Terry Pratchett – Nation
38. Nation by Terry Pratchett (2008)
Read By: Stephen Briggs
Length: 9h 33min (384 pages)
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction(ish)
Started: 20 March 2010
Finished: 05 April 2010
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’d heard many, many good things about it, and I wanted an audiobook that was both relatively short and relatively likely to be enjoyable.
How do you build a
life, when everything you knew
has been swept away?
Summary: Nation is set in an alternate version of the south Pacific ocean during the late 1800s. Mau is a boy – soon to be man – who is caught up in a tsunami during his manhood rites. When he returns to his home island, his village and everyone he’s ever known is gone, swept away by the wave. However, he’s not alone on the island; a British ship has been shipwrecked on the island by the tsunami, with a British young lady as its only survivor. Daphne (the young lady – or “the ghost girl”, as Mau calls her) knows all of the finer points of etiquette, but must come to terms with the fact that nothing in her breeding has prepared her for survival on a tropical island. Mau, the last survivor of his people, must not only figure out how to live without a village to support him, but how to live with the death of everything he knows, and with the capricious gods who would allow such a terrible thing to happen. Only together do they have any hope of rebuilding the world and the life washed away by the wave.
Review: I liked Good Omens well enough, but after reading my first few of Pratchett’s solo novels, I didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about. They were fine, but they didn’t strike me as anything special. But, now that I’ve listened to the Tiffany Aching books and Nation, I can describe myself as a full-on fan. (Maybe I only like Terry Pratchett as read by Stephen Briggs? It’s a distinct possibility; he’s a wonderful narrator who really complements Pratchett’s sense of humor.) In any case, Nation was wonderful. I loved the science and history of science aspect of it, and how it was accessible to young adult readers but not dumbed down. I loved that there were real moral, emotional, and philosophical dilemnas that the characters had to wrestle with, and that they don’t find any easy answers. I loved the characters themselves – particularly Mau, who I now have a bit of a crush on. I loved that the novel managed to be both hilarious in its dry, witty way, as well as heartbreaking, occasionally even at the same time. I loved that Pratchett managed to deal with a lot of thorny issues, like colonialism and atheism, without getting overly moralizing or forcing his point of view about any of them. But what I particularly loved was the sensibility of the book – to quote what I said in my review for Wintersmith, the characters “just generally seem to have their head screwed on right.” It’s a book that values – and encourages – independent thought, both in its characters and in its readers, and I can only wish that more books did the same.
The only thing I didn’t entirely love was the plotting. I was completely enthralled for the first half or so of the book, when it was still very survival-story heavy. (My Side of the Mountain got me hooked on survival stories at a young age and I’ve never fully recovered.) I stayed absorbed during the middle section, but by the last third of the book, when more people begin to show up, I felt like the plot lost a little of its steam. I was still listening intently, mostly wondering how Pratchett could possibly wrap things up satisfactorily (he did, although not at all in the way I was expecting), but the story didn’t feel nearly as urgent as it had in the earlier parts. Still, on the whole, I really enjoyed this book, and suspect it will be one of my top picks for the month, if not for the year. (…and, for those of you who have read it: I have absolutely caught myself muttering “Does Not Happen!” whenever something I’m working on isn’t going my way.) 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It’s similar in outlook to Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, obviously, but also I think to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, although Nation is less preachy and more open-ended than those. I’d recommend Nation to just about everybody, actually, but particularly those who are looking for an excellent young adult novel that can make you laugh and cry and, most importantly, think.
Other Reviews: Adventures in Reading, Bart’s Bookshelf, Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Book Clutter, Boston Bibliophile, Fluttering Butterflies, In the Shadow of Mt. TBR, Kay’s Bookshelf, Page 247, Reading Rants, Things Mean a Lot, Valentina’s Room, The Wertzone, The Written World, YA Lit: The Good The Bad and The Ugly
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: The snow came down so thickly, it formed fragile snowballs in the air that tumbled and melted as soon as they landed on the horses lined up along the dock.