Terry Pratchett is undeniably one of the literary greats. His name holds a hell of a lot of weight with a massive amount of the population and his most popular Discworld series alone contains an impressive 40 books. That’s more than most authors will ever write in their lifetime, and whilst I knew and was suitable impressed by all of this, I’d still never read anything by the man himself. Don’t get me wrong, I’d had every intention of doing so, and the first of the books in his Discworld series has been sat on my shelf for years! But it’s only this week that I’ve finally sat down and gotten around to delving into his iconic fantasy world.
I’m sure most of you already know this, but for those who don’t, the Discworld exists in a parallel time and place which in some ways is similar to ours, but in many others is extremely different. For example, the Discworld is a flat planet which is balanced on the back of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of the giant turtle, Great A’Tuin. That one bit of information goes some way to giving you a sense of just how crazy and imaginative this world really is.
In The Colour of Magic, the first in the Discworld series, we primarily follow the wizard Rincewind as he is hired as a guide to the wealthy traveller Twoflower. Rincewind may be a wizard, but a disastrous event meant that he never got to officially finish his training at the Unseen University. As he tries to keep up with Twoflower and his ever increasing plans to see the most thrilling and exhilarating parts that their world has to offer, he is forced along on a journey which seems far beyond his capabilities.The question is, with death hot on their trail and robbers and mercenaries aplenty, can the pair survive?
One of the things which people always seem to say when they mention Terry Pratchett’s books, and the thing which I think makes his work have their own unique selling point, is his high use of comedy. I knew going into this read that the books are best described as comedic fantasy, but it’s a different thing altogether to experience it for yourself. What I liked the most about this was the sheer versatility of the humour throughout the book, with a mixture of the overtly funny and stupid combined with the much more ironic and subtler humour within the subtext. For example, Pratchett quite often shows that he enjoys the use of puns and the manipulation of words. At one time a character is trying to explain the principles of ‘inn-sewer-ants’, with this playful dialogue really focusing upon what we know as ‘insurance’. Likewise, another time we read the words ‘reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits’, which for any clever people out there is supposed to mean economics.
Whilst I did truly enjoy these little complexities of the language, I do think the humour overall is much more of a tongue in cheek sort which borders quite often between being ironic and being slightly stupid. I did find some of the more surface level jokes a bit stilted at times in their dialogue and I did wonder to myself whether I would have been more critical of these if it had been a different and lesser known author.
Jokes aside, for me personally it is the world building itself which really makes these books so accomplished. The sheer cocktail of insane imagination and craziness combined is just phenomenal from a fantastical point of view and it astounded me to think of how Pratchett not only envisioned all of this, but also executed it and continually built upon what had already come before. We get quite a good understanding of the general sense of the world and its structure and inhabitants but its clearly obvious that there is always so much more and that you’re never really going to be able to wrap your head around the dynamics of the universe in all of its complexities. That’s where the fun of it lies; to give up any hopes of containment and to let yourself be blown along on a ride which is complete madness.
Considering that this is such a short and very snappy book, I was pleasantly surprised by the characterisation which we do get in this book. We have our two main characters of Rincewind and Twoflower of course, but there are also plenty of other characters of varying importance that we begin to understand and feel as though we could pin their personalities down quite easily. I also really liked how the narrative flowed quite freely between characters, not just staying stagnant surrounding the main two.
If you are the kind of person who finds long and lengthy books quite hard to infiltrate and you need something very plot driven to hold your interest, then I would most certainly recommend this series based on this first book. It’s almost a whirlwind of events, and there is always something happening or being set into motion as the pair go from one crazy or catastrophic event to the next. This might annoy some people who need a slower pace with finely tuned character development, but I think it worlds perfectly for the kind of book that the author was clearly trying to create. It makes me all the more eager to pick up the next installment in the series to see how our characters will continue to fair and what other surprises might lie in store for the reader!
‘A fizzing cocktail of imagination, humour and sheer craziness which is completely bonkers to read.’