A Slip of the Keyboard – Terry Pratchett: A Review

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Date finished: June 8th 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett: orangutan enthusiast, former Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board, and creator of Death, was also well-known for writing a series of books set in a universe called the Discworld. This was a rather popular series built out of 41 novels all set in the same Tolkien-esque universe which heavily satirised human innovations by placing them in a world of dwarves and trolls and dragons and then relentlessly took the piss out of them.

Terry Pratchett’s work was nothing short of genius, and he remains one of the most well-loved authors ever, renowned for his engagement with fans and for getting involved with many charitable causes and societies of interest.

The collected Non-fiction of Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard, was first published whilst the author was still alive but already badly afflicted by the early onset Alzheimers which eventually took him from the world. We already have his many works of fiction, so it’s interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of the man behind the work.

Fans of Sir Terry won’t be disappointed, in fact, it’s a must-have. Pratchett’s acerbic wit shines through, and his confident prose renders any subject as gripping as one of his novels.

The book is divided into three parts. The first volume concerns Pratchett’s writings about his writing: his approach, his experiences within the writing industry, and his general opinions and articles on fantasy as a genre. Here we gain valuable insight into Pratchett’s own thought process, as well as his feelings regarding the community of Discworld fans that grew out of his work.

The second volume moves onto Pratchett’s broader work in the media: starting with his work as a journalist on his local paper writing nature articles to get out of the office; to articles he was asked to write as an author on subjects such as his ideal Christmas and his thoughts on religion. In addition, some introductions to works by other authors, and transcripts of lectures he gave are also included.

The final volume is a foray into the subjects that made Pratchett mad. Fellow author and friend Neil Gaiman has repeatedly commented on how angry Pratchett was despite everyone’s belief of the contrary, and this is where that side becomes apparent. A few early articles concern Pratchett’s passion for education and orangutans (he was a trustee of the UK branch of the Orangutan Foundation), but the majority concern the strain of dementia that cruelly struck him at his peak.

It’s in these articles that we see not a sarcastic fantasy author, but a determined and passionate man speaking out against the injustices in our medical industry. Pratchett spoke out vociferously for better treatment and more research into mental health and campaigned fervently for the legalisation of assisted dying, and these pieces provide a powerful ending to an insightful book about a man who inspired millions of people.

8/10

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