The Last Days of Discworld

It’s the Hogswatch season, and I just finished reading Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown. While officially part of the young adult Tiffany Aching sub-series, there’s a lot in it that assures us Pratchett hadn’t forgotten about the rest of his world. And yes, there are SPOILERS in this review.

The book begins with the death of Granny Weatherwax, the most powerful witch on the Discworld. Her funeral service is described in detail, and even Archchancellor Ridcully comes to pay his respects. Tiffany tries her best to take over Granny’s role, also leading the battle against an invasion of elves and introducing the concept of sheds. Typical Pratchett touches include a boy wanting to become a witch, the former Queen of the Elves learning compassion, and Mrs. Earwig finally finding a way to get along with her fellow witches. There were some elements that I think could have been more developed, like the female Nac Mac Feegle who wants to be a warrior, but Pratchett might well have intended to do more with them before his death. Overall, it fits in with the progressive theme of the later Discworld books, with the world developing toward mutual cooperation, civil rights, and the adoption of new technology. I’ll definitely miss this series, but I’m glad Pratchett was able to write as much of it as he was.

Speaking of technology on the Disc, it seems that there was somewhat of a switch in attitude throughout the series. I’m sure I mentioned this before in most of my recent Discworld reviews, but I don’t think it would be amiss to expand on the idea now that the series is over. In the books around when Pratchett established the Watch and Unseen University staff as recurring casts, there was a general trend toward new ideas being dangerous, and often allowing eldritch abominations to break through the dimensional barrier. The Disc’s residents have to fight off movies in Moving Pictures, steam-powered harvesters and shopping malls in Reaper Man, guns in Men at Arms, and rock music in Soul Music. By the time of Hogfather, however, there’s a collection of stores in Ankh-Morpork called The Maul with no indication of the wizards seeing it as a threat. And in Raising Steam, Ned Simnel’s more personable son Dick brings steam power into common usage. The Disc also quickly adapts to newspapers and optical telegraphs. There are some twists in this idea, like how Going Postal shows how the mail service isn’t totally obsolete in an era of mass communication, but there’s still a trend toward modernization. That’s not to say that the Discworld was totally becoming our mundane world, however, as the various fantastic creatures played roles in the new developments.

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