Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Just a quick housekeeping note before I get into the meat of things. I have removed all the title tags, because I was realizing (fifteen posts in) that if I kept that up, I'd have a really useless, unmanageable list of tags. Author's name, to me, is enough to point to a specific entry or entries, at least for now.

So. I finished The Colour of Magic today. I like these days off I have; I don't spend all of it doing things I should be doing, I suppose, but reading is a hugely important thing for me, and I wanted to finish that book. So I did. Incidentally, Pratchett is from England, and I am from Canada, so I am spelling "colour" that way. The edition I have my hands on spells it "color" because it's American. I might just mix the two up, but I prefer the "u" because that just looks right to me.

I am, of course, necessarily comparing this book to The Wee Free Men. I can't help myself. But though I didn't find The Colour of Magic as elegant, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It's solid and entertaining between the occasional flashes of brilliance. I agree with a comment Nymeth made, that Colour is much more straight parody. A taste:

"I meant, well, I just meant that -- I dunno, I just can't think of the right words. I just think the world ought to be more sort of organized."

"That's just fantasy," said Twoflower.

"I know. That's the trouble," Rincewind sighed again. It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plan fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going around to athiests' houses and smashing their windows.

That just about sums it up.

This book reminded me strongly of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in irreverent tone and sense of humour. Like Adams, Pratchett lampoons everything and anything, including his own story. He clearly had an incredible amount of fun writing this tale and inventing the Discworld in general. Or letting it invent itself. The fact that the reader has just as much fun is a byproduct.

It is perhaps telling that one of my favourite characters in this book was the Luggage, and anytime it appeared I grinned. I always looked forward to its next appearance. As in The Wee Free Men, Pratchett never lets his inhuman characters get too human, but we like them anyways. Twoflower grew on me, but it did take a while. I felt much like Rincewind at first; a little annoyed, a little exasperated, and wondering how long it was going to take for Twoflower to get himself killed. But he grew on me, like he grew on Rincewind. Rincewind himself is a fantastic not-wizard caricature, a caricature capable of carrying his own story arc, which one doesn't see very often. It's actually probably not fair to call him a caricature, because he really does grow beyond that.

Interestingly, there are a few loose ends; what happens to the picture box? I don't know if this gets resolved, ever. One of the things I like is that Pratchett does tend to carry on stories of incidental characters rather further than most authors (for example, the fortune teller in Ankh-Morpork, who exists in the book for less than a paragraph; or the lengthman Terton, whose house is destroyed by the Luggage -- we know what happens to them). So I wonder if the picture box was an oversight. It really is very minor, although the picture box itself does play a rather important role in a number of ways.

And then we have the Discworld, which we spend a fair bit of time discovering in this book. This is a good thing, because I intend to spend a lot more time there. I've already ordered in The Light Fantastic and I'm looking forward to it.


Jill said...

I just finished rereading this one myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed my revisit. My copy, incidentally, spells it "Colour" because I bought it in Europe years ago! When I was little I spent so much time reading British authors that my teacher kept having to correct my spelling to the American style. :-)

Unknown said...

It's funny, the "ou"s in Canadian and UK spellings make about as much sense as "gh" being pronounced "ff" but I find myself very attached to the "ou." I use Firefox as my browser and it keeps highlighting all my Canadian spellings, but I've managed to figure out how to change all my Microsoft settings to default to UK English. But then Word does things like highlight "aluminum," when no Canadian I know spells it "aluminium." I suppose it's our punishment for refusing to pick sides!

Ana S. said...

I'm with you on the Hitchhiker's comparison. He and Douglas Adams really do have a similar sense of humour. And a similar way of looking at the world, I think. No wonder I love them both :P

The Light Fantastic is a direct sequel (the only one in the series), so some of the loose ends to get tied up! I can't remember about that one in particular.

Unknown said...

I think Adams and Pratchett are probably two of the very, very few authors who were/are able to pull off the stuff they do, and still have the books be readable by many different people with different senses of humour, different backgrounds, different ages, and so on.

I didn't realize that The Light Fantastic was a direct sequel. Good to know! I was kind of hoping we'd find out what Rincewind gets himself into. I don't like him as much as Tiffany Aching or Granny Weatherwax, but I can't help loving him a little bit.