Pratchett: The First Time

Posted on December 21, 2011


I’ve always been very anti-Pratchett, well, specifically Discworld. I read Diggers as a youngster and Only You Can Save Mankind and never particularly liked or enjoyed them. Put the pitchworks away please, I didn’t! So whilst all my fellow classmates were reading Discworld, I was reading other things.

Fast forward fifteen years and I got a Kindle. Innocently enough, Amazon suggests a Discworld novel for me. Na, I think, clicking reject. Once bitten, twice shy. Then a friend also expresses surprise I’ve never read one. And then I saw one on the shelves of Tesco. I finally cracked and downloaded The Colour of Magic. Now to see what all the fuss is about.

The Colour of Magic tells the story of Rincewind, the useless wizard and Twoflower, a naive tourist to the city of Ankh-Morpork and their journey across the Discworld, a civilisation travelling through space on the back of three tortoises atop a giant elephant.

The main quartet of characters is fantastic. From Rincewind’s continued disbelief at events spiralling out of his control to the sublime gag about in-sewer-ants introduced by Twoflower through to the best character of the novel – the Luggage. Ironic I suppose that the best character in the book is one that doesn’t speak. Pratchett’s prose is such that an inanimate object hilariously is able to portray such hate and malevolence towards other characters. Death completes the quartet, and provides much of the dry wit in his various encounters and chasing down of Rincewind.

The prose is full of wit, and whilst not necessarily laugh out loud moments, there are certainly gags all the way through the will produce a smirk whilst you’re reading. The descriptions are vivid, especially in the sequence where Rincewind and Twoflower approach the edge of the disc. I was very pleased to see that in the graphic novel version many of the sequences were exactly how I had pictured them to be.

I can see how you have to be of a certain age to fully appreciate the satirical nature of Discworld, and Pratchett novels in general, certainly this is something I should have been reading in my late teens – on further investigation I will be interested to see what the ‘young adult’ books such as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents are like when I get to them.

I haven’t had a chance to watch the Sky adaptation with David Jason yet, but I understand it to be, mostly, a good adaptation of the novel onto the small screen. I didn’t picture Rincewind as looking like Del Boy though.

Whilst effectively this book is four short stories connected together, it is a solid and witty introduction to the Discworld. Whilst obviously parodies of some stale areas of fiction – fantasy books, I’m looking at you here – it is done in such an entertaining and fresh way that it is easy to see how this became a modern classic.

Next: The Light Fantastic.

Final Rating of 5 strokes out of 5!