Bookclub News: Orbiloquy


Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar James K says:

    I’m definitely keen for some PTerry, although since I live in a different part of the world, it’s inevitable that my copy is not the same edition as yours.Report

  2. Avatar Caleb says:

    I’ve been systematically working my way through Pratchett’s works, and I’ve not been disappointed. Small Gods was two months (and 24 books) ago, but it still stands out in my mind as one of his more philosophically deep, if narratively disjointed, works. The story is as near a stand-alone as Discworld books get, with only parenthetical references to other series characters and vise-versa. But it introduces ideas that PT will consistently use later on, so it is still a lynchpin of the series.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Agreed, it’s a fine book though a bit of a hodge podge of a story.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Agreed as well. And to hopefully not get too far ahead of ourselves here, I think Small Gods is a good example of the very interesting, creative, and sometimes startlingly cool ideas Pratchett often constructs his stories around.Report

  3. Avatar morat20 says:

    Small Gods and Reaper Man mark about where Terry made a major change in his Discworld work. (Similar to how Pyramids and Wyrd Sisters marked his change from parody to story, although his stuff was never exactly JUST parody).

    Small Gods is an excellent example of his earliest, really solid work and if you don’t like Small Gods, odds are you’re not going to like Discworld. Or Pratchett.

    For the record, I feel Nightwatch is probably his absolute best work in the Discworld, although the Tiffany Aching books (taken as a whole) are close enough to as absolutely ridiculously good as to make little difference.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      I have to agree on Night Watch, it’s Pratchett’s high water mark.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I really do go back and forth on Nightwatch versus, say, A Hat Full of Sky or Wintersmith.

        I think as a stand-alone novel Nightwatch is superior, but the Tiffany Aching books have something…else.

        When he writes about the Chalk, you can feel his deep love of the country (well, the part of England he’s using). Taken together, the four books are just…I dunno, it just feels like he puts more of himself, as a writer, into those than he does any one book or part of the Discworld novels.

        Nightwatch has a lot of that feeling, but it’s just deeper in the Tiffany Aching books. More personal.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’ve read Night Watch. I know Night Watch. And Night Watch is no Thief of Time.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        There are notes Pratchett hits a lot, like the silliness about Leonardo de Quirm’s crummy names for his inventions, or Nanny Ogg’s combination of common sense and bawdines . Others come less often, like when we learn what would have happened if Vimes hadn’t prevented the war in Jingo, and they’re more powerful for it. Night Watch is remarkable for being an entire book of emotions Pratchett usually touches on only briefly.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Thief of Time is good, but if you think it’s within light years of Nightwatch, you are sadly mistaken. 🙂

        Then again, tastes differ and all.

        But A Hat Full of Sky is majestic. And technically a Young Adult novel to boot, which makes that series doubly impressive. To be as powerfully and strongly written, and accessible to teens?

        His illness is a tragedy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’ve read Night Watch twice. Both times I thought it was … ehhhh, pretty good Pratchett book (which means it’s a pretty damn good book). Nothing to write glowing reviews about, tho. I’m surprised so many people like it so much.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I’ve read Night Watch twice. Both times I thought it was … ehhhh, pretty good Pratchett book (which means it’s a pretty damn good book). Nothing to write glowing reviews about, tho.

        You’re dead to meReport

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Cmon, Murali. Thief of Time is about a kid who builds a glass clock that stops time and catastrophe is only averted due to the heroic efforts of the grand daughter of Death, a 900 year old History Monk, and the son of Time.

        The plot of Night Watch, on the other hand, is completely implausible.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Are you kidding, Night Watch is like back to the future rolled together with Les Miserables. Its got stuff about duty, heroism, mid life crises, fatherhood and even has bits where we look into the past of beloved characters.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Right, which is the problem with night watch. It’s too serious. To character driven. While it’s still a great book, it veers too far away from the Satire that is Pratchett’s real strength. Going Postal, to my mind, Is his best discworld novel.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        You probably hate Good Omens, too.

        Pratchett’s strength is characters, and it’s what separates his earlier works from his later ones. The fact that he can write funny, memorable, fascinating characters in a ridiculous fantasy world is a testament to his skill.

        And Nightwatch is where he explores Vimes. Fully. One of his oldest characters, and he uses the book to distill the character down to it’s essence — it’s beginning, it’s end, and everything that makes Vimes Vimes.

        And it’s moving and hilarious to boot.

        And it has the History Monks.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        You probably hate Good Omens, too.

        Can’t speak for Alan but by the criteria you’re employing, I think I probably hate Good Omens since I’d rank it higher than Night Watch.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I was joking. 🙂

        And Good Omens is great, but as it’s a collaborative work with basically Gaiman I don’t really rate is as pure Pratchett.

        Pure awesome, yes. 🙂Report

      • Avatar North says:

        The way he writes about Granny Achings is above and beyond anything he’s put into Night Watch.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I withdraw my previous comment. I was thinking about the wrong book. Night Watch is one of his Opuses (opusii?) and hits the same level of emotion as the Aching books (even the first one). How do they rise up…Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:


        I agree. I find the Tiffany Achings books read almost…personally. Nightwatch (really, all his later books) have a great deal of thought, craft, and richness to them (the sort that only comes from talent and experience using that talent and a lot of hard work). They’re excellent books, the characters are deep and realized (which is rare to begin with, doubly so for ‘funny’ books)…

        But when you read the Tiffany Aching books, it’s got an extra dimension. The Chalk is based on part of England, and you can feel his love for it pour through his writing. The same with Granny Aching.

        Given she’s only a memory, she’s a powerful character. 🙂 Personal, in a way the rest of the Discworld isn’t.Report

  4. Avatar Glyph says:

    I can’t promise I will participate (reading time is nil; I haven’t even been able to wrap up Endless Nights, maybe tonight) but I ordered a copy just now. Hope springs eternal.Report

  5. Avatar Glyph says:

    Can I ask a dumb question, having never read Discworld? Is “Orbiloquy” meant to refer to the “roundness” of the thing?

    I think of a “disc” as being (basically) 2-dimensional, but an “orb” as 3 (that is, spherical rather than flattened).

    Or am I missing the point?Report

  6. Avatar Neil Obstat says:

    There is joy and wonder to be found in all of Pratchett’s works.Report

  7. Avatar KnittingNiki says:

    Morat20, I want to hear more about the majesty you find in A Hat Full Of Sky. I love all four Tiffany Aching books deeply, The Wee Free Men most of all, and yet for some reason Sky is the one of the four that speaks least strongly to me. Perhaps it’s time for another read…Report

  8. Avatar Jason Tank says:

    Do you have an ISBN for your copy?

    That one has ISBN 978-0062237378, and it’s the only Harper one I can find.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Mine is different, unfortunately. 978-0-06-109217-6, probably because it’s a few years old. Looking inside the Amazon one, they seem to have repaginated, the so-and-sos; it ends on page 386, while mine ends on 357.

      I’m working on a way to publish estimated page numbers for whatever editions people have, so us all being identical shouldn’t be as important as I’d thought. The edition Jason points out should be fine. And any e-book is OK, of course, because that lets you search for the first and last sentences.Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I read the first several pages. Is all of his writing this precious?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Like the rarest of jewels Burt but he makes much heavier use of footnotes in his earlier novels.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And, unlike, say, Douglas Adams, he does fewer out-and-out jokes once the story gets going.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        One of the reasons I really enjoyed most of the Hitchhiker Trilogy was that it’s so very clearly just a smart, funny dude riffing. I mean, the radio show was originally largely improvised, and the books came out of that ,right? It’s really easy to take a book series for what it is when you go in recognizing that. It’s not going to be a work of great literature, and while there are little gems of writing in the Trilogy, you’re not expecting a piece of beautifully written literature. I say this as someone who has “Take me to your lizard!” as my entire Twitter “bio.”

        When I read the beginning of Small Gods the other day, I got the sense that it was very deliberate, very consciously thought out, and I could not get into it. I think I need to read some other Pratchett to get a sense of his writing style before I can read this one, because based on what I read, I took Burt’s describing it as “precious” to be accurate and intended as something less than a compliment.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Quite unfortunately, @chris is right: I did not find the style endearing. I want to like it as I understand these books are immensely popular with so many of you learned Gentlefolk.

        I enjoyed the parable about the eagle and the tortoise. But it sort of crept down the slope from there. I got to the point where the intimidatingly-bald Exquisitor muses that he has some people under his supervision who affirmatively enjoy their work torturing accused heretics, but also others who just show up to do their jobs and exchange vacation postcards and gossip about their families on their coffee breaks…

        Sorry, that’s all a bit much for me at the present time, in the way saccharine is too sweet to eat on its own. Does this sort of preciousness clear up later? If so, I’ll stick with it. I was able to enjoy, for instance, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods which seems to at least overlap some of the themes in Small Gods.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @burt-likko and @chris

        I’m not going to say that you’ll love the book, or that you will necessarily get a payoff from continuing. But I will say that I did not very much enjoy the opening of this book at all. Pratchett hits and misses and I was sure that this was going to be a miss. In fact, this turned out to be my favorite of all of his books.

        If, as you get to know Brutha and Vorbis, you find yourself completely uninterested in them, or you find the language surrounding them to have a dulling effect, I would definitely quit. But I might not quit just yet.

        On the other hand, it is deliberate and thought out in a way that many of his other books aren’t – some others are – and he does use rather distinct language throughout all of his books. So whether it “turns” for you as it did for me, or doesn’t, I can’t say. It depends on which parts you’re off-put by.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I shall press on, then.Report