Sunday, September 10, 2023

Book Review: A Stroke of the Pen

These rediscovered tales were written by Terry Pratchett under a pseudonym for British newspapers during the 1970s and 1980s. The stories have never been attributed to him until now, and might never have been found—were it not for the efforts of a few dedicated fans. As Neil Gaiman writes in his introduction, “through all of these stories we watch young Terry Pratchett becoming Terry Pratchett.” Though none of the short works are set in the Discworld, all are infused with Pratchett's trademark wit, satirical wisdom, and brilliant imagination, hinting at the magical universe he would go on to create.

Irresistibly entertaining, A Stroke of the Pen is an essential collection from the great Sir Terry Pratchett, a “master storyteller” (A. S. Byatt) who “defies categorization” (The Times); a writer whose “novels have always been among the most serious of comedies, the most relevant and real of fantasies” (Independent UK).

This collection of lost stories will be released on October 10, 2023. Harper Collins provided an early galley for review.

Admittedly, Pratchett is one of those authors of the fantasy genre that I have not delved into a lot - even though he started out on his novels in the early 80's when I was very deep into my fantasy and sci-fi discovery. Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Gaiman, is the only one of his books in my personal collection. Still, this new release really interested me. I was curious to see what his earliest work was, when he was just starting out as a writer.

After the first couple tales (one involving cavemen and another involving time-travel), we're treated to a series of Christmas themed stories. I have to imagine that these ran in the Western Daily Press around the holidays over successive years as some kind of page filler.

From a quality level, these were definitely reminiscent of stories I would read in literary anthology magazines I would pick occasionally at the newsstands here in the States around this time period. They were usually filled with pieces by yet-to-breakout writers; it was a way to get some pay and publishing credits under one's belt. With today's world of the Internet, they would be comparable to tales found at online story sites or fan-fiction pages.

I found this collection mostly entertaining. With shorter page counts, most of the stories moved along quickly and could be read in a quick break. I suspect it will definitely appeal more to fans of Pratchett's other work as it shows a glimpse of the author first getting his bearings into the world of publishing.

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