“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
I spent my high school years crossing the Pacific Ocean on a sailboat, which was awesome—so awesome, in fact, I turned my senior year into a 24-month odyssey by slow-rolling through my snail mail correspondence program.
After I (somehow) graduated, cyclone season forced us to New Zealand, where I faced an ultimatum: if I hoped to attend college in the USA, I needed to take the SAT.
We found a testing center in Auckland, so I traveled south, bound for South African friends who promised shelter and a braai (epic BBQ). To my delight, the room they offered me boasted a groaning bookshelf! I thumbed through the books, searching for a story (preferably Star Wars-related) to ease my nervousness about my looming exam.
Whimsical cover art caught my eye. A dragon attacking soldiers? Color me intrigued.
“Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett. Hmm.
I flipped the book open and read the first words from a man who would become my favorite author:
“This is where the dragons went.”
Shortly thereafter, I met Captain Vimes, a watchman who would someday make me cry when he discovered the truth of Koom Valley.
Next, Sir Terry busted out his signature use of dialect to create authenticity and emotion.
I turned the page, met the Librarian, and toured the Unseen University. Interesting…
When I witnessed a secret society trade non-sensical passwords with deadly seriousness, I was hooked.
I stayed up far too late, reading through the night. The next day I took the SAT and my friends sent me home with a parting gift: their copy of “Guards! Guards!”.
This book is more than a storytelling masterclass, it’s a gateway drug to one of the richest fantasy worlds of all time: Discworld.
Reading a Discworld novel means diving into prose that makes you laugh on the surface and weep when you plumb its depths on your ninth re-read. Sir Terry took no prisoners as he skewered humanity’s foibles and lay unspoken truths bare.
Death, a recurring character, taught me how precious the strands of life are.
Granny Weatherwax, a witch, taught me the power of faith.
Vimes, a stone-faced cop, taught me how to be a father.
Carrot, an adopted dwarf, taught me how to sacrifice.
Tiffany Aching, a young witch, taught me to do what needs doing.
Cohen the Barbarian taught me how to grow old.
Nobby just made me laugh.
Sir Terry’s work made me want to become an author. He gave me the courage to embrace absurdity as I tackled heavy themes. I named my first novel “Debunked” in tribute to his penchant for punchy, short titles.
After Sir Terry died, I waited months to read the final installment in his Tiffany Aching series because I wasn’t ready for our story to end. His voice had comforted me when I was a worried young man and shepherded my journey into fatherhood. Along the way, he taught me to love words and treasure life.
NOTE: You may notice that “Guards! Guards!” isn’t present in this photo of my Discworld collection. That’s because I loaned it out to yet another friend who was looking for a good book. I always smile as they flip through its pages because I remember the journey it started for me. This book didn’t just Make me—It Unmade me, then built me from the ground up.
Thanks for the ride, Sir Terry.