Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

I used to have a problem with books. It wouldn't matter what the book was, if I'd started it, I pretty much had to finish it in one sitting. When I ran up against books over 400 pages (Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy for example, or Harry Potter) I was in trouble, because I'd have to sleep at some point in there. At least a couple of hours.

I don't tend to do that as much anymore, because first of all it leaves me with a book hangover, and second of all I just can't practically fit that into my life. I think the most recent book I read in one gulp was... Pride and Prejudice, perhaps? I mean, The Lark and the Wren might count except I didn't really actually read the whole thing, I just half-read the whole thing. And I suppose that Oaxaca Journal was read in one day, although I could put that one down to do things like eat and swim. I would say The Wee Free Men was a bit of a gulper, though. Okay. Maybe I am not as over this reading problem of mine as I thought.

Um. The point is, I rarely read until 1am to finish a book anymore. That, I think, is true. I need my sleep and I'm usually quite good at getting it, even if I am in the middle of a book I don't want to put down.

Not so as I was reading The Light Fantastic, however. Now, part of this was that I didn't have anything urgent to do the following morning, and part of it was that I was feeling wretchedly ill and was perfectly happy to have Rincewind, Twoflower and Cohen the Barbarian to keep me company. I do remember thinking at one point that I could stop, if I wanted to... I just didn't want to.

Basically, we pick up immediately where The Colour of Magic left off, with Rincewind and Twoflower and the Luggage falling away from the Disc. And then they're back, and we're on to a new adventure. This adventure, by the way, has nothing to do with the last adventure, and the two books are held together by the common characters and the circumstances they were in. Certain things that were integral to this plot started to get some time in the last book (I am thinking of the Spell here, particularly) but I don't see any reason that this book couldn't be read stand-alone. It just a much better experience having read The Colour of Magic first.

With sequels, and particularly with this sequel, I'm always nervous that it's not going to live up to my expectations. And given what I'd heard about this book, my expectations were only middling -- I expected it to be a good romp, but perhaps not quite as good as The Colour of Magic even. But something interesting happened with this book for me. I don't know whether it was that I was familiar with the characters, and so more invested, or whether I was just excessively happy to be back on the Discworld, but I really liked this book. I liked it better than The Colour of Magic. It felt like it had more heart, more soul. I was definitely more emotionally engaged. I liked everyone new I met (particularly Cohen, and the trolls). I am extremely fond of the Luggage and I was glad it had its starring moments. I even did get my missing picture box back, if only perfunctorily.

So I think what really worked for me in this book was the character development and interplay, even more than the plot did. Even more than the further exposition of Discworld-variety conventions, politics, geography, culture, etc. And again, the actual writing is inventive and apt. When describing a gnome:
The person they were arguing about sat on his mushroom and watched them with interest. He looked like someone who smelled like someone who lived in a mushroom, and that bothered Twoflower.
I also really liked when sound of the Luggage running over snow was described as someone eating celery very fast. I can't find the exact quote right now, but that sound stuck in my head. It makes me wonder how Pratchett can possibly come up with a description of a sound so perfect that I can hear it. He does that sort of thing regularly, and I am in awe.

There were a few small things that I didn't think were quite as well done. The star-people were creepy, but predictable; Trymon was also creepy, and also predictable, and not particularly subtle. He was terribly banal for a villain, which was the point, but... you know, I think what it was, was that he got a typical fantasy fate, and that particular storyline ended in an entirely too conventional way for me. I guess I was expecting something more irreverent, or ridiculous. This is a very, very minor quibble.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a fitting conclusion to the beginning of the Discworld books. It's a pleasure to be treated to Pratchett's creativity and imagination for the full length of a novel, and at some points I even read slowly, savouring the inventiveness of his use of language and description. It's a rare thing for me to want to read all the descriptive passages in a book, to be honest. But with Pratchett, I don't want to miss a word.

Equal Rites is next! I ordered it ILLO through my library, and they have up and decided to purchase it for me! Well, for the library. But I get to read it first! I win.


Ana S. said...

I don't want to miss a word either! And the celery sound is a perfect example of the reason why.

Equal Rites! You'll meet Esk! And Granny Weatherwax, who you met briefly in The Wee Free Men, is a huge part of the book. She's one of my all-time favourite characters. Enjoy :D

Unknown said...

And now I am very curious. Who is Esk? I do remember Granny Weatherwax... it seems to me I met her in one of the two Pratchett books I read before I managed The Wee Free Men. I liked her an awful lot. I'm curious to see what she's like at the beginning, too.

Ana S. said...

Esk is the protagonist of Equal Rites. She's really great - a smart young girl who sort of anticipates Tiffany. Sadly she disappeared from the series after that, but Terry Pratchett revealed plans to bring her back for I Shall Wear Midnight, the forth and final Tiffany Aching book...fingers crossed that it happens.

Unknown said...

Ooh. I wonder if she and Tiffany will get along? I guess I'll be able to form my own opinions after I read Equal Rites. It should be coming sometime this week, but it has to go through cataloguing first so it might be a while.

Unknown said...

I did actually buy The Wee Free Men, by the way. I couldn't resist it. It's sitting proudly on my bookshelf now. I just know it's one of those books I'll be picking up again when I need a good read. :)

Jill said...

Uh-oh, you're getting ahead of me on my Discworld re-read. I'd better get moving! I'm glad you enjoyed this one. :-)

Unknown said...

I don't think you have to worry too much! The next book still hasn't made it through cataloguing...

Jill said...

That's excellent that they're purchasing the book, though! I just finished reading this one and completely agree with you - it is even better than the first, and definitely more emotionally engaging. I hope #3 comes in soon for you.

Unknown said...

Me too!! It's still listed as "on order"... Ah well. Once that one's done I think I've got a whole string of books available before I get to the next one we don't have.