I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book, mostly because I can’t read a series of books without finishing it and unfortunately Terry Pratchett never stops. There are a lot of things I like about the Discworld novels, but there’s also this slightly arrogant, patronising undercurrent that puts me off. I just get the impression that Pratchett uses his books to look down on the world.

Take the qualities of eccentricity and irrationality, for example. Douglas Adams and Robert Rankin embrace those qualities and write from the perspective of people who are, just like their characers, flawed. David Tennant as Doctor Who spends a lot of his time infatuated with human foibles. He doesn’t look down on them, he admires them.

Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, seems to write from the perspective of someone who is entirely flawless himself, who sits smugly in a throne overlooking the absurdity of mankind, and who from this position is qualified to cast judgements. I’ve always found it hard to explain this impression I get, mostly because I think a lot of people can read exactly what I read and not see the same thing. It’s in the way the major characters are always superior to the minor characters who quite often seem to be entirely unaware of their faults.

On page 144 of Making Money, as a prime example, Moist doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour of the masses. They attend an event, and then want to read about it in the paper… why do they need to read about it in the paper if they were there? Moist is apparently so far above normal human mentality that he can no longer comprehend it. Am I the only one who sees the arrogance of the writer in this sort of ‘blindness’ of the protagonist? Especially since the ability to ‘not understand’ human behaviour always seems like an annoying affectation. I don’t see the point in watching sport, but if I pretended not to ‘understand’ the sport-watching mentality then I’d be fatally disingenuous.

I don’t know I’m the only one who sees this, though. Either way, I’ve promoted Robert Rankin to the status of my favourite living writer. He can write some dire unreadable crap and I haven’t dared to read any of his latest books, but I’m very fond of some of the older ones. Terry Pratchett never writes unreadable crap, but I can’t stand the patronising, superior attitude that comes across. ‘Unreliable quality of writing’ wins.

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