‘A Blink Of The Screen’ collects together Terry Pratchett’s 32 short stories, written over more than 40 years of his life. From the first published story he ever wrote in 1963, at the age of 13, to a fictional biography for the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, this is a varied body of work. Some characters will be familiar to his regular readers, particularly in the latter section of the book devoted to shorter ‘Discworld’ writings, but there’s also a whole host of delightful new faces to meet.
The collection opens with ‘The Hades Business’, written in 1963 and published in Pratchett’s school magazine. Despite the notes from Pratchett about how he’d like to ‘rewrite it from the bottom up’, it’s really a solid story and, if you didn’t know it was written by a thirteen year-old, you would guess it. In ‘The Hades Business’, we meet an advertising executive employed by Satan to make Hell seem like a more attractive place to go. It’s a comic little tale and the twist at the end is enough to make you chuckle out loud.
As a ‘Discworld’ fan, I was pretty keen to read the ‘Discworld’ section of the book, particularly when I came across ‘The Sea And Little Fishes’, which features my favourite witch, Granny Weatherwax. It’s one of the longest stories in the book, coming in at around 57 pages and it’s an ideal introduction to the witches of the Discworld. It shows Granny Weatherwax’s stubborn streak off to perfection, as she plays nicely but still manages to show everyone who is really in charge. This one was a really satisfying story and I know it’s one I’ll re-read.
‘Final Reward’ is another story that has stuck with me since I finished the book. It’s a story about an author whose barbarian hero suddenly appears on his doorstep and adapts remarkably well to the author’s modern world. Blurring the lines between the reality of the author and the fantasy world, he writes about, it is not only a pleasingly self-contained little story, but also makes you question what you really want out of life. Would being a hero in a barbaric fantasy world be a good life goal?
Finally, I’ll mention ‘Troll Bridge’, which is another entry in the ‘Discworld’ section of the book and one that might be of interest to fans as it’s currently being made into a film by Snowgum Films (www.trollbridge.film/). It features Cohen the Barbarian as he searches for an old-fashioned fight with a troll guarding a bridge. Yet when Cohen finally finds a troll, he isn’t quite prepared for what happens next. You don’t need to have read any ‘Discworld’ to enjoy this story as it stands on its own very well and is a nice twist on the troll bridge stories that crop up in fairy tales.
If you like Terry Pratchett’s writing, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you’re not sure if you enjoy Terry Pratchett’s writing, this is a good book to try it out. The writing style certainly changes between 1963 and 2010, but the quality is consistently high and it’s a great collection of stories.
(pub: Doubleday/Transworld, 2013. 363 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $17.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-552-16333-0)