Gaiman, Pratchett, and "Good Omens" - what do I read next?
July 31, 2016 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I've never read any Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, but am now in the middle of Good Omens and really enjoying it. An attempt years ago to get into the first of the Discworld series failed early (I'm generally a lukewarm fantasy fan at best), but for some reason, this hits the spot - what other titles from either of them should I try next?
posted by ryanshepard to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Sandman series is really amazing. I don't make a habit of reading graphic novels but it knocked my socks off, I read it twice.

(This is probably akin to blasphemy around here, but I never could get into Discworld, despite loving Good Omens. It just always felt too fluffy and silly to me.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:05 PM on July 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

I loved "American Gods," and it's being filmed now, so it'd be a good time to pick that up, I think.
posted by xingcat at 3:09 PM on July 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

Neverwhere is my favorite Gaiman work!
posted by firei at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2016 [8 favorites]

Do you recall which Pratchett book you tried?
posted by bunderful at 3:17 PM on July 31, 2016

Best answer: Try some of the later Discworld novels. There are "spoilers" in the later books (what rank characters are in the Night Watch, for example), but I read them completely out of order*, and it was fine. Later in the series, Pratchett moves away from High Fantasy satire/pasitche and starts dealing with a lot of the same thematic issues that come up in Good Omens--religion, belief, how people view the world and how that effects the world, etc. Some ones you might want to start with:

-Small Gods
-Monstrous Regiment
-The Truth
-The Moist Von Lipwig books

All of these are stand-alone-y, except for Hogsfather.

(*And still to this day have not read a few of the early ones/don't enjoy them that much either)
posted by damayanti at 3:20 PM on July 31, 2016 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Do you recall which Pratchett book you tried?

Colour of Magic.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2016

Best answer: Discworld is easier if you don't start with the first two, the "Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic," far better to dive in with a book that features the Witches, the Watch or both, far more of a good read to introduce yourself to Discworld. Suggestions: Guards Guards, Witches Abroad, Soul Music, Moving Pictures, Hogfather.
posted by Lynsey at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2016 [16 favorites]

I was once in your place - I'd read and liked Good Omens, I'd read and felt pretty meh about some Discworld books - and yeah, specifically among the first few. I read 2 or 3 and then put them down. Not all books have to be for all people, you know?

But I can say, I have listened to a few as audiobooks, and they're not bad that way. Maybe I'd have liked reading them too, but, I have somewhat different standards for audiobooks. They really must hold my attention which means the plot needs to cook along and for the most part Discworld books do that. As a counter point, although I love Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, I tried to listen to one of them on audiobook and it was impossible. The author goes off on interesting, but long, tangents about things and it quickly gets hard to follow, especially if you lose concentration for a minute.

Anyway, I am more on the Gaiman side of things - I've read and liked most of his books. You might give those a go. I like the more serious ones (American Gods) as opposed to the more whimsical ones (Stardust, Neverwhere) but I've read and enjoyed most of them. Sandman I love to death, although I will admit I had a hard time getting going. The first section of the first book is drawn in what feels to me like a very dated style, and the story unfolds kind of oddly. But man once I got into it, it influenced me emotionally and mentally a lot. I've read the whole series several times.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:31 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Discworld is easier if you don't start with the first two, the "Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic,"

I second that, the first two are really quite different to the later novels.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:39 PM on July 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with the above comments about Discworld. Good Omens was also my first introduction to both TP and NG; I then read some of the Rincewind novels and was less than enthralled. Luckily I ran across the books featuring the witches and the watchmen and liked those more.

If you liked DEATH as a character in particular, then try Mort or Reaper Man next.

Also here is a chart!
posted by bunderful at 3:53 PM on July 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Discworld: start with the Night Watch or Witches miniseries, followed by the Industrial Revolution/Death ones. Do not read any Rincewinds to start out, I'd say only to read them when you're being completist about the series because they're the weakest of the lot and are pretty much based on the one joke of "he's barely a wizzard and spends his life running."

Gaiman: Sandman.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:12 PM on July 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I usually suggest the books focused on "The Watch" to get new people interested in the books, but considering your interest in Good Omens I'd suggest trying any of the books featuring the Witches. They hit some really interesting points & I love his ideas about the nature of stories & storytelling, the Witches books tend to loosely incorporate other stories into their story if that makes sense. So Phantom of the Opera, Macbeth, Fairy Stories that sort of thing which can be great as his Witches then throw the stand stories on their head with their own unique twists & outright refusal to follow narrative.

The chart bunderful linked to is awesome so I'd use that as a guide.

Recommendations from someone with no special knowledge of literature just old enough to have started reading Terry Pratchett books from the first one & who waited not so patiently for every release since then. If you really truly super hate fantasy then stick to the the later books where it becomes just a device to hang the story & ideas off.
posted by wwax at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd actually recommend Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell books, starting with Only You Can Save Mankind. They're about a modern (well, early 1990s) boy having adventures; they're a bit less goofy than the Discworld books due to the sometimes-real-world setting, and though (or because?) they're ostensibly for kids, the social commentary is pretty sharp.
posted by yarntheory at 5:06 PM on July 31, 2016

Interestingly, earlier on at least, Pratchett's novels for young people seem to have more edge to them. In addition to the Johnny Maxwell books, there's the Bromeliad trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings, which I love, but possibly ought to be woven together to make one novel), which is sort of like The Borrowers; The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, which is technically Discworld, but out of the normal "grown-up" continuities, and is quite remarkable; The Tiffany Aching books are intended for younger audiences and are well within the Discworld continuity, but are among my favourite books. There are also Nation and Dodger outside Discworld continuity, but I've not read either of them.

The best of Pratchett's books are fundamentally about morality and ethics, and I have found them at times intensely moving - for example, the very end of Small Gods, which I won't, of course, spoil. The trappings of fantasy are there to make the stories happen. For example, the Elves of Lords and Ladies are ways of representing notions of glamour and celebrity; The world of the Watch is often about political forms (royalty / despotism / populism and democracy for example) and the tensions between them. There's also the growth of non-magical technologies and also Ankh-Morpork's becoming used to multiculturalism (although the different cultures are different types of fantastical creature). It's necessary to suspend ones disbelief in order to read the books, but it's worth remembering that the fantastical elements operate as satire as much as anything else and there's not always a direct analogy with "real world" situations, but they are often attempts too discuss those situations. At their best, the fact that the books are written to be humorous means that their morality escapes being too didactic.

What appeals to me about Pratchett's approach is that his solutions to everything tends to revolve around goodwill and rationality rather than idealism. This tends to be my prejudice, too.
posted by Grangousier at 5:46 PM on July 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Pratchett himself (RIP) has stated that the first two Discworld books are terrible entry points to Discworld.

It was young adult, but Nation was a really enjoyable book for me.
posted by Jacen at 6:22 PM on July 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

Nation is highly recommended if you like Good Omens. It is a sort of alternative history take on Victorian explorers in Polynesia. It has a similar feel to Good Omens, though it's much darker in the beginning, and there's no magic, just Science.
posted by monotreme at 7:10 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you like the funnier parts of Good Omens mixed with the darker stuff, Gaiman's Anansi Boys (wiki link, so possible spoilers/etc.) is a good transition into his other work. It's kind-of-sort-of a sequel/related to American Gods, but you don't need to have read that to enjoy this. It's Gaiman at his most Douglas Adams (and I mean that with love).

Neverwhere is also fun, but not as out-right funny, overall.

If you're interested in The Sandman, start with the third collection, Dream Country, which is a book of short stories. If you like that, go back and read the first two. Dream Country is much more a good sample of what The Sandman is like overall. It's a weird, messy and often uneven series, but it's worth reading.
posted by darksong at 7:15 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Soul Music is my go to for introducing people to Pratchett. I'm on my sixth or seventh copy now.
posted by Ruki at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Men At Arms is one of my recommended entry points to Discworld.
posted by Candleman at 7:26 PM on July 31, 2016

I really like Going Postal as a decent intro. My daughter got into Discworld via the Tiffany Aching books (beginning with The Wee Free Men).
posted by leahwrenn at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a fan of anything Disc World that is about the witches or the wee free men or Death. Also I enjoyed Going Postal. As for Gaimen. I liked Coraline but that's about it.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2016

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is really good. It has the great feelings and creativity from Pratchett and the intricacy and world building of Baxter. Basically it's about the effects of the multiverse theory being proven, and also the alternate earths being easily accessible by a large portion of humanity. There's at least a trilogy if you like the first one, and they're all somewhat contained plots within each book.
posted by Alex Voyd at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2016

The next book for you, imo, is Wee Free Men. IMO. It's the feel of Discworld, but an easy entry without having to know all the lore. It's Pratchett at his Best, without having to slog through some of the earlier, admittedly less polished books for context.

Next, I'd look at some A. Lee Martinez.
posted by bonehead at 9:00 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I prefer the Gaiman short story collections. They aren't all great stories, but I was just blown away by his nuanced approach to fantasy in many of them.

I, like several other commenters, also recommend starting with Pratchett's later novels. Such humor and incisive social commentary!
posted by Agave at 12:35 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: I read carpet diem a little while ago and it was a lot like Good Omens in tone and humour. IT isn't by Pratchett or Gaiman, but it has their sense of style. American Gods and the Ansasi Boys are also good Gaiman books as well the one about the underground london world of magic and intrigue, which I cant remember the title of right now.

I'm right now in the process of finishing the newest (and last) Long Earth book. I've liked them so far, but the feel of the novels isn't like Good Omens as much as Carpet Diem is.
posted by koolkat at 1:34 AM on August 1, 2016

Best answer: A lot of the Discworld books have fairly similar plots.

The ones that break out a little from that are the Witches series and the later Guards books.

I'm going to suggest Night Watch for probably being the best thing he wrote (but will contain spoilers), Pyramids for being the funniest thing he wrote (and it's very standalone), and Equal Rites for being the most humane of them all (and being the first of the Witches books).

Outside that, The Dark Side of the Sun/Strata don't get nearly enough love, and are subtle send-ups of a lot of classic SF novels, if you're into your 2001s and Ringworlds.

American Gods is really good. It's a serious take on the same subject matter as Small Gods, and you can see how both of them are rooted in Good Omens.

(You should also try some of the shorts from Charlie Stross' Laundry series, which have that "irreverent send-up of well-loved pop culture" thing going for them.)

(IMO Monstrous Regiment, Hogfather and anything with von Lipwig in are just worth skipping altogether. Soul Music isn't wonderful either, the formula was getting pretty tired by then).
posted by Leon at 3:25 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: > as well the one about the underground london world of magic and intrigue

posted by Leon at 3:28 AM on August 1, 2016

Nthing skipping he Rincewind books, seconding listening to the audiobooks, particularly for the Tiffany Aching books, because Stephen Briggs(the reader) does an absolutely delightful accent for certain of the characters that has resulted in the word "crivens" entering household parlance.

If you liked the deep-truths-told-through-little-kid-finds-out-who-he-is element of Good Omens, is particularly recommend the Achingn books for Pratchett, and the Graveyard Boy by Gaiman.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2016

As someone who tried repeatedly to get into Pratchett and kept bouncing, if you find yourself bouncing off the Guards books, try the Death ones or the Moist ones.
posted by Hactar at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2016

I find that most of Neil Gaiman's novels are not at all like Good Omens. Good Omens has a unique kind of coziness, a "let's ramble on amusingly for ten pages while nothing much happens plot-wise"-ness, whereas Gaiman's stuff is weightier -- often disturbing -- even when it's being whimsical & imaginative. He strikes me as an old-fashioned storyteller in the oral tradition, one who's not afraid to scare the children. (For that reason, if you do embark on any of his novels and audiobooks are at all your thing, I recommend the audiobook versions -- he narrates several of them himself, and it's amazing.)

So if you're looking for something that feels similar to Good Omens, I'd leave his more popular works alone for now & second the recommendations for Anansi Boys and The Graveyard Book (which are lighter in tone), and for the short stories (which are all over the place, really).
posted by stellarc at 4:08 PM on August 1, 2016

Late to the party, and you've probably already read them, but if the twee Britishness and comedy of errors/coincidence aspects of Good Omens appeal to you, be sure to read Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker's Guide and Dirk Gently books have a lot of the same humor to them.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:45 AM on August 2, 2016

Another vote for Pratchett's Long Earth series, co-written with Stephen Baxter.

There are now five books, and while they're not all as good as the first, it's an excellent series:

1. The Long Earth
2. The Long War
3. The Long Mars
4. The Long Utopia
5. The Long Cosmos
posted by lukez at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2016

I think that Good Omens combines my favorite parts of both authors, so I will say that I like Gaiman's lighter stuff and Pratchett's heavier stuff, if that makes sense? So, I like Anansi Boys better than American Gods, for example. His YA stuff like Graveyard Book and Coraline. For Discworld, my favorites are the Watch books (Feet of Clay, OMG) and the Death books.
posted by oblique red at 11:16 AM on August 3, 2016

« Older What to do with extra money originally deferred...   |   A camera as good as the one on the Galaxy S6? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.