The Discworld Series Critical Essays

Terry Pratchett


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Terry Pratchett introduced a flat world in the science-fiction novel Strata (1981). The Colour of Magic and the following Discworld series have been more successful, launching Pratchett onto international best-seller lists.

As many critics have stated, Pratchett is an excellent parodist, making fun of and having fun with a wide range of fantasy, literary, and popular subjects. Cohen the Barbarian, the geriatric hero, is a perfect parody of Robert Howard’s Conan. Pratchett does a parody of Shakespeare in Wyrd Sisters and Lords and Ladies. Emberella, the Discworld version of Cinderella, appears in Witches Abroad. Soul Music lampoons rock and roll music, and Moving Pictures takes on Hollywood. Every novel parodies some literary or fantasy convention.

Another reason for the popularity of the series is its collection of zany characters. Pratchett uses favorite characters throughout the series to provide a sense of continuity. Death appears in every novel. The Librarian, who was changed into an orangutan through a magical accident, also appears in most of the books. Pratchett does not always worry about characterization, and some of the books are little more than lengthy gags. Strangely, the most developed character in the series, besides Granny Weatherwax, is Death. Death is more human than many of the other inhabitants of this world. Pratchett has written other books that have the same sense of humor, but the Discworld series remains his most popular work.