Friday, February 5, 2016

The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett)

The Color of Magic
(A Discworld novel)
Terry Pratchett
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: In a backwater universe concocted by a Creator with far more imagination than mechanical aptitude exists the Discworld, a magical land resting atop four colossal elephants standing upon the shell of the spacefaring turtle A'Tuin. As the great astrozoologists and philosophers of the city of Krull, perched on the very Rim, speculate on A'Tuin's size and nature and destination (and gender - quite an important detail for residents of the Discworld, if it's migrating to some distant cosmic mating ground as some believe), others have more pressing concerns... such as the fire consuming the great city of Ankh-Morpork. Two men in particular have a personal stake in that disaster - in no small part because they caused it.
Rincewind likes to think himself a wizard of sorts, but in truth he can't cast spells... or, rather, he can only cast one Spell, so great and potentially world-ending that it blocks all others from his mind. Expelled from the Unseen University, he makes his way through the Discworld on luck (often poor) and a certain gift for linguistics - a gift that comes in handy when he meets Twoflower. The little man has traveled all the way from the legendary isolated Agatean Empire to see the wonders of the Discworld: the heroic barbarians of the Hublands, the quaint local taverns of Ankh-Morpork, perhaps even a dragon if one can be found to exist. Rincewind cannot fathom why someone would want to do such an insane, potentially suicidal thing, but his gold is solid even if his head is soft. Besides, the wizard soon has greater incentive to protect Twoflower when the Patriarch of the city insists that Rincewind act as the man's protector for diplomatic reasons... with a personal invitation to a prolonged and painful death as penalty for failure.
Thus begins the adventure of Discworld's first tourist and his reluctant guide, an adventure that will take them from the streets of Ankh-Morpork to the very Rim of the world, one which will upset nations, anger gods, irritate dragons, and lead to a personal grudge with Death Itself.

REVIEW: Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel takes a little while to find its footing, but holds all of the absurdity, humor, imagination, and insight the series would become known for. The Discworld itself is a patently and admittedly impossible creation, with any and all inconsistencies swept under the vast and lumpy rug of extra dimensions, divine intervention, and/or the world's prevalent magical field (manifesting in the unique eighth color of its rainbows, the indescribable color octarine), yet somehow it all works, at least enough to carry the weight of the story. Twoflower is somewhat annoyingly obtuse at the start, oblivious to the dangers staring him in the face, somehow convinced that being a tourist makes him a mere immune observer, yet he does eventually come into his own - all without losing his inherent optimism and sense of wonder at the Discworld's countless surprises. Rincewind, on the other hand, never met a silver lining that didn't hide a stormcloud; he struggles to understand what Twoflower sees in this world that has gone out of its way to personally torment him. Twoflower's Luggage, a mobile box of "sapient pearwood" with many peculiar properties that even its owner fails to understand, becomes a character in its own right. Pratchett concocts some remarkable mind's eye candy in this book alongside laugh-out-loud humor and some true emotion and peril; it doesn't quite strike that perfect balance of some of his later work, but it's still here, especially towards the end. That occasional unevenness, plus a few stumbles at the start and loose threads and a (literal) cliffhanger ending, narrowly cost The Color of Magic an extra half-star. I still enjoyed it, and will have to keep an eye out for the next chronological Discworld tale.

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The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams) - My Review
Small Gods (Terry Pratchett) - My Review
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift) - My Review

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