Saturday, June 28th, 2014

A Comparison of Xanth and Discworld

Piers Anthony’s Xanth books and Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are both long running series of fantasy books where each book in the series is set in the same fantasy world. Since each series has common themes running through the books in the series I thought it would be interesting to compare them.

With the Xanth books the ongoing theme is puns. A large number of things within Xanth are based on puns which form the basis for the entire structure of that world. Each of the books in the series has a lead character with a problem. They travel to the Good Magician to ask a question and generally get sent on a quest that eventually leads to the solution to their problem.

With the Discworld books all of the events take place on a world that is a flat disk on the back of four giant elephants that in turn are standing on the back of an even more giant turtle swimming through space. This plays little part in most of the stories in the series which each deals with a particular topic from the real world mainly to twist it all out of shape so as to look at it from a completely unique viewpoint. The series started by sending up sword and sourcery books and has since progressed to cover such topics as Shakespeare, Opera, Death, football, Christmas, pop music, fairy tales, women’s rights, racism and terrorism.

In comparing the common themes running through each series the Discworld series clearly deals more with commenting on the real world via a fantasy setting while Xanth has almost no real world connection. This results in the Diskworld books continuing to be interesting to read (as each picks a brand new real world topic as its theme) while the Xanth books become more and more blurred together as you progress further into the series.

In terms of the writing ability displayed by the authors, the Xanth series was well written from the start with the very first book in the series being a quality story that well deserved the awards that it won while the discworld books didn’t really achieve the same standard until three or four books into the series. That the first few discworld books are not up to the same writing standard as the later ones may have put some people off from continuing to read the series. The writing quality of the Xanth books has been consistent throughout.

Both series started out with a unique concept and excellent plots. With Xanth the plots have become more and more repetitive as time has gone on making each subsequent book less interesting than the one before. Having read most of the Xanth books I am of the opinion that the series would have been excellent had it ended within the first nine books and good had it ended within the first 20 books. By the time it got to 30 books the quality of the series had fallen to fair and is now rapidly heading toward poor. Having read all of the Discworld books I am of the opinion that the series started out as good and by the time it reached nine books was excellent and has maintained then that level. Only with book 40 does the standard start to drop a little due to having tried to combine two incompatible themes into the one book and having to twist one of the themes too far out of shape to make the other theme work.

Unfortunately Sir Terry’s illness means that we can’t expect that the quality of future discworld books will be quite up to the excellent standard of past book. In the case of the Xanth books I am far less concerned about the quality of future books as I am of the opinion that the quality of the series has already fallen so far that I will not be buying any further books in the series (in fact the recent additions to many of Pier’s Anthony’s series are of such poor quality compared to the earlier books in the various series that I have completely removed his name from my book list).

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.