Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Rating: 3 Stars

Swimming gently through space is the great turtle A’Tuin . On his back stand four gigantic elephants on whose back is balanced a circular disc of a planet. Is this making sense yet? If it doesn’t, congratulations, you’ve gained entry to Discworld, where the reigning order is Chaos, and the only reliable guide is the road map to enchantment. To give you a sample of Pratchett, his theory of the Multiverse might suffice:

An alternative favored by those of a religious persuasion, was that A’Tuin was crawling from the Birthplace to the Time of Mating, as were all the stars in the sky which were, obviously also carried by giant turtles. When they arrived, they would briefly and passionately mate, for the first and only time, and from that fiery union new turtles would be born to carry a new pattern of worlds. This was known as the Big Bang hypothesis.

Though I wouldn’t rank this book with Pratchett’s  best, you couldn’t guess that it was the first of many books in the Discworld series, the reason being that there is nothing even remotely tentative about Pratchett’s writing. He dives in with aplomb, and the bemused reader is swept along in the contrails of his imagination.
‘The Color of Magic’ gives us a broad overview of the geography and nature of Discworld. The magic in this fantasy series is of a most slippery sort, not something to be tamed, but a wild and elemental force that rules all of Discworld, but is more perceptible in some areas than others. It is the kind of world where anything can happen and usually does. 

This book is loosely divided into four parts. In the first, 'The Color of Magic', we meet Twoflower and his reluctant wizard guide, Rincewind. Rincewind is a bright underachiever with a certain atavistic instinct for survival. He is our hero, for lack of a better word. In ‘The Sending of Eight’ the many gods of Discworld have some sporting fun with the hapless duo. Rincewind is unfortunate in many respects, except that he has found favor with the most powerful goddess of all, known only as the Lady, but whose last name might be Luck. In 'The Lure of the Wyrm', Rincewind and Twoflower team up with Hrun the Barbarian. In the last, 'Close to the Edge', the two fall into the clutches of the astronomers of Krull, who have come up with a device to determine the sex of A’Tuin (Well, wouldn’t you want to know?)

Though Discworld may teem with the stuff of fantasy legends – heroes, magic, dragons, beautiful women; if you’re looking for the obvious, you’ll never find it in a  Pratchett book. He doesn’t have the most accessible of styles, and is by no means easy reading. In fact, his books should come with a cautionary label, something along the lines of, Warning: An acquired taste that may flare into a full-blown addiction.

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