A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction by Terry Pratchett
Review by Joshua S Hill
With no full-length Discworld books published this year, it is somewhat surprising to know that we in fact received four separate Terry Pratchett-authored books in 2012, though all in various guises: a collaboration, a child’s story, a ‘reference’ book, and this collection of short stories.
Over the past week or so I have been reviewing short stories. In each of those instances they were either published on their own or published as part of an anthology collated from many authors. I understand the penchant to review those anthologies as a whole, but I dislike doing so.
In this case, however, this whole collection is written by one man: Terry Pratchett. (Somehow this makes it OK to review the whole collection as one.)
The first story – ‘The Hades Business’ – was written back in 1963 when Terry was only 13 years old and bears all the amateur tones of a story written at such a young age while still hinting at what we would receive later in his life.
There are some absolute gems in this anthology amidst a general collection of wonderful writing. The wellspring from which sprung ‘The Long Earth’ which Pratchett wrote with Stephen Baxter is in here (‘The High Meggas’) as well as a story written while ‘ideas for the book which was eventually published as ‘Hogfather’ were germinating.
The standout stories include;
- ‘Final Reward’ which literally left me stunned and silent for five minutes as I understood just how little chance I have of ever being as good as Pratchett;
- ‘Turntables of the Night’ which includes an appearance by Death amidst an array of unheard of artists and an obsessive love of collecting;
- ‘#ifdefDEBUG + ‘world/enough’ + ‘time’’, a scarily prescient look at what our lives might look in a few years, written two decades ago;
- ‘Troll Bridge’, a great Discworld story featuring fan-favourite Cohen the Barbarian.
Final Reward is easily my favourite non-Discworld story from this anthology, but my favourite Discworld story is most definitely ‘The Sea and Little Fishes’. Previously published in the ‘Legend’ anthology back in the late 90s, this story takes us to the Witch Trials of Lancre and what happens when Granny Weatherwax is insulted. It’s a real gem of a story and leaves you wanting nothing more for your life than to go back and read ‘Carpe Jugulem’.
For any fan of good writing or short stories, this book is a real gem, and a must-have for any fan of Terry Pratchett.
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