Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Light Fantastic: Terry Pratchett


Most people, or at least most readers of book blogs, know about the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. However, I did not know until three or four years ago what that world was like so I will share a short description with you. As described in this book, the Discworld is a flat disc-shaped world "carried through the starry infinity on the backs of four giant elephants, who were themselves perched on the shell of a giant turtle. His name – or Her name, according to another school of thought – was Great A'Tuin."

For the second time recently, I have read a fantasy novel where I was lost for the first few chapters. This time I have a bit of an excuse. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett is a sequel or continuation of The Colour of Magic, the first Discworld Book, which I have not read. Although Pratchett does bring the reader up to speed, I still found the set up, the style of writing, and the structure confusing.


The basic story is that a red star has appeared in the sky and is going to collide with the Discworld. There appears to be only one person who can save that world: Rincewind, the wizard. However, he is an incompetent wizard and he doesn't even know that imminent destruction is on its way. He is travelling with Twoflower the tourist and The Luggage. Later in the story they meet up with Cohen the Barbarian and Bethan, a young girl about to be sacrificed by the Druids.

This book was very clever and funny and entertaining, after I stopped being confused. I read it as an introduction to the Discworld books, and it filled that function well, although now I wish I had read The Colour of Magic first. Parts of this book reminded me of Douglas Adams' The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, except that this is fantasy, with wizards and really weird stuff like talking luggage and Cohen the Barbarian (a very old version of Conan).

There are numerous suggestions online for ways to approach the Discworld books. Since I am a novice in this area, I will just note that some people say read them in order of publication, other suggest starting with various groupings of books, such as the Night Watch series, the Death series, or the novels centered around the Witches. If you want a description of some of the story arcs within the Discworld books, see the article at Wikipedia.

My plan is to read Mort next, the first book in the Death series. I also have the book that follows that, Reaper Man. Then I will move on to Guards! Guards!, the first novel featuring Sam Vimes and the City Watch, a series that has been highly recommended.

I just recently discovered this article at NPR Books which is titled There's No Wrong Place To Start Reading Pratchett.

Also see the reviews at read_warbler for The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic.


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Publisher:   Signet, 1988 (orig. pub. 1986). 
Length:       255 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Book #1 in the Discworld series
Genre:        Fantasy
Source:      Borrowed this book from my son.


25 comments:

  1. That's the thing about fantasy series, isn't it, Tracy? It's always best to read the first book, as the author sets up the alternate world, etc.. I'm pleased you enjoyed this one, even if there were things you weren't clear on at first. I hope you'll enjoy the others.

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    1. I did enjoy this book, Margot, and it will be interesting to see how I like the others.

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  2. I remember liking this a lot of have only ever read a couple of Pratchett books, not entirely sure why actually - must try again! Thanks Tracy!

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    1. I am hoping I like the two "series" I am going to try, Sergio. This book was fun.

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  3. Tracy, it wasn't long ago I walked past a box full of Terry Pratchett's novels. Actually, I was in two minds whether to buy his books, especially since I didn't know where to begin. Now your review is encouraging me to sample at least one of his fantasy novels to start with.

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    1. Prashant, I was lucky to find two Terry Pratchett books, one that I really wanted, at the book sale last month. Not that many of his books show up at the book sale.

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  4. I am only acquainted with Pratchett through the Long Earth series co-written with Stephen Baxter. It's SF, not fantasy, but I really liked it.

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    1. Howard, If I get a chance I will check into those books. The premise sounds interesting.

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  5. I'd not thought to find a fantasy among your reviews, Tracy. Clearly you've dared to go where this man most likely never will--despite enjoying your review, as always.

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    1. Thanks, Mathew. I don't read much fantasy, but I do like fantasy or science fiction blended with mystery quite a bit, and some of the Discworld books are that sort of thing. That is part of what interested me about trying the series.

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  6. Somehow, I never got around to the Discworld books, so I'd be completely confused. In fact even your introductory sentences here confused me. I'm sure if I stuck to it long enough, I'd begin to begin the get the picture, but I don't seem to have a lot of sticktoittiviness these days. The cover is cool, though.

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    1. Richard, I knew very little about the Discworld books up until a few years ago, and even at that point the description of a world balanced on top of 4 elephants did not really appeal. Which is why I put off reading any of the books so long. But the Sam Vimes books were recommended by so many people I thought I must give them a try.

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  7. I love Terry Pratchett: my teenage son introduced me to him, and I started reading as a duty, thinking I should try to share my son's interests. But I was confounded by how good they are! I still have many to read, including this one. Never tried to read them in order - as you point out, everyone has such different views about that, you might as well do what you want.

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    1. Moira, I can't remember if my son suggested I try the Discworld books first or if someone else did, but he does have a few of the books, although the ones I am planning to read next are my own copies. I got a couple more at the book sale this year, and am happy with those. Not so easy to find decent copies via online buying. Also he has loaned me Good Omens which Pratchett wrote with Neil Gaiman.

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  8. Oh Tracy, these sound SO not for me. But I still read your review with interest because I've heard of this author and these books forever. I usually have trouble with fantasy and/or science fiction unless for whatever reason I'm in a mood. Though admittedly, I seem to have read a few SF books this year. So, go figure. I must be in a mood. :)

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    1. Yvette, I can usually take science fiction more easily than fantasy, but it all depends on the author. And I like it when there are elements of both. I decided to try Pratchett's Discworld books because I had heard interesting things about them. But don't know how many I will want to read.

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  9. I know NOTHING about Pratchett's Discoworld! This would be a major challenge for me to read these....but I may try!
    I agree, description of a world balanced on top of 4 elephants did not really appeal. But his books are loved by so many and are best sellers. What have I got to lose? :)

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    1. I agree, Nancy. They are so well liked by so many people, it seems that they are worth a try.

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  10. Tracy, I'd like to join you reading the DEATH series.
    Do I have to read The Color of Magic first...? What do you think?

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    1. I don't think you need to read The Color of Magic first, Nancy. The writing is such a different style (from anything else that I have read) that I don't know that it matters. The Color of Magic is really four linked short stories... which could be good. But I have heard a lot of people don't like that one and it could put you off the whole series.

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    2. Ok...then it is with DEATH we begin. I have NO idea what I'm getting myself into. It will be an adventure!

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  11. I've been meaning to give him a try for years and have Color of Magic but I'll refer to the link you provided to see what actually interests me and go from there. Thanks Tracy! --Keishon

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    1. I hope you pick something you enjoy, Keishon. Please do let me know what you think of Pratchett's writing.

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  12. I started 'MORT' ...and it is hysterical! This is going to be a fun series to read.

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    1. Good, Nancy, I am glad to hear it. I will be reading MORT in November and now I am really eager.

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