Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley, but I received the approval notice the same day that my brought physical copy arrived in the mail.
One of the greatest literary sins in today’s world, as far as I’m concerned, is that Terry Pratchett never won the Booker or the Nobel . He should have simply because he shows the reader, any reader, that literature is just heavy going, but is fun and light. Writers like Pratchett are important because they allow and encourage people to love reading literature. In her beautiful introduction to this collection, A.S. Byatt hits on this point.
This is a collection of Pratchett’s short fiction, divided into non-Discworld and Discworld, and the earliest story is his first published story, written when he was a teen. The tales are a showcase of Pratchett’s talent, and provide in some ways a way to trace the development of the talent, or in other words the progression of Pratchett as a writer. Some of the non-Discworld stories are bit a darker than one normal sees from Pratchett.
These stories aren’t just stories. Some, in particular the Discworld work, are bits and pieces, such as the backs of football player cards that were used as promotional material, or the Ankh-Moorpark Anthem (that is, in regards to the second verse, every anthem) for radio programs. This is a boon for an American reader of Pratchett.
The non-Discworld stories (and a few of the Discworld stories) poke fun and criticize certain government programs, institutions, and governmental ways of life. Even though some of these more critical stories were written well before 2000, they are still relevant today. The great thing about Pratchett is that when he uses humor to mock or criticize, it is never mean-spirited or cruel. When Pratchett is gently mocking a government official by using an official who wants to do a governmental study on queues, there is also a degree of sympathy.
This is because Pratchett writes about all kinds of human conditions.
Some of the stories are fairy tales , in particular the revelation about a princess and a bird. Some are heart-breaking and funny true poems, like the one about what parents teach children about death. Some of the non-Discworld stories point forward to the Disc or to Long Mars.
Reading this collection so soon after Pratchett’s death is a reminder of what the world as a whole as lost – a great humanist.