The problem with Discworld

Speaking of books, I got Thud! from the library last week and finished it the same day. It was pretty good, but it wasn’t as good as his earlier work. I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since and I think I might know why it is that his later work fails to appeal like his early work did. There are a couple reasons.

Firstly, Pratchett has gotten preachy. Monstrous Regiment, The Truth, and any story featuring Granny Weatherwax spend a great deal of time with Pratchett informing the reader in a heavy-handed way exactly the way he thinks the world ought to be. And while I agree with a great deal of what he has to say, I don’t read his books for their socio-political prescriptions for healing the ills of the world.

Secondly, since Pratchett can’t fix up our world, he’s decided to transform his into a kind of utopia. He keeps patching things up. The Unseen University, formerly a hotbed of intrigue and assassination has become pedestrian and staid. The Night Watch, vastly outnumbered and surviving a criminal city by their wits has ballooned into a City Watch with legions of officers and actually keeps peace, directs traffic and otherwise actually works. The Trolls and the Dwarves keep getting along better and better. Dwarves have experienced Women’s Liberation. And no one of consequence dies any longer. The world used to be dysfunctional, dangerous, light-hearted and played for laughs. It’s now rapidly becoming organised, utopian, depressing and stolid.

Finally, Pratchett is beating characters into the ground. He had the good sense to stop writing about Rincewind once he’d sent him all the way around the world, but he still dwelt on him too long and spoiled the effect. He’s now done that as well with Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, Carrot Ironfounderson, and the rest of the City Watch. Sure, they’re popular, but his stories about them are getting stale because he has gone past the point where he’s supposed to stop. You know, “and they lived happily ever after”? He needs to invent someone new (as in Going Postal, or The Truth) or go back and find a character from previous book who could be revisited.

What is ultimately the cause of all these problems (but for which there really isn’t any fix) is the fact that Pratchett has now become so popular that he’s simply turned Discworld into a cash cow and is just trying to generate as much stuff as possible for his rabid fans to buy up simply because it says “Pratchett” or “Discworld” on it somewhere.

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