I picked up Terry Pratchett’s latest book, Going Postal, at Keplers this weekend (after watching people sit outside Cafe Barrone, trying to feel like they were enduring cold weather). I think there’s at least one copy, and maybe two, floating around my in-laws possession, and I’ve just reached the part in System of the World where Jack launches his attack on the Tower of London; but I know I’m going to want to own and read any Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, so I just bought it.
Pratchett is probably the most consistently great writer I know. Alan Furst is brilliant, but Pratchett’s work juggles more elements– barely-in-control humor, heavy doses of magic and the supernatural (of the fantasy/SF sort, not the horror sort), a heavily rotating cast of wonderfully realized characters– and he gets two books out in the time it takes Furst to write one.
Bruce Neal Stephenson [ed: my bad!] is unquestionably brilliant, but there are large sections of the Baroque Cycle that I just skip over, fully confident that I won’t miss whatever I’m missing. A Discworld book, in contrast, is something I want to read closely, and probably will read many times (and enjoy just as much in the tenth reading as in the first or second).
This one is a little different, though. Most notably, it has chapters, which may have been something that Pratchett just decided it was time to experiment with, or which may have come at the insistence of his editor or publisher. It’s also got fewer of the regular cast members appearing in it; I’ve noticed that the last several Discworld books have alternated between having the usual characters– the wizards, the Night Watch– front and center, and having them in the background. However, so far the chapters haven’t gotten in the way of the story, and the characters he’s created are no less entertaining than his usual suspects.
Normally, I would have it done in a couple days, but I’m going to have an avalanche of work falling on me for the next several weeks– trying to finish up a giant project, and tying up the loose ends for the move– so progress on it will be slow.