My Pratchett Project

First, a quick heads-up: I’ll be travelling this week, so the posts may get even more irregular. So I’m going to use this trip as an excuse to deal with some old material I’ve been meaning to finish. For one thing, I’ve been sitting on the notes I began when I decided I was going to read Pratchett.

You can’t talk about humor in fantastic fiction without Terry Pratchett. And in my usual tradition of biting off more than I can chew, I decided to read the Discworld books. I knew the early books aren’t the ones that people rave about, but I wanted to see how his writing evolves. So with the help of the L-Space Reading Order guides, I started with the Rincewind books. And wished I hadn’t.

In The Colour of Magic we meet the Turtle, Great A’tuin (yay!) bearing the Discworld on his back; Rincewind, an incompetent wizard who is further impaired by having a tremendous spell lodged in his mind; Twoflower, a permanent tourist; and his sinister Luggage, which travels about on a zillion little legs. I liked the Luggage. I liked the idea of an eight color, octarine. I liked when they came to the edge of the Turtle and saw the rimbow.

But I can’t stand Rincewind. The main joke that he reacts to danger by running away seems too sensible to be funny for me. Every time he gets out of a tight spot disappointed me, but the ending got my hopes up.

The Light Fantastic begins when Rincewind and Twoflowers escape the cliffhanger at the end of the first book and keep running. They meet Cohen the Barbarian, who seems exactly like you might expect Conan to be like as a cranky old coot. He’s great. I also liked how Death gets annoyed with how Rincewind keeps escaping him. Meanwhile Great A’tuin seems irrestibily drawn toward a red star, and the wizards are going to need the eighth spell trapped in Rincewind’s mind to save the Discworld. Oddly enough, Rincewind manages to wiggle out of this little dilemma, too.

I whipped through Sourcery, and for me the most interesting thing was noticing how the layers of references to earlier books were starting to pile up. When I was done, I couldn’t remember a damn thing except thing Rincewind was trapped in the Dungeon Dimensions at the end. Bwa-ha-ha.

For some reason, I liked how Eric opened with Death’s bees. (Can’t imagine why that would be.) Then Rincewind is summoned from the Dungeon Dimensions by Eric, a spotty kid who wants to conjure a demon. Due to demon politics, Rincewind is granted the power to grant the boy’s three wishes: to rule the world, meet the most beautiful woman, and live forever.  The way the three wishes are granted are properly nasty, but they keep escaping. I wished the Luggage would eat them.

I fond these early books to be fast reads, a bit of light entertainment to occupy you for a couple hours. There were bits and pieces of ideas and imagery that I liked, but the characters seemed inconsistent. Even Rincewind. And I really needed to get away from him. Fortunately, there’s lots and lots of Discworld where he isn’t even a rumor.


2 thoughts on “My Pratchett Project

  1. I have much more affection for Rincewind. Maybe repeatedly almost washing-out of a wizard’s college left me more sympathetic to him; maybe I retain a childish affection for the actor Bob Denver, with whom I immediately associated him….

    Remember that these books started as straight-on fantasy parodies, and Rincewind is there to be the “only sane man in the room”—the man who wonders why the hell you’d go anywhere that gives any sign of being Exceeding Dangerous, who doesn’t understand why The Quest matters, the man questioning the practicality of that chain-mail bikini….

    Cohen the Barbarian ends up serving much the same role, except his absolute unflappability-verging-on-boredom might have been easier to limn properly than Rincewind’s own variety of over-reaction.

  2. Envisioning Rincewind as Gilligan might help, I can see that.

    What bugs me about him is that he knows the Quest is Exceeding Dangerous, and he goes anyway. And though he’s supposedly a coward, when the plot requires him to scrape together a bit of courage, he squeaks by. And then he reverts to form.

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