Do you believe in magic? Can you imagine a war between wizards? An exciting journey in an airship or down in a submarine? Would you like to meet the fastest truncheon in the Wild West? The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner is the second fabulously funny short-story collection from the late acclaimed storyteller Terry Pratchett. A follow-up to Dragons at Crumbling Castle, this second batch of storytelling gems features stories written when Sir Terry was just seventeen years old and working as a junior reporter. In these pages, new Pratchett fans will find wonder, mayhem, sorcery, and delight—and loyal readers will recognize the seeds of ideas that went on to influence his most beloved tales later in life. As Neil Gaiman says, “a Terry Pratchett book is a small miracle”—and The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner proves to be another miracle taking its place alongside Pratchett’s astounding and cherished body of work.
The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other StoriesFeatured
The book in its entirety is a rapid, easy read with larger font, generous spacing, and some flavorful creative license taken with bits of standout typescript. The breakup suits the playfulness of the script, and will likely fend off monotony in younger readers. There is also no readily apparent call for reading them in their presented order. Some stories are related, while others feel more randomly inserted.
With the death of Terry Pratchett a year and a half ago, it’s understandable that fans would be on the lookout for any lost pieces of lit from the legendary author of the bestselling Discworld series. And that is more or less what this is: A grab bag of works, purportedly written when Paratchett was just seventeen years old. But while it’s entertaining at points and completely appropriate to a middle grade audience, established fans of the author may be a bit underwhelmed with this particular collection.
As tends to be the case with many short stories, these are more driven by plot than by characters. Descriptions are fairly sparse, characterization is thin, and reader investment in events is relegated to that of a passing observer.
Personally, I would have enjoyed the experience far more if not for the higher skill expectations I had developed--as someone who has read several other examples of Pratchett’s work. It does at least help show something of Terry Pratchett's writing process and maturation, which is fascinating in and of itself. I began to think he may have layered in his humor and more poignant wit only much later into his editing process. (Or perhaps he became more effectively humorous with age and experience.) What we have here feels a bit more unfinished than fans might be hoping for—something not entirely recognizable as Pratchett.
On the whole, I can safely recommend this to Middle Grade readers—especially those unfamiliar with Terry Pratchett and without any expectation for his later fine-tuned and distinguished voice. Better still, seeing what a literary giant was capable of in his teens has the potential to serve as a source of inspiration for today’s young writers.