I will be re-reading Pratchett’s Discworld series from start to stop in between new releases for a while. Consider yourselves warned.
The Color of Magic (Discworld #1)
I shouldn’t be surprised that this isn’t my favorite Discworld book thus far. It’s easy to see the seeds of everything that makes a Pratchett book truly great in this book, and I mean great as in the greats of the ancient world. You have a footnote, a lead character who is brave in spite of themselves, imps that made me smile everything they appeared, and a box made of sapient wood that follows its owner regardless of where they go. Here’s the thing, even though this isn’t my favorite Pratchett book, it’s still flipping incredible. I love the way he portrays heroes as dumb oafs who walk around flipping open altars because hero logic dictates that there’s gold beneath every altar. The lead character, Rincewind, is delightfully bumbly and consistently brave in spite of his bone deep cowardice. The story’s pace rarely flagged and when it did, it didn’t for long. Not my favorite, sure, but still good.
Terry Pratchett’s profoundly irreverent, bestselling novels have garnered him a revered position in the halls of parody next to the likes of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.
The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.
With regards to the folklore contained in this story, I’m completely in love with the idea that Discworld is a giant sea turtle, slowly swimming through the universe, and that on his back Discworld is held up by four enormous elephants. As a version of the Iroquois creation myth, it added a bizarre sense of familiarity to a tale of magic and gods, though on some strange level this seems more realistically modern to me. Sure the Iroquois would have set the giant turtle in the ocean because that was the size of their world. They didn’t know at the time that they were sitting on a lump of rock that’s hurtling through space at a little under 70,000 mph (only accounting for orbital movement, if you throw in the movement of the solar system, it’s 446,400 mph [numbers from here]). Pratchett’s expansion of the myth to include the fact that we know we’re hurtling through space brings the myth into the age of space shuttles, which is kind of awesome. He includes the theory of the multiverse (a personal favorite) making it actually possible that in some version of the universe there could be a flat world suspended above four elephants balanced upon a giant sea turtle IN REAL LIFE. (I really didn’t start that paragraph expecting to end in a line about the multiverse, I promise.)
Though the story didn’t suck me in on page one, it still did a marvelous job of keeping my eyes glued to the page. Sure, it was a little easier to put down than usual, but that’s not really saying much since that only meant that I was able to put it down if there was something pressing I needed to do. It’s a little astonishing to me that this was Pratchett’s first book. You can totally see how the magnificence that is the rest of the Discworld series is seeded in this book and he does it in a way that appears to be completely effortless. Pratchett’s imagination must truly be a place of wonder and I’m grateful that he let us in to share it with him.
4 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 4.5 Buffys
Character Investibility: 4 Doctors
Pace/Urgency/Tension: 3.5 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 5 Snyders
Language: 5 Feegles
Mystery: 4 Sherlocks