It’s probably no secret that I’m a nerd. I like nerdy things, like dragons and comic books and Star Wars and mathematics. I have nerdy friends. I have pretty good nerd “cred” (go on, ask me to sing Still Alive. Or pretty much anything by Freezepop. Or The Protomen.) But as a nerd–and in particular a nerd who likes books–I have a secret, shameful confession to make.
I don’t really like Terry Pratchett.
I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy personally–he seems nice in his interviews, anyway. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met him. I guess he might be a jerk. At any rate, that’s not what I meant–what I meant was, I don’t like his books.
I should like his books. I like fantasy, and I like deconstructionist humor, and Terry’s books are all pretty much those two things smashed together and turned up to eleven. Just like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is science fiction and deconstruction smashed together and turned up to eleven. I like Hitchhiker, so I should like Pratchett’s books, right?
Oh wait, I forgot. I don’t really like Hitchhiker either.
All right, relax, everyone. Put your monocles back in. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading Hitchhiker (the first one, anyway–don’t get me started on the others) or any of Pratchett’s books. I did. Really, I did. I just didn’t…like them. They felt empty. They’re all deconstruction purely for deconstruction’s sake. Reading them feels like eating spoonfuls of chocolate syrup: sure, it tastes good while I’m eating it, I guess. But no matter how many spoonfuls I eat, I still feel hungry afterwards (and kinda gross, besides). Pratchett’s writing is undeniably clever, talented, and engaging, but when I read his books I can’t help feeling that something is missing. Something, anything, to pour the chocolate onto. A little substance. A little–dare I say it–faith in the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the cleverness and the jokes, the self-deprecation and the self-reference, the tearing-down-and-then-building-up-and-then-tearing-down-again of just about every trope and cliche in the genre. Really, I do. But it’s a shallow, unsatisfying enjoyment. When I’ve read a book, I want to feel like I’ve gotten something out of it, not as though something has been taken away (in this case, it’s usually my faith in the genre). I want the characters, plot points, settings, and mythologies of my books to be more than just punchlines to jokes at their own expense. I want my stories to–I admit it–take themselves at least a little bit seriously.
I’ll understand if you don’t agree. I certainly won’t blame you for it. I’ll even understand if we can’t be friends anymore after this. I just wanted to get it out in the open. I’m sick of living a lie. I hope, someday, you can forgive me.
Just don’t act surprised if I no longer feign agreement when you start gushing about Terry Pratchett.