The Colour of Magic
by Terry Pratchett
I was probably around 20 when I stopped reading Fantasy novels. The allure just burned out for me. It was kind of hard to beat the masters like Tolkien. I ended up in fantasy’s ridiculous underbelly reading things like Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. That would turn even the most die-hard fantasy addict away. The books were full of puns. Maybe it’s me, but I find puns to be the basest form of humor I am of the firm belief that if Carrot top could read and write his comedy would be pun based. So when, as of late, I have been picking up a fantasy novel or two you can see my trepidation about reading a book by a comedic fantasy author.
As all of my literary choices as of late have come from the thrift store, the .50 price tag gave me the final, needed, go ahead to buy Mr. Pratchett’s opening Salvo.
This is the first of a seemingly unending series of Discworld novels. From what I can gather from reading the first few chapters the world is a flat disc that rides on the back of four elephants that rides on the back of a giant turtle that flies through space. I had to re-read the first chapter a few times as I kept getting distracted (never a good sign) and the material was kinda complicated and I wanted to make sure that I “got” the basics of this rather complicated world. Everything runs on a completely different principle then what you are used to. There is even an extra color in the rainbow.
Mr. Prachett has a knack for throwing a lot of characters at you fast. In the beginning of this book it is really hard to keep up with who is who. There are so many superfluous characters that you are halfway through the book before you really know who you are dealing with. Once everyone is established, the author does a really good job of fleshing them out.
The story revolves around Rincewind the wizard who can’t use magic due to his having memorized one of the great power spells in a book while in wizard school. No-one knows what the spell is and it is constantly trying to release itself throughout the book. He is tasked with watching over an insurance salesman (yeah…I was not impressed with that either) named Twoflower. Twoflower is pretty naive about the world around him and just wants a few new experiences. He is followed by a magic treasure chest that is tied to him and is his protector. The chest is interesting and does provide some genuine comic relief. There is also a subplot about the Gods of Discworld trying to destroy the lot of them.
What really took me some getting used to was that there really wasn’t any real plot to speak of. The book is broken up into smaller, separate, stories that didn’t really have anything to tie them together. Understandably, the first story introduced the characters and gave a basic layout for the world. The second story entitled “The Sending of Eight” is the best part of the entire book. It is Lovecraftian in its origins and is fleshed out really well. The third story was about an upside down mountain, wizards and dragons. While this story had some great imagery, it was overall, disposable. The final story, “Close to the Edge” got way too ridiculous but did provide a satisfying enough ending for the book.
Looking back on the book I am left rather confused. I can remember sitting in the bathtub having to read a page over and over because I was getting distracted. At the same time, I can recall some of the passages as clear as day, they were so well written. Some of the imagery that Pratchett delivers is amazing and sticks with me as I write this. I am still confused because even though I have a lot to say about this (obviously) I still can’t say if I really liked the book. It certainly wasn’t the base drivel that Piers Anthony throws up. It did keep me reading until the end. At the same time, I don’t feel a need to purchase any other of the books in the series.
O.k. I lied.
I bought another discworld book, The Fifth Elephant. But it was just because the bookstore was closing in nine minutes and it was the first thing I could grab. To be fair…I did find myself in the Terry Pratchett section rather quickly. Oh lord. I hope the cycle isn’t starting again.