I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Ever since I finished Terry Pratchett’s Jingoaround Christmas last year I’ve been reading only non-fiction, and slowly at that (I started a book on Quantum Theory a month ago, and am not even halfway with it yet). Among all the novels on my shelves I just couldn’t find anything I felt like reading.
Then Sir Terry died, and the next day I got Dodgerat half price. I finished it on Friday (review to come), and picked up Mort (with which I’m almost done). I’ve decided to make my way through the whole Discworld again, or at least through those titles I already own, which brings up the question of which order to read them in.
Over time in the Discworld novels, the inhabitants of the Disc came up with a long-distance communications method called “the clacks” – a cross between the telegraph and semaphore. Initially they’re only used in Anhk-Morpork, and mostly by the Watch, but soon there are towers all across the land conveying messages between cities and countries.
In Going Postal we learn that the clacks have something called “overhead”, meta-data, of sorts, for the messages being sent, not unlike the header data contained in emails or web pages which doesn’t appear on the screen, but which contains important instructions on how the page should be displayed. When one character questions the presence of a name in the overhead, another tells her it is the name of an operator who was killed. A code is transmitted with his name, ensuring that it will always be sent on to the next tower, for “A man’s not dead while his name is still spoken”.
People often talk about how they remember what they were doing when they heard the news of some or other historical event. I will probably always remember that I was washing the dishes when my phone beeped with the email from Penguin Random House carrying the news that Sir Terry Pratchett has passed away.
While Guards! Guards! was the first Discworld novel I ever read, my first Pratchett was Diggers, the second instalment of the Nomes Trilogy. Shortly after those two a friend told me about The Carpet People. And I was hooked on Terry Pratchett.