Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of modern fantasy writers. I find much (and I am here generalizing heavily, but if you want to write and tell me about how Robyn Hobbe-Lyndholm or George R.R. Martin is totally awesome and I don’t understand and should be trampled to death in a dragon stampede, please do, as it will fill up my section) of the genre to be replete with overwrought and over-boring hero’s journey storytelling written by authors who have never seen the pointy end of an editor’s red pen. The imagery involves words with way too many “e”s and “y”s, all the cute girls have pointy ears and a mysterious past, and just about every old man could have his name replaced with “Gandalf” without seriously injuring the storyline. I find most fantasy books to be a slog into the murky kiddy pool of some basement dweller’s imagination, with the murkiness related less to depth as to the amount of bodily waste in the water.
However, unlike pool poo, lots of modern fantasy is not funny. Also unlike pool poo, it is fairly dry. I have nothing against elements of fantasy, specifically trolls or orcs or elves or witches. I love that stuff. What I can’t abide with most fantasy is not only how alienating it is, but also how unfunny it is. Most fantasy is like going through an extremely detailed account of life on another planet by the world’s driest anthropologist. I don’t read to nobly grit my teeth through the underbelly of some fictional plane so I can gain a better understanding of why the Clarkxans beat the Slurhgans in battle, along with the accompanying three page flagellating descriptions of Planeswalker chain mail. If one reads fantasy, I think they do for the escape into magic, for the grand lessons we can find, the hard-learned similarities between dwarves and elves. I personally like it when it goes one step further. Humour! Enter Terry Pratchett.
Pratchett writes a delightful sort of fantasy novel that parodies and often downright mocks our contemporary society through the foils and foibles of the characters living in Ankh-Morpork, his flat world which exists on the backs of elephants carried by turtles. Through the descriptions of the adventures of Police Commander Sam Vimes, the Wyrd Sisters, or even Death himself, Pratchett weaves a world that is not only unto itself, but also so complete that is sometimes punches through the fourth wall to remind us of how silly we are. Terry Pratchett writes a fantasy that is readable because of its simplicity and wry glance at the world, a skill honed and made useful by the many years Pratchett spent as a journalist. Pratchett also enjoys a bit of clever savagery, as evidenced by the note on his wikipedia page that details his ownership of a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants. He has spoken intelligently and compassionately on the topic of assisted suicide, which reveals him to be humane and understanding. Clearly, you should buy his books. I won’t attempt to surmise the reasons he is funny, I will only list a few quotations:
“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.” - Thief of Time
“If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.” -Lords and Ladies
“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” - Lords and Ladies
“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.” - Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,
“If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards!” - The Color of Magic
If you are going to chance by your local bookseller’s, I would recommend that you pick up Going Postal, Wyrd Sisters, or two of my favorites, Guards! Guards! It will provide you with a bit of easy, funny reading. It will also not make you wish to claw your eyes out, something that is useful in a book. Buy some Pratchett books, if only to procrastinate from your midterms more.
Arts and Entertainment Editor