Published on November 13th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Discworld: The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
So what is this? The world’s latest newcomer to Terry Pratchett’s world-famous Discworld series?
I suppose it is rather mind boggling that someone who loves to read as much as I would neglect one of my favourite genres’ key series. It’s explainable, however, I just actively avoided it.
After seeing the beautiful hand-drawn covers in my Junior School’s library I was initially intrigued, there were many books there and I picked one up at random, of which I cannot recall and read the first chapter. I wasn’t impressed.
Skip forward a few years and a number of friends would tell me how much I would like it, if only I would just finish one of them, I thought perhaps I might like it now and gave another one a read. A few chapters in, I wasn’t impressed.
There was a TV adaptation called Hogfather released a few years back, I thought I would have a watch of that as it was much easier than sitting through one of his books. Guess what I made of that?
A whole 15 years after I first saw a Terry Pratchett book, and I finally decide that once and for all, I will read one of his poxy books, if only for posterity.
The first ever Discworld novel, of which there are currently 40, is The Colour of Magic, a high-fantasy comedy set on the Discworld, a flat disc suspended in space by 4 elephants on top of a giant turtle called A’tuin, of which a point is made frequently that its sex is unknown.
The novel follows an unlikely wizard who was kicked out of the Unseen University, named Rincewind, that becomes embroiled in an escort quest with a strange and naive tourist called Twoflower from the distant Counterweight continent, a place of riches and order, with him is an unusual chest made from rare Sapient pearwood and scuttles along on lots of tiny legs. Twoflower has arrived in order to experience the excitement of Ankh-Morpork, with its heroes, thieves and barbarians, all of which are not present in his home continent, and Rincewind acts as his enforced tour-guide.
After various happenings, Rincewind and Twoflower are off on various adventures in Discworld and the like.
I’ve heard before now, that one should try getting into the Discworld series with the first book, Pratchett’s ideas and concepts of Discworld were not fully cultivated to begin with leaving the book a little dry, I heard this also about Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and found that if you enjoy a thing, it doesn’t matter where you start, likewise I applied it to this.
What do I think of The Colour of Magic? Ultimately, I suppose that my thoughts are not far removed from the initial. When I read Pratchett, I thought it was awful, even upon reading this one, I found that I was not invested at all while reading the first chapter. Then, miraculously, the book picked up, things started happening, themes and plotlines were being subversed along a backdrop of witty banter, insults and majestic English cynicism.
It takes a while for the weird and wonderful of humours such as Monty Python and Hitchhiker’s to take off the ground, whereas with these two the story is set in the normal and turns into the sublime, Pratchett’s work starts from the ground up delved into fantasy, and until the plot starts and begins to thicken, the stories initially seemed rather flat and stupid rather than the cheeky and silly for which he is known.
Needless to say the rich and vibrant world of the disc is immersive as much as it is amusing, the tale weaves between people in order to craft a humourous and visual kind of fantasy that feels at once epic and humble. Despite a tendency to overreach in fast-paced action segments the pacing is fluid and adventures don’t feel too worn down, the knowledge that this was published in 1983 quickly dispels notions of unoriginality and the influence in modern British fantasy is evident.
The main characters took a little while to grow on me, but the antagonists (of which there are many) appealed at once, offering a rare insight into workings of minor characters and the clockwork behind some of the Discworld’s political and, how may I say it… celestial machinations. It isn’t the power of Pratchett’s the language that gives us Discworld, it is the dialogue and wealth of characters that make it, winning even the critic in me over in time.
Of complaints with the book, the beginning as mentioned, lagged, giving a false start to an otherwise solid book, the plot wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was always more about the ride. A little more attention given on the overview of Discworld, or a resolution to the political story arc at the beginning would have made for a more compelling read, but there is a direct sequel to this called The Light Fantastic, which may address some of these particulars.
There are many different ways to review a book, or judge its worth, for me, this means thinking about how invested I am in a book, how much I am enjoying it and whether I counting down the pages or not.
In The Colour of Magic I found an amusing sidenote to my bookcase, it wasn’t enough to get me reaching for the next in the series, nor would I singularly recommend it to someone, but it makes some good punctuation in my outlook on fantasy. Namely, a question mark.