In February I got the idea of reading all the published Discworld novels, in order. I had read most of them over the years, but in a haphazard way, reading mostly just the one that happened to be on either the bookshop or library shelf at the time. I knew, both from reading the books and using the Internet, that the books were very different: the Discworld has grown and developed with each book. I wanted to see the development, and I thought the best way was to read the books in the order they have been written.
I decided not to buy any of the books – I have owned some, but I’ve given all of them away. Mostly this is because I’m a collector, and it annoys me if I own a part of a series, even when the series is not even meant to be read in order. I considered buying ebooks, but I still don’t have a good reader, and I couldn’t find any package deals for the Discworld books. Therefore I used the local library and the absolutely brilliant Helmet search engine to get the books. It used to cost 50 euro cents to order a book to the local library, but halfway through the project, Espoo decided to make away with the price. I usually reserved the next one or two books in the Helmet system when I was halfway through the one I was reading, to keep me well-stocked in books.
I made the first loan 18th of February 2013. It was the combined edition of The colour of magic and The light fantastic. I finished today, 15th of August 2013, so it took me almost six months to read all the books. I read all the novels, both “adult” and “young adult” ones, but not the picture books, science books or other assorted items. You can go look on Wikipedia for the list of the books I read: I read the books listed in the ‘Novels’ section. It took me a bit over 26 weeks to read the books, and as there are 39 books, I read almost exactly one and a half books each week, on average. This was a bit faster than I thought I’d read them, especially as I read other books during the time and there were some weeks when I couldn’t read novels properly, because I had other more pressing things to do.
What struck me the most was the development of the writing. The first books are quite entertaining, but not that very well written in my opinion, and I did notice a marked improvement in the style. Of course the plots do develop as does the world. The overall story picks up pace quite early in the books in my opinion, somewhere around Guards! Guards! when the Watch starts to appear. Of course there is much development in the later books, and the books from about The Fifth Elephant onwards have a pretty strong theme of the developing Discworld.
I hadn’t read the last Tiffany Aching book, I shall wear midnight, before this, nor The last hero. They both were good books, although the Aching story got a bit darker than the previous ones. The last hero seemed like an experiment and a bit like a probe for the YA books, though the first of them was published the in the same year.
I did like the later books more than the earlier ones. The more developed world and especially the small continuity things got of course more pronounced in the later books. This was the first time I saw many of the references to earlier books: when I read the books one or two a year, I forget the names and other details, and they get harder to follow.
I liked this project, but I don’t think I’ll re-read the books, at least not for a few years. The next novel is scheduled to be published this year, so I can read that while still remembering much of the earlier ones. Now I’m also somewhat happy I don’t have to read anymore Discworld in some months, but I got quite a lot of ideas for an RPG campaign in Discworld.