British author of historical and thriller fiction, he has sold more than one hundred million copies of his books.

Robert Haas (1941–): American poet who has served two terms as U.S. poet laureate (from 1995 to 1997) and has contributed greatly to contemporary literature.

Stephen Hawking (1942–): British theoretical physicist who is known for his important work on relativity, black hole, and radiation theory.

J. K. Rowling (1965–): British author famous for her Harry Potter books and the best-selling author in history.

Discworld Books (1983–2007) Critical reception for the thirty-plus volumes in the series has been almost unanimously favorable. Critic David V. Barrett made a general comment in a New Statesman & Society review, saying that the novels of Discworld “are works of marvelous composition and rattling good stories.” Making more specific comments, a Publishers Weekly critic in a review of the Discworld novel Interesting Times (1994) wrote, “Pratchett is an acquired taste, but the acquisition seems easy, judging from the robust popularity of Discworld.” Of Lords and Ladies (1992), a dark-side study of elves, Library Journal's Jackie Cassada concluded that the volume shows why Pratchett “may be one of the genre's … most inventive humorists.”

Responses to Literature

  1. Pratchett has become one of the rare contemporary novelists who has a cult following. This is evident in the substance and numbers of message boards where fans discuss his works at great length. Visit the message boards at Read several postings from at least three forums. Then, given the contents of the threads, make an effort to characterize the Pratchett Fanatic, or cult follower. Use critical thinking skills to determine who the “typical” reader is, identifying gender, geographic location, and age.
  2. On the Web site Books at Transworld ( is a quiz titled, “Can You Survive the Discworld Quiz?” Before going to the quiz, work with a partner to come up with your own Discworld trivia quiz. When you finish, go to Transworld (or Trivia Net) and take one quiz. What do your two trivia quizzes have in common? How are they different?
  3. Pratchett's books, especially the Discworld series, have generated a phenomenal collection of cartoons, shows, comic books, guides, and games. As a group, decide on one Discworld book and prepare a small study guide for students. This might include a character guide, a list of important locations and the flora and fauna found there, information from previous Discworld books relevant to the current story, and themes found within the work. To aid in the project, research the many well-developed sites dedicated to games, themes, and other elements of the Discworld series.


Few subjects escape Pratchett's satire, which mocks the publishing and filmmaking industries, histories, cultures, music genres, philosophies, politics, and religions, among others. Here are a few works by writers who also have fun with satirizing universal concerns or parodying more serious works:

Animal Farm (1945), a novella by George Orwell. In this satirical allegory, the farm animals are stand-ins for Bolshevik revolutionaries who plot to take over the human-run farmstead.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), a play by Oscar Wilde. This satirical comedy of errors heavily mocks the etiquette of high society.

Main Street (1920), a novel by Sinclair Lewis. In this satirical work, the author makes commentary on contemporary American values.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), a play by Tom Stoppard. This play is a modern parody of several elements in Shakespeare's Hamlet (1599–1601).



Barrett, David V. “Serious Fun.” New Statesman & Society, January 3, 1992: 33.

Cassada, Jackie. Review of Lords and Ladies. Library Journal, September 15, 1995: 97.

Publishers Weekly. Review of Interesting Times, March 31, 1977: 67.

Web Sites

Anthony, Jason. DiscWorld Monthly. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Books at Transworld. Terry Pratchett at Transworld. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Terry Pratchett Summary Bibliography. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Naughtie, James. BBC BookClub. “Interview: Terry Pratchett Turns 60.” Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Smythe, Colin. The L-Space Web. Terry Pratchett Biography. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Terry Pratchett Books. Terry Pratchett Official Website. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Trivia Net. Discworld Quizzes. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Pratchett, Terry

views updated May 14 2018


Nationality: British. Born: 1948. Education: Wycombe Technical High School. Career: Journalist in Buckinghamshire, Bristol, and Bath, then press officer, Central Electricity Board Western Region, until 1987. Awards: British Science Fiction award, 1990. Honorary degree, University of Warwick, 1999. Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), 1998. Agent: Colin Smythe Ltd., P.O. Box 6, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire SL9 8XA, England.


Novels (series: Discworld; Truckers/Bromeliad)

Carpet People. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, Smythe, 1971; revised edition, London, Doubleday, 1992.

The Dark Side of the Sun. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, Smythe, 1976.

Strata. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, Smythe, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1981.

The Colour of Magic (Discworld). Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, Smythe, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1983.

The Light Fantastic (Discworld). Gerrard's Cross, Buckinghamshire, Smythe, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1986.

Mort (Discworld). London, Gollancz, and New York, New AmericanLibrary, 1987.

Sourcery (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1988; New York, NewAmerican Library, 1989.

Pyramids (Discworld). London, Gollancz, and New York, Penguin, 1989.

Guards! Guards! (Discworld; with Gray Jolliffe). London, Gollancz, 1989; New York, Roc, 1991.

Truckers (first of the Truckers trilogy; in the U.S. as the Bromeliad trilogy). London, Doubleday, 1989; New York, Delacorte, 1990.

Eric (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1989.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Predictions of Agnes Nutter, Witch, with Neil Gaiman. London, Gollancz, and New York, Workman, 1990.

Moving Pictures (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1990.

Diggers (Truckers/Bromeliad). London, Doubleday, and New York, Delacorte, 1990.

Wings (Truckers/Bromeliad; with Neil Gaiman). London, Doubleday, 1990; New York, Delacorte, 1991.

Reaper Man (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1991.

Lords and Ladies. London, Gollancz, 1992.

Only You Can Save Mankind. London, Doubleday, 1992.

Small Gods (Discworld). London, Gollancz, and New York, HarperCollins, 1992.

Men at Arms (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1993.

Johnny and the Dead. London, Doubleday, 1993.

Interesting Times. London, Gollancz, 1994.

Soul Music (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1994; New York, HarperPrism, 1995.

The Witches Trilogy (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1995.

Equal Rites (Discworld). London, Gollancz, 1986; New York, NewAmerican Library, 1987.

Wyrd Sisters. London, Gollancz, and New York, Penguin, 1988.

Witches Abroad. London, Gollancz, 1991.

Maskerade. London, Gollancz, 1995; New York, HarperPrism, 1997.

Feet of Clay (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 1996.

Jingo (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 1997.

Hogfather (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 1998.

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 1998.

The Last Continent (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 1999.

The First Discworld Novels (contains The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic ). Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England, C. Smythe; Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, Dufour Editions, 1999.

The Truth. New York, HarperCollins, 2000.

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld). New York, HarperPrism, 2000.


The Unadulterated Cat, with illustrations by Gray Jolliffe. London, Gollancz, 1989.

The Discworld Companion, with Stephen Briggs. London, Gollancz, 1994.

* * *

Terry Pratchett's texts are woven from the stuff of fantasy: wizards, witches, trolls, dwarves, gnomes, elves, demons, gods; magic spells, sudden space-and-time shifts, drastic metamorphoses. His fiction is both a hilarious parody of the fantasy genre, as represented by Tolkien and "sword-and-sorcery" novels, and a genuine contribution to it, in that it creates a rich, imaginative "multiverse" that absorbs and intrigues the reader. It shares with the strongest fantasy a concern with fundamental issues such as death, and it incorporates aspects of contemporary culture such as fast food and rock music. Pratchett has a witty, inventive style that draws attention to itself in an engaging way and that often seizes on a phrase drawn from common speech or from literature and brings out a buried or alternative meaningas when Robert Frost's line "good fences make good neighbors" is applied to living next door to a receiver of stolen goods.

Pratchett's major corpus is the Discworld series of novels, which now number twenty-four. The Discworld is a flat disc, carried on the back of four giant elephants, who in turn stand on the shell of the huge turtle Great A'Tuin, swimming slowly through space. It is the ideal fantasy world for the postmodernist era, since its flatness means that its inhabitants have no truck with those "global" theories denounced by postmodernist thinkers. Its capital city is Ankh-Morpork, densely overpopulated, impossibly labyrinthine, and egregiously foul-smelling. The Discworld is full of stories that bear on our social and metaphysical concerns. In Equal Rites, for example, a dying wizard gives his staff of power to a baby who turns out to be a girl and grows up to become the first female wizard in the face of male prejudice and opposition. Moving Pictures looks at how cinema comes to the Discworld, whereas Soul Music charts the effects of a new and overwhelming form of rock music. In Mort, Death takes on an apprentice and tries to train him on the job, but the young man disturbs the order of the multiverse when he reprieves a young princess who is about to be assassinated. Hogfather affirms that human beings need fantasy to be human, and describes the attempts of the Auditors of Reality, who hate life, human beings above all, to destroy belief in the Hogfather, a kind of Discworld Santa Claus. Jingo is about the destructive results of excessive nationalism, as war threatens between Ankh-Morpork and the kingdom of Klatch when both lay claim to an island that has unexpectedly appeared between them. In The Last Continent, campus revolt takes a new form when books barricade themselves into the library of Unseen University.

Each of the Discworld novels is enjoyable and absorbing in its own right, with a range of character and incident and, usually, a strong and complex narrative structure, although some of the tales are more compelling than others, perhaps inevitably given Pratchett's large and rapid output. Taken together, these novels create an imaginative zone that is rich and strange, offering the reader both the pleasures of discovery, as new aspects are revealed, and of recognition, as familiar figures recur. Among the most notable of these are the Luggage, a travelling chest with hundreds of little legs, which follows its owner everywhere, proffering clean linen whenever he requires it and dealing ruthlessly with anyone or anything else that gets in its way; the Librarian of Unseen University who, having been inadvertently changed by magic into an orangutan, prefers to remain that way, since it simplifies life's philosophical problems and enables him to get by with only one utterance, "Oook"; and Death, a tall skeleton who always speaks in capital letters but who turns out to be lonely, troubled, and strangely human. It is Death who, in Hogfather, tries to take the Hogfather's place after the Hogfather is "severely reduced" by the lessening belief of children in him. Pratchett is also good at creating engaging minor characters, such as Bilious, the "oh God of Hangovers," in Hogfather so named because the hungover always say "oh God" when he manifests himselfor the werewolf in Feet of Clay who, anticipating the change that occurs at the time of the full moon, suffers from PLT: pre-lunar tension.

Among Pratchett's other novels, particular mention should be made of Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, and Johnny and the Bomb, which combine fantasy and science fiction with a realistic portrayal of a group of teenagers in a rundown English city. In Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny Maxwell finds himself involved in a video game in which the aliens against whom he is fighting turn out to be real; the novel invokes and echoes the blurring of the distinction between image and reality in the Gulf War. Johnny and the Dead engages with the issue of the loss of the sense of the past in the postmodernist era: Johnny joins a campaign to save a local cemetery from redevelopment after he has discovered that he can see and talk to the people buried there. In Johnny and the Bomb, the past comes alive as a supermarket trolley serves as the time machine that carries Johnny and his friends back to 21 May 1941; the narrative skillfully interweaves the contrasting but connected events of a day in the Second World War and the same day in the 1990s.

Pratchett is a best-selling writer with an enormous and devoted following. He identifies his intended readership as "children of any age," and he has a large teenage and adult audience. But critical response to him has been mixed; his work enjoys the admiration of important contemporary novelists such as A.S. Byatt but it has also been judged to be formulaic and of low quality. The eclectic mixture of elements and the crossing of cultural boundaries in his fiction might mark it as postmodernist. But postmodernist work that has found critical acceptance tends to imply a knowing, distanced attitude toward the popular materials on which it draws, whereas Pratchett remains deeply rooted in those materials even as he parodies them; he thus challenges the postmodernist aesthetic as well as traditional cultural categories. Since Johnny and the Bomb, he has focused on producing further Discworld novels, most recently Carpe Jugulum, in which he employs vampires for the first timethey try to take over the small kingdom of Lancre and are resisted by its witchesand The Fifth Elephant, in which another recurrent Discworld character, the tough and tactless Samuel Vimes, captain of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, is sent as an ambassador to the Northern principality of Uberwald and gets entangled with vampires, dwarves, and were-wolves. While some readers and reviewers have felt that his inventiveness is flagging in these latest works, others have continued to applaud and enjoy them. Pratchett seems happy to devote most of his energies to the continuing creation of the Discworld and has no apparent aspiration towards being acknowledged as a serious writer; it will be interesting to see whether, in the twenty-first century, he continues to offer more of the same or strikes out in new directions.

Nicolas Tredell

Pratchett, Terry

views updated Jun 11 2018


PRATCHETT, Terry. British, b. 1948. Genres: Science fiction/Fantasy, Children's fiction, Young adult fiction. Career: Journalist in Buckingham- shire, Bristol and Bath England, 1965-80; Central Electricity Generating Board, Western Region, press officer, 1980-87; novelist. Publications: DISCWORLD NOVEL SERIES: The Colour of Magic, 1983; The Light Fantastic, 1986; Equal Rites, 1987; Mort, 1987; Sourcery, 1988; Wyrd Sisters, 1988; Pyramids, 1989; Eric, 1989; Guards! Guards!, 1989; Moving Pictures, 1990; Reaper Man, 1991; Witches Abroad, 1991; Small Gods, 1992; Lords and Ladies, 1993; Men at Arms, 1993; (with S. Briggs) The Streets of Ankh- Morpork, 1993; (with S. Briggs) The Discworld Companion, 1994; Soul Music, 1994; Interesting Times, 1994; Maskerade, 1995; Feet of Clay, 1996; Hayfather, 1996; The Wee Free Men, 2003. BROMELIAD TRILOGY: Truck- ers, 1989; Diggers, 1990; Wings, 1990. OTHER: The Carpet People, 1971, rev ed, 1992; The Dark Side of the Sun, 1976; Strata, 1981; (with G. Jolliffe) The Unadulterated Cat, 1989; (with N. Gaiman) Good Omens, 1990; Only You Cna Save Mankind, 1992; Johnny and the Dead, 1993; Johnny and the Bomb, 1995; The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (YA), 2001. Address: c/o Colin Smythe, P. O. Box 6, Gerrards Cross, Bucks. SL9 8XA, England.

Pratchett, Terry

views updated May 17 2018

Pratchett, Terry (1948– ) English writer. Pratchett's first novel was The Carpet People (1971). The Colour of Magic (1983) was the first novel in his series of comic fantasies about life on Discworld, a planet which travels through space on the back of four elephants which themselves stand on the shell of Great A'Tuin, the sky turtle. The Discworld novels have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Other novels in the series include Mort (1987), The Wyrd Sisters (1988) and Soul Music (1995). His children's books include the “Johnny Maxwell” trilogy: Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993), Johnny and the Bomb (1996)

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