One day in a used bookstore on Route 66*, I found a book with a turtle on it. The turtle was floating in the center of a blue sky and it was shiny.
“Ooh, that’s cool. Turtles are cool,” I remember thinking.**
That was when I first met Sir Terry Pratchett. I was in middle school I think. I don’t know why we went shopping, but that day I was also exposed to Robert Aspirin and Isaac Asimov. The bookstore was called Patten Books, and after purchasing a stack of random old books with memorable covers, I sneezed a lot. Then I got into a van and my mom drove me home.
Small Gods is the book that matters here. I don’t think I read a full chapter the first time I opened it up, but my older brother started reading it, so I had to finish it before he did.
By now I’ve probably read that book more than 10 times. And of the 41 novels set in the same world (the Discworld), I’ve paged through all but three or four.
Picking up Small Gods was genuinely a turning point in my life. I started reading a lot more after I started reading Pratchett. Suddenly I could see the tricks and needles and jokes in the text. It wasn’t boring. Pratchett is never boring. If you’re reading Pratchett and you’re not chortling occasionally, then you probably missed something.
Unfortunately, Pratchett is dead currently. He passed away due to complications from Alzheimers on March 12, 2015. I remember when that happened. I invite you to read a piece Neil Gaiman wrote about Pratchett before his death.
The man was British, and his writings reflected that. He played with the tropes, the words (colour as opposed to color) and the dryness of his country.
Like many great fantasists, Pratchett began as a journalist. His life story can be peeked at with the included documentary.
Pratchett was (near the end of his life) a prominent advocate for allowing those with terminal illnesses the ability to choose to die with a physician’s assistance. He did not opt for this himself.
I’ll leave you with a series of quotes from the man.
“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.” – Terry Pratchett
“Evolution was far more thrilling to me than the biblical account. Who would not rather be a rising ape than a falling angel? To my juvenile eyes, Darwin was proved true every day. It doesn’t take much to make us flip back into monkeys again.” – Terry Pratchett
“Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up.” – Terry Pratchett (Thief of Time)
“Give a man a fire and he’s warm for a day, but set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.” – Terry Pratchett (Jingo)
*I know it as Manchester Road, but Route 66 sounds cooler and more historic.
**This thought process might be boiled down to something closer to “Ooh, shiny cover. Gimme.” Not to imply that my thought process at the time was infantile. I just like shiny books.
Header Photo credit, rawdonfox via Flickr. Source.