Monday, 5 March 2012

Terry Pratchett's Discworld 02- The Light Fantastic

Two down, 37 to go. Also, I've got this completely irrational desire to replace all the traditional illustrated-cover editions of Discworld paperbacks I own with the newer, cooler-looking black-with-a-symbolic-picture covers. If you take away the hardbacks I have, that gives me about 30 to re-buy because I've only got The Colour of Magic in that edition so far. I may not finish that little idea...

The Light Fantastic

Terry Pratchett
1986

Other Terry Pratchett Reviews- The Colour of Magic - The Light Fantastic - Equal Rites - Mort - Sourcery - Wyrd Sisters - Pyramids - Guards! Guards! - Eric - Moving Pictures - Reaper Man - Witches Abroad - Small GodsLords and Ladies - Men At Arms - Soul Music - Interesting Times - Maskerade - Feet of Clay - Hogfather - Raising Steam - A Blink of the Screen - Sky1 Adaptations- Dodger - The Long Earth (w Stephen Baxter)

"DID YOU SAY HUMANS PLAY IT FOR FUN?"
"Some of them get to be very good at it, yes. I'm only an amateur, I'm afraid"
"BUT THEY ONLY LIVE EIGHTY OR NINETY YEARS!" 

The direct follow-up to The Colour of Magic not only concludes the characters of Rincewind and Twoflower's tale of impending Cthulian-esque Discworld doom, but also stands out as an impressive step-up for the author's writing ability (including structure, minor characters and pacing) and continues to establish an exiting future direction for the series. Pratchett manages to balance the mixture of action and adventure with his own mixture of fantasy comedy (clearly influenced by the luminaries of Monty Python and Douglas Adams), and brings in to sharp focus the neglected main plot of The Colour of Magic, changing the tone from one of episodic chaos to that of a meaningful, apocalyptic thriller.

Upon rereading this book, one aspect that clearly stood out as a massive improvement on this books predecessor was the author's ability to bring to life compelling and amusing secondary characters with a real shelf-life. The wizards who pursue Rincewind populate Unseen University, led by the villainous Archchancellor Trymon are given more personality and purpose, with the aforementioned antagonist standing out as a charismatic (if a little generic in plot purpose) power-corrupted madman with his finger on the metaphorical button. More brilliant is the introduction of Cohen the Barbarian, the greatest hero in the history of the Disc, an unstoppable killing machine who has survived every dangerous challenge that's ever been thrown at him to the extent that he's now a leather-clad, sword-wielding toothless old man. Cohen would go on to reappear twice more in future books, and represents the author's commendable feat of turning what could potentially be a one-note comedy gimmick into an incredible likable and endearing character. Compared to the unimaginative cliche of Hrun the Barbarian from CoM, it's a massive improvement.

Pratchett also displays a previously unseen ability to present a surrealist macabre; in one sequence Rincewind enters the world of Death (the one with the cloak and scythe) to rescue his poisoned and dying friend Two-Flower, and finds him playing cards with the four horsemen in a wonderful tone that mixes unsettling danger and very funny dialogue marvelously. It's scenarios like this, where Pratchett gives you a glimpse of a new world within a world, full of ingenious ideas and skillful scene description that encourage the future of the Discworld series, so while The Light Fantastic rounds off this particular odyssey, further adventures of Rincewind and many, many others were clearly just waiting to be penned. Ultimately, while this book makes a little more sense to begin with if you've read CoM, it's certainly not essential and not doing so may in fact be beneficial to the first time Discworld reader whom considers him or herself to be a more demanding literary critic.