Apr. 10, 2015 by Darius
Last month, British author Terry Pratchett died of a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from being one of my favorite authors, Pratchett had one of the greatest imaginations of all time.
Pratchett was primarily a writer of comedy. While every one of his dozens of books made me laugh out loud at times, Pratchett also managed to touch on and deal with some surprisingly deep concepts, including belief, justice, and what makes us human, giving them each his own unique treatment. He imbued his characters with a degree of earthy realism that makes them unforgettable.
The heart of Pratchett’s genius was the way he took familiar concepts and tweaked them. For example, in one of his Discworld books Pratchett wrote, of the sunrise, “It poured like molten gold across the sleeping landscape” and then added a tongue-in-cheek footnote, “Not precisely, course. Trees didn’t burst into flame, people didn’t suddenly become very rich and extremely dead, and the seas didn’t flash into steam. A better simile, in fact, would be not like molten gold.” After reading that, I bet you’ll never see or use the “molten gold” cliché quite the same way again :).
Pratchett’s world included many sly references to politics and faith. For example, one city practiced a form of government “known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.” Or, in another, a character is charged with heresy for denying that the world is round, insisting (correctly, in Pratchett’s world) that the world is flat and carried on the back of a giant turtle. Pratchett’s imagination freed him from the standard constraints of plot, and, as a result, each page is a genuine surprise to read.
There is no doubt the world will be left just a bit less colorful due to the loss of Terry Pratchett. Go find the first book in his Discworld series, The Colour of Magic, for your next rainy afternoon or long bus ride. Even if you’ve read it before, you’ll almost certainly enjoy it anew.