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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: The Color of Magic/The Light Fantastic

From Goodreads:

The Color of Magic - On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet...

The Light Fantastic - In The Light Fantastic only one individual can save the world from a disastrous collision. Unfortunately, the hero happens to be the singularly inept wizard Rincewind, who was last seen falling off the edge of the world...

I'm pairing these novels together in one review - the first two books in Terry Pratchett's much acclaimed Discworld series - because I consider them two parts of a whole. This is probably because  I saw the movie, The Color of Magic, first. As the movie combines The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, they are inextricably linked in my mind.

The main characters of both books are Rincewind and Twoflower. Rincewind is an incompetent wizard in his thirties who was kicked out of The Unseen University in Ankh Morpork - school to all wizards - after it became clear he had no talent for learning spells. Rincewind has his own opinions on why spells refuse to stay in his mind, all of which stem from an incident in his youth that left one of the eight great spells that created the Discworld lodged in his brain. Rincewind is pessimistic in the extreme, a die-hard fatalist, and not so happy about existing in a world run by magic.

Twoflower is the Discworld's first tourist, an insurance agent from the Counterweight Continent who decided to save his pennies and see the world, starting with the twin cities of Ankh-Morpork. He's a bit of a dreamer, a cock-eyed optimist,  and utterly naive about the ruthless culture of his chosen vacation spot. He's also staggering wealthy by the standards of Ankh-Morpork's residents.

By a hilarious twist of fate, these two diametrically opposed personalities are paired together as Rincewind is appointed Twoflower's guide to the Discworld on penalty of certain death. Thus begins a long, rollicking adventure to the end of the world and back again, accompanied by a very unusual and bad tempered piece of luggage.

The Good:

The writing is sharp, acerbic, and clever; everything I've come to love and expect from contemporary British authors. What I love about Pratchett's writing in these books is the balance of satire and sincerity. While obviously poking fun at high fantasy and science fiction tropes - like barbarian heroes, dimensional travelers, and pesky gods,  - the Discworld is completely sincere about its' absurdity.

The characters were completely and unmistakably themselves, from the main players to the supporting cast. There is never at any point a risk of confusing one character for another. While Rincewind and Twoflower nearly succumbed to the more superficial aspects of their design, even they grew reliably and realistically. By the end of The Light Fantastic they were still themselves, but slightly improved versions of themselves.

I got these books for free while visiting Cassandra Yorgey as she was clearing out her library. Free book = happy Maria.

The Bad:

This is more a complaint about my copy and an unfortunate commentary on the state of my eyesight, but I had a hard time reading it at points. I think this had much more to do with the close print of the edition I was reading and the fact that I was only wearing my glasses half the time than anything related to the quality of the writing.

The Rest:

I can't think of anything else I've ever read that is quite like the Discworld. While I enjoy that immensely as a reader, as a reviewer it makes it hard for me to draw comparisons for other readers. The only other piece of fiction that's the same in tone is another product of the UK, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which ironically, he wrote a sequel for.

One of the most frequent complaints I noted on review sites like Goodreads and Amazon was that perspective readers were wary of what was meant when fans called it 'satire' and 'comedy,' citing that people all had their own standards for funny. I think most people who like fantasy or science fiction would enjoy this humor. More than anything else, these books seem to make fun of themselves and the characters trapped within their pages.

Final Thoughts:

These books are funny, well thought out and plotted, and I think they appeal to a larger audience than just fans of fantasy. While the Discworld books aren't marketed as YA, I think they're safe for that demographic; there was nothing in these two books that was any worse than what I used to read in my brother's comics.

I have almost the entire series thanks to Cassandra and I enjoyed these two books more than enough to want to read their sequels. Expect more Discworld reviews in the future.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Mushrooms

Searching the skies for giant sea turtles,


Cassandra said...


Maria D'Isidoro said...

I can't believe Hogswatch is nowhere in that pile though. What sort of a Discworld fan - who invests in THAT MUCH of the series - doesn't make sure to own Hogswatch too? I am disappointed.