Adventures in Reading

Nonfiction: The Turtle Moves! Discworld’s Story (Unauthorized) by Lawrence Watt-Evans

I frequently hem and haw in regard to my “favorite” author but if someone forced my hand to make a list, and despite that it’s a list that would likely alter on a daily basis, Terry Pratchett would appear on the list every single time perhaps making Pratchett my favorite author ever. (Or perhaps simply uncloaking the feverish eyes of the fan girl living in a closet in my heart.) So when I stumbled across The Turtle Moves! an unauthorized expose on the Discworld story by Lawrence Watt-Evans I had to take a look at it.

I have never found an adequate way to explain the Discworld series and have many times seen the patina of fear glaze over a customer’s eyes as I ramble on how “it’s like this” but “also like this” and “like this too.” One of the memorable examples Watt-Evans provides is by comparing the Discworld to other fantasy and science-fiction books: Lord of the Ring fans have their ancient swords and elfin jewelry, Star Trek fans have their Klingon and spaceships, Discworld fans have their stamps, cookbooks, and bawdy drinking songs.

More so than many other books in the genre, Discworld is very much about humanity and people and their stories (and humor and at taking things absurdly literally). Watt-Evans set himself on a difficult path by exploring the 30+ novels, grouping them, and commenting on the many nuances of the Disc. Within the first few pages of the book Watt-Evans explains why you should be reading this: either because you like the Disc and can use a fix or because you’ve never experienced the Disc and ought to.

I admit I scanned much of the book because after starting it I thought, “Hey, I really should just reread Pratchett’s books.” I also confess that I disagree with one of the more emphasized issues in the book and that is the grouping of the novels (something Watt-Evans warned that various fans may do!). The odd thing about the Discworld is that it is often referred to as a singular series but truly it’s multiple series but unlike other fantasy series it doesn’t much matter what order you read any of the Discworld in.

So how do I disagree? Traditionally the books are frequently listed as character categorizations: Rincewind, Death, the Witches, etc. And Watt-Evans and I agree here, but some Discworld novels have limited or no re-appearing characters and I have always considered these stand-alone books. This is where we disagree as Watt-Evans intermingles the character categorizations with thematic categorizations. Nothing wrong with that, but ultimately I think it’s a bit sloppy to intertwine these as such extensive overlap does exist.

Watt-Evans book is fun and definitely written from a fan’s perspective as well as someone familiar with the fantasy genre. I confess I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed (and was definitely a bit disappointed that the Discworld MUD was never mentioned (I spent a great deal of my life there!)) but it’s funny and I always enjoy reading other people’s opinions on interests I have. But what I liked best of The Turtle Moves! was not so much the commentary on Pratchett, but Watt-Evans illumination of the fantasy genre as a whole. I know very little of fantasy/science-fiction and there was a great deal of interesting information in the book. [1] I suppose what I really need to do now is give in and pick up Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature.

[1] Dear Lawrence, Please consider writing a book/article on the history of the fantasy genre so lay(wo)men like myself can broaden our horizons!


Interesting! I actually saw this in the bookstore the other week, and briefly pondered picking it up. I decided not to on the basis of not liking those Science of Discworld books very much — and thus, I theorized, I probably wouldn’t like many non-Dicsworld Discworld books at all. It’s nice to know that this one’s a good one!

Comment by Christine

The fact that this offers a general view of fantasy as a genre is enough to get me interested. From what you said it sounds like I wouldn’t agree with all those categorizations either, but this sounds like something I’d enjoy reading anyway.

Btw, are you as excited about the upcoming The Folklore of Discworld as I am? I’m sure that one is going to be great.

Comment by Nymeth

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