Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review: The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett

This is my first Pratchett book which, coincidentally, is the first Discworld book Pratchett wrote (in 1983). Boy, was it fun, even though all the Pratchett experts say the next two dozen or so are much better than this one.

But I have an odd quirk: whenever I begin a series, and whether or not it can be read out of chronological order, I always start with the first one. "Start with this one," or "Start with that one," the experts say, "and then go back to Magic and pick up the details." Well raspberries to the experts: I don't have to go back for anything.

Sliding my soapbox under the desk I ask, "Does Pratchett write SF, fantasy, philosophy, or satire? The answer is, "Yes." Just plain yes. To attempt to summarize the plot, which is really a collection of four short stories, would qualify me for a room at the Padded Cell Hotel.

Pratchett describes Discworld ". . . as a flat, circular planet that rests on the backs of four elephants, which in turn are standing on the back of a giant turtle." The turtle is called Great A'Tuin.

By the way, when reading Pratchett, suspension of belief must be checked at the front cover. (Master of Understatement.)

The peoples of Discworld were genuinely curious about A'Tuin: where did it come from? Where was it going? How old was it? What was its gender? Theories abound, some of which Pratchett describes on page 2 of the Prologue:

". . . A'Turin was crawling from the Birthplace to the Time of Mating, as were all the stars in the sky which were, obviously, also carried by giant turtles. When they arrived they would briefly and passionately mate, for the first and only time, and from that fiery union new turtles would be born to carry a new pattern of worlds. This was known as the Big Bang hypothesis."

Page 2, mind you, and Pratchett's brilliance had me hooked. As did his prose, characters, and villains (Death and Fate are, uh, capitvating).

So, just before I toddle off to bed, I'm going to sample a wine from Rehigreed Province from next year's harvest. "Ghlen Livid," they call it.


Kim Ayres said...

Terry Pratchett is one of my all time favourite authors, and I've read all 30 something Discworld novels. Some are funnier than others, but all of them are worth the read. I think chronologically is as good as any other. Certainly it makes sense to read "The Light Fantastic" next.

The more well read you are, the more little references you pick up on throughout his books. For me, "Small Gods" was one of the funniest of the lot, because so much of it is to do with Greek Philosophy. And I know my lack of Shakespeare means I'm constantly missing stuff - but never obviously so.

Another one that's really worth getting hold of is "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's bloody hysterical. Or at least it was when I read it last about 15years ago. Must get another copy of it as mine went walkabout.

Charlie said...

I KNEW that Sir Terry is one of your favorites and that I'd be hearing from you.

You mention a lack of Shakespearean knowledge, but something different bothers me. Since Terry is English, I wonder how many names are puns or play on words that I will miss. Of course, if I miss something and don't know it, then I didn't really miss it at all because I never had it in the first place.

And about walkabouts: I wonder where in the universes they go because I'm missing a lot of books I did have in the first place.

Mary Witzl said...

My husband is a big Pratchett fan and has read almost all of his novels. I'm so far behind on all reading right now -- God knows why -- but I mean to read at least half a dozen Pratchetts when I get the chance. We've certainly got a lot lying around this house. This one sounds great. They all sound great, actually.

Mary Witzl said...

The Big Bang hypothesis -- that is hilarious!

Charlie said...

MARY: I have no idea why you are behind in your reading. Since time is merely an illusion, you should have plenty of it to read and relax.

Mary cusses like a sailor as she reads this . . .

nurse jane said...

I haven't read this one, but have read a couple of the Discworlds... I think they're great, but unfortunately can't keep them straight in my head. I read Wyrd Sisters and Small Gods then decided to take a break so that they wouldn't all meld together in my brain as Vonnegut's books have done (though I LOVE them).

Like Kim, I read Good Omens several years ago and laughed through the whole thing! Pratchett and Gaiman together is a match made in heaven... or hell... but REALLY good stuff. It was my introduction to both of them.

Charlie said...

NURSE: Welcome to about the fourth incarnation of my blog!

Since both you and Kim recommend Good Omens I'll get a copy. It's still available on Amazon with two different covers: one lists Pratchett first as the author, and the other lists Gaiman as first.

I guess that's a better way to do it than a cosmic fistfight.

Kim Ayres said...

The different author dominance was decided when the book was first published. Pratchett took dominance in thr UK where he was better known, and Gaiman took it in the US where he was better known

Charlie said...

Thanks for the info, Kim--that was unusual marketing, but a good ploy.

But my copy will have Pratchett's name first, even though I looked the book up under Gaiman.