Newest Review: ... one of the book's strengths. It's good to see the author get away from well-trodden paths and show off his skill and imagination in oth... more
Short Stories - Blink and you might miss them
A Blink of the Screen - Terry Pratchett
Member Name: SWSt
A Blink of the Screen - Terry Pratchett
Advantages: Interesting, varied and funny stories, gorgeous artwork
Disadvantages: It's not a Discworld book as such
A while back, I read The Salmon of Doubt, a posthumous collection of writings culled from Douglas Adams' computer after his untimely death. The Blink of a Screen does something similar for Terry Pratchett who, thankfully, is still alive. It chronicles a selection of his published writings across a range of different publications spanning his entire career from amateur scribbler to best-selling author.
The real strength of this collection is that, although technically, these stories have already been published, at least some will be new to all but the most ardent Pratchett fan. Most either appeared in very obscure publications (local newspapers), for a niche market (fanzines) or very early in his career before he became famous. For most people then, this is a brand new Pratchett book. Certainly, there was only one story in it that I had read before.
As you might expect, some of the stories are connected to the Discworld, but they actually only make up only a small percentage of the total page count. This might be disappointing to some fans who seem to froth at the mouth whenever Pratchett writes anything non-Discworld, but it's actually one of the book's strengths. It's good to see the author get away from well-trodden paths and show off his skill and imagination in other areas. The Discworld stories are fun but I would say that I enjoyed the non-Discworld sections more.
For me, the most interesting entries were the earlier efforts. Although these show an author still developing his style, there are more than enough glimpses of Pratchett's talent to make them entertaining. Moreover, because they deal with a greater variety of subjects (exasperation at the inanity of politician's ideas, the frustrations of modern life, send-ups of sci-fi/fantasy tropes) they are like a breath of fresh air. Pratchett's Discworld books are invariably entertaining, but we know what to expect from them. The Blink of a Screen gives the opportunity to see a well-known author in a new light.
What the stories really show is the depth of Pratchett's abilities. It seems he can take almost any subject and make it interesting, entertaining and funny. Even the first story, written when Pratchett was 13 has a lot to like about it (even if the author is embarrassed by it). It shows that even then he had a slightly skewed way of looking at things. Inevitably some of these earlier works lack polish and can be a little raw (how many of us would be brave enough to go back and publish something we wrote when we were at school?!), but they are still fun to read.
For fans of Pratchett, it's also interesting to note the parallels between some of these stories and later books. One, for example, was later expanded to form the novel Truckers; another has a brief mention of a bully called Greebo - a name that Pratchett was to recycle in his Witches books. Spotting little things like this add an additional element of interest.
"Fun to read" is a phrase that pretty much sums up The Blink of a Screen. Stories are very short (generally less than 10 pages; the longest about 50) and this makes them a lot of fun to read. Inevitably there are some tales which are not quite as good as others, but this doesn't matter. Even if you think a story is a real clunker (and I wouldn't say this applies to anything in this collection) you don't mind too much, as it won't take very long to read and hopefully the next story will be more to your liking.
This short story format makes the book insanely readable. It was one of those titles that I just didn't want to put down. I'd get to the end of one tale and because the next was just a few pages long, I'd start reading that one. And, of course, once I'd started reading it, I couldn't possibly stop until I'd finished because, after all, it was only short. Then I'd reach the end of that one and the whole cycle would start again. Throw in some gorgeous, full colour, full page pictures from regular Discworld artist Josh Kirby also visually appealing. What more can you ask for?!
I had no idea what to expect from The Blink of a Screen, but really enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it far more than 2012's other Pratchett offering, Dodger, which I found a little stale. A Blink of a Screen, on the other hand, is like a breath of fresh air. The stories are interesting, varied and novel. They benefit from being (mostly) set in a non-Discworld environment and allow the author to present a different side to his writing, whilst still showcasing his quirky humour.
Available for around £10 (hardback or Kindle) this is one Pratchett book no self-respecting fan should be without.
The Blink of a Screen
© Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: The better of Pratchett's 2012 books