Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review-Ramble Hybrid: 'The Colour of Magic' by Terry Pratchett

Bex over at An Armchair by the Sea ran a lovely series of posts in memory of Terry Pratchett (starting HERE) and roused lots of readers to read anything written by the prolific author in the sad week after his death.  You can find all of the tweets and miscellaneous Pratchett chatter that incorporated the hashtag #pratchettreadathon here.  

I didn't sign up for the read-a-thon because I genuinely didn't expect that I'd get time to start a book during the week, never mind finish one.  But in a rather annoying turn of events, including a broken boiler (prompting a couple of nights hiding under a duvet with a hot water bottle and my Kindle that fortunately has a glow feature) and a meeting that finished early and a flight that was delayed (leaving me with SIX HOURS at a very small airport indeed), I managed to both start and finish The Colour of Magic, the first in the ginormous Discworld series.

As Bex's post illustrated, there are many ways to approach the Discworld series.  There are so many differing views on the "right" way to read it that I've never really tried any of them.  Instead, since my teenage years, I've adopted an approach of just randomly picking up any Practchett book I could get my hands on when I was in the mood for something light, entertaining and easy to settle into.  There's something about the Discworld books that is so comforting.  Something about Practhett's writing oozes warmth, even when it's dripping in sarcasm.  A friendly brand of satire.

When it became apparent that I would in fact be able to visit Ankh-Morpork this week, I didn't quite know what to choose.  I've read pretty haphazardly from the Discworld series and, I'll admit, there are a couple of books that I'm not sure if I've read or not.  I know that I love the Watch books (and obviously adore Night Watch) and I know that I love the Witches books.  I've read a lot of the later books (Going Postal is one of my favourites) but my knowledge of the series overall is extremely patchy.  I could have gone back and picked up something that I already know that I love but I've been meaning to really get into the series "properly" for ages and it seemed a shame not to do that now.  So I obeyed my order-driven instincts and went right back to the beginning.  Book 1 of 40.

I was wary of my choice.  I've heard mixed things about the first in the series and "guides" to the series don't recommend publication order as a way to approach the back catalogue.  I figured that I've read enough of the books though that I'd know enough about the characters, Pratchett's style and where he took his unruly civilisation of miscreants and wizards that it was time for me to give it a try.  And I was pleasantly surprised!

The Colour of Magic might be a bit random, with Rincewind the sort of wizard and Twoflowers the tourist bouncing from one surreal situation to another, but it still contains everything that makes the series so overwhelmingly popular.  Sure, the jokes aren't the most sophisticated but do they have to be?  Don't we all love a good pun and a bit of silliness from time to time?  Does everything have to be shrouded in layers of complexity that we have to really work through just to get the joke?  I'm in the 'no' camp, personally.  Part of why I love Pratchett is that his the humour of his writing is so accessible.  There's dry humour for people with a more wry sense of humour.  There's slapstick for people that prefer their jokes falling over things.  There's everything.  The Colour of Magic might not have the strongest plot but it's just damn good fun.  Dragons, magic, demons, gods, Death, gold-hungry heroes, candied jellyfish, Luggage, assassins, thieves, the Edge, water trolls.  All in 285 pages.

I might not know the series as well as I'd like and I may not be able to give you well-informed advice about where to start the Discworld series it you're a newbie but I do know that if you're looking for adventure and something to completely take you away from what can (let's face it) be quite a gloomy world, The Colour of Magic is a great book with some lovely writing.
"It was octarine, the colour of magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself.  But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple"
Sir Terry Pratchett was a truly wonderful author and I was very sad to hear of his death.  I can't say anything more profound or more heartfelt than his many fans have already said.  I only hope that people will continue to enjoy his books for years to come and celebrate his life that way.  It won't be long before I pick up The Light Fantastic and carry on doing just that.

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