Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic is the first book of Terry Pratchett's long 'Discworld' series. When I first began reading them - about seven or eight years ago - several people suggested that I didn't start with the first two (The Light Fantastic being book two) but began instead with Equal Rights and Mort. This I did and I think this was sensible, but the result was that I've been putting off and putting off actually reading the books that started the Discworld series off. This omission was one reason that I was so pleased when I heard about Marg's Terry Pratchett challenge as it gave me an opportuniy to read these first two books, plus various others that I've missed for one reason or another. So, this is The Colour of Magic and the question really is, 'what was I afraid of?'

Rincewind is what you might call a failed wizard. It's not entirely his fault, he had an encounter with a serious book of spells and was never quite the same again. But still he's basically an inept cowardly sort and greedy at that. He comes across Twoflowers, a four-eyed tourist from the mythical Counterweight Continent - the very first tourist ever as a matter of fact - and together they manage to start a fire that lays waste to the city of Ankh-Morpok. Escape becomes necessary and, together with Twoflowers's rather unusual 'luggage', they flee the city.

Their adventures take them on a tour of the Discworld. First they come across Hrun the Barbarian and end up fighting an eight-legged monster in a labyrinth of caves - shades of Lovecraft's Cthulhu here. Then they find dragons, which are not supposed to exist, along with dragonriders, in an upside-down mountain and again have to fight their way out. This bit was rather Anne McCaffrey's Pern in flavour I thought. Lastly, they end up on the rim of the world where the seas flow over the edge in a huge waterfall, and get caught up in a local 'space' type mission to find out what's actually over the edge. And while all this is going on what are the Discworld gods up to? Helping or hindering?

I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It certainly is different in flavour to the later Discworld books. It's split into four or five novella type stories, all linked of course, and each one is much more of a spoof on the fantasy genre than later books are. Pratchett's humour is to the fore of course, although he still had to get into his stride I suspect. Death, for instance, a favourite character of mine, is slightly different - I'm guessing Pratchett still had to flesh his character out somewhat. He eventually became a lot more philosophical and kind of 'innocent' than he is here, where he's chasing after Rincewind desperate for him to die. I can't imagine him doing that in the later books.

One thing I really did enjoy about the book was the tour around the Discworld and discussions on the different countries and nationalites that make up the world itself. It was 'almost' a traditional fantasy novel in that respect and I liked that aspect a lot. I can't remember whether later books mention as many different part of the Discworld but I don't think so and perhaps that's a shame.

Anyway, all in all a very good read. I'd really like to read The Light Fantastic straight away as I gather it's very much a sequel, but I can't. A library book I have (The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths) is reserved by someone else and I only have it until the 17th. What with a busy week coming up (grandaughter coming to stay) I really need to start that if I'm to have any chance of finishing it in time.

The Colour of Magic is book three for Marg's Terry Pratchett challenge and book two for Carl's Once Upon a Time IV challenge.


kiirstin said...

I read The Light Fantastic a fair bit after this one and I don't think it ruined anything for me. I really, really enjoyed both of them, though. I think you're right -- Pratchett was still figuring things out a bit, and also, it is definitely much more straight-up spoof. But still quite a lot of fun.

Nymeth said...

I don't love this and The Light Fantastic nearly as much as the later Discworld book, but yes, they're still a lot of fun, and simply a joy to read - especially if you're a fantasy fan who doesn't mind some loving mockery :P

DesLily said...

aside from the book you sent me I haven't read any Pratchett. Not sure why, I did enjoy the book you sent me..maybe it's just the huge tbr pile that sits staring at me... argh.
At least you are rolling along w/ your reading.. book 2 of what I am reading seems to be grabbing me a tad more then book 1.. I am almost half way thru it (close to 500 pages)

Cath said...

kiirstin: I think I knew it was different so was prepared for it. I often find it helps me personally to be prepared for books that are not quite the same as the rest of a series. I'm so pleased I put both this and The Light Fantastic on my pile for Carl's challenge - and the TP one of course.

Nymeth: I think quite a lot of people do not love these two books as much as the later books. Apart from one person on my LJ book blog who seems to be really angry that people should hold this opinion. *sigh* I was just pleased that I liked this first book such a lot... I didn't want to be disappointed in a Terry Pratchett book.

Hey Pat! Well, now that there are so many Terry Pratchett books, starting out on his Discworld series could be really daunting. Owning them all when you have limited space would be an even bigger challenge, so I completely understand why you're hesitating. It would be different if you had access to a library but you don't. Maybe when you've got your tbr pile down a bit (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) I can send you some more... I'm pretty sure you would like his Tiffany Aching series for instance.

DesLily said...

don't send any books! LOL.. I have actually gotten to the point that I really have no shelf space unless I read some of the tbr! lol which makes it exceedingly hard when I go to thrift stores!!

Cath said...

Pat: ;-) Don't worry, I wasn't thinking of sending you more books for a while. At least... you know... a couple of weeks. heheh. (joking)

Fence said...

It's been ages since I read this one but I seem to recall giggling away at the dragon-bits as Pratchett was definitely poking fun at the Pern books. Which I also really enjoyed, but some are a little formulaic.

TP has to be one of my all time favourite authors, his books are so smart and funny.

Cath said...

Fence: I loved the way he poked gentle fun at the fantasy cliches. He's never cruel so it was all good fun. I agree, TP is definitely very smart... one of the cleverest authors writing at the moment, imo.