Monday, May 18, 2015

Memory Lane: "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett a few weeks ago, I decided that it might be time to revisit some of those early Discworld novels that I haven't read in years. I was tempted to begin my journey with "Sourcery," which was my first Pratchett novel, but after much debate, I decided to start at the beginning with "The Colour of Magic" ($9.99, Harper Collins).

This first volume does a delightful job of introducing the reader to the zany and colorful world of the Disc through the eyes of the inept failed wizard Rincewind and the world's first tourist, Twoflower.

Rincewind, who is much more comfortable running away from trouble than toward it, at first tries to avoid the flamboyant tourist from a strange land and his, umm, interesting luggage. That becomes impossible when Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the, ahem, "grand" city of Ankh-Morpork charges the wizard with protecting the tourist. As fans of Pratchett know already, no one refuses Vetinari -- at least no one who survives more than a few more sentences.

That sets Rincewind on a path that will take him to the very edge of the disc and beyond, and also serves to introduce readers to a wide swath of the world that we all came to know and love.

I haven't read "The Colour of Magic" in at least 20 years or so, and this re-read gave me a bit of a different perspective on it. In some ways, I believe it's weaker than some of the later Discworld books. There are subplots that seem to fizzle out, and there are opportunties that seem to be missed. (To be fair, of course, we now know that this book and follow up "The Light Fantastic" are really one story, and some of that will be addressed.) As an introduction to a strange world that the reader will long to explore more, though, it succeeds marvelously.

While not Pratchett's best work, "The Colour of Magic" does hint at the writer that he will become. There's more than a bit of Lovecraft, a dash of Coleridge and a touch of Tolkien, all filtered through a comic lens that's part slapstick, part biting satire.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip back to the origins of the Discworld, and a chance to view its beginnings with a different eye. I'm even more eager to continue to my journey through some books that I haven't read in far too long. I can't wait to get to some of my favorites and see what new wonders and amusements I might find in them from my current perspective.

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