Mild Dermatographia

Review: Equal Rites (Discworld)


I didn’t read Harry Potter at the age most people did. For whatever reason, it just never tempted me when I was younger. I finally read the series when I was near the end of high school and I wasn’t very impressed. The prose was basic and boring, the plots were meh, and there were a dozen macguffins a page. I chalked my experience down to no longer being the target audience, and wondering at how others experienced the books.

Well past me, wonder no more. If Harry Potter is vanilla ice-cream; a solid base of whimsy and wonder, but not much else, then Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites is a full blown Diary Queen Ice-Cream Cake. It takes what Harry Potter did right and adds a slew of ingredients to elevate it to god-tier; a bedrock layer of absolute absurdity, an icing composed of hilarious characters, a frosting of world-building.

Okay, so my anology is pretty garbage. The overall point is that Equal Rites made me laugh dozens of times, which is more than can said for basically any other book or series I’ve ever read. There’s just so much absurd bullshit happening all the times. Here’s a short (spoiler free) list of random phrases you’ll run into reading this:

“Have you been down to the river? She might have fallen in!” “Then she’d have just fallen out again. Anyway, she can swim.

One reason for the bustle was that over large parts of the continent other people preferred to make money without working at all, and since the Disc had yet to develop a music recording industry they were forced to fall back on older, more traditional forms of banditry.

They both savored the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were ignorant of only ordinary things.

It blazed like a comet designed by an inept special effects man.

“I’d really like to work this out,” said Simon again, turning the staff over and over in his hands. “We could set up some experiments, you know, into deliberately not using magic. We could carefully not draw an octogram on the floor, and we could deliberately not call up all sorts of things, and—it makes me sweat just to think about it!”

The streets were filled with silt, which on the whole was an improvement—Ankh-Morpork’s impressive civic collection of dead dogs had been washed out to sea.

These are all from the last quarter of the book, and I left quite a few quotes out.

The characters are flawed and lovable. Granny Weatherwax is quite possibly the scariest human being in existence and is stuck in her ways, but gradually comes to enjoy the company of others and get past her own prejudices. Esk is perhaps one of the only likeable children I’ve ever read, full of all the defiance and curiosity you’d expect, mixed with occasional wisdom. The head librarian is a monkey. Need I say more.

Despite the Discworld universe being as ridiculous as possible, it’s fascinating from a world-building/exploring perspective. Terry Pratchett gives so much information (and raises even more questions) with the most casual off-hand remarks, such as:

Animal minds are simple, and therefore sharp. Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits they’ve missed. The whole panoply of the universe has been neatly expressed to them as things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.

Equal Rites checks all the boxes. Lovable and believable characters? Check. Wonderful world to explore? Check. An incomprehensible amount of absurd lunacy? Check. I can’t recommend this book enough.

(I can recommend skipping the first two in the series (this is the third). The first was kind of all over the place).