Overlord: Ending

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 16, 2009

Filed under: Game Reviews 103 comments

After playing through the end of the game and reading through the comments of my previous Overlord post, I’ve found a few more words have been jostled loose.

Reader JW mentioned in the comments:

You need to mention how cute the minions are. After the first time playing it, my wife and I spent the better part of a week saying, “For me?” “For youuuu!” whenever we, say, passed the salt at the dinner table.

Don’t hate me because I’m awesome.
Don’t hate me because I’m awesome.
We had a similar experience at my house. We occasionally do the “For me?” / “For yoooou!” thing after I’ve been playing the game for any length of time. I will say that the minions are probably the most charming and quotable peons since Warcraft II. I remember when quoting the Warcraft peasants was something I was compelled to do at various points – usually when I was handed work – and the minions in Overlord seem to demand a similar level of imitation.

Actually, the voice work was pretty good all around. (Although Jewel and Kahn sounded a little stiff. I couldn’t tell if that was on purpose, though.) IMDB doesn’t say, but I’m fairly confident that the voice of Oberon Greenhaze is the same guy who voices Serious Sam. I love that guy.

The ending was surprisingly good and quite unexpected. It tied together a lot of earlier developments and even had a bit to say about the nature of heroes. I’m not suggesting it was a profound insight or a revelation on human nature, but it was clever and fun and wrapped things up nicely.

It turns out the story was written by Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of Sir Terry Pratchett. I have to confess that I’ve never read his stuff. I know it’s something geeks are supposed to do, but the list of things you must do to maintain your geek cred is getting impossibly long these days. Besides, I was a lot less interested in his work once I realized that his Discworld series is pretty much a blatant ripoff of Halo.

I was already happy with the story before the end came along. It was straightforward and generally funny and delightfully subversive of genre conventions. (Halflings as piggish and mean little imps.) So when the ending rolled around and mixed things up I was pleasantly surprised. I took a look on Wikipedia and read about how each of the major characters ties into one of the seven deadly sins, which vaguely reminded me of the movie Se7en in the way that they fulfilled one another. I feel sort of thick for not picking up on that sooner.

(Just kidding about Pratchett ripping off Halo. I’m open to suggestions if anyone wants to recommend one of his books as a good starting point for his work.)

EDIT: I stand corrected, Ringworld is the “Halo ripoff”, not Discworld. I’m afraid I was confusing one [shape]world series with another. That gives me an idea for a book: Sphereworld! It’s about this ball-shaped planet where stuff happens…


From The Archives:

103 thoughts on “Overlord: Ending

  1. illiterate says:

    thank you for the lack of spoilers.

    i love pratchett’s work, and have overlord coming to my home *right now* courtesy of the US postal service.

    Does sound like I need to get working speakers on my gaming rig, unless overlord will somehow function on my p3-equivalent craptop that normally is reserved for starcraft and flash games.

    i suppose i should try to find out what neverwinter nights sounds like, however. my gaming rig isn’t completely behind the time, it struggled through farcry’s demo on low-medium settings and looked *ok* i’m just behind on games right now.

  2. scragar says:

    I say start at the begining, go grab yourself a copy of The colour of magic.

  3. Samrobb says:

    I'm open to suggestions if anyone wants to recommend one of his books as a good starting point for his work.

    I got my wife hooked with “Feet of Clay” – personally, the Night Watch sub-series of books is my favorite, and I still think “Feet of Clay” is one of Pratchett’s best books. It’s the third of the Night Watch books, but it manages stand by itself just fine, thank you.

  4. Shunal says:

    Never really commented over here but I had to say this… I hate you for making me want a PS3 solely for this game.

    Anyways, I’d recommend Thud as a nice starting point for Discworld.

  5. sineWAVE says:

    Best way in is probably Guards! Guards! – stands alone brilliantly, and (I belive) is the first of the Night Watch series.

  6. maehara says:

    Discworld: I’m very partial to the Witches books, so I’d say start with Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters. Alternatively just pick one, it’s hard to go wrong…

  7. Penn says:

    I’ve been to a talk by Pratchett, last time he was in Canada I believe, and he said that he is asked a lot which book to start with, and the most common answer is Mort. It’s one of the early ones but hangs together on its own, yet leads into other books.
    The think about Discworld is that it’s a setting, and Pratchett has books about many different characters within that setting. I believe that Death (as a character) appears in most or all of them, but otherwise there are no universal characters, just series following various casts.

    Anyway, I suggest starting with Mort if you want a nice light read with surprising depth.

    Oh, and it was Ringworld that ripped off Halo, as every geek should know. :)

  8. Kristin says:

    Wyrd Sisters or Guards! Guards! would be best. Reaper Man is a particular favorite of mine for no particular reason, and you don’t have to have read Mort first.

    Anti-recommendation: No one should read Pyramids ever for any reason, let alone as an introduction to Terry Pratchett’s work.

  9. JKjoker says:

    yeah, the sex crazed Ringworld ripped off Halo, not discworld

  10. Anna says:

    I wouldn’t start with The Colour of Magic; it’s very different from most of the other books. Guards! Guards! is great, and it along with Men at Arms should probably be read before any other Guards books to get the full effect of the only spoiler in the series.

  11. Kleedrac says:

    One of the greatest things about Pratchett’s Discworld is you can pretty much hop in anywhere! That said the first book (The Color of Magic) introduces the vast majority of concepts for the world and you wouldn’t go wrong starting there. My personal favorite (so far … haven’t read em all yet) is Thief of Time but that’s just because it focuses on my favorite characters (Death, Susan, et al) and introduces some concepts that are so funny and yet fantasy-staples that I couldn’t help but read till 4am :P

  12. Benjamin O says:

    discworld is awesome. Overlord sounds like a fun game. I’ll have to look into pirating purchasing this one at some point.

  13. Scott says:

    All of Pratchett’s books are fairly stand alone. My entry into his books was ‘Thief of Time’ Which is still my favorite of the one’s I’ve read. Otherwise, ‘Going Postal’ then ‘Making Money’ or ‘Guards! Guards!’ then ‘Thud!’ then ‘Feet of Clay’
    I wouldn’t reccomend ‘The Color of Magic’ as a first book. It’s not as refined as his later books, but I would reccomend reading it soon after a later one so that you will have a better idea of what Discworld is and how it works.

  14. David W. says:

    I have to second Guards, Guards! as a Pratchett starting point. I’m sure you’ll be hooked, and you’ll find all the other recommended ones soon enough. And I also recommend against Color of Magic; I think Pratchett got significantly better as an author as his career progressed. It’s worth reading, but it’s not nearly as magical as his later work.

    @Shunal – Overlord also exists for the PC; it’s available on Steam or from Amazon

  15. Daniel says:

    There are really four or five mostly-separate-but-overlapping Discworld series. I’m especially partial to the Sam Vimes storyline (which begins with Guards! Guards!), but once you’ve read one or two you’ll either develop a deep need to read all of them, or you’ll never want to read another one ever again.

    This flowchart gives you a good indication of where to start.

  16. Glazius says:

    Guards! Guards! and Men At Arms are a good intro to the more civilian side of the series, but Reaper Man is a nice intro to the mythology, and Small Gods, while more or less standalone, isn’t bad for the same purpose.

  17. Chip says:

    You might try “Good Omens,” which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Fun book, and it’s a stand-alone, so you don’t feel like you’re committing to a 30-book slog.

  18. Bil says:

    I’d go with the Guards series to start with – preferably in order as there’s a fair amount of character development.

  19. Dave R says:

    I’d say go back to The Colour of Magic and Guards! Guards! after you’re well and truly hooked. pterry really hit his strike a few books in. I jumped into the middle of the Rincewind books and started with Interesting Times myself.

    But I think the best idea is probably the one suggested up-thread a bit. Start with Feet of Clay or Men at Arms and keep going through the city watch books.

  20. Vyolynce says:

    Resisting the temptation to chime in on the Pratchett/Discworld recommendations (I own them all, I love them all), I wanted to hit on the “the spouse and I stole this game’s meme for our own use” bit.

    This stems from when I was playing Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64. During one stage, you have to lead around a baby T-Rex and it occasionally made an Elmo-like noise. One time it did so I happened to have the camera aligned so I could see it, at which point I stopped and asked my wife the following question:

    “Did it just wave at me with its foot?”

    She agreed that yes, that is exactly what it did.

    To this day, nearly a decade later, we still occasionally imitate this gesture when one of us is stepping out (and the other is usually on the couch playing a game, hands occupied).

  21. James says:

    I began with Jingo, largely because I assumed based on the cover illustration that it was an entirely different book I’d heard about from Blue Peter. It was an excellent introduction. It should be noted that the books can be a little bit prophetic. Jingo looked a lot like the invasion of parts of the Middle East (although you can get that from the title) and Making Money was released, and I read it, a couple of days before the run on Northern Rock bank in the UK and the start of the global financial collapse.
    Narrative causality, the leakage between the fictional world and reality, is something Pratchett appreciates.

  22. Jason Love says:

    The thing about the Discworld books is that they are so easy to read. It takes me, on average, between “a day” and “a week” to get through one, and they’re such light reading that they don’t feel like a commitment the way a lot of books can.

  23. Eric Rossing says:

    You’re never really committing to anything — each book is a standalone story with beginning, middle, and end, all of which share the broad Discworld setting. There are several sets of books which include the same characters, but even these don’t constitute a series in the usual sense. Each book builds on changes that came from any previous books that had the same characters, but none of the books require you to have read any other book to enjoy it.

    My personal favorites are the subset involving the Night Watch (Guards, Guards being the first IIRC). Small Gods is another one I particularly enjoy.

  24. KarmaDoor says:

    @ shunal :
    Why the PS3 version? There are also versions for PC and XBox 360 plus there’s a spin-off for the Wii, Dark Legacy, in the works. (New story, new controls, XBox-level graphics.)

  25. Danath says:

    Interesting Times or Men at Arms are great places to start, Guards! Guards! isnt too shabby too (Dragon horrified that she cant inflict anything on humans that they havnt already inflicted on themselves).

    Color of Magic I think is the “first” book, but you dont have to read them in order, only a few crucial developments matter at all, mainly involving the character Rincewind and Samuel Vimes.

  26. Simulated Knave says:

    In regards to Discworld.

    There are a couple of different sub-series within the world. The two best (arguably) are the Night Watch and the Witches.

    The Witches starts with either Equal Rites (the first appearance of one of the characters) or Wyrd Sisters (the first one with all the Witchest together). It’s fun, often takes on mythology and Shakespeare.

    The Night Watch is in many ways an exploration of what policing would actually be like in your standard fantasy society on the cusp of the Renaissance. It’s most awesome. Guards! Guards! or Men At Arms are the best intros – I prefer Men At Arms, but Guards! Guards! is OK.

    Small Gods is an excellent standalone book about a priest in the Discworld equivalent of Christianity. It’s awesome.

    Mort is pretty good, as is Reaper Man. Reaper Man’s B-plot is merely OK, but Death retiring and working on a farm is awesome.

    I’d recommend either Small Gods or Men At Arms to start with. Any of the books is OK (though I didn’t like Sourcerer), but YMMV, as always.

  27. Allen says:

    I’ve always been preferential to the Night Watch chain and the Rincewind chain, so I’d say start at Colour of Magic and go from there.

  28. karln says:

    Yup. The City Watch ‘thread’ is probably the biggest in the series at this point so I’d start with Guards! Guards! to pick up their story from the beginning and not get spoiled by the later books, in which stuff that was previously a big reveal is now just taken for granted.

    I also love the witches thread, which for some reason hasn’t been mentioned much here. That starts at either Equal Rites, which was written earlier, or Wyrd Sisters, which retcons the personality of the main character somewhat, introduces the other two leads, and is more representative of the witches series as a whole.

    I agree with the people above that Colour of Magic is a poor introduction to Discworld; the style is very different from most of the series and I personally didn’t like it nearly as much. The same goes for The Light Fantastic. They feel like a different series altogether, in fact.

  29. TheDefenestrator says:

    I’m afraid Pratchett already did your “Sphereworld” idea in The Science of Discworld series. I’m going to join some other people in recommending Guards! Guards! The Watch has always been my favorite theme.

  30. Snook says:

    I’m gonna come out and say that Halo ripped out Ringworld, considering that the latter was written some 25 years before the former. ;)

  31. elias says:

    Start at the beginning: The Color of Magic.
    It’s very funny and his writing noticeably just kept improving from there. None of them require you to have read the previous ones but the world does sort of evolve throughout and there are some references you won’t get if they’re read out of order.

  32. Scourge says:

    There are also two Movies I know off.

    Hogfather and Colours of Magic.

    Both are pretty good and have a lot of the humour from the books. Most of the humour stems from the sidecomments though that are there to explain things.

    I also would recommend Mort, the idea that Death takes an apprentice is hilarious.

  33. acronix says:

    I´ll go against the wave and recommend you The Light Fantastic first. Mort and Wyrd Sisters are my second and third favorites. I started with those three, and it got me into other books, altough I got tired at half point of Pyramids. Now I can´t get myself to read any more of Pratchett´s work. Shame on me.

  34. Doug Sundseth says:

    I’ll give a negative recommendation for Colour of Magic. I found it nearly unreadable and haven’t picked up another Pratchett book since I tried to read it.

  35. Merle says:

    “Guards! Guards!” is a good one to start with, as is “Wyrd Sisters” (especially if you like the Shakespeare references flying thick and fast). My personal favorites are the Death books, but “Mort” – the first of that sequence – isn’t my favorite. It’s a good read, but not nearly as great as “Reaper Man”.

  36. chiefsheep says:

    “I have to confess that I've never read his stuff.”

    And now I wish I was you, about to read his stuff for the first time again….

    But having read Pratchett’s Discworld work as they have been published since book one (Colour of Magic) I can definitely second the above opinions of reading either Mort or Guards! Guards! first (especially as, out of all of his books, they are the ones I have read and reread the most). For me Mort was the first Discworld novel that had had all the rough edges perfectly polished away.

    Most readers have their favorite chain (mine is also the Watch series) and I can, um, fifteenth is it, the comment that the first 2 or 3 books are very different to the later ones – much loved by many but, to me, a little “clunky”.

    And, having lurked magnificently since about episode 6 of DMOTR, your mention of Pratchett has caused me to actually contribute something..and now I feel guilty about not having jumped in earlier. Oh, and your review of Overlord caused the game to mysteriously appear by post the next day – well done!

  37. Adeon says:

    I’m pretty much going to copy what everyone else said about Pratchett. Guards, Guards!, Wryd Sisters, and Mort all serve as a good introduction to his work depending on which set of characters most appeals to you.

    The trick with his work is that each set of characters has their own general theme, some will appeal to you some won’t so find the ones that work for you. For example while I have read and enjoyed the Rincewind series I didn’t enjoy them as much as I do the other series (particularly The City Watch and Death). I’ve also known people who feel exactly the opposite and love Rincewind while finding The City Watch to be annoying (it is more political than the others which can be irritating).

    Regarding Overlord, it’s an excellent game and the minions are adorable (to the point I’ll exit without saving so I can replay a section and stop them from dying). The Raising Hell expansion is also good. The plot is weaker than the main game, but the game play and puzzles are improved and the humor remains so I enjoyed it.

    EDIT: I was just glancing through the last set of comments and noticed someone said the expansion is console only. It is actually available for the PC although it has online activation. Figured I’d post this here since no one will read the old comment thread.

  38. Zock says:

    “Discworld series is pretty much a blatant ripoff of Halo.”

    Good one, sir. With one sentence you’ve managed to piss off every Banks fan everywhere. ;)

  39. Clint says:

    Just thought I’d chime in with support of Discworld — Terry Pratchett is on a very short list of authors that I have read everything they’ve ever put out, and will continue to do so as soon as I’m apprised of a new book. (Incidentally, you’re on that list — if you ever decide to write another book I’ll be first in line to buy it…)

    At any rate, I’ve recently been rereading through the Discworld series, and I’d have to say that my favorite book so far on my reread has to be Witches Abroad. I think it’s the first book where Pratchett really let loose with what would become the founding concept of Discworld physics, that of Narrative Causality, and the interactions the theory allows for sufficiently Genre Savvy characters. I highly, highly recommend all Pratchett books.

  40. DKellis says:

    I was waiting to see how many comments it took before someone brought up Banks’s Culture books.

    I personally started Discworld with Mort. I still have a soft spot for the Death books, but now I’m mostly a fan of Rincewind, the City Watch (the same as the “Night Watch” I’ve seen referred in the comments, if there’s any confusion), and the recently-started Moist von Lipwig series. I’m also hoping that there’ll be another William de Worde book.

    The Science of Discworld books have chapters of a novella alternating with contemplations on the science of our own world (called “Roundworld”). I liked the first and second, but felt that the third was… well, the novella parts were good, but the contemplation parts were more or less a diatribe against Creationism.

  41. LintMan says:

    I’ll second Good Omens, by Pratchett and Gaiman. It’s a fun take on The Omen.

    I read the first few Discworld books, and they were good, but I haven’t been compelled to continue wioth the series, though I might eventually go back for more. I’d probably say that Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth series is funnier, at least before the final few where he brought in a co-author.

    As for catchy phrases – Back in college I had a game called “Spaceward Ho!”, a cowboy-themed space-based 4X game that was as silly as that sounds. Whenever you sent your fleet to some destination, you’d get a wagon-train style “Yaaahhh!”. And if you cancelled a fleet movement, you’d get a “Whooooaaah!”.

    Anyway, I spent a summer playing that on my computer that was in the back of the living room. After a while, my mom (who was watching tv in the living room) starting echoing the “Yaaahh!”s whenever the game did it.

  42. Julian says:

    I started with Equal Rites, but I’d recommend Guards! Guards! (for like the millionth time, it seems). Some of the lines are truly classic. Nice comedic references to some of Tolkien’s work any geek worth his d20 can notice.
    Speaking of which, one of my favourite lines from the book was (STOP READING if you don’t want a minor joke with no relevance to the story whatsoever spoiled): “Thunder rolled… it rolled a six.”

  43. CoarseSand says:

    I just wanted to chime in and recommend “Feet of Clay” too. It’s the book that first got me hooked on Discworld, though I went back and started from “The Colour of Magic” right after reading it.

  44. DaveMc says:

    I wondered about the already-high number of comments on this post, then I saw the reference to Terry Pratchett — ah, that explains it, right there.

    One other thing to mention (the reading order question is covered in full, loving, contradictory detail above — good luck with that! But go ahead and read either Guards! Guards! or Wyrd Sisters first) is that there are very good unabridged audio versions of every single Discworld book, read by Nigel Planer and Stephen Briggs (both excellent narrators). Way back you expressed an interest in having lengthy audio to listen to while exercising, Shamus, and audiobooks are great for that. Though I guess lately you’re busy being sniped at by an arrogant slab of white plastic while you exercise. [I don’t want to turn this into an ad, but I get my audiobooks from Audible.]

  45. Tacoman says:

    Guards! Guards! was my first Discworld book. I really liked it, but also really liked the Colour of Magic. Either would be a great place to start reading.

  46. asterismW says:

    When hooking my friends on Discworld, I always give them the first two to read because I think “The Color of Magic” introduces the setting of Discworld the best, but leaves a cliff hanger that’s wrapped up in “The Light Fantastic”. But by no means are they the best books. I love all the City Watch, Death, and witches books. I also love the satire of “Maskerade”, “Moving Pictures”, and “Soul Music”, which make fun of opera, movies, and rock ‘n roll music, respectively.

  47. Trianglehead says:

    Personally, I think you’d enjoy Small Gods as a good starting point. Or to scratch the subversive genre racial stereotypes, check out Lords and Ladies.

  48. Mark says:

    I was going to recommend Guards! Guards! but it seems everyone has beaten me to it. So I’ll just come back to a computer-ish topic by pointing out that he has the best workstation of anyone, ever.

  49. Danath says:

    Color of Magic and Light Fantastic are basically the first two books, and you can really notice an improvement in his writing after that… unfortunately if you cant get into it, it might put you off the rest of the series, which would be a shame. Feet of Clay was one of the first books I read from the series, and I have to say its probably one of the best ones in the series.

  50. Agamo says:

    #30 (Snook) is correct, Halo ripped off Ringworld, not the other way around.

  51. Nevrim says:

    The sphereworld ships where used in “La saga de los Aznar” from spain, I don’t know if it was ever translated to another language. It was the clasic space explorers book, well except that this one lasted for hundreds of books, the story was about some space explorers that upon setting a colony in a planet found out that it was hollow and remodeled it for space travel. It was quite entertaining and somehow original. I am talking about the 1953.
    The author was George H. White a psudonym the real name was Pascual Enguidanos Usach.

  52. Kronski says:

    Start with Guards! Guards! It’s a great introduction the the main characters in the Watch cycle.

  53. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, the Sphereworld is a totally awesome idea! I can’t wait to hear how you would justify the fact that things on the bottom of the sphere just don’t fall off into space.

    Oh, wait – I know! Let’s make the sphere hollow, and have the inhabitants live on the inside and since the sphere is spinning the centrifugal force will push things against it’s walls. We also need some cool name for the sphere – cause sphereworld is kinda awkward.

    I know, let’s take a name of some famous dude and append it to the name. Like… I don’t know… Dyson Sphere for example. Yeah, that sounds cool! What do you think?


  54. MadTinkerer says:

    If you want to avoid the complexities of trying to get into the Discworld series, TP has also written several straightforward (in terms of reading order) trilogies:

    The Truckers Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, Wings)
    The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy (Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, Johnny and the Bomb)

    I particularly recommend the Johnny Maxwell books. The first one is a neat take on video games and parallel universes (originally written back when 2D arcade shooters were the norm). The second one is an okay ghost story which others have liked better. The third one is a really good time travel mystery story. You don’t need to read them in order, though the third book briefly references events in the first two.

    1. Shamus says:

      I must admit I made a mistake:

      In the post I claimed that “Ringworld ripped off Halo”. This statement was so crazy and outrageous that I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously, and everyone would recognize it as humor. Clearly I was mistaken.

  55. Brackish says:

    “Ringworld” was published in 1970.

    As for “ripping off,” (and I preface this with the fact that I despise the Halo games), this from Niven’s site:

    “Microsoft haven’t asked Larry permission to use the ‘Ringworld’ concept for the game, but who wants to spend years in a courtroom trying to establish a copyright on large rings – Larry for one certainly doesn’t.

    “Eric Max Francis has pointed out that the Ring more closely resembles an Iain M. Banks’ Orbital from his Culture series of novels than an actual ‘Ringworld’ around a star, I wonder if Microsoft asked Banks’ permission either?”

    The Ringworld is more closely related to a Dyson Sphere — from author and physicist Freeman Dyson — than to the Halo construct. Star Trek did an episode about a D-sphere… and fucked it all up, of course, being Star Trek.

    Oh, and if you haven’t read Ringworld, Ringworld Engineers, and Iain Banks’ entire Culture series, you don’t even qualify to hold somebody else’s geek card for them while they go to the pisser, let alone carry a card of your own.

  56. Angie says:

    Another vote for starting with Guards! Guards! The Night Watch books are my favorite, while the Rincewind books (which is where the series starts) are the ones I like the least. YMMV of course, but Commander Grimes rocks truckloads of socks. :)


  57. Lupis42 says:


    Don’t feel too bad. People are touchy about such things. Mr Pratchett has been accused of ripping off Harry Potter. With characters first published in the ’80s. Who are archetypal enough to resemble characters going back decades further. Other authors have been accused of similar things.

  58. equinox216 says:

    I bet you didn’t think you were writing a post about ‘Recommend a Discworld novel to me!’, did you? (I’m playing Overlord now, on the strength of your first post’s information, and enjoying it thoroughly.)

    That flowchart posted at Comment #15 really covers what everyone’s saying, other than ‘Oh noes, the first novels weren’t the same!’. Pratchett’s characterization of Death changed from the first couple; he really found his lasting voice (as well as Death’s lasting Voice) for the role. The characterization of Unseen University shifted, taking all the wizards along with it. By Mort, he’d achieved the familiar feel that runs through most of the books, though his writing’s become more realworld socially-aware towards the ends of the Watch and Industrial lines (in the aforementioned chart), which gives yet another experience.

    I’ve got ALL of the novels, minus the graphical and science stuff, but I’m loath to recommend a starting point beyond saying to stay away from the first couple of Wizards books (Color, Light, Sourcery, and Eric/Faust) and the first Witch book (Equal Rites) until you’ve decided whether or not you like his other, more representative work. The Watch series is probably the best to begin with; the Death stuff is light on context for the world.

    that I didn't think anyone would take it seriously, and everyone would recognize it as humor. Clearly I was mistaken.

    There’s always PA’s version of the same. From that perspective, you’ve gotten off easy!

  59. Nabeshin says:

    …Shamus, I have had my image of you completely shattered.
    A Geek that has not read Discworld?
    The Rama series at least?
    The actual Ringworld series?
    …all right, who’s up for giving him his course in remidial Geek 101?!

  60. Irandrura says:


    Seriously, not reading Pratchett is not blasphemy. I’ve read a good number of Discworld novels, and they do fall into a rut after a while. They’re not the utter genius they’re sometimes believed to be: Pratchett is no Douglas Adams. They can be funny, but not reading is perfectly reasonable, and one doesn’t miss out on all that much.

  61. Lupis42 says:


    While I would tend to say that Douglas Adams is no Pratchett, there’s nothing wrong with liking or disliking whatever. The whole “Blasphemy” cry always revolves around the lack of shared experience. You don’t have to *like* Pratchett or Adams to fit in with geeks, but if you haven’t read any of either one, a great deal of conversation may suddenly go over your head. It’s like trying to study western literature without reading [the King James bible/Shakespeare/some version of the Iliad]. You can, it just doesn’t make as much sense.

  62. Telas says:

    RE: Pratchett, my favorite fantasy author and probably my favorite author period.

    Don’t start at the beginning, at least until you’ve read something else. I second (third?) the notion to start with Guards! Guards! or maybe even Men at Arms. The Color of Magic does lay some groundwork, but it’s not necessary at all, and (IMHO) Pratchett really didn’t have his voice yet.

    Once you start, prepare to clear the decks until you’ve finished everything he’s written. Pratchett’s writing is intelligent, funny, perceptive, touching, and (most importantly) excellent. I even like his children’s books (Hat Full of Sky, The Wee Free Men, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents).

    For a quick intro, try this story: http://members.fortunecity.com/bookdepository/stories/pratchett/trollbridge/trollbridgetext.html


  63. Sandrinnad says:

    Pratchett: whatever you do DON’T start at the beginning. I’d say ‘Mort’, ‘Wyrd Sisters’, or ‘Guards! Guards!’. You can jump into the world later too – ‘Going Postal’ was a hoot – but the world does evolve through the books so it may be better to start earlier to keep up with that :)

  64. Arnold says:

    Hi Shamus,

    I know that a lot of other people have also recommended it, but I too am a proponent of starting your Pratchett reading by consuming “Guards Guards”.
    The Nightwatch series are my favorite of the discworld books. There is a handy overview reading order chart located on the http://www.lspace.org website at http://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/the-discworld-reading-order-guide-1-5.jpg

    Hope this helps.

    All the best,


    P.S. thanks for the very enjoyable blog!

  65. If you want to get a good idea of why people actually LIKE Terry Pratchett’s work, start with Reaper Man or Witches Abroad or Guards! Guards!. His first few books are lampoons of genre cliches and are not too interesting (they’re fun to read AFTER you’ve gotten a grip on his style so you can see where his ideas were starting to emerge, but the good stuff will be lost in the noise if you don’t start with the more developed books.)

    Although there are some mini “series” (in that the books share the same characters) in the Discworld novels, they’re all stand-alone novels and can be read in any order.

  66. Stuart says:

    Three of the best (in my opinion) Discworld novels have been packaged into a convenient Tome called “The Death Trilogy” and I highly recommend it.

    It comprises: Mort, Reaper Man and Soul Music. Any of these would also be a good book to read individually.

    Although I love Discworld, I feel that the earlier books satirise the fantasy genre much better. The modern chapters merely parody pop-culture and Hollywood. (This is also my opinion, no flames please :-) )

  67. LintMan says:

    @equinox216 – funny, those books you listed to stay away from are exactly the ones that I did read (except Eric/Faust) before losing interest in going any further. So they get better from there?

    Also, I was thinking of the same PA strip (it’s one of my favorites) when Shamus joked about Halo ripping off Discworld.

  68. BarGamer says:

    @Irandrura: I’ve read almost all of the Hitchhiker’s series, and I just didn’t get it. Terry Pratchett humor however, I get immediately. Highly recommend the Witches.

    PS: If you like the Witches, I highly recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It’s like if Terry Pratchett had a evil twin brother who wrote supernatural noir instead, modern-day Chicago instead of Discworld, Granny Weatherwax was a 30-something male wizard/detective and had considerably less compunctions about blowing stuff up, and Nanny Ogg was a female cop with “Issues.”

  69. Alan De Smet says:

    The flowchart Daniel linked to is a good starting point. The book stand well on their own, but the closer you read them to flowchart order (and even more specifically, to published order) you can enjoy some details like the advance of technology and resulting changes in culture.

    Don’t start with the early Rincewind books (also known as the Wizard books). Specifically, The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Sourcery. The first two are a pretty generic fantasy parody. They’re amusing, but you need to be a pretty big fantasy keep to get much of the parody. (The extended Pern parody bored me because I hadn’t read any of the Pern books.) These were the first Discworld books, and Pratchett hadn’t yet hit his stride. I’d also skip Equal Rites for much the same reason. As Pratchett grew as a writer, the books became about human condition, and the thing being parodied became our modern world, as run through a fantasy world.

  70. Steve C says:

    I also suggest your first Pratchet book be Guards! Guards!. I think that others have suggested Men at Arms first because it’s slightly better. But don’t start with the best, or else you don’t have an improved sequel to look forward to.

    Guards! Guards! gives the best introduction to the most important character in the entire Discworld series. The character I’m talking about is Ankh-Morpork. Technically it’s a city, but it has so much personality it’s really the most important character, and has a lot of character development throughout all the novels.

    From Guards! Guards!, follow Daniel’s post #15 flowchart (Btw that thing is great Daniel! send it to Pratchet!) based on what elements in Guards! Guards! that interested you the most, and want to explore further:

    Liked the setting and want to know more about the Discworld itself and what makes it tick? Start the Rincewind series.

    Liked The Characterization Of Death? And Want To Know More About Him? Start The Death Series.

    Liked the characters in Guards! Guards! and want to see more of their antics? Continue with the Watch Novels.

    Into religion and history? Read the ancient civilizations set. (They are the most stand alone IMO.) I’d also add Good Omens (very stand alone) to those two based on similar themes.

    Like the idea of how a fantasy setting deals with modern concepts? Read the Industrial novels.

    My own anti-recommendation is the Witch’s series. Both myself and my old roommate hated those. The witches have a much slower pace than other novels and are more “normal” fantasy themes. (We both loved Pyramids, which a poster above hated.) I would agree with others that the Watch series is the best, and the the first 3 Rincewind novels are not nearly as polished as the rest of the Discworld series.

    If you are hooked from the start and plan on reading all the Discworld novels, go with the Rincewind set earlier rather than later as these happen earliest in the time line. For the same reason don’t read many past Guards! Guards! in the watch or industrial novels because those sets have the most impact on the world. (Ankh-Morpock has a lot of character development in that time.)

    Note to Daniel: Your flowchart missed Making Money which is directly after Going Postal and has a minor connection to Feet of Clay. I would also say Soul Music is part of both the Death set and Industrial set. One is due primary character, the other to themes explored.

    Shamus, I’ve been reading your blog for years now and I can safely say you’d really love Discworld. Read it!

  71. equinox216 says:

    @LintMan(68): I’d say they’re better, but (I think) more cogently for your consideration, they’re different. They still use the universe, and there’s character overlap, but for the later books Pratchett got a better handle on ‘comedic’ over the earlier books’ more simple ‘parodic’. Not that there isn’t humor, it’s just… a different experience. Starting the Watch line, or the Witch line (Equal Rites is a little more like the ones you’ve already read, but it and Eric/Faust are seemingly a transitional stage following Sourcery) would serve you well to get an idea of where he went with the series. Night Watch, Monstrous Regiment, and Thud! are possibly the strongest individual novels, but I think they require deeper context. Really it’s about characters, and Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes both have loads of depth.

    And the PA comic just works on so many levels for me :) .

  72. Debaser says:

    “Besides, I was a lot less interested in his work once I realized that his Discworld series is pretty much a blatant ripoff of Halo.”

    The people around me wondered what caused me to start breaking things. Thank christ you were kidding. Thud is a good place to start, but Sorcery is the place that the lore is really established and the setting is concreted.

  73. Brian says:

    On the subject of Pratchett, I recommend starting at the beginning. Colour, to be sure, is not as good as some of the later books, but it lays the groundwork pretty well. My personal favorite thread is the Death books, though since HE is in pretty much all of them, it’s fun to watch HIM evolve. Not much enamored of the Witches myself, though I love the Wizards. My wife feels the opposite. Vimes is, of course, brilliant in all his incarnations.

  74. Taellosse says:

    Besides, I was a lot less interested in his work once I realized that his Discworld series is pretty much a blatant ripoff of Halo.

    I see what you did there. Hee hee.

  75. MRL says:

    @Nabeshin, #60 –

    What can I say? It’s all Geek to me!

  76. DocTwisted says:

    If you’re starting Pratchett, The Color of Magic is the best introductory novel, although you could also start with Guards! Guards! if you wanted (which is what I did).

  77. Veloxyll says:

    Well there’s more than enough Pratchett comments, so I won’t touch on that.

    As for Overlord’s ending though, it was actually quite satisfying. It tied the world together, left no pesky loose ends around to make angry faces at. It also makes our occasional bouts of heroism a bit more understandable. The game was pretty much entirely satisfying though. And it’s only $20 US on Steam to boot!
    Coupled with the fact that the controls on PC are decent and that the minions are ADORABLE I’d say it’s possibly one of the best games I’ve played this year (though I haven’t played Left4Dead but blarg fps again blarg)

  78. Clark says:

    The watch books are excellent.

  79. ehlijen says:

    My advice on the discworld thing: Don’t. There’s so many that if you try to read them all, you’ll forget this website and then what’ll we do?

    But more seriously: try not to read too many in too short a time. Quite a lot of them are very alike and you may well end up being more annoyed by that than entertained by the jokes.

  80. Krellen says:

    Thanks for recommending the game, Shamus. ‘Tis most fun. I, too, love the little minions (though part of me really wishes for pumpkin-headed Reds, ’cause fire-throwing pumpkin-heads just feels so right.)

    I didn’t really click on the Deadly Sins bit until after I started my second play and saw Melvin again, and then it all clicked. Might have something to do with being sick the first time through, though.

  81. SolkaTruesilver says:

    wait. Will there be a review of the game?

  82. Barron says:

    I can’t wait for the nitpicks post. I picked this game up a year ago, but never finished it. It felt way too much like a lazy console port. I reinstalled when I read last week’s entry but most of the same things are bugging me again the second time around

  83. Farx says:

    I almost raged when you claimed discworld to have ripped off halo, and then ringworld. Interesting article as always though.

  84. I have to add my vote for starting with the Watch books – Guards! Guards!, Feet of Clay etc. The Witch books, to start with, are a take on shakespearean plays, and the colour of magic/light fantastic are more of a world description – one you should eventually read, but not as exciting or immersive a starting point

  85. Unconvention says:

    You could read one of Pratchett’s pre-Discworld books; ‘Strata’, which was mostly a parody of Larry Niven’s Ringworld – which, in turn, was the preemptive rip-off of Halo.

  86. Felblood says:

    Mmmmm. I might have to get me some of that Overlord, when I get myself some money. I love having likable minions, almost as much as I like good endings.

    That said, the best book I could recommend for getting into Discworld is “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents”.

    While Death and Unseen University make cameos, the story stands entirely on it’s own, and is unforgivingly hilarious.

    Just don’t eat the green wobbly bit.’

    Thud is also a really great starting place, for someone with your tastes. You can always go back and learn how Sam Vimes came to be the man he is later.

    …IS NOT!

  87. Jos says:

    I find it strange so many people recommend Thud as a good place to start reading Discworld. It’s one of the few books where knowing what has gone before really, really helps. You’ll need (well, OK, it might not be *essential*, but it’ll help) some grasp on Ankh-Morpork and how it works first. It would also not be bad to know just who this Vimes character is and why so many high-status people seem to trust his word. Having run into the Koom Valley running gag a few times before wouldn’t hurt either.

    Really, if we’re going to recommend late-in-the-subseries books, I’d suggest Night Watch. But Guards! Guards! or Men at Arms would probably be better by far.

  88. Jon Ross says:

    I will also echo what everyone else has been saying and suggest starting with ‘Mort’ as far as Terry Pratchett’s discworld is concerned. It was the first book he wrote as a full time author which is why it has a far more finished feel then his earlier works.

    ‘Good Omens’ is a very nice stand alone book that is worth reading anytime however, as his earlier work is interesting in what was getting published at the time and how you can see his style and voice evolving. ‘The Carpet People’ is one that he wrote first at age 14 and then edited and re-released after 20 other novels and you can feel both authors working on the book as you read the new version.

    His sci-fi work ‘Strata’ and ‘Dark Side of the Sun’ both lack a strong voice and suggest why he moved faster into the world of fantasy.

    His Johnny series, ‘Only You Can Save Mankind’ and then ‘Johnny and the Dead’ etc was written for a younger audience then his general discworld books but they handle their subject really well. (I would even suggest picking up ‘Only You Can Save Mankind’ as a quick read and then handing it off to a young teen that you know to get them hooked on reading… I’ve done it twice now. ;)

    Pratchett has so many characters and books because he explores all the traditional genre’s and pokes a bit of fun at them. The Watch series is your hard boiled detective fiction with a humour twist, The Witches series starts as a poke at Shakesphere and hits Disney and other storytelling worlds. You may find that you don’t enjoy his approach to a style, especially it seems if you are a hard core fan of a specific style. (Personally I own all his books, even the ones that aren’t very good, so grain of salt and all that)

    And as each person states his books do stand alone for the most part. The characters from an earler book will pop up in a later one but they are sketched in rough detail so you know that Nobby Nobbs is a small skinny cop when he pops up, you don’t need to know he was first introduced in ‘Guards, Guards’ as a foil to the innocent Carrot.

    — editted for additional thought —

    It seems to me, just looking over the string of comments again, that most people suggest you start with either the book that got them into Terry Pratchett or the book that starts the sieres that got them into Terry Pratchett.

    With that view in mind I think you would be safe to pick up any book who’s premise interests you and call it good.

  89. Bill Door says:


  90. Joel D says:

    Don’t start with the first few books – they’re not very good (at least, when compared to the rest of his work). I suggest starting with either Going Postal, or Night Watch.

  91. scope.creep says:

    You almost got me with Discworld/Halo/Ringworld thing, but my sarcasometer blipped just enough to get me to read first and rage second. Heh. Well played.

    My introduction to Terry Pratchett was The Sea and Little Fishes, a short story in Legends (ed. Silverberg). I laughed so hard and enjoyed it so much that I had to find more.

    Speaking of Niven (okay, vaguely), I liked The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring books. And several others…

  92. Andrew says:

    “Anti-recommendation: No one should read Pyramids ever for any reason, let alone as an introduction to Terry Pratchett's work.”

    Hehehe – Funny you should say this – But Pyramids was my First DiscWorld Book, and got me hooked within the first few pages.
    Loved it.

  93. Mike Ralls says:

    I got started with “Small Gods” and found it to be a great way to jump in because you don’t have to know any back story with it and it introduces you to the world.

  94. Daniel says:

    Steve C.: to clarify I neither bear responsibility nor can take credit for that chart; it was made by others who are far, far more organized than I am. I didn’t discover it until after I’d already read through about half of the series in random “what is available in this bookstore today” order, and kept accidentally re-buying ones I already owned, and finally decided to just give in to the inevitable and buy them all in one go.

    (Small Gods was my first, and as a standalone I think it might be the best of the whole set. But it’s a little disconnected from the rest of the world, which is the only reason I suggested starting elsewhere.)

  95. Hotsauce says:

    I say start with the first books because it’s uphill from there. Mind you, you’re pretty much starting off halfway up the hill already.

  96. Aergoth says:

    I started wrong (with Hogfather, and then sort of worked my way around things until I reached the Night Watch series which was just fun) I’d recommend Feet of Clay as a good starting point, or “Going Postal” which features a new(er) character and is a little bit easier for most people.
    Mort isn’t a bad place to start. if you’re the easily removed from a series type, for the love of PI, don’t start with Colour of Magic. The earlier stuff with rincewind is patent nonsense (good nonsense though, it’s british after all) and can be very off-putting in relation to some of the other stuff in the series.

  97. Tom says:

    I tentatively agree with the suggestion not to start at the very beginning, where I think it is safe to say Pratchett hadn’t quite developed the quintessential Discworld style yet (though there are plenty of instances of it even in the first couple of books, I’d say it’s not as consistently present and pervasive as later on) but I’d also strongly suggest you don’t start with the very best ones either (which I consider to be Night Watch, Going Postal and Thief of Time) – save them until you’ve got a good feel for the world and some of the main characters. Especially don’t read Night Watch before reading all the earlier books about the Guards, and at least one of the books in which the Wizards feature prominently.

    I might even, and this will probably be controversial, suggest you try one of the first two graphical Discworld games, particularly the second one – they caught my interest enough to try a couple of the books, and I’ve read every single one multiple times since then. I’d steer clear of the third game to begin with, good though it is, since it fleshes out a number of characters rather a lot and makes a lot of back-references, which might spoil your experience of their original development in the books.

  98. Christian Groff says:

    Meh, forget about Pratchet, he’ll never be as good as Piers Anthony and his awesomesauce Xanth series. 6_^ I have “The Source of Magic” and read it from top to stern and it was amazing. Made me regret not reading it throughly the FIRST time I read it.

  99. Jess says:

    Blah, now you’re all making me feel old.. When I started reading Discworld, there were only about three of them. Since then I’ve collected and read the lot, in order! Pyramids is still my favourite.

    (I’m tempted to write my snailmail address in that “mail” field on this comments form. I wonder if it’ll work. nope, a rather ugly error. Maybe someone should fix the label )

  100. Kleinworld.
    Utahteapotworld. That’s not too long, is it?

  101. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I don’t know why some folk are so down on Pyramids, it’s one of my favorites. A bit from it that’s at least a little representative:

    “We do not murder,” he said. It was a soft voice; the doctor never raised his voice, but he had a way of giving it the pitch and spin that coule make it be heard through a hurricane.
    “We do not execute. We do not massacre. We never, you may be very certain, we never torture. We have no truck with crimes of passion or hatred or pointless gain. We do not do it for a delight in inhumation, or to fees some secret inner need, or for petty advantage, or for some cause or belief; I tell you, gentlemen, that all these reasons are in the highest degree suspect. Look into the face of a man who will kill you for a belief and your nostrils will snuff up the scent of abomination. Hear a speech declaring a holy war and, I assure you, your ears should catch the clink of evil’s scales and the dragging of its monstrous tail over the purity of the language.
    “No, we do it for the money.
    “And, because we above all must know the value of a human life, we do it for a great deal of money.
    “There can be few cleaner motives, so shorn of all pretense.
    Nil morifi, sine lucre. Remember. No killing without payment.”
    He paused for a moment.
    “And always give a recipt.”

    It’s a fantastic introduction to the Assassins’ Guild…

  102. Varewulf says:

    I got started on Discworld with Jingo and Eric, and went back to find the rest after that. So basically just about any of them serve as a good introduction, though you might be a little confused about the characters if you start too far out? Not completely certain about that one, since they are generally introduced pretty well per book.

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