The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Colin Smythe, 1983); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1995) Pratchett’s first Discworld novel is a bubbling primordial soup of imagination. It sets the scene but at this burgeoning stage is less a crowning achievement in comedy and more the concomitant satire of a very funny man trying to write serious fantasy. …
The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French (Walker Childrens, 2007); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Bolinda, 2014) A short, fun, fairy tale influenced middle grade fantasy, brought vividly to life by Nigel Planer’s audiobook reading. French integrates several familiar elements while often employing a humorous slant or unexpected interpretation, such as with the three Fates and their penitent weaving. …
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz, 1992); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1997) Pratchett’s one-off Discworld novels were often rather special, and such is the case with this exposé on organised religion. The (formerly) Great God Om finds himself unwillingly manifested as a tortoise with only one follower. Nigel Planer is exquisite in his narration.
Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz, 1996); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (ISIS, 1999) Feet of Clay continues the examination of racism (on the Discworld, species-ism) begun in Men at Arms, adding little except welcome reiteration. Although the golems make for interesting characters, Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs—two of Pratchett’s less explicably favoured creations—don’t.
Mort by Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz, 1987); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1995) Mort is the book with which Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series turned from imaginative curiosity to comedic fantasy par excellence. The plot is atypically focussed for Pratchett, and Death (who in a mid-life crisis takes on an apprentice) becomes an instant fan favourite.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (Gollancz, 1996); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1999) Pratchett might belabour the point, yet his stark critique of Christmas is so lavishly adorned that the humour tends to dominate. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a black comedy, it is Death (no less) and his granddaughter who bring the magic back to Hogswatchnight.
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett (Corgi, 1989); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 2002) Pratchett’s Discworld series truly hit its stride in this, the BSFA-winning seventh book. Pyramids is a self-contained and ingeniously conceived, desert-dry satire on the type of human thinking that underpins religious folly. Nigel Planer is suitably droll in voicing the befuddled participants.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett; read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1995) [first published by Gollancz, 1989] Some of the dialogue feels slightly laboured when read aloud (a small misgiving), but in the grand scale of all things magical and satirical this is the perfect introduction to Pratchett’s Discworld series. Planer handles with aplomb both narrative comedy and characterisation.