The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett make the funniest audio books
Pratchett's novels make lively audiobooks
Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, solely due to his delightful Discworld novels. Many people have written about this popular fantasy series, but they seem to ignore the audio versions of the books, which I think is their best format.
Pratchett's books truly shine in audio form; the humor comes through vividly when performed by a skilled narrator. I've listened to twenty-one of his novels and read three in print. To my mind, there's no comparison: the Discworld audio books are a treat not to be missed.
Heard any Discworld audio books?
Heard any Discworld audio books?
A summary for the uninitiated
The Discworld is a flat planet balanced on the back of four massive elephants, which in turn stand on the shell of a giant turtle flying through space. Aren't you glad you asked? Seriously, though, the physical structure of the Discworld isn't particularly important and isn't mentioned all that often; it's the broadest of settings, brought alive by its inhabitants.
The Disc is populated by humans, gods, trolls, dwarfs, wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves, gnomes, golems, and other people; all of the characters, including Death, display the unique personalities, characteristics, goals and dreams possessed by typical humans. Pratchett uses his diverse cast to successfully poke fun at pretty much everything and has been hailed as a master satirist. (He was also knighted in 2009 and designated an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998, for "services to literature".)
There are currently almost 40 books in the Discworld series. While Pratchett has a wide array of characters that appear and re-appear, most of the novels tend to revolve around a specific person or group of people. There are several books each devoted to the witches, the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, the inept wizard Rincewind, the wizards of Unseen University, the Nac Mac Feegle, and Death. There are also two novels about con man Moist von Lipwig and many excellent standalone stories such as Pyramids, Small Gods, and The Truth.
Poll: favorite character
Because there are so many characters in the Discworld, I can't include them all in the poll. I've tried to include all the major characters who are in at least two books. Characters are listed in groups: Death, the wizards, the witches, and so on.
Who is your favorite Discworld character?
Moist von Lipwig, Ankh-Morpork's Postmaster
The books about reformed con man Moist von Lipwig are two of the newer Discworld novels, which makes them among the most affordable in CD format. Going Postal is a great introduction to the series; it was the second Discworld book I read and my first Discworld audio book. It's very funny and extremely accessible, even if you don't know anything about the Disc. (It involves overhauling the long-defunct postal service -- something most readers should appreciate!) This title was my father's first exposure to Terry Pratchett and it's still his favorite. And it made my Top Five list!
The second book, Making Money, puts Moist in charge of Anhk-Morpork's troubled banking system. While I didn't like it quite as much as the first, it's still an excellent read, full of quirky situations and opportunities for Moist to do what he does best: give people a show.
A third book featuring Moist von Lipwig (Raising Steam) has been released, but the reviews I read were disappointing. It's a shame; Moist is a great character (as is his romantic interest, Adora Belle Dearheart) and I would have loved to read another adventure on par with the first two.
The Discworld's Death
I love the Death novels. Contrary to what you might think, Death is a very funny character; he wants to be like humans and do human things, but never quite gets it right. (Death is the ultimate straight man in any comedic situation.) He appears in nearly every Discworld novel and is prominently featured in quite a few of them: Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather, and Thief of Time. The audio books that focus on his character are hard to find, but definitely worth having.
The Ankh-Morpork Watch
The watchmen are an eclectic group of characters led by Sam Vimes, who rivals Death for my favorite character on the Disc. There are actually several more Watch books than I've included here but most (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, and Night Watch) are very hard to find and very expensive. The titles below are my absolute favorites of the watch books, although unfortunately they're still expensive unless you're lucky enough to find a used copy at a good price.
The Fifth Elephant was my first Watch book and is a great place to start; in it, the watchmen travel to Uberwald, which is the Disc's answer to Transylvania, and meet vampires, werewolves, the native dwarves, and a handful of Igors. (Trust me, you haven't lived until you've heard about the Igors.) It's still my favorite of the Night Watch titles, with Thud! being a close second.
The newest Watch title, Snuff, is available on audio, but based on the reviews, I opted for the cheaper e-book. I found it very disappointing and I can't recommend it. I feel a bit disloyal saying that, but I have to agree with the reviewers: it's not of the same quality as Pratchett's previous novels. In fact, some reviewers suggested that Pratchett may not have actually written this one, due to his illness, and I wondered about that myself; there are some bits that definitely depart from Pratchett's normal style. Bottom line: I don't recommend Snuff, no matter how much you want to read another Vimes novel.
Poll: best series
Which series of Discworld books is your favorite?
Best Discworld Novels
My top five picks
Picking my favorite Discworld audiobooks was tough -- and picking only five was even tougher, since I could easily recommend nearly all of the ones I've heard. But I finally whittled the list down to the ones I've enjoyed most. So here are my top five Discworld books, in the order I suggest you try them.
- Going Postal: Master swindler Moist von Lipwig is put in charge of reviving the Ankh-Morpork post office -- a long-defunct bureaucracy that's all but forgotten and full of decades of undelivered mail. But Moist has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and some helpers: elderly postmen, an orphan, a Golem, and Adora Belle Dearheart (head of the Golem Trust and the woman Moist wants to marry). This was my first Discworld audiobook and it's a great place to start.
- The Truth: The Discworld gets its first newspaper! But there are nasty people who don't want the truth to get out. While the book contains cameo appearances by the Watch, zombie lawyer Mr. Slant, Gaspode, Foul Ol' Ron, Mr. Dibbler and others, the story and the humor are easily accessible if you're a Discworld novice.
- The Fifth Elephant: Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is going to Uberwald, the Disc's answer to Transylvania, in the name of diplomacy. There, he and his entourage meet vampires, werewolves, and a handful of Igors. It's a supernatural fun-fest, finding lots of humor in monster-movie stereotypes. The story also delves deeper into dwarf culture, adding to the class attributes sketched out in earlier novels.
- Thief of Time: This title may be a bit challenging to the uninitiated, but it's an excellent entry. In it, we have Death (always a crowd-pleaser), his granddaughter Susan, the History Monks, and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, all working to prevent the auditors from stopping time forever. The History Monks are a fascinating bunch, having fun with Eastern stereotypes and even adding a James Bond touch via the gadget-making monk Qu. There's an Igor in this one too, and you can't beat a good Igor.
- Thud!: Another City Watch murder mystery, with heavy focus on dwarf culture. This book continues to build on the detailed world revealed in The Fifth Elephant. And a vampire joins the Watch, which makes for some interesting species rivalries with the Watch's werewolf, Angua.
In case you're curious about the also-rans, Hogfather (a Death novel), Making Money (the sequel to Going Postal), Pyramids (a standalone novel that delves into the Assassins Guild and pokes fun at Egyptian lore), Small Gods (which skewers organized religion) and Night Watch (a Watch book featuring History Monks Lu-Tze and Qu) were all strong contenders for the list.
Who's the best narrator?
The audio books I've heard have been narrated by either Nigel Planer, who read most of the earlier Pratchett titles, or Stephen Briggs, the current reader. On Audible.com, the reviews are split: some people are fervently in the Planer camp, while others are just as emphatic that Briggs is the better narrator. Personally, I prefer Briggs, who has a livelier, more engaging style -- although I suspect that for most people, their preference lies with whichever reader they heard first.
Why audio books?
I love audiobooks because they keep your mind entertained when your hands are busy. They're particularly great for the daily commute, and I enjoy hearing them when I'm exercising, cleaning house, or making crafts.
Audio books also bring a new dimension to the story; a good performance brings out the voices of the characters and the inflection of their dialogue. I find humor particularly suited to the audio format: Terry Pratchett makes me chuckle when I read his work, but the audio versions make me laugh out loud.
I purchased my audiobooks as a member of Audible, an Amazon.com company. The membership programs are the best deal since you get 1 or 2 titles a month for about the cost of a hardcover, and you can cancel any time. (The audiobooks are yours to keep forever.)