If you’re reluctant to commit to reading even a sub-series of Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld books, Pyramids is a pretty good standalone sampler of his humor.
Teppic, heir to the kingdom of Djelibeybi, is a good-hearted character, even if he is training to be an assassin. The first third of the book is dominated by his training and final exam, but we can’t let him actually become an assassin–he’s the son of a pharoah. The expectable event snatches him away to Discworld’s equivalent of ancient Egypt, complete with bureaucratic priests, hundreds of gods, thousands of ancestors, and Time-sucking pyramids. The laughs come thick and furious, about science, math, philosophy, and awkward rotations through the wrong axes of the four dimensions.
The humor ranges from mythic:
And the sun toiled across the sky.
Many people have wondered why. Some people think a giant dung beetle pushes it. As explanations go it lacks a certain technical edge, and has the added drawback that, as certain circumstances may reveal, it is possibly correct.
It reached sundown without anything particularly unpleasant happening to it*…
*Such as being buried in the sand and having eggs laid it it.
It is now known to science that there are many more dimensions than the classical four. Scientists say that these don’t normally impinge on the world because the extra dimensions are very small and curve in on themselves, and that since reality is fractal most of it is tucked inside itself. This means either that the universe is more full of wonders than we can hope to understand or, more probably, that scientists make things up as they go along.
But the multiverse is full of little dimensionettes, playstreets of creation where creatures of the imagination can romp without being knocked down by serious actuality. Sometimes, as they drift through the holes in reality, they impinge back on this universe, when they give rise to myths, legends, and charges of being Drunk and Disorderly.
As you can see, the jokes are often chatty and discursive, little bits of funny that pile up on each other. There’s so much, they overshadow the story, which is thin. Aside from Teppic, the characters are sketchy; and though there’s some touching moments towards the end, I though the final chapter went totally in the wrong direction. Happily, that doesn’t change how much I enjoyed getting there. For me, this was the first Pratchett book that I thought was really funny.